Degrees that Pay Well: How to Prepare for a Career
Career anxiety seems to be at the forefront of American culture. Especially as we wade into an economic depression, career planning is of great importance. Conversations surrounding career choice seem to be emerging earlier and earlier between parents and students. What are degrees that pay well?
When I was in high school, I remembered being surprised that one of my peers confidently declared during our freshman orientation that she wanted to be a cardiothoracic surgeon. Lately, parents are emphasizing career choice and guiding their students down an academic path that supports that choice.
I am hoping that our current pandemic conditions will offer an opportunity for all of us to collectively reframe the way that we frame career opportunities and the educational ones that precede them.
What should I study in college?
Of course, if you are hoping to pursue a pre-professional track like medicine, it is important to be aware of the undergraduate requirements that will allow that path to remain a viable possibility. However, even if you are fairly certain about the professional track that you want to pursue, try to also explore your peripheral interests. Even if the academic disciplines that you are interested in seem unrelated, the unique combination of them could allow you to approach the career that you end up in, in an unprecedented and creative way. This is all to say that there are MANY degrees that pay well.
I believe that High School and Undergraduate Education is more about molding the way that you think rather than about gathering specific information. Are you going to remember the material on your freshman year seminar exam? Probably not. Will you finesse and apply what you learned from your experience retaining and synthesizing the information on the exam? Hopefully, and this ability will allow you to excel in numerous stages of your career.
My recommendation is to push yourself to try subjects that you don’t have an immediate interest in. If you have the chance to take a class that explores material that you’ve never engaged with, jump right in! A career is an extensive commitment, a field of work that you might be involved in for multiple decades. It is foolish to expect students to decide on a field, without allowing them to weigh their options and explore their talent and propensity for various fields. A degree that pays well is a degree that allows you to combine multiple disciplines or interests.
The value in combining disparate interests
There seems to be a cultural myth that exploration is tantamount to distraction. However, I would argue that exploring outside of your immediate field of interest could, in the long run, make you more a more valuable commodity on the job market.
Maybe you are that student who is pursuing medicine, but you also find yourself with a passion for the history of Middle East. Your combined interest opens up an unforeseen opportunity to run humanitarian or wartime medical initiatives. Maybe you are an English literature major, and you find that you are drawn to the storytelling of economics; you might eventually find yourself as a financial correspondent for a celebrated media outlet. Maybe you love data and statistics, but you also enjoy visual art. A career in creative advertising and targeting could be an unexpected avenue for your talent and interest!
When it comes to career, we are in the age of the individual. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that the economy and the structure of commerce is not guaranteed. As a culture, we have made the mistake of emphasizing career over skillset. Careers are changing, so cultivate a unique skill-set, a synthesis of the disparate interests that most compel you. Then, you can become an expert in the conversation between your interests. Allow different interests to inform one another. That way, you can become the person in your field that approaches your discipline from an unexpected lens or framework. This ability to make connections and creatively approach an already established discipline will allow you to adapt to an ever-changing job market.
Opportunities for a more flexible job and career landscape are emerging from this pandemic. It is also uncovering more degrees that pay well. We are all learning to adjust to new realities. Moreover, we are collectively introducing infrastructure that will allow us to shape our careers in new, exciting ways! I hope that this will encourage us to understand education through a more exploratory lens, that this new reality will align both our emotional and financial incentives when it comes to career.