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Did you know that ‘lawyer’ and ‘doctor’ are both examples of achieved status? Learn more about achieved status from examples, and test your knowledge with a quiz.

What Is an Achieved Status?

Achieved status refers to a position one holds in a social system that one attains based on merit or effort. But what does that really mean?Meet Lionel. He is a 30-year-old African American male from California.

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He is an only child who was raised on a farm. Though both of his parents were farmers, Lionel knew at an early age he wanted to be a doctor. Lionel worked hard to excel in high school and college and was eventually accepted into the medical school of his choice. Now, at the age of 30, Lionel works as a medical doctor at a hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. It was there that he met his wife, with whom he has one son.Lionel has several statuses, some that he has earned and others that he was born with.

Lionel was born as an African-American, male, and the son of farmers. These are examples of ascribed statuses, which are positions one holds in a social system that a person is born into. Race, sex, birth order, and ethnicity are all examples of ascribed statuses.In contrast, our achieved statuses are positions that we have earned or chosen.

Our achieved statuses are largely dictated by our abilities, skills, and life choices. Lionel’s achieved statuses include being a doctor, husband, and father. In order to obtain an achieved status, certain requirements must be met. In order for Lionel to become a doctor, he had to first graduate from high school, college, med school, then find a job as a doctor. Once Lionel met these requirements, he achieved the status of a doctor.Unlike ascribed statuses, which are unchanging and rigid, we can change our achieved status if we put forth adequate effort to do so.

While some achieved statuses are desirable by the person who holds them, such as how Lionel always wanted to be a doctor, other achieved statuses are seen as unfavorable. For example, let’s say someone committed a string of robberies and as a result achieved the status of criminal. Even though the person earned this label due to his actions, he may not desire to be labeled as a criminal and find it hard to get a job.

Examples of Achieved Status

Some additional examples of achieved status include:

  • A person who graduates from law school and becomes a lawyer
  • A person who graduates college and becomes a schoolteacher
  • A person who trains hard and becomes an Olympic ice skater
  • A woman who decides to get married and become a stay-at-home mom
  • A person who steals artwork for a living and is labeled as an art thief

Lesson Summary

An achieved status is a position in a social group that one earns based on merit or one’s choices. This is in contrast to an ascribed status, which is one given by virtue of birth. Examples of achieved status include becoming an athlete, lawyer, doctor, parent, spouse, criminal, thief, or a university professor. There are certain requirements that a person must meet in order to obtain an achieved status.

Learning Outcomes

Pursue the following goals after studying this lesson on achieved status:

  • Contrast achieved status and ascribed status
  • Identify examples of achieved status
  • Understand some requirements that a person must meet to reach achieved status

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