IS your job sexy? Do members of the opposite sex perk-up at the mention of your career, drool at the sight of your uniform or want to listen for hours about the details of your working day? The answer is most likely no. Few of us imagine the daily grind of our work is attractive to others.

A recent online survey in the US, which guaged which jobs are considered 'sexy', however, has thrown up some surprising results. Research by salary. com, a Massachusetts-based software company, has shown that when it comes to ranking careers, image is more important than salary.

The number one 'sexy job', listed by 16% of those surveyed was firefighter. Flight attendants came in at a surprising second.

Further down the line were chief executive officers, journalists, interior designers, nurses, teachers, doctors, lawyers and vets, in that order.

Mind you, it's hardly surprising that firefighters gained the number one slot. Let's face it, they've always held a certain cachet.

Images of the aftermath of 9/11 and films such as Backdraft have further fuelled the cliche. An irresistible combination of physical strength, bravery and a manly uniform leaves most woman weak at the knees. But is their job really sexy? Last year alone, there were almost 6,000 applications for a panel of 180 firefighters in Dublin. So something about the image must appeal.

Robbie Young, 38, a firefighter with the Dublin Fire Brigade laughs at the notion. "My wife doesn't think it's sexy at all, " he says.

"Mind you, some of her friends consider it an attractive job; they're always joking about it."

Shane Sommers, 40, another Dublin firefighter agrees. "I suppose there is a romantic notion associated with fire fighting but at the end of the day it's just a job like any other." He adds that some of the younger single men do find it works to their advantage when chatting up women. "The ladies seem to like it, " he laughs. "I suppose it is seen as sexy by some."

Both men stress that there is no time for posing on the job. "It's hard work, " says Young. "It's never boring but it can be stressful. Each person deals with the stress differently but it helps that we're all in it together. You're never alone as a fire fighter."

"The reality is that when you go into a fire you can't see anything except a glow where the fire is, " adds Sommers. "It's like being in a room full of smoke with your eyes shut.

Hardly sexy?"

Author Marissa Mackle is a former flight attendant and is not surprised by the results of the poll. "When I was an air hostess, I found that men were always impressed by my job, " she says. "I'd be the person everyone wanted to sit beside at dinner and when I went out with the other air hostesses in a group, men would chat us up and stay talking to us all night."

Mackle was often stopped on public transport while in uniform. "I think it's because people like to talk about their flying experiences and they'd all want to know where I'd been or where I was going to next." As an author, she finds it's not as easy to make conversation about her work. "People ask what I do for a living now and when I say, 'novelist' they usually nod their heads and then change the subject. I think it's seen as boring and intellectual."

But what about the other 'sexy' careers?

Given the wicked combination of powerful positions and high salaries, it's hardly surprising that chief executive officers are considered to have sexy jobs.

In this media-obsessed environment, journalists too have long been known to hold supposedly attractive positions. Of course, the image is part-fuelled by films and television shows, although this reporter for one can vouch that the reality of the job is anything but sexy. And when meeting people for the first time, some seem to feel intimidated, others are wary of confiding in a journalist.

Interior design is a career which is fast growing in popularity in this country. "The job has become very popular in Ireland and I suppose it is considered sexy, " says designer Jane Reddy, who has been in the business for 22 years. "Most of my friends seem to think it's an attractive career but of course it's not always as glamorous as it seems and like any job it can be stressful."

'Stressful' is a word that nurses use regularly so what is it about their jobs that is sexy? The nurse's uniform perhaps? Single nurse Marie Byrne (28) says it usually goes down well when she's chatting to men.

"I usually get a good response when I tell people what I do for a living. I suppose it's quite a feminine career and it has a good, wholesome image. Nurses are traditionally caring, capable people. Maybe that's what appeals.

"I think men with old-fashioned values like the idea of a nurse. Mind you, I can't see anything attractive about the uniform, " she laughs. "And I can tell you it's not sexy in the accident and emergency ward on a Saturday when you're pulling you're hair out with the stress."

So what is it about a job that makes it 'sexy'? Although traditional aphrodisiacs like power, money and status contribute to the promotion of a career, it appears the media plays an even stronger role.