What are the advantages of your chosen field? Disadvantages?

I have been watching some reruns of The Office (American version) lately, and I’ve been vaguely wondering if anyone actually has a job like Pam: pays decent, 9-5, no weekends, good job security. Upon reflection, most office managers probably have similar jobs. Regardless, what are the positives and negatives of your field?

Mine (Medicine):
Advantages: Good compensation, good job security, once you are senior enough you can set your own hours in some fields, relative independence (usually you don’t have a “boss” to answer to), can feel like you are making a significant difference in people’s lives

Disadvantages: Training takes forever, is expensive, and is grueling. Lawsuits and the threat of lawsuits. While you sometimes have independence in what hours you work, you still have to work a butt-ton of hours, often irregular, to the point where planning things outside of work is very difficult. Many old-school types still work 7 days a week, 350 days a year. It is not a job you can “leave at work”; you carry your responsibilities with you. In that vein, you have to take call. Your colleagues tend to be super-competitive type-A overacheivers, which can be difficult if you don’t mesh well with those types. Patients can be frustrating sometimes.

Your turn!


Advantages. Can really work on achieving “justice” for people who have been harmed financially or physically (or both). Can learn something new every day. One day I might be figuring out how Freon effects the heart, and the next day how an insurance company evaluates a residential fire loss. Compensation can be good to very good. (many lawyers are struggling, however).

Disadvantages. Public misconception of what we do and the value of doing it. Highly paid and well funded adversaries doing everything they can to frustrate our work. A friend said it was like trying to fly a 747 while someone else was hired to make you crash. Long hours, and you always have deadlines looming.

Language Education (Distance Learning, Secondary Students)

Advantages - leave the job at work, 9-5, passion is rewarded, feel like I’m making a difference on an individual level

Disadvantages - low pay, not much room for promotion, unmotivated students and helicopter moms (constant criticism, basically, but it’s part of the job and you can’t take it too seriously), not a whole lot of variety in the work

Videogame Development

Funky work environment, daily creative challenges, free soda and pizza, wear tee-shirts to work.

Insane levels of pressure, long hours of crunch, low wages compared to comparable positions in other industries, non much job security.

High School Teacher

Advantages: 10 weeks off(ish) in summer, two at Christmas. Chance to start over from scratch every year. Lots of autonomy (depending on school and subject), teenagers are easy to impress/make laugh, having lots and lots of personality is a quirk, get to be in charge, get to buy new school supplies each fall. You get to see kids learn. Sweet thank you notes. You get to transform their lives.

Disadvantages: Don’t get paid for all that time off (you might have your checks divided so they come all year, but if you have to take any unpaid leave (like, say to have a baby) you see pretty damn quick that it matters that you technically only get paid for 9 months). Lowish pay in general, though this varies a lot. Everyone thinks they can do your job. HARD work: long, long days and lots and lots of grading/tutoring/sponsoring before and after school. Living on a bell schedule: no water-cooler conversations or coffee breaks. Lonely. Warps your personality to be the smartest (or at least most knowledgeable) person in the room all day. Repetitive if you keep teaching the same thing. Recommendation letters. You can’t take a long lunch to go to the doctor or the post office. You see some real tragedies you can’t help with.

Logging Systems Engineer

Advantages: Get to be outside and active. Get to travel to some really neat locations. Hike in the woods for money. I get decent time off, but realistically only in the winter. It’s always a new adventure. Trees worship me, for I am their God, and I am a vengeful god not to be trifled with.

Disadvantages: It can be lonely, spend all day alone and then spend the night in a hotel. You have to live in rural areas (can be both good and bad). Bad weather can be nasty. Bugs. Getting hurt can be life and death. Sometimes you really don’t feel like hiking in the woods. Cold rain down the back of your raingear, first thing in the morning.

High School English Teacher


You are doing something you love to do. Every day has variety. The hours aren’t bad. You are generally respected. You have a relatively high degree of autonomy. Summer vacation. Involvement with parents (much more pleasant in a small town than in a large city).


The pay absolutely sucks for the level of expertise needed to do the job properly and the responsibility. You are all too often micromanaged by supervisors who don’t know their asses from a hole in the ground. You all too often feel as if you are teaching a skill that has already obsolesced. Your students, almost all of them, feel that you are wasting their time as what you are teaching has nothing to do with Facebook or Twitter. Almost no one cares about the subject you are teaching or believes in its importance. You are going to be an English teacher for the rest of your life; since no one believes in the English language any more, there aren’t any other jobs related to proficiency in it (there are such things as copywriting jobs, but it’s much more important in those jobs to know FaceFool and Twooter, etc. than to know how to spell). Last but not least, you are trying to teach a subject that requires some rigor and involvement on the part of your students, but your students are essentially 30 kettles of boiling hormone soup. They basically want to eat, shop, play, and fuck. They could care less about “Hamlet” or “Moby Dick.”

