"A friend of mine used to have a license plate that read, “do what you love.” Well okay, it didn’t say that exactly. The whole sentence would have involved too many characters, of course. The plate read something like, “DOWTULV,” which took some decoding… But his point was that life is too short to waste time on unpleasant pursuits – academic and professional pursuits included.
Lots of people zero in on a dream job because it offers 1 or 2 tangential perks. Meanwhile, they neglect to ask themselves whether or not the main objectives – and all the prerequisites – are appealing tasks. (Like deciding to become a flight attendant because you love peanuts.)
The following degrees are common culprits in the plans of some shortsighted students. If you see your ideal degree listed, make sure you’re choosing it for the right reasons, and not for the popular misconceptions it attracts.
Teaching Degree: Beach Bums Need Not Apply
If you want to become a teacher mostly because you like the idea of long, leisurely summers, you should rethink your plan. Firstly, teaching is such an intense and demanding profession, you won’t be doing much good for your students if you’re constantly counting down the days until June. Secondly, as standardized tests receive more attention, and as America’s high school graduation rates fall, administrators are looking for ways to ramp up teaching time – not curtail it. In the future, measures might include longer school days, more training and continuing education requirements for licensed teachers, and – gasp – extended school years.
If your primary goal is to work less, and to build more sandcastles, you might be happier with an entrepreneurial degree. Yes, starting a new business entails long hours in the beginning. But being your own boss means you can set your own schedule, assume your own dress code, and make up the rules as you go along. Otherwise, you could work as a freelance consultant, advising businesses and specific departments without actually committing to their payroll. Either way, you’ll be free to skedaddle on those extended vacations – without short-changing a class-full of kids.
On the other hand, if you want to study education because you genuinely love the idea of teaching students and shaping young minds, good for you! America needs more dedicated teachers. Grab your dry erase markers and head for the nearest teacher preparation program.
Fashion Design Degree: Haute Competition
Everyone is doing it. The Real Housewives are doing it. The girls from Laguna Beach are doing it. Charlie Sheen might even be doing it. Fashion design. It’s like shopping, but with someone else’s credit card, right? Wrong! Design degrees are not handed out based on how many hours you’ve logged at the mall, or how often your red carpet critiques align with Joan Rivers’ post-Oscar opinions.
In reality, fashion design degrees involve advanced skills in sewing, pattern-making, “draping,” and silhouette techniques. Style and creativity are useful components, but without top tier connections and/or a wealthy investor, most designers won’t see their labels listed at New York City’s Fashion Week.
If you truly love to shop (and not to sew), consider a degree in fashion marketing and merchandising. Merchandising degrees are less focused on garment and accessory craftsmanship. Instead, they teach students how to evaluate consumer trends, promote product lines, coordinate budgets and inventories, and succeed in the retail world. Fashion marketing/merchandising grads go on to become retail buyers, consultants, or marketing executives for existing fashion labels. You won’t exactly be the next Vuitton, but you’ll be able to afford his name on your arm.
Psychology Degree: Analyze This – No, Seriously, Analyze It First
Maybe you have some needy friends or whacky relatives who bend your ear with an array of personal dilemmas. Maybe you’re a good listener and a reliable confidant. These are promising starting points, but you have to enjoy more than the art of advice-giving if you want to be a practicing psychologist. In fact, you have to enjoy statistics, neuroscience, and lots of formal research.
A psych degree is not an easy ticket to a cushy office job and a waiting room full of colorful clients. (Just ask Dr. Drew, who actually has a medical degree.) From start to finish, it can take nearly 10 years of college to earn a Ph.D. or Psy.D. in psychology, and to establish independent clinical practice in the field. (Bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees in psychology are still great credentials. By themselves, they can lead to solid careers in government, corporations, NPOs and certain schools. But they won’t qualify you to be the next Dr. Melfi, psychoanalyzing Tony Soprano.)
If you’re drawn to the idea of helping people talk through their problems (but you’re not especially psyched about studying relational frame theory ), you might prefer a counseling degree. Counseling degrees are specifically geared towards clinical practice, meaning you’ll complete internships and practica that involve training with actual clients. Instead of working 10 years towards a doctorate, many professionals can earn state certification with a master’s degree in counseling and a period of supervised training. They go on to become licensed marriage and family counselors, substance abuse counselors, school counselors, and more.
What degree are you considering, and why? Or what degree did you start, but never finish? I’ll explore those options in an upcoming post!”
It’s great to have your dreams, but look into the details before deciding on a major. There are many online degrees and universities that will help pave the way.