Best jobs (based on income potential, credentials required, and hours)

So here’s my story. I’ll be 30 this year. I currently hold a BA in psych, and a BA in music. Music has really always been my passion and I went back to school at 23 to pursue it. Got the BA 2 years ago, and landed a job in the same university as a manager of a new arts center on campus. It’s not a bad job - great benefits, significant amount of creative freedom - but there’s just not that far to go salary-wise and I’m very unhappy in this general location (suburban Long Island. I’m craving a change of location, preferably to a more urban environment like NYC).

Anyway, I’ve tended to think of it as a transitional job to give me some stability while I figure things out, with the goal of eventually pursuing a career in music, either as a working composer, or in academia as a musicologist. I’ve actually gotten too sidetracked at this point to pursue the former, and the latter would require a PHD.

For the passed year or so I’ve been debating 2 options.

  1. Stay at my current job making 33K, which, being in a major university with one of the best musicology programs in the country, would allow me to take classes part time towards a graduate degree for free.
    -I’d pretty much always be struggling financially, though the bills would get paid.
    -I’d consider the pursuit of the degree more of a hobby since an MA in musicology doesn’t really open up many career options and the PHD would take me easily into my 40s
    -I’d be stuck on LI, though I do get into NYC often. I’d never really be able to live in the city since the commute is cost prohibitive. (though I am doing it this summer)

  2. Go back to school fulltime to one of the top musicology schools (preferably Columbia) to pursue a career as a professor of musicology in a university.

  • if I’m lucky I might be able to begin my career at 37 making 60K.
  • I’ll never be rich, though I’d enjoy the work.
  • I will spent the majority of my 30’s broke.

I’ve been leaning towards option 2 for a few months now, but I’m here looking for option 3. To be honest, as I’ve become older, and more cynical, I’ve also been craving career and stability and family more, and the need to pursue music with the passionate intensity I once had has faded. I mean I still love it, and will never live without it; I will always be playing and composing and listening and contemplating. It just may not necessarily be part of my career.

One possible new option that has since made it’s way into my consciousness is law school. I’d be done a lot sooner than with the PHD, and come out able to make considerably more. I also have come to realize that I love law and I’ve always loved debate and truth (which is of course what draws me to this place), so this wouldn’t really be compromising my ideals and interests for money. But I understand that lawyers work insane hours. Still, it is an option.

That’s my story. I was a bit more long winded than I had intended to be. I really just wanted to get a poll going of what people thought the best jobs were. So what do you all think? What are the best jobs one could get according to:

  1. Credentials
  • education required (how many years?)
  • other
  1. Salary
  • I’d love to be making 6 figures in this life time, or at least close to it.
  • will it be enough to counteract the amount of debt I’d necessarily have to put myself in, in order to earn the necessary credentials?
  1. Hours
  • will I have enough free time to get some enjoyment out of this godforsakken life of mine? not to mention enough time to compose and pursue hobbies, vacation?
  • flexibility of hours.
  1. Other
  • is the work interesting/rewarding
  • creative/intellectual
  • location

Any thoughts?

My wife is an assistant professor of Musicology at UCLA. She started her degree at Columbia, then transferred to UNC when the Columbia program imploded in the early 90’s.

It’s definately possible to start an academic career later in life. For a variety of reasons my wife didn’t finish her PhD until she was in her 40’s, but she still managed to get a tenure-track position.

In the academic job market you can’t afford to be too choosy. A very small number of postions open up in a given year and you have to be willing to move to where there’s an opening. You may want a more urban environment, but you may be forced to take a position at the University of Iowa if that’s all that’s available.

There are definitely some perks to the academic life. My wife has more day-to-day flexibility in her schedule than a typical office worker. During quarters when she’s doing a lot of teaching she’s totally slammed, but it’s not crazy year round. We got free opera tickets last week through one of her colleagues. And in general its fun to be in an evironment where everyone is focused exclusively on music and music history.

Being in love with music probably isn’t enough to sustain you through grad school. You have to love research and you have to love teaching as well. When my wife was younger she used to fantasize about being an analyst for the CIA – she wanted to be one of those people who sit in an office in Virginia and write white papers. If that sounds like fun job … perhaps you’ll enjoy being a professor as much as she does.

Did she have you to help give her some financial stability while in school? If I found a lifepartner who was earning enough and was comfortable enough with the idea of taking on much of the financial burden of our lives I’d do the PHD without giving it a thought.

Yep, aware of that. I didn’t bother to mention it in the OP because I felt it was long winded enough, but that is certainly true, and is definitely a concern.

Again I didn’t want to go into too much detail in the OP, but I’ve met few in this life more passionate about research than myself. If I may toot my own horn for a moment, I received an “A” on every single music history/theory paper I wrote as an undergrad. Thumbing through sources, compiling relevant points, and assembling them into a coherent and persuasive argument is FUN. I feel similarly about teaching.

There is no doubt I’d be happy in academia. But I’m wondering what else I might be happy doing that won’t involve living on an inadequate stipend plus thousands more in loans for the next 7 years. If I was finishing up my PHD now or within the next 2 years, like so many I know, that’d be great. But man, I just feel so behind.

So, anyone with some alternate “best job” suggestions?

BTW, this thread need not be limited to job suggestions for me. True I kinda set it up that way with my OP being so autobiographical, but I’d just like to hear some ideas of the best jobs out there today, (as defined by my parameters).

Incidentally I’ve read the work of a few UCLA musicology professors. e.g. Robert Walser, Susan McClary, and Timothy Taylor. Your wife is in good company (not to say that she’s not good company herself :wink: )

  1. Moe, you’re my first 30 year old friend. :eek: :smiley:

  2. What if you pursued law and focused on entertainment law?

  3. There are degrees in arts management, would that interest you?

I have a BA in music and work in the pharmaceutical industry in Manhattan. The pharmaceutical heartland is central/northern NJ but even when I worked out there I lived in the city, played music in the city, took classes, etc. My starting salary in 2001 was $75,000 or thereabouts.

