Author Topic: Need help choosing a major/career path  (Read 9435 times)

littleone

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Need help choosing a major/career path
« on: April 13, 2014, 09:05:19 AM »
I just started going back to college after many years. I started last spring and have done really well.

The only problem is trying to stick with a major/career path going forward, I like learning pretty much anything which makes me think I should do something different every week. All I know is that I want to earn a decent salary so I can become more financially independent faster.

I need to decide soon as my employer will start paying for tuition at the end of this year. Which they will cover anything from engineering, finance, business type degrees as it is a large company with many different departments.

Currently, I am signed up for a degree in engineering so I am taking the classes needed for that degree. However, I work in contracts which is something I could end up knowing more by the time I graduate if I go for a more business type of degree.

Which path would you take? What majors did you graduate in and which career path did it take you on?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!


zataks

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2014, 09:29:07 AM »
Do you like what you're doing?  Get a degree related to that. 
Is the employer paying 100% of tuition?  If not, how much will you pay, total?  How much pay raise will that equate to when you are done and for how many years will you be working in that position with the higher pay? 

If tuition is 100% paid, do whatever is interesting to you or supports your hobbies as well as work.  That is, study something that you can put to use outside of your work setting. 

I'm in an engineering related field and was (have been) putting significant consideration into returning to school for an engineering degree because I could pretty easily double my salary.  But I would also drastically increase my work load and increase 'off the clock' hours while also having to deal with way more politics in the work place.  I don't want any of that and my current pay scale will still be over 100k within 8 years (about half way to FI).  But I do want to understand more about engineering.  Luckily, working around many engineers one of the senior engineers on staff gave me a study text for the FE and I've been reading that.  I don't understand all of it but it let's me see where my deficiencies lay and I can research from there. 
Despite increasing my wages so greatly, the cost of school, financially and on an emotional and social level, is likely too much; I like my time with my lady (and future children) and friends and surfing.  And working 4 days a week to make enough money to FI in 15ish years is good with me.  Of course, I'd like FI now and it would be much sooner but I'm paying for being ignorant with money for years. 

tl;dr: what's the true cost of school for you beyond dollars.  if you go, study something that will benefit your life, not just your job/pocket book.

ch12

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2014, 10:51:56 AM »
I like learning pretty much anything which makes me think I should do something different every week. All I know is that I want to earn a decent salary so I can become more financially independent faster.

Which they will cover anything from engineering, finance, business type degrees as it is a large company with many different departments.

Currently, I am signed up for a degree in engineering so I am taking the classes needed for that degree. However, I work in contracts which is something I could end up knowing more by the time I graduate if I go for a more business type of degree.

Which path would you take? What majors did you graduate in and which career path did it take you on?

Engineering, hands down, would be the best for your path to FI.

I went into business school as an accounting/finance major and ended as an international business and legal studies major. Majoring in legal studies is the only way that I see that you'd learn more about contracts; it's fairly useful, but it's also the hardest part of a business degree. As I am a glutton for punishment, I chose the path that would land me with lawyer professors. I also picked up two majors (Psychology and Spanish) in the College of Arts and Sciences.

I ended up getting a job in healthcare IT, which is not at all related to what I did or prepared for in school. I work on an Android app for hospital patients. I'm also a French translator.

Weedy Acres

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2014, 03:46:25 PM »
After 3 semesters in college I too found myself interested in way too many things to choose a major.  So I sat down with the school's course catalog, read every single possible major, and narrowed it down to 8 that I found most appealing.  They ranged from microbiology to history. 

The next semester I took a class in each (as though I was pursuing 8 majors at once).  By halfway through the semester it clicked for me, and I picked the two majors that combined to provide me a career path I could see myself on. 

I'd definitely vote for finding something you'll love to do, not just picking the one that you think will get you the highest pay and thus the quickest path to FI.  There are lots of careers that will pay you well.  Pick the one you love to do. 

bikebum

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2014, 03:57:56 PM »
Disclaimer: I am an engineer, so I'm biased towards it.