Environmental Specialist for an O&G Company

Advantages: Big budgets, lots of travel, great benefits, cool technology, and being in an emerging field that is in high demand is pretty sweet. Specific to the company I work for, they do the right thing (as much as an O&G company can do, really), are pretty advanced for an O&G company, and understand the concept of a ‘social license to operate’ and apply it in their global operations.

Disadvantages: Politics, sometimes having to justify the cost of going above and beyond what is required (try putting a value on the environment to justify the economics!), lack of ‘buy-in’ from the field level (think ‘safety’ in the 70’s and 80’s). In addition, because the company I work for is relatively advanced in their environmental requirements, there is a LOT of data gathering, analysis and reporting involved.

Financial Markets:

Pros: Quite a wide variety of products to learn. Stocks, bonds, options, forex, futures, and quite a few more. Because of licensing requirements, not an easy job to offshore. Many jobs don’t have advanced educational requirements.

Cons: 24 hour markets can cause a lousy schedule. Since i just moved to the futures desk, I’m working 1130 pm-8 am. High maintenance clients, although you can have that in any job that requires working with the public. The volatile markets over the past few years can cause high levels of stress. Also, the Lehmans, Madoffs, and MF Global scandals haven’t helped at all.

Self-employed artist.

Pros: I work at home and set my own hours. Since I’m very much of a night person, I usually work all night, in addition to some day hours. I get to do the work I love, rather than taking orders from people I despise.

Cons: Several months can go by, without any income whatsoever. And considering the complexity of my art, it sometimes takes months to complete one piece. So I’m basically working for less than minimum wage. I work every single day, longer hours than anyone I know . . . without sick days, personal days or paid vacation. And no health insurance or IRA or pension. And the art market in this city is anemic at best.

panache-what medium?

Foreign Aid

Advantages: Lots of travel, interesting work, sense of fulfillment from work that that at times can improve people’s lives, decent pay after getting over the entry level years;

Disadvantages: at times dangerous work, lack of job security (you’re always one grant cancellation away from unemployment), frequent diarrhea (I mean like a lot, I’m amazed the government doesn’t require employers to give pamphlets to potential hires)

Hospice worker.


You meet lots of interesting people. I’ve met more WWII vets than I can count on both hands and feet, one of which was part of the first wave D-Day landings. There’s some level of job security. Experience highly sought after and valued by employers. Nobody pulls the you’ve-got-an-easy-job-compared-to-me shit when they learn what you do. People respect what you’re doing.


Your job is watching people die. Your job is taking care of and cleaning up dead bodies. Your job is notifying family they’ve lost loved ones. Every. Single. Day. And you do this for minimum wage.

Chemistry prof at a research intensive university

Extremely challenging in terms of creativity and intellect. Endlessly stimulating and feels like a real achievement when you make contributions to science.

Get to work with some brilliant people (PhD students, PDRAs) who are largely a pleasure to be around and interact with.

The stress to maintain competitive research is hard, but it exists in a sort of parallel world. Unlike a small business owner (which is comparable in many ways), you’re still getting a guaranteed salary at the end of the month and great job security.

Generally nice working environment with exceptional freedom to do what you like from a day to day perspective.

My field of chemistry is essential - it’s been hit pretty hard recently but overall it’s a big, vibrant community in the general scheme of academia. Strong voice within the university, as well. It’s also very well-established, meaning the funding is there but you need to be versatile to position your research in the more exciting areas.


V hard to get the position in the first place - scary amount of luck needed. Once you’re in you’re sort of ensconced for a long stretch, so can restrict spouse’s work opportunities.
Crushing pressure to raise funding that never goes away (but does get easier, apparently). I work with senior guys who are genuine world leaders and they’re still worried about that next grant.
Little safety net in the UK system to maintain your core research - need to be chasing funding non-stop. If there’s money available in anything remotely, tangentially related to your field you need to put your hand up and say ‘I do that’.
Can be quite solitary - work ethic goes without saying but you also need to be able to work in isolation for long stretches. Need to be very self-motivating and able to work with little external structure to your day.
Relentlessly competitive nature of science can breed some unpleasant character traits and just adds to the general stress.
Undergrad teaching seems to get a lot of colleagues down. I quite enjoy the actual lecturing, tutorials etc, but those who are more involved seem constantly disappointed with standards and student engagement.


