Advice for college students?

Lets say I have a young person looking into future careers and lets say they are open to trying different fields.

In your community what are the jobs in?

What careers might have more jobs opening up say 4-6 years from now?

What careers would you tell them to avoid?

There’s been some discussion about many types of jobs going to computers/robots. And not just the simple stuff. I suggest reading up on that and choosing something that will be done by humans for the foreseeable future.

If you can work with math/numbers that opens up a lot of jobs and doesn’t really close any. Same with the ability to write and communicate in general. There’s tons of people that can do a job well but don’t get as far in their career as they could/should because they write on a five-year-old level.

Last but not least, college is an investment. Make sure you’re going to earn it back. Sure, if you’re a genius, go in debt to get that MIT etc degree. But if you’re merely (very) smart, it can make more sense to be the best at good but not overly prestigious yet affordable place rather than be average at an expensive top institution.

I don’t have any hard facts, but Nursing seems logical.

Especially geriatric care. Huge numbers of baby boomers are starting to retire now, and in the next decade will start moving into nursing homes.

A STEM undergrad major, to have the most options:

  • Work in the field of their major
  • Learn analytical thinking, which is desired by firms like Consultants, I-Bankers, etc.

Actually Physicians Assistant (PA) programs are hot right now. Many schools are starting five year programs (including summers) but you come out with your masters and will most likely start out making six figures.

The best advice I can give is to be flexible and realistic about one’s degree program, as well as one’s career path. Being focused on a narrow field and only taking courses toward that isn’t going to be helpful if jobs in that field don’t exist. Also, some things look great on paper, but the student hits the wall and can’t finish because the student doesn’t really have the background or the talent or the drive to do the work.

I also suggest reaching out to local colleges to find out how people actually get jobs in the fields that the student is interested in. This will give guidance in how many and what kinds of jobs really exist, as well as any additional qualifications that are necessary (such as a license or internship or whatever) or desirable (such as specific classes or whatever).

Also, keep in mind that the student may not get the job he wants right out of college, but there may be back doors in the form of an entry-level position that offers advancement potential or advanced education or training. For example, my degrees are in communication and education, but I work for a state-level law enforcement agency. I started out in the mailroom (literally), but so does everyone else, including a lot of people who moved into positions they actually went to school for. And I have been promoted once and am promotable into a supervisory position.

Finally, the student should take at least one fun class a semester, or at the very least, join a club or find an activity he enjoys, even if it has nothing to do with his ultimate career goal. This helps prevent burnout.

My advise to my daughters was to study what they wanted to study. There is little that is more useless than a student who is only there because they believe this major will lead to a successful career.

My older girl took Equine Science and Barn Management. I figured she would at least have a Bachelor’s in business out of it. Three years out of school and she is now managing a stable that provides therapeutic riding for veterans and first responders.

My younger girl graduated last spring with a major in Film and Media Production, minors in English and Communications. She has had some free-lance work for a few web series and is still building her portfolio. Her goal is to get into advertising.

You would not believe the people that don’t get into MIT (and similar) these days. If you can get into an elite University, you’re pretty damn accomplished. Furthermore, unless your household income is like $200K, there’s a good chance the financial aid will make MIT (and similar) around the same cost as a good state school. If your household income is under $100k, it would likely be cheaper–all the way down to free at well above the poverty line. Furthermore, even at full sticker-price hyper-competitive schools are not hyper-expensive compared to the good private schools–for example, MITis cheaper than SMU.

Finally, whether or not a hyper-competitive school is a good investment has a lot more to do with personality than with intelligence. If you plan to go to class, do your homework, and spend the rest of your time in your room playing video games, MIT is probably a waste of money–should you be paying full cost. But if you are that person, you didn’t get through the first round of selection, no matter what your grades and test scores.

I think what you are saying is that getting into a desirable school - in general or specific to your area of interest or geography - matters and can be more affordable than one might think.

We are looking at my son’s choices with that in mind. It always comes down to the person - a great education can happen at the vast majority of universities if a kid is motivated to get it. But getting into a reputable school can still help - both as a community of similarly-motivated kids and access to great resources, and as an access point for job networking for the first few years out of school.

I stand by my post looking at STEM fields. In an 80/20 sense, it is likely that 80%+ of kids do not end up with jobs in their studied field. Part of that is because STEM undergrads are valued by companies, because the grads have demonstrated analytic skills. The grad could end up in Project Management, Marketing Analytics, Finance, etc. Companies known for their training programs - Consulting, Marketing/Brand, General Mgmt like GE, etc. - find STEM grads particularly attractive.