I am very happy that I got a degree in civil engineering. If I could go back in time, I would not change it. Other engineering fields pay more. I chose civil because I liked the field and I wanted to live in a semi-rural area.

Milspecstache

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2014, 06:41:39 PM »
I'd say go for engineering with the idea that your day job will round you out in the business area which will help you as you enter the engineering field.

Hard to say which major, though.  I am mechanical and really enjoy it still.

samburger

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2014, 10:22:00 AM »
I have a straight up Liberal Arts degree, but I specialized in tech-oriented design and communication.

I graduated from an engineering school, so most of my cohort is made up of engineers. I make more than 95% of them, so don't be afraid of softer skills! Do what you're good at (unless it's poetry or some other non-skill), but be mindful that the market is brutal for business and communication types.

phred

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2014, 11:32:33 AM »
You need to envision your future workday.  Do you want to travel a lot; be assigned overseas; never?  Work indoors or out of doors.  Work by yourself (more or less), or in small groups.  Work with CAD all day, or with Excel and Powerpoint.  Have weekends off or expect to be called in the middle of the night for emergencies?

Most of the people I hang with are either CPAs, auditors, company controllers or actuaries.  We laugh at the pitiful paychecks of those down in engineering

bikebum

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #8 on: April 14, 2014, 05:26:51 PM »
Most of the people I hang with are either CPAs, auditors, company controllers or actuaries.  We laugh at the pitiful paychecks of those down in engineering

Here are some median hourly wages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm

Accountants and Auditors: $31.29
Actuaries: $45.35
Engineers: $41.96 (ranges about $35 to $50)

Maybe you and your buddies make more, but for averages it appears not.

choppingwood

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #9 on: April 14, 2014, 10:46:17 PM »
My first degree was in English literature. When I graduated, I had no expectations of finding a job easily or making much money. However, I found a really interesting job in book publishing, long before anyone else with a practical degree found any work. I didn't make much money. Over time, the salary went up and up and up, and I got into general management because I was willing to relocate to out of the mainstream places and work on less sexy projects. Then I moved into organization redesign, and eventually human resources and then got an MBA in one of the first online university programs. People started to offer me consulting jobs that needed computer skills because they thought of me as computer savvy, and because I would learn to use any software quickly just to do a project. In this second career, I haven't worried much about whether one job is higher or lower than another, or too much about what different jobs pay. I look for interesting jobs doing interesting things. That being said, my employment earnings have gone up more than 50% in the last 5 years. My answer to your question is pick something you think you'll love for the long-term, put your all into it, and see what opportunities come your way. It doesn't matter much what you are earning if you are living well within your means and doing work you get a kick out of.

MDM

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2014, 12:26:46 AM »
Taking your OP at face value:
Quote
All I know is that I want to earn a decent salary so I can become more financially independent faster.
below are some statistics from a recent Washington Post article:

A 2013 article in the Daily Beast, citing a Georgetown University survey on the economic value of different college majors, showed ... the 10 most remunerative majors:
1.   Petroleum Engineering
2.   Pharmacy Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration
3.   Mathematics and Computer Science
4.   Aerospace Engineering
5.   Chemical Engineering
6.   Electrical Engineering
7.   Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering
8.   Mechanical Engineering
9.   Metallurgical Engineering
10. Mining and Mineral Engineering

Meanwhile ... the 10 least remunerative majors:
1.  Counseling Psychology
2.  Early Childhood Education
3.  Theology and Religious Vocations
4.  Human Services and Community Organization
5.  Social Work
6.  Drama and Theater Arts
7.   Studio Arts
8.   Communication Disorders Sciences and Services
9.   Visual and Performing Arts
10. Health and Medical Preparatory Programs

I certainly wouldn't suggest studying something you dislike, but if you think you would enjoy the work involved with any of the above - might as well pick a field that aligns with your goal of reaching FI quickly.

