Examples of achieved status include a reward or honor, a university degree, self-made wealth, and your profession.
Achieved status is defined as a status that you have earned or chosen rather than one that you were born with. This type of status give you a great deal of prestige, privilege, and honor because you’re seen as having worked hard to get it.
However, as we’ll see, most things in life are never achieved without a good dose of luck and help from our society.
Achieved Status Examples
1. Rewards and Honors
One of the most formal ways to achieve a higher status is to get a reward or certificate that actually states the status that you have achieved.
An example is to receive a medal for an athletic achievement. Similarly, excellent painters might receive an award for their artwork or excellent writers might become a “New York Times Bestseller”. All of these rewards show that you have earned a position as being elite in your craft.
2. University Degrees
A university degree isn’t just about learning something. It is also a social status example that can be your key to getting a good job, or at least an interview for the job.
There is even a hierarchy of degrees. Common types of degrees you can get include:
- Bachelors Degree: 42% of the population
- Masters Degree: 8% of the population
- PhD: 1% of the population
All jobs in our society have a certain degree of status attached to them. At the top of the hierarchy are usually career paths like lawyers, doctors, scientists, and engineers.
The most prestigious occupations can command high pay rates as well as the respect of your peers.
We often see blue-collar jobs as having low status and white-collar jobs as having high status. Examples of blue-collar jobs include plumbing and carpentry while examples of white-collar jobs include accounting and investment banking.
Some jobs, like teachers, firefighters, nurses, and police officers, have a degree of status in society but don’t obtain the high pay rates of others. This mismatch between pay and prestige is an example of what’s called status inconsistency.
4. Group and Organization Membership
We generally choose to be a member of an organization, so we think of it as achieved status.
Many exclusive clubs will have statuses associated with them, such as Mensa (for geniuses) or exclusive fraternities and sororities.
Being in one of those clubs can grant you greater access to job opportunities, influential people, or other perks. Thus, many people will work very hard to get access to an exclusive club that can help them to demonstrate their status to others.
5. Skills Learned through Practice
Most things in life require you to practice for many hours, days, months, or even years before you are truly proficient at them.
An example is a skateboarding trick. To be able to do the trick every time you try, you need to become very familiar with the movement until you have perfected it. That requires a lot of time on the board.
Similarly, you can’t expect to ride a bike the first time you pick one up. These are skills that require persistence and effort to acquire.
6. Life Choices
Anything you freely choose in life can come under the banner of ‘achieved status’. If you are congratulated for your decision to start a business, take a risk on an investment, or start an eco-friendly farm, you can accept those congratulations as recognition of your achieved status.
While we can’t choose our parents and siblings, we can choose our friends. When you become friends with a famous person, your social status might go up. Similarly, if you are a widely popular person with many friends, people’s perceptions of you might rise.
8. Self-Made Wealth
People who have inherited wealth might be born with an assigned status of being wealthy. But if you are a self-made rich person like JK Rowling, then this success will give you an achieved status. In society, the fact you achieved or earned the wealth will be more highly regarded than if you inherited it.
9. Your Spouse
You will be judged for the person you choose to marry. If your friends and family don’t like your spouse, your status may decline. By contrast, if your friends like your spouse, your status might increase in their eyes.
In more traditional cultures, marrying ‘up’ on the social hierarchy is something very important to people looking to increase the wealth and power of their family.
10. Having a Child
In traditional cultures, having a child is seen as a sign of success (especially for women). Women without children were seen as having failed. While we’ve moved on from that mentality, still today, people might be more inclined to vote for a politician that without.
11. An Earned Title
An earned title might include “Doctor”, “Professor”, “Sir” (for knighthoods in the UK), “Chancellor”, “Reverend”, or “Imam”. These titles are assigned to people who are believed to have earned them through study, hard work, services to community, or profession.
12. Religious Affiliation
Your affiliation with a religious group could earn you a degree of prestige or open doors for you. For example, if you were Catholic during the Spanish inquisition, you would be privileged while others would be outcast.
While some of us may be born into a religion, by adulthood, our religion is a choice. A status that starts off as given but becomes chosen is called a fluid ascription.
