Keepapitchinin, the Mormon History blog » The Young Man and His Vocation (1925-26): Lesson 3: Kinds of Vocations

The Young Man and His Vocation (1925-26): Lesson 3: Kinds of Vocations

By: Ardis E. Parshall - September 01, 2011

For background and links to chapters in this series, see here



In the days of our great grandfathers, there was little need for a classification of industries. Farming was the main work of man and housekeeping the main one of woman. A few merchants sold the articles which the farmer and his wife could not readily raise or make at home, and the miller, the blacksmith, the doctor, and a few other special workmen supplied all outside wants. Today, however, the wants of man have multiplied many fold and it has been found that articles formerly made at home can be made more cheaply in factories by men and women with special skill. The result of this is that the number of types of work one may choose to do cannot be counted on the fingers of two hands as they formerly could. Our government, in 1920, listed about 600 occupations in which men and women were engaged, but many of these occupations included several distinct trades such as grouping “movie” actors, theatre actors, and other showmen and actors into a single group. Professor Snedden says there are 2,000 distinctive vocations form which an American boy or girl may choose his career.

To study all of these vocations thoroughly would be impossible for the ordinary person, but many of the occupations are so much alike that a study of one will show the nature of many similar ones. Several different methods of grouping the vocations for study have been suggested by writers, each method having good, as well as bad points. A brief review of a few of these methods will be given in the hope that serious students of the problem of choosing a vocation will investigate the occupations from several points of view, and thus secure a better idea of the truth than when studied form only one way.

Some Methods of Classifying

Classification of vocations made by some people depends on whether the work is physical or mental in nature. This is useful in contrasting the ‘white collar” jobs with the “pick-and-shovel” ones, but fails to take into account the large group of workers who use both mind and muscle, of which high-grade farmers and skilled mechanics offer examples. This classification is often used by leaders who are trying to cause antagonism between the classes. They point out that only the physical laborers are producing wealth, and fail to realize that the teacher, the writer, the experimenter, the manager of industries and others are producing something the world desires as much as they wish to have ditches dug and coal shoveled. Physical and mental work each has its usefulness both when used separately and when used together in the same individual. Classifying the industries in this way allows the young man who is predominately physical, predominately mental, or in between these extremes in nature, to select the group of industries in which he is likely to fit best. When skill or mental development is essential to an occupation requiring the use of the muscles as in the case of the mechanic and engineer, this classification is not very definite.

Some vocational writers have attempted to classify industries according to the capital required. Merchants, manufacturers, bankers, farmers, and others are classified into one group because they all need considerable money to begin with, whereas laborers, teachers, engineers, lawyers, and others can begin with practically nothing. All gradations of money requirements from a few pennies in the shoe-shining business to millions of dollars in the steel manufacturing business are found. Studying the industries according to the money needed to succeed may prove valuable in guiding one into the occupation which is most suitable to his circumstances. Usually, however, this should not be the only study made because money is very often of minor importance as compared with mental and physical likings and abilities.

A useful classification of the industries according to whether they are economical or uneconomical has been made by Professor Carver. He divides the economical into primary, secondary, and personal, or professional, according to the nature of the industry. The primary, or those depending upon the direct product of nature, are farming, mining, hunting, fishing, and lumbering. The secondary industries – manufacturing, transportation, storing, and merchandising – include the industries which make the natural products more useful and distribute them best to meet the needs of the people. Under personal and professional service he places occupations which directly influence the welfare of man, among which are healing, teaching, inspiring, governing, and amusing. Uneconomical ways of getting a living include war, all sorts of thievery and sharp practices, marrying or inheriting wealth, and benefitting through rise in land values. Since the wealth secured from uneconomical methods is not the product of honest service to the world, the willful seeker after such a means of living is a parasite upon society. Grouping the economic industries into primary, secondary, and personal allows the student to make a wide choice according to whether his disposition makes him wish to be alone and work with nature, to improve upon the raw products from the earth so that they are of greater use to man, or whether he desires to work directly with his fellow men in helping them to get the most out of life. Each of the objects is a worthy one but some individuals are better adapted to serve in one of the three fields than others, and this classification should prove of value in helping to emphasize the place wherein lies the young man’s special field.

