Author Topic: Looking for perspective re: career change  (Read 2875 times)


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Looking for perspective re: career change
« on: August 31, 2014, 01:22:26 PM »
Hi folks,

Iím hoping to learn how you would approach some decisions Iíll be making in the next year or two. Thereís certainly a financial component to all this, and thatís why Iím writing here, but Iím most interested in how you smart folks approach major life decisions. Thisíll be more brainstorming than anything; Iím going in circles here and would appreciate some outside impartial perspective. Thisíll be long, so thanks in advance if you feel like slogging through it.

Some caveats: While I have read the blog with a lot of interest and appreciate the general tone, I donít necessarily subscribe to all the tenets of the philosophy. Take driving, for example: My wife and I have family scattered across the state. We value the flexibility involved in driving rather than taking the train to visit, especially with a new baby. We also value spending time in the woods and at the beach, but canít yet afford to live near either. I view some of the car expense as a means of accessing bits of the lifestyle we truly want while we work toward the real thing. That said, we drive a 2002 Civic and a new Fit, so itís not like weíre over the top.

Anyway, this isnít about my car or my budget at this point, really.

Iíve been working for six years now at a job which I really dislike. The people are great, but the work itself blows. Iím surprised itís not all automated yet, and Iím convinced it will be within ten years. There are good reasons I took the job in the first place, and significant advantages to the position. (Strong public pension, very good health benefits, close to zero stress). Thereís also zero room for growth. Additionally, my wife and I would like to move. Unfortunately, the job is so specialized that Iím not likely to be able to find something similar in a more desirable area. The longer I stay, the more Iím locked in.

In 2010, I looked at a bunch of different fields and decided that I want to be a physical therapist. It pays better than what Iím doing now, though not hugely. Non-financial factors played a bigger role in the decision: PT is in pretty strong demand (i.e. Iíd have a chance at moving to the beach); itís much more physically active (Iíve been a desk jockey since 16 and donít like the effects); it provides opportunities for critical thinking and a role as an expert thatís not present in my current work; I believe it will help foster a positive outlook (most patients see improvement, something that canít necessarily be said in something like general medical practice).

Anyway, since then Iíve been taking the necessary prereqs after work, just a class or two at a time. Itís a lot; I had no previous science training and have taken something like 70 units at five different colleges in the area as things worked with my schedule. Iíve also done the GRE, observation hours, the whole deal. So this is something Iíve been focused on and working toward for a long time now.

Admission is competitive. The program I applied to this past year received over 800 applications for 35 slots. This is for the privilege of paying north of $120K in tuition alone. (this cost is not far off the median, and the program has the advantage of being two years long; most are three). I have very strong stats and was waitlisted. This is just as well. We have a five-week-old kid to whom weíre adjusting, and thereís no way in hell I could successfully complete the work right now.

So I have some time off work because of our daughterís birth, and some time to look up from the grind and reflect deeply for the first time in a while, and Iím thinkingÖ $160K in loans (after living expenses) for a job that pays $75-$90K to start is nuts, right? There are ways to mitigate the cost ó if I keep the loans Federal, then I can stick Ďem in income-based repayment. That figure is calculated based on AGI, which I could push pretty low by saving aggressively in tax-deferred accounts. Then after 10 years, if I work in a nonprofit clinic or hospital, the remaining balance would be forgiven. Still, thatís a lot of money and a lot of risk (what if the programs change?)

Thereís also no guarantee Iíll get in next time, so if I decide to proceed on this path, Iíll need to apply more broadly. Moving out of state would present a new set of wrinkles. My wife hasnít worked in quite a while because of some health issues, but is progressing through a degree program of her own. This is important to her (and to me), and moving could throw a wrench into that. Also, the condo we purchased in 2008 is still underwater. We canít do a short sale because the mark on my credit would make me ineligible for Federal loans for a while, defeating the whole purpose. We could rent it out, but would likely lose a couple hundred each month once maintenance is taken into account. Not a huge deal if Iím moving for a decent job, but this would present a cash flow problem if Iím heading back into full-time student mode.