13. Military Rank
In a structured organization like the military, a person’s earned status can be very explicit. This is the case in the military.
Examples of military ranks include:
- Private: A low rank
- Sargeant: A higher rank
- General: A very high rank
The ranking hierarchy in the military isn’t just about prestige. It also impacts who is in charge, who needs to be saluted, and who can tell who what to do!
You can also attain status in terms of your physical abilities and looks. While we might be born with a certain look that’s hard to change, we can go to the gym to get six pack abs or practice running in order to be able to do a marathon.
15. Sporting Achievements
A sporting achievement might be winning a competition or even a gold medal. In some sports, like tennis, you can also judge your achievements through your rank in your country or even the world.
Similarly, in golf, you can judge your sporting abilities by working on your handicap.
16. Rising Social Class Status
Traditionally, society didn’t allow for much movement between social classes. People were born into a social class and died in the same social class. But today, increased social mobility allows people to move from poor working-class up to upper middle-class and higher.
17. Honor Student
Students who are at the top of their class are often honored with awards and titles to signify their success. An example of this is students who graduate summa cum laude from their college degree. This means to graduate “with highest distinction”.
18. Material Possessions
The things we own are signals to others about or tastes and fashion sense. Owning a sports car or mansion is a sign to others that you are successful in life. While we often see these as achieved status symbols, it all depends on how you got those possessions that matters.
19. Residency and Second Citizenship
While nearly everyone is born with a citizenship that cannot be taken from them, many millions of people obtain a second citizenship. Often, they have to jump through a lot of hoops (such as living in a place for a certain amount of time). By the time they get that second passport, they see it as a status symbol showing thet have earned their legitimacy in a country.
20. Access to Exclusive Consumer Products and Services
Many brands have embraced the idea that people love to be seen as having high earned status. To take advantage of this, they use scarcity and exclusivity to entice people to buy. For example, only some people are able to access elite types of credit cards or access to exclusive airport lounges.
The clothes you wear are status symbols. Those who wear fashionable clothing are showing that they have achieved something: an eye for fashion and a good grasp of the current social mileaux.
People who are known in their communities as volunteers become highly respected. They earn this respect through their hard work for people in need.
Being able to speak multiple languages is looked upon with awe by many monolingual people. Those who manage to learn multiple languages (especially in adulthood) are seen as having achieved a certain prestige due to their ability to achieve something that most of us cannot.
Ascribed Status Vs Achieved Status In Sociology
According to Linton, an achieved status is one we earned and chose.
By contrast, an ascribed status is something we are born with and don’t earn through merit or hard work.
The concepts of ascribed and achieved status help us to understand how prestige, privilege, and honor are either achieved or assigned by society.
They show how we live in a social hierarchy that is both incredibly unfair (we’re born into a position on the hierarchy) and fluid (we can change our status in some contexts through hard work).
Don’t forget to see our article on ascribed status examples for more!
The Sliding Scale of Earned Status
There are gray areas where it’s not clear if someone’s status is ascribed or achieved. In these instances, we can see that achieved status isn’t as clear or fixed as we might have first thought.
Thus, achieved status fits more on a sliding scale than a black-and-white contrast. While many statuses are given at birth and stay with us for life, when we become adults, we can choose to maintain or disregard a status we got at birth.
See Also: Master Status Examples
Criticisms of the Achieved Status Concept
The concept of achieved statuses can underplay the role of contextuality in people achieving any status at all.
For example, achieving a university degree may require a lot of hard work and effort for which any person should be proud.
However, to achieve the degree, you need to have access to the funds to pay for university, a supportive family, and a good high school education. These things are privileges that a person should humbly acknowledge.
In other words, achieved statuses are not acquired equally, so we should be careful to remember that we are in large part a product of circumstance.
Achieved statuses are any status that you earn through hard work, effort, or choice. A great example is your golf handicap, which you need to earn through effort.
However, the more we think about it, the more we realize that even an achieved status like your golf handicap wasn’t all your own work: you were probably born with great hand-eye coordination and had the wealth and privilege to have access to a golf course and clubs.
Thus, while achieved status is an interesting sociological concept, it has many weaknesses as a conceptual framework.