Airplane pilot is among American boys' top dream jobs

In a child's mind, this is one of the best jobs ever. In the film "Catch Me If You Can," however, Leonardo DiCaprio's character is just posing as an airline pilot. (Andrew Cooper / DreamWorks Pictures / November 20, 2012)

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Today’s professionals didn’t fantasize about becoming presidents and princesses when they were younger -- instead, their childhood dream jobs involved occupations such as engineering, writing and science.

American boys wanted most to be professional or Olympic athletes, according to a survey from LinkedIn, a social network for workers. Girls aspired to become teachers, according to the poll of more than 8,000 professionals worldwide (hat tip to the Huffington Post).

In the U.S., men also said they had hoped to grow up as airplane or helicopter pilots, scientists, lawyers or astronauts. Women reported ambitions of becoming veterinarians, writers, doctors or singers.

But of all the LinkedIn members surveyed -- a group that currently includes 500,000 fashion stylists, 150 astronauts and 14 mermaids -- less than a third said they landed their childhood dream job or now work in a related career.

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More than 40% said they shed their youthful goals as they grew older and more interested in other vocations. But 70% still said the key to a dream job is being able to take pleasure in the work (8% said the top characteristic should be the ability to help others; 6% pointed to a high salary).

Around the world, the position that most inspire children vary. In Brazil, India and Sweden, the coolest job is being an engineer. In Germany and Hong Kong, kids would prefer to become scientists. In South Africa and New Zealand, doctors, nurses and paramedics rule.

Other positions that are nearly too good to be true abound on job search sites online. A CareerBuilder  dream jobs list includes ice cream creators (average annual salary $56,600), video game designers (starting at $25,000) and vacation tour directors ($20,000 or less).

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