NeverWasACornflakeGirl

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2014, 05:43:42 AM »
For anyone who doesn't know what they want to do, I highly recommend the book "I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was: How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get It"  by Barbara Sher.  http://www.amazon.com/Could-Anything-Only-Knew-What/dp/0440505003  It's a really insightful book with lots of helpful exercises.

Nancy

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2014, 06:41:05 AM »
I'd say go for engineering with the idea that your day job will round you out in the business area which will help you as you enter the engineering field.

+1

I wouldn't get a degree in something I'm already doing at work since I'd have  years of experience in that area. I would get a degree in something else (like engineering) so I'd have more options. Also, since you say you like to try different things all the time, you might be bored with contracts by the time you're done with your degree. Of course, that's just my opinion.

Cpa Cat

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2014, 10:01:53 AM »
Most of the people I hang with are either CPAs, auditors, company controllers or actuaries.  We laugh at the pitiful paychecks of those down in engineering

Here are some median hourly wages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm

Accountants and Auditors: $31.29
Actuaries: $45.35
Engineers: $41.96 (ranges about $35 to $50)

Maybe you and your buddies make more, but for averages it appears not.

Here's the problem with the accounting statistics you've given:

The vast majority of auditors are in the first 1-3 years of their careers. Auditing has quick turnover into lucrative opportunities in private accounting. Do those people then call themselves accountants? Nope. They tend to have loftier titles, such as CFO or a "specialist" of some sort or controller.

General "accountant" can mean anything. That's not the same thing as a CPA. You can be an accountant without your CPA. In fact, most people with the title "accountant" are not CPAs.

For perspective - I made $24 an hour as an accounting intern prior to graduating. My highest job offer was $56k start - eligible to sit for the CPA, but not having passed any sections of the exam. I do not live in a high cost of living area and starting salaries where I was looking to work were average for the nation. I knew people who were getting anywhere from $60-70k start if they were willing to move to less attractive places (mostly oil and gas related, all private firms). Furthermore, 95% of people graduating from my program had pre-grad job offers.

That said, average salaries for Finance degrees were higher.

I like accounting, I would recommend it to anyone as a degree that has a very long list of potential opportunities and wonderful ROI on school. But a lot of people hate working in this industry. They basically die of boredom in their first year of working.

phred

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #14 on: April 15, 2014, 11:20:28 AM »
Taking your OP at face value:
Quote
All I know is that I want to earn a decent salary so I can become more financially independent faster.
below are some statistics from a recent Washington Post article:
6.  Drama and Theater Arts
7.   Studio Arts
9.   Visual and Performing Arts
The only problem with this list is that engineers are soon obsolete in ten years, computer engineers in less time.  While drama majors may struggle most of their lives, A-list actors make a bit more.  It's foolish to pick a major because it may pay more.  Much better to follow the vision

bikebum

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #15 on: April 15, 2014, 08:13:39 PM »
Most of the people I hang with are either CPAs, auditors, company controllers or actuaries.  We laugh at the pitiful paychecks of those down in engineering

Here are some median hourly wages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm

Accountants and Auditors: $31.29
Actuaries: $45.35
Engineers: $41.96 (ranges about $35 to $50)

Maybe you and your buddies make more, but for averages it appears not.

Here's the problem with the accounting statistics you've given:

The vast majority of auditors are in the first 1-3 years of their careers. Auditing has quick turnover into lucrative opportunities in private accounting. Do those people then call themselves accountants? Nope. They tend to have loftier titles, such as CFO or a "specialist" of some sort or controller.

General "accountant" can mean anything. That's not the same thing as a CPA. You can be an accountant without your CPA. In fact, most people with the title "accountant" are not CPAs.

For perspective - I made $24 an hour as an accounting intern prior to graduating. My highest job offer was $56k start - eligible to sit for the CPA, but not having passed any sections of the exam. I do not live in a high cost of living area and starting salaries where I was looking to work were average for the nation. I knew people who were getting anywhere from $60-70k start if they were willing to move to less attractive places (mostly oil and gas related, all private firms). Furthermore, 95% of people graduating from my program had pre-grad job offers.