Census Classification

Of the other classifications of the industries the only one which will be discussed is that of the United States Census bureau. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, over 600 occupations are included in the ten-year studies made by that bureau. The grouping and the number of separate classes in each group are as follows: (1) Agriculture, forestry, and animal husbandry, 39 classes; (2) Extraction of metals, 15; (3) Manufacturing and mechanical industries, 254; (4) Transportation, 64; (5) Trade, 87; (6) Public Service, 18; (7) Professional Service, 45; (8) Domestic and personal service, 40; and (9) clerical occupations, 11. Under the agricultural and forestry pursuits, the general farmers constitute the greatest class but there are all sorts of specialists like florists, gardeners, fruit growers, and stock raisers. Under the latter class come poultry raisers and a great list of others. Fishermen are also included in this group. All of Professor Carver’s Primary group of industries except mining fall under this heading. The field is so wide that one can find a place in it no matter how much or little money one has, how strong or weak one’s muscles, or how active or sluggish one’s mind, although of course the better equipped in these ways the better the chance of making a satisfactory living. The boy with a few dollars invested in rabbits or pigeons will not reap the rewards of the man with $20,000 invested in cattle, nor will the sluggish-minded farmer ordinarily reap as great a reward as the brilliant one.

Under the extraction of minerals group come the gold, silver, copper, coal, oil, and other miners and the quarrymen. The workers include mostly those who have strong muscles although managers and business men may be among the most brilliant thinkers in the country. Many specialists are needed.

The grouping which includes manufacturing and mechanical industries includes besides the great group of dozens of different types of manufactures, most of the skilled workmen such as blacksmiths, carpenters, masons, electricians, stationary engineers, jewelers, etc., who do not belong to the professional class. All types of mental and physical ability can find a place in this group, because it includes the highest executive in the great industries like steel manufacturing as well as the most down-trodden and shiftless day laborer. Giants, dwarfs and cripples may work alongside the ordinary man in this group of occupations.

In the transportation group are found conductors, brakemen, expressmen, engineers, motormen, section hands, chauffeurs, hackmen, sailors, mail carriers, and like workmen. Most of those in this group must possess strong, vigorous bodies and be almost physically perfect to serve well, although a few such as telephone and telegraph operators need only good minds and well controlled hands. These occupations are for those with skill, endurance, and excellent bodies.

The trade group includes, besides all types of merchants and their clerks, such business men as bankers, brokers, commercial travelers, insurance agents, real estate agents, undertakers, newsboys, and various laborers about mercantile institutions. Almost anyone can fit into this group, but to do well and rise to the higher positions, an active mind and a good training are essential.

Public service occupations, of which policemen, detectives, postmasters, firemen, soldiers, and various officials in city, state and nation, are examples, depend somewhat on special qualifications of the applicants or upon appointment for the positions. Very often they are not permanent occupations and unless one has special abilities they are often barred to him.

Chemists, school teachers, doctors, lawyers, architects, technical engineers, artists, authors, actors, and similar workers are included under the professional groups. They require a great amount of special training and frequently demand special talents on the part of the worker in order that success be assured.

Among the domestic and personal service group we find dance-hall keepers, restaurant and hotel keepers, janitors, laundrymen, barbers, porters, and various servants and laborers. some require more or less money to start with but most of those in this group merely work for wages as servants, bellboys, cooks, laundry-workers, etc., for the owners of the houses. The opportunities for advancement are usually not good.

Clerical occupations include stenographers, canvassers, bookkeepers, cashiers, accountants, and various clerks outside of stores, and messenger or errand boys. Most of them are open to nearly anyone with a moderate amount of education. Some of the positions are stepping stones to higher positions in various industries. The agent occupations offer an opportunity for an income independent of a boss.


1. Contrast the number of vocations in America in Washington’s time and now.
2. Name all the vocations represented in your community.
3. Show how the so-called mental and physical occupations interlock, and show the dependence of each on the other.
4. Discuss Professor Carver’s classification of vocations.
5. What are the main occupational groups recognized by the U.S. Census Bureau?


1 Comment »

  1. Wow! I think you need to link to this under your Lineral/Progressive Mormon Thought category.

    “Usually, however, this should not be the only study made because money is very often of minor importance as compared with mental and physical likings and abilities.”


    “Uneconomical ways of getting a living include war, all sorts of thievery and sharp practices, marrying or inheriting wealth, and benefitting through rise in land values. Since the wealth secured from uneconomical methods is not the product of honest service to the world, the willful seeker after such a means of living is a parasite upon society.”

    would be a fascianting way to start off a discussion in Sunday School about how to support yourself and contribute to society! I would love to be a fly on the wall when a class takes on this lesson, maybe even as a joint RS, priesthood, YM and YW 3rd hour? (chuckling to myself)

    Comment by Julia — September 1, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

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