Pros: I work at home, which is very convenient. I write stories and books that I wish existed but don’t yet. (According to Samuel Delaney, that’s the reason people should write.) When I get an acceptance, I feel tremendously validated. People think I have a cool job. I’ve often read at local schools, etc., which is fun.

Cons: Low, low, pay, which comes at irregular intervals. Rejections. People think my job is one anyone can do.

This thread is fascinating. Cool insight into a lot of different professions.

SOCIAL WORKER (development and outreach)
-Get paid to write.
-Extremely challenging problem-solving (like how to create money out of thin air)
-Get to do research that has a direct application to the needs of a community
-Get to meet people in the community
-Job is in constant state of flux, responding to new challenges, never boring
-Get to wear many different hats
-Live a life with meaning

-Low job security (you better hope you can get a grant to fund your salary next year)
-Generally not taken seriously as a professional by other professionals (psychologists, lawyers, etc. - guess what, I went to school too, folks!)
-Pretty much expected to pour your heart and soul into everything you do, meaning long hours at times, but very low pay
-You pour your heart and soul into everything you do, which means sometimes it feels like you are directly responsible for the good of a community… so it’s exhausting on an emotional level and often very difficult to leave at work.
-Very difficult to do well, and sometimes success or failure is completely arbitrary

First Career - Field Office Manager - Geographic Data Base Development

Pros: Very entrepreneurial, small and nimble tech organization, everyone knows everyone, working as a team for the success of the cause, lots of travel, being on the roads and mapping in many cities, working with customers and potential customers, doing something that has not been done before, fun, being passionate about my work.

Cons: Little transferability of skills, long hours, not the best pay, and passing up other, more profitable long-term, ground-floor opportunities to focus on the passion, which did not work out long-term.

Second Career - Project Management, Health Insurance

Pros: Project Management concepts apply in many different fields, so the ability to find a job even in difficult economic times is reasonably good. Leaning new things nearly everyday about an industry misunderstood as often as it is villified. Working with a smart group of people, and learning about various health conditions and how they are managed with drug companies, doctors, and hospitals to keep costs for the patient under control. The hours are long but not horrendous overall - I can put some energy into my own, non-work interests.

Cons: Cubicle-dwelling, corporate drone, empty of passion for the work, and feeling shackled to the pay and security it affords me and my family. Sometimes high pressure and overly demanding. Little to no travel. Sometimes I am a dumping ground for work from others who don’t understand what I do.

Third Career - I am keeping an eye on this discussion thread!

Business owner.

Pros: $$$

Cons: not nearly enough $$$ for all the bullshit.

Commercial Insurance Call Center

Pros: Fairly recession-resistant. Everyone needs insurance on their cars and businesses. I can leave my work at work. Overtime is usually available, but not mandatory. Good amount of PTO and nobody cares when or why we call off (up to our annual unplanned PTO limit). All the floor employees are pretty much interchangeable, with the exception of some special assignments. But even then, they aren’t so time-sensitive that they’ll be negatively affected by a call-off here and there. The office is always cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It’s a sit-down job, and thus disability-friendly. Doesn’t require a college degree, yet provides access to a living wage and affordable health insurance.

Cons: Well, it’s a call center, making it the most stressful and ridiculous job most people can imagine. We’re constantly affected by heavy turnover. I stopped trying to make nice with coworkers, after the ones I met kept leaving the company. Our stats are micromanaged, the customers suck, and nobody ever stays helped. It’s just a grinding, unremitting, awful job. Most people are unhappy, and it tends to exacerbate latent mental illness in a way that many other jobs do not. It’s a combination of the repetition and being micromanaged to the second. Of the 15 people in my training class 4 years ago, there are 4 of us left. Most quit within the first year. The rest of us are lifers, and I can see the toll it’s taking on me and on them. Most of my coworkers started getting doughy pretty quickly. Lots of call center workers take up smoking and frequent snacking, even if those weren’t past habits.

But hey, it’s better than living with your parents! :frowning:

Software developer for mobile device apps.


Fun projects
Customers like our apps. They find them useful.
Always new challenges – every day is different
Requires me to use my brain, which I like
Good working environment
Relatively high pay


Deadlines – a constant presence
Overtime without extra pay (I’m exempt, like most people at my level)
People who promise things to customers without talking to engineers