Posted in Career Planning, College Majors, High School

Unlimited Time, Talent, and Resources

The motivational/inspirational quote always goes something like this:

“What would you do if you had unlimited time, talent, or resources?  Do that!” 

If you love that quote, you’re not alone.  But, you might not appreciate this post very much, and I want to talk to you about how time, talent, and resources fit into the homeschooling for college credit journey.

None of us has unlimited time.

None of us has unlimited talent.

None of us has unlimited resources.

I understand the concept of the quote- it’s not meant to suggest any of us literally has no parameters, it’s an exercise meant to open up the world of possibilities.  What’s not to love?

As parents of homeschooled teens, we have the privilege of also being their guidance counselor.  If I were advising your teen, it would be easy enough for me to encourage – inspire- motivate – the sky is the limit…. but that’s only because I don’t know him/her.  I don’t know how he what kinds of problems he loves to solve, his fears about his future, or what makes him tick.  I don’t know his heart.  Inspirational quotes are meant to encourage everyone, and as such, they aren’t very specifically useful to anyone.

I think homeschooling parents have a unique opportunity that we are almost going to miss if we subject ourselves to the shallow one-liners that guide mainstream teens.  Frankly, the “college at all costs” trend of the day is costing our economy and teens a lot of lost time and resources.dream

  • Currently, about 1/2 of the teens that start college won’t finish.
  • Of students who finish, the average time to complete a 4-year degree is 6 years.
  • Studies tell us that about 1/2 of the teens that start college haven’t selected a major or will change it at some point.
  • Finally, we know 2/3 of students are going to borrow money to fund their education.

This is a very informative snapshot of whether or not current wisdom is working.  I don’t think it is.  Education data is one of the most heavily researched topics in modern history – and we have data!  There are big differences between college students in 1940 and 2018.  It’s true that in 1940 only about 5% of the population held a bachelor’s degree whereas today it’s much higher, about 1/4th to 1/3rd depending on your source. But, something to note, however, is that graduation rates among those who started college in the 1940’s and finished, was better than 90%.  In other words, fewer started, but most finished.  Today we get more teens into college, but don’t get many out on the other side with a degree, instead they come out with debt and shame for “failing.” Why?

The biggest shift  I’ve observed over the past 10 years, is that the focus of the entire K12 education system is spent focused on 1 goal: getting teens into college.  All effort, all energy, all finances, all must give way to the idol of college admission.  In my opinion, that’s the wrong goal.  Your teen can get into college.  Every community college in the country allows your teen to walk in and enroll.  Getting in isn’t the problem.  Now, if the question is instead “can my teen get into ABC college?” That I can’t answer.  Maybe.  Maybe not… but of the 12,000+ college options, that question seems narrow to me.

The better question to ask in 2018 is if your teen can get out of college. When the goal is getting out (with a degree, with minimal debt, and in a reasonable amount of time), then we’re going about the process making better decisions and giving our teens solid guidance.  We’ve removed the romance and hype that surrounds the “college experience” and we’re using good judgment and wisdom.

Let’s do a small experiment.  Imagine that YOU (the parent) decided to pursue a college degree this August.  Given the option, would you study to become a doctor or a nail technician? Even if you’ve never studied either formally, you can guess what each would involve.  Would you set a budget, or are you comfortable just borrowing whatever it costs?  How much time would you like to spend on your degree?  1/2 year?  6 years?

Though I don’t know you, I’m going to predict the following:

  • You have a really good idea about what kinds of sacrifices and brains would be required to attend med-school.

  • You would never borrow $50,000 to become a nail technician.

  • If you’re borrowing $150,000 you’d be very sure that there is a stable career on the other side of it.

  • You have a really good idea about your strengths, weaknesses, talents, and type of job you’d like to have/avoid.

  • If I suggest you become a pharmacist, a chef, or a landscaper- you can understand what that is, and know whether or not you’re a good fit for that occupation.

Why?  Why do you know these things?  Because adults have a very good understanding of time, a very good awareness of talent,  personality, and adults have a very real understanding of debt.  Frankly, adults are better at making decisions because we’ve had more time on the planet.  Our teens need us to help them rule in and rule out an occupation that is a poor fit.


The Science of Choice

As it turns out, science and psychology study behavior and choice, and how it intersects with happiness, satisfaction, and action.  Rather than give you yet another expert who will interfere with your good intuition (because no one scientist is ever regarded as an expert by everyone), I want to highlight one of the key principles of choice that I think is very relevant to parents who are also their teen’s guidance counselor:  Fewer choices. 

There are several famous studies that follow decisions made by people choosing between a couple options, and many options.  As it turns out, when people have a very large pool of options, they are almost always unsatisfied with their decision whereas when they’ve only had to choose between a couple options, they are quite satisfied.  The experts believe that this is because we can’t realistically evaluate too many things at once- that if we were trying to choose between 20 of something, it’s harder to trust that we’ve really compared all of the pros and cons, thus an anxiety of missing a piece of the puzzle that may have been important to make the best decision.  It’s much easier for our mind to consider 3 choices and select one with confidence.