I got here via working as a clinical research study assistant at a cancer research hospital and I got that job with a smidgen of computer and research experience (one semester at a work study job in a psych lab - this is back in 1989) and what must have been a great interview because I didn’t take so much as a biology class in college. I was in the temp pool at the hospital before that. The learning curve was steep but it was very interesting and I felt important work. I must have been 27-28 at the time. I burned out after 6 years and that’s when I started looking for work in the pharmaceutical industry. Another interview with someone kind enough to take on an eager newbie and I was in the door.

It’s generally 9-5, not too stressful overall, and when I had the time I was able to rehearse three nights a week, play gigs in the city and elsewhere, and in general had a healthy sideline playing music. Healthy in the ‘I did it a lot and had fun’ sense, not in the ‘I made a lot of money’ sense.

There are grant-making institutions like The Ford Foundation, Lila Acheson Wallace, places you see on PBS just before the show, where you might be able to put your research skills to work.

Anyway, one thing I learned is that as I got older my commitments gradually ate away at the time I had available for my other pursuits to the point where they became hobbies, or just vanished altogether. This was not an involuntary thing, I might add.

So, you may say, at age 30 with no terribly serious commitments to speak of, that no matter what you do you’ll always have time for your musical pursuits. But unless you make it your job, or are able somehow to carve a significant chunk of time out of your other life, you may not really have as much time as you’d like.

Honestly, the only thing I can think of would be to go to lawschool. It’s a three year program and it will most likely get you the type of salary you want provided you go to a decent school and choose private practice/or an area that isn’t very underpaid. As to hours-they vary by region, firm, practice area…I don’t know anyone who makes the type of money you want and doesn’t work a lot of hours when they’re first starting out but there are other options-for instance I’m starting out working for the Feds on an honors fellowship and it’s close to what you would be earning as a professor and if I got permanently hired I would be making in the high 5 figures within a couple of years while working fewer hours than in private practice. It can be a significant financial investment especially if you go to a private school and can be tedious blahdeblah. Some people who wander into it randomly do okay but for other people it can be a pretty sucky experience if they went into it rather half-heartedly.

The other option I can think of would be to get into sales (pharmaceuticals sales rep is a good starting salary although I hear it can be really hard to get and they want a very high GPA and prefer people in sciences) or marketing and work your way up and/or eventually get an MBA.

There are a lot of broke lawyers. A law degree is no guarentee of a six figure salary. I used to date a perpetually broke, always looking for a real job, self employed attorney.

Do some research on law as a choice. It can be fairly brutal.

  1. First off Sara my dear, let’s not rush things. Still got 5 months before the true beginning of the end of my life.

  2. It’s a possibility. If I did pursue law I’d certainly try to focus on something connected to music, theatre, etc. though I’m not sure if “entertainment law” would provide any particular satisfaction in that regard. Perhaps I’ll start another thread just on areas of law remotely connected to my interests, but not today.

  3. I don’t think so. Not my thing.

I’ve got a totally unresearched suggestion that sounds good at face value.

Try getting a journalism degree and perhaps lean on your musical roots to write about music. Not sure if that pays well, or if it’s as difficult to crack into as actually playing music is, but you could be doing it before your 35. Not necessarily thinking that Rolling Stone is the way to go, but I’m sure there’s something.

That actually does sound very good at face value and is worth further exploration. Truth is, I’ve been intrigued by the idea of being a journalist for some time now.

Hopefully a journalist might pop in to give me a better idea what’s involved.

One additional twist on the same theme. Perhaps a communications degree, or a journalism/communication double major or major/minor, could lead you into a career along the lines of radio station program manager. Not sure of your interests, and a pure jouralism degree seems more compatible with the affinity for debate/discussion, but mixing in a background in communications could lead you to a good urban lifestyle in some manner.

How about a Music Librarian?

A few large public libraries have them and most large universities have them as well. You’d be in charge of collecting not only books about music and musicians, but also scores and recordings. Yes. Among other duties, you’d be using someone else’s money to buy the things you wish you could buy for yourself! It’s sweet.

Since it’s a specialized area, you might very well be the only music librarian or maybe one of two at your institution. This sort of set up usually translates into a 9-5 job, although it could be 10-6 or maybe 12-8 sometimes. Sometimes you might have to work evenings at the reference desk, too.

Also, since it’s a specialized area, you might very well make more than the average librarian - especially at a large university. It’d be an academic professional or faculty teaching position, given the school, and they usually get paid a bit more than most staff members do. Unfortunately, most job ads in the library field these days don’t give salary ranges, so I don’t have any details here, just observations from 4 large university libraries.

One caveat: to insure you’d be interviewed and hired, you might want to have an advanced degree – just an MA, though. So, I’d recommend you get yourself into a musicology program at an institution that has an accredited library school program. Look at for a list of those places.

Most library school degrees take 12 months-24 months to complete. (You might want to take longer if you can work as a grad assistant in a library – that gets you interviews, too.) If you got an MA in musicology that’d be, what, another 2 years? So you’d be looking at an experience that was 1 year longer than law school, potentially much cheaper with assistantships, and maybe it’d provide you more of a chance to actually work with musicologists, music and other nifty things. And I’d imagine that the average librarian’s life is not nearly as stressful as the average lawyer’s.

I found a few job announcements for this type of job. Bonus: some ask for just a BA in music.

This one’s for a Head of Music Library position, so it requires 5 years experience:
To get an idea of what academic librarians in the arts are concerned about and what they do, go to: and look on the left nav bar.

Good luck!