Thereís also the whole part where moving away could undermine some of what weíve been working for, and some of what prompted the change in the first place. Weíd be further from family, and likely further from the beach and/or woods. Yes, it should be temporary, but our current six-year compromise has taught me that things tend to stay as you order them. Iíd like to take steps in the direction of the end game wherever possible. (Though some of that endgame definitely involves more engaging work, and I'd like it to be PT).

Bah. Like I said, Iím going in circles. Where would you start picking at the knot?


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Re: Looking for perspective re: career change
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2014, 02:05:43 PM »
Why is the program so expensive?  Are there any state universities that also offer PT that are more affordable?
I understand your wariness to take on so much debt.  Could you wait until your wife finishes her degree then move to a state where they have a strong university system-- and then apply once you have residency?


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Looking for perspective re: career change
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2014, 02:59:49 PM »

On a per anum basis that is equivalent to the cost of med school.  I would pursue other options unless pt is your total passion, and in that case i would want to rule out state school options as other poster indicated.

Your prereqs can be used for many other fields....i.e. Nursing optometry, xray tech, etc.


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Re: Looking for perspective re: career change
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2014, 09:03:48 PM »
Yeah, the cost of entry is insane. The profession has transitioned to an entry-level doctorate, and pay hasn't grown with the credentialing requirements. State schools here are 88K over three years, so cheaper but with an additional year of salary opportunity cost, so it ends up pretty even. Out of state schools are honestly pretty similar in terms of pricing for three year programs, unless I establish residency as you mention. That would save roughly $20K, depending on the state. The cost of living would be significantly less in most other places, though (I'm in CA now).

PT has become a passion, but I guess I do need to evaluate how much of that is simply because I've been working toward it for so long. Maybe there are other, cheaper fields that can scratch the same itch.

Ah, square one...


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Re: Looking for perspective re: career change
« Reply #4 on: September 01, 2014, 07:49:20 AM »
I'm currently in graduate school doing a career change (at 32) into medical Speech-Language Pathology.  I took the prereqs at night while working full-time, so I know what a pain in the ass that is.  Check out SLP--it's an interesting field with pay similar to PT, and graduate school is only 2 years.  SLP needs dudes--only 3.5% of the field is male, so you'll have a leg-up during applications.  You have the whole school-based portion of SLP (boring articulation/phonological therapy at schools) but if you pursue the medical side of the field, you'll work with cognitive/swallowing/voice therapy, which I find very interesting. 


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Re: Looking for perspective re: career change
« Reply #5 on: September 01, 2014, 08:12:47 AM »
You don't mention your savings rate. No savings or income potential that can reduce the amount of the required loan? In your shoes I think I'd focus on cutting costs, saving, and possibly increasing income to give more flexibility (whether you decide to pursue a PT degree or do something else.)
« Last Edit: September 01, 2014, 08:14:57 AM by Janie »

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Re: Looking for perspective re: career change
« Reply #6 on: September 01, 2014, 09:39:19 AM »
You've started on the knot in the right place - by taking some time away (Read the book "Six Months Off" - how do to a mini-sabbatical) from your office-drone grind.  Free your mind, spend time outdoors, and something will come to you while you're doing something as mundane as mowing the grass.

I'd start on the knot by looking at the where you are, why you're there, and what can you do in-place.  That seems to be non-negotiable, although renting the condo seems like something you should consider.  You don't mention where you are geographically, except that you're near the beach.  There are MANY places where there are beaches near woods - and many of them (Gulf of Mexico) in lower cost areas of the country than the urban centers (LA, San Francisco, Seattle, New York).
Could you also save money by having your wife finish her degree remotely, or at a different school - one that also has a PT program?
Next, look at those costs - there MUST be a way to find a lower cost program, or a program where the step up to PT certification is less expensive.  Can you become a PT-apprentice, or something?  Is there another field that's as physical as PT but that you'd like as much? (i.e. teaching people to surf like at the Paskowitz surf camp [] or equivalent)

You seem to want to help people - have you considered becoming a Life-Coach, and renting out your skills-to-date WITHOUT the certification?  There is LOTS of money in the Life-Coach industry, and none of us are certified (but many are certifiable, yet do great work).

You see to want to have the beach as a go-to-thing, and more than the 3 summer months.  Can you break it down a bit more for us.  List things as:  Necessities, Wants, Luxuries, and Clutter.