  • Good question: “after graduation, do you think you’d like to go straight to college or go on a mission trip for 6 months in Haiti first?”  Of course, you’ll tailor the question that to fit your family, but when we start with too many options, the teenage brain just can’t discern between them.  This helps the teen evaluate a timeline, gives them a voice in the choice, but isn’t overwhelming.
  • Hard question:  “where would you like to go to college?  You can go anywhere you want!”  Clearly, no person can rationally evaluate “anywhere” and “anything” well.  How many of us could do that?  How many of us know about “all” colleges everywhere?  None of us.  Bring down the choices into bite-size pieces.
  • Good question:  “since you love music and are so gifted, have you thought about becoming a music teacher?”  This uses adult wisdom to zero in on a potential career option that uses the student’s talent in a specific way.  Even if the teen isn’t interested in becoming a music teacher, the yes/no decision is not overly complex for a teen.
  • Hard question:  “I know you love playing music, but it isn’t really a good way to make a living. Can’t you think of something else you could do to support a family?”  This is another example of “anywhere” question.  Of the zillions of career options, you’ve only removed one.  This question is too big.
  • Good question:  You’ve earned 27 credits in high school, if you go to ABC College they’ll let you use all of them, but if you go to XYZ College, they’ll only take 23 of them.  The difference here is only 1 class, how would you feel about having to retake once class? Is it worth choosing one over the other?”   This question is great because it helps the student on so many levels.  Besides narrowing it down for them (assuming you’re ok with both college choices) it brings forward a simple decision about time, work, or cost.

If this exercise is bringing you back to raising a toddler, it’s the very same principle!  We think that because we prefer to have many choices that it’s better for us, but we develop deeper confidence and security when we can consider a question carefully in smaller bites.  Further reading:  Too Many Choices: A Problem That Can Paralyze


What Happened to Average?

If you’ve spent a few minutes in any homeschool group, you’ll hear many parents label their teens as “gifted” or “challenged”  but when is the last time you’ve heard a parent declare proudly that their teen is “average?”  Huh?  Average has gotten a bad reputation being synonymous with “not trying hard enough” but the truth is that most of us are average intelligence with average talent.

Statistically speaking, about 75% of us fall into the same category of cognitive ability or intelligence: average.  That is to say that while there are degrees of average, most of us are about the same.  There are students with profound limitations, just as there are those with profound intelligence, and they are represented on the far ends of a traditional bell-shaped curve.  So, within the category of average, what makes someone different?  You already know the answer, and it has many terms, but they all mean the same thing:  hard work.  Hard workers almost always out-perform lazy workers, this isn’t news.  But as a teen’s guidance counselor, we need to be realistic with our teen’s determination to become a successful student.  In short, are they hard-working students?  What about talent?

  • Academic Work Ethic: By the time your teen is in 10th grade, you already have a good idea of their academic work ethic. We need to be honest – some occupations and college majors require significantly above average work ethic.  Medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, engineering.  These careers are elite because they require exceptional academic work ethic.  Students who are successful in these college paths are those who enjoy the challenge of difficult academic work and rigorous schedules.  They enjoy school and strive to be exceptional students, who happen to be using their gifts and talents to pursue difficult subjects.
  • Talent: Most of us have a talent or something we are “naturally” good at.  As an example, we all know someone who can play anything on the piano, paints or draws well, who picks up new languages effortlessly or can cook anything without a recipe. Within our social circle, these people stand out to us, but, when grouped with other talented people, they appear more average.  This makes assessing our own teen’s talent very challenging.  As an example, perhaps I’m the best baker you know – but if you were to put me in a room with thousands of talented bakers, I’d be near the bottom.  I’m a good baker among amateurs, and that’s only because I went to culinary school.  I’ll never be a world-famous pastry chef, but I could work as a decent baker if I had to.  It’s not my talent.

How do we, as parents, reconcile having average teens?  How do we reconcile being average?  I don’t pretend to have that answer for everyone, but I do believe that if we teach our teens to work hard on what they’re doing, and praise their work ethic instead of only their results, we teach them that they do have control over one narrow aspect of their success:  their effort.  If you can help them match their talent with something that they feel motivated to apply effort toward, you’ll probably be on the right track for guiding them towards success.

Education at Any Cost

The notion of having unlimited resources was unheard of 50 years ago.  Once upon a time, students worked hard to earn a scholarship, parents had a college fund, or some students worked their way through night classes.   Once upon a time, the cost of college was a significant barrier to a student earning their degree.  While that sounds like bad news, the up-side to that barrier, was students weren’t allowed to rack up thousands of dollars of debt willy-nilly.

If you graduated high school in the 80’s or 90’s like I did, teens who borrowed for college (like I did) were faced with an “annoying” student loan payment of $50-$100 that lasted for 5-10 years.  Today, student loans aren’t annoying, they’re crushing.  Teens today who borrow face repayments of $300-$1200 per month for 10+ years.  Further, those debts, unlike our mortgages or credit cards, aren’