I’m not an expert on anything, but I would not encourage a student to major in something they “love”. They should pick a major based on established competencies and one that they can envision a basic career path in. It’s great if they love it, but there is nothing wrong with “like” and “tolerate” either. They don’t have to be able to say where they are going to be in five years or anything like that. But if you ask them what they plan to do with their degree, they should be able to say something more than, “I dunno! I’m sure everything will work out!” Seems to me that there are a ton of college kids out there who just assume that everything will work out with their degree because they had the prerequisite “love” going in. I kinda feel like love is overrated. And what is “love” when you’re 18 and don’t even know what’s out there?

Some people can afford to pursue love at any cost. But most people aren’t like this.

I don’t disagree, but a lot of what I was saying is that the scenario of a bright-but-not-extraordinary kid getting into MIT but finding a “solid” school to be a better ROI because he wasn’t smart enough to really take advantage of MIT is like 30 years out of date.

Which is not to say it’s never a good idea to go with the less expensive option–I had a student opt for UC Berkeley over Dartmouth last year because family/personality/money/life goals made Berkeley a better fit, but it’s not because he wasn’t a genius. And he was in a position where it would have been full pay to Dartmouth. That’s unusual.

There are so many factors that it’s really hard to generalize. The most frustrating part is that it’s really hard to know how the money will work out until you have actual offer letters, so all you can do is apply a bunch of places and find out.

I work in one of the best STEM high schools in the country, so I am pretty familiar with the advantages. There are still kids I counsel away from STEM–kids who have already had basically 18+ college STEM hours and have discovered they really don’t like technical work and don’t want to do it. It cannot be emphasized enough that the most important thing about college is that one finishes.

Actually, I think that would be my “one piece of advice”–if you’re a reasonably good student, at 18 it seems obvious you will finish college in 4 years, more or less automatically, they way high school worked. But so many kids don’t. I think kids need to understand that there are going to be real roadblocks and challenges, both internal and external, and that they need to think of finishing as a personal goal that you have to work towards, not an inevitable passive reality.

All good. And yes, you want to find the right-sized pond for your particular fish and for the kid to feel great about the fit.

And yes, you have to apply to an array of schools, hope for the best and see what options make themselves available. No stress at all :wink:

Classes are just one tiny piece of setting yourself up for success.

College is THE best time to get that critical entry-level experience. Never again in your life will you have people willing to hire you without field experience. If you aren’t taking full advantage of internships, fellowships and jobs, you are going to be out of luck when you graduate and are competing with people who racked up four years of experience.

Get to know your career center, get to know your merit awards office, and go to office hours with your professors. Professors will go out of their way to find opportunities for students they know, and they won’t get to know you unless they spend time with you.

There are so many opportunities for students it’s not even funny. And those dry up completely the day you graduate. It’s important to be active about learning about them and pursuing them now, because once you graduate nobody is going to be there to hand you anything.

I’d say that the most important things would be evaluate whatever field it is that you want to be in with open eyes. Don’t be overly romantic about your own specialness with regard to making a career of it, but don’t choose a field that you don’t enjoy just because it has good job prospects either.

To some degree, you have to take a chance if you’re working toward lifelong career happiness; you have to hope that the field you pick is going to be one that has reasonable prospects for decades, and is one that you’ll continue to be able to tolerate, if not enjoy for the same time period.

Most people will agree that past a certain minimum salary (enough to pay the bills and keep you and yours fed really), it’s as or more important to like what you do rather than just make money at it, as you end up spending more time with your co-workers and at work than you will with your family or doing what you want to do. Think about it this way- you’ll be spending nearly 25% of the hours available in a given 7 day week on work, 33% sleeping (8 hrs a day) and 42% doing other stuff, some of which will be taken up preparing for work, going to/from work, or eating lunch during the work day. Considering that it’s such a large chunk of your time is spent working, it behooves you to pick something you think is at the very least, tolerable.

I think the first thing you need to clarify is whether this young person is motivated primarily by financial success or if they don’t really feel money is life’s most important reward and perhaps other things mean more to them - such as: living a life that makes them feel useful by helping others, or maybe being respected by members of their community for the work they do.