I think what you said also applies to engineers. It is very common for an engineer to move to a higher paying job with a different title. And an "engineer" may not have a licenses, like an "accountant" may not be a CPA. The starting salaries you mention are very close to what people with engineering degrees get.

bikebum

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #16 on: April 15, 2014, 08:17:48 PM »
Taking your OP at face value:
Quote
All I know is that I want to earn a decent salary so I can become more financially independent faster.
below are some statistics from a recent Washington Post article:
6.  Drama and Theater Arts
7.   Studio Arts
9.   Visual and Performing Arts
The only problem with this list is that engineers are soon obsolete in ten years, computer engineers in less time.

Sounds like you are talking out of your ass :P

Anyone will become obsolete if they don't adapt to the changing world. Why would this be more so for engineers?

phred

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #17 on: April 15, 2014, 09:10:21 PM »
Engineering is all about technology.  Right now technology changes quickly.  If you are not in perpetual schooling, you soon fall behind and are replaced by the next batch of college grads.
Accounting, as an example, may use computers, but accounting doesn't change as much in comparison.  The law, with its backward looking orientation changes even less.
Computer people: when was the last time you needed to code in COBOL or design in frames for a Website?

bikebum

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #18 on: April 15, 2014, 09:26:11 PM »
I don't think it's that hard to keep current with technology. I and the guys at my work learn how to use the new stuff easily. Don't accounting laws change? Seems that would be similar. Some people enjoy continuous learning.

Heart of Tin

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #19 on: April 15, 2014, 09:30:58 PM »
Most of the people I hang with are either CPAs, auditors, company controllers or actuaries.  We laugh at the pitiful paychecks of those down in engineering

Here are some median hourly wages from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm

Accountants and Auditors: $31.29
Actuaries: $45.35
Engineers: $41.96 (ranges about $35 to $50)

Maybe you and your buddies make more, but for averages it appears not.

From the BLS link, I can't tell if they were only considering credentialed actuaries in that average. Credentialed actuaries (called Associates) in the United States have passed five exams (each estimated to require 300 to 600 hours of study), four college level courses to demonstrate knowledge of certain fields, an eight module course, and a professionalism class in addition to usually having at least a bachelor's degree in Math, Statistics, Economics, or a related field. Associateship is basically a self-taught maters degree pursued while working full time and usually takes at least four years to complete. Only considering credentialed actuaries in the above statistic would skew the sample. Here: http://www.dwsimpson.com/salary.html is the most comprehensive data set on actuarial salaries, including regression by experience level for each specialty.

The entry level actuarial market is completely saturated. I have been a (paid) intern for almost a year now. I know other interns who have spent at least a year in their positions. We had an intern position open up a few weeks ago. 440 people applied in the first three days. There is much less competition for credentialed actuaries as the exams tend to 'weed out' all but the most perseverant actuarial students, but it's really cut throat at the entry level right now. Not a field for the easily discouraged (or anyone who doesn't like working on spreadsheets all day).

phred

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #20 on: April 16, 2014, 11:33:26 AM »
I have been a (paid) intern for almost a year now. I know other interns who have spent at least a year in their positions. We had an intern position open up a few weeks ago. 440 people applied in the first three days.

Major bummer!  Are you working in the insurance industry?  Perhaps it may be time to cast the net wider - government, very large business corporations, large hospitals, civilian contractor at the Pentagon...

If you take two or three more math courses you might consider switching to financial engineering

Heart of Tin

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #21 on: April 16, 2014, 10:56:12 PM »
I have been a (paid) intern for almost a year now. I know other interns who have spent at least a year in their positions. We had an intern position open up a few weeks ago. 440 people applied in the first three days.

Major bummer!  Are you working in the insurance industry?  Perhaps it may be time to cast the net wider - government, very large business corporations, large hospitals, civilian contractor at the Pentagon...

If you take two or three more math courses you might consider switching to financial engineering
I'm currently working at a health insurance company pricing small group plans and helping with small group and individual filings as well as pricing custom large group plans.

