Survey results published by YouGov on 15 February found that only being an author or a librarian was more attractive than a life working in higher education.
Fifty-one per cent of people surveyed said they would like to be a scholar, compared to 60 per cent who thought author was the best career and 54 per cent who opted for librarianship.
Working in higher education beat professions such as lawyer (43 per cent), interior designer (41 per cent), TV presenter (36 per cent) and Hollywood film star (31 per cent).
“Instead of actors and musicians, it seems that an aura of prestige still surrounds the quiet, intellectual life enjoyed by authors, librarians and academics,” the study reported.
Participants in the survey were asked: “Generally speaking, please say whether you would or would not like to do each of the following for a living.” They were then shown a random sample of eight jobs from a list of 31 occupations.
When dissecting the data more carefully, YouGov found 52 per cent of men would want to enter the academy, narrowly beating the 50 per cent of women to whom it would appeal.
The Times Higher Education Best University Workplace Survey recently reported that “the vast majority of academics and professional and support staff say that their work gives them satisfaction”.
According to the Cabinet Office’s career “happiness index”, published last year, “higher education teaching professionals” are the 61st most contented section of the UK workforce of 4 professional areas assessed.