I would venture the opinion that kind of life may be summed up by some advice that Dr. King gave to his followers:

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?’"
– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On the other hand, if they really don’t care about anything besides financial gain, then it doesn’t make sense to spend several years in university unless they come away with a degree that will enable them to practice a high paying profession like one of the following:
. lawyer
. doctor
. dentist
. architect
. engineer

I’m guessing that you get the picture.

However, please consider this. This is just my personal opinion. You can take it or leave it as you will. I can’t see that it has any more merit than most anyone else’s opinion. I guess it depends on your ability to make a judgement as to just how valuable someone’s advice is based on their level of experience and/or wisdom.

Good luck to you and your friend.

P.S. College is one of the very best times to make life-long friends. Making several good friends can be extremely rewarding in later life. Both financially and otherwise.

Do something you are going to be successful at. If you want to go into a profession that requires a specific degree, then do that. Don’t dismiss the trades, there are a lot of good paying jobs if you don’t want a classroom for four years and a desk afterwards. Its ok to have just a direction and not a destination when you are seventeen.

Know what the prospects of your career direction are. The time to figure out that there are few jobs for Art History professors is not when you are in the middle of your PhD.

Pick a school where you will be successful. Where there are people like you who will bring out your strengths.

The 1st step is determining what you like to do. If you enjoy your profession then work is easier. I have worked with people who could only not wait until they retired. I retired at 67, now I would not want to go back to work.

2nd step is research what the expected wage after graduation and through out life would be. My son was studying to be an EMT. Then he found out his friend who was a supervisor was making $15 an hour. My son is now an IT guy.

And do not over look trade schools and trade union apprentice programs. I graduated from a Maritime Academy. I paid for my education 2 years at a jc and 3 years at the academy. I ended up working along side men who were paid while going to school and had all their school supplies supplied. They and I were paid the same wage and benefits. the only advantage I had over them was a little better understanding of machinery, chemistry, and electricity. Also I had wider selection of jobs I could apply fore. (If you apprentice in a High Rise it is hard to get a job in the ice and cold storage industry.)

Here’s a list of college majors ranked by starting salary. Nine of the top twelve majors feature the word “engineering”. Arts, humanities, and majors ending in “studies” cluster towards the bottom. Math, physics, and chemistry look like solid career paths. Major in anthropology, theology, photography, or Child & Family Studies at your own peril.

Starting salaries you certainly don’t want to major in Anthropology. But a good liberal arts degree can translate into a successful career. I made six figures a year with an Art History degree doing project management. My husband was a VP at a billion dollar company with a Sociology/Anthropology double major.

My husband went to a very liberal liberal arts college - one that doesn’t have engineering degrees or much of a Science program. We still hang with a lot of his classmates, and they’ve all been fairly financially successful with their strange liberal arts degrees. Some very successful.

I’ll bet that it wasnt the liberal arts degree that made you successful-- It was your personality; your ability to deal with people, and your willingness to take risks, etc
You probably could have been just as successful without every learning anything about art history or without writing any papers on the social customs of tribes in the jungles of Africa.
Though I’m sure that the degree was important-- as an entry ticket to get your foot in the door.*

But for a 17 year-old just starting out, it seems a little unfair to advise him to get a liberal arts degree, because you were successful with it.
Far, far more liberal-arts majors end up as bartenders than as six-figure project managers married to vice presidents of billion-dollar corporations.

If you want to recommend a liberal arts major, the best advice to the OP’s teenager should be “get a liberal arts degree…IF (and only if) you ALSO have other skills.”
That means–if you have the personality to manage people, you speak well and exude confidence, are willing to take heavy risks and can adapt to new and totally unfamiliar situations, and you know how to network very,very well.
If at age 18 you’ve only worked Mcjobs with no responsibility, a liberal arts degree may not lead to a career.
But if at age 18 you’ve already built a resume, a liberal arts degree may be right for you.

If you’ve been a counsellor at a summer camp; and worked as a lifeguard at the YMCA and got promoted to organizing activities for kids; or played music in a band and sold your services under contract to play at wedding receptions; or if you’ve worked in retail, and already been promoted to shift manager…and most of all…if while doing these things, you’ve built up a large network of references----then you will probably succeed in life, no matter what degree you choose to study.
But your success won’t be because of the degree.

If you are a typical average 17 year old with no resume and no direction, and you vaguely hope that “going to college” will somehow set you on the path to success—don’t go for a liberal arts degree.Get a degree with a specific skill that leads to specific type of job.

*(And congratulations on being successful once you were there!)