Please tell me more about financial engineering.

randymarsh

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #22 on: April 17, 2014, 08:47:09 AM »
Engineering is all about technology.  Right now technology changes quickly.  If you are not in perpetual schooling, you soon fall behind and are replaced by the next batch of college grads.
Accounting, as an example, may use computers, but accounting doesn't change as much in comparison.  The law, with its backward looking orientation changes even less.
Computer people: when was the last time you needed to code in COBOL or design in frames for a Website?

Not sure what program you went through, but I didn't specifically learn Java or .NET. I learned the basic concepts of programming and good coding practices. Those things have a much longer shelf life. Same thing in my information systems classes. I didn't learn the ins and outs of VMware and Hyper-V, I learned the foundation of virtualization. Which is going to be around for a very long time.  School may teach you to drive on a Ford, but that doesn't mean you can't drive a Honda later in life.


libertarian4321

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #23 on: May 05, 2014, 04:25:44 AM »
Engineering is all about technology.  Right now technology changes quickly.  If you are not in perpetual schooling, you soon fall behind and are replaced by the next batch of college grads.

You don't need to be in "perpetual schooling," you just need to keep reasonably abreast of the latest literature/journals.

I got my BS in Chem Eng in '85. My MBA in '89, and my MEng Env. Eng. in '94.  I haven't taken an engineering related class in 20 years.  But I'm still in the field, still doing the job, and still doing fine.  I just need to peruse the literature occasionally.  I'm not going to be replaced by a 20-something with no experience anytime soon.

I suspect this is true of most career fields?



samburger

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #24 on: May 10, 2014, 08:48:34 AM »
Taking your OP at face value:
Quote
All I know is that I want to earn a decent salary so I can become more financially independent faster.
below are some statistics from a recent Washington Post article:
6.  Drama and Theater Arts
7.   Studio Arts
9.   Visual and Performing Arts
The only problem with this list is that engineers are soon obsolete in ten years, computer engineers in less time.  While drama majors may struggle most of their lives, A-list actors make a bit more.  It's foolish to pick a major because it may pay more.  Much better to follow the vision

It's not about obsolesces, really. The problem is that the stats don't capture the earning potential of an individual: Engineers start out making, say $50k on average, while the communications major starts out making $30k.

Fast-forward 10 years. The engineer is making $65k, and the communications major is making $80k.

The softer your skills, the more quickly you can grow 'legitimate' skills on the job. Fields that require extensive training to master a skill mean it's much harder to grow professionally.

That's probably a good argument for choosing engineering if you want to FIRE, though. You want to maximize your earning when you're in you're 20s, not when you're in your 50s.

Daleth

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #25 on: May 10, 2014, 09:37:43 AM »
Engineering is all about technology.  Right now technology changes quickly.  If you are not in perpetual schooling, you soon fall behind and are replaced by the next batch of college grads.

Wow, you must not know any engineers.

mm1970

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #26 on: May 10, 2014, 07:26:50 PM »
Engineering is all about technology.  Right now technology changes quickly.  If you are not in perpetual schooling, you soon fall behind and are replaced by the next batch of college grads.
Accounting, as an example, may use computers, but accounting doesn't change as much in comparison.  The law, with its backward looking orientation changes even less.
Computer people: when was the last time you needed to code in COBOL or design in frames for a Website?

What are you talking about?

Actually working as an engineer, in emerging technologies, means you are keeping up with technology.

What you learn in school is useful, sure - but what you learn on the job?  At least in my industry?  WAY more important.  Additional schooling isn't particularly useful in semiconductors or manufacturing - working in manufacturing or semiconductors is useful.

mm1970

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Re: Need help choosing a major/career path
« Reply #27 on: May 10, 2014, 07:29:08 PM »
Engineering is all about technology.  Right now technology changes quickly.  If you are not in perpetual schooling, you soon fall behind and are replaced by the next batch of college grads.

Wow, you must not know any engineers.
My thought too...

as a decently paid, knowledgeable, up to date engineer who graduated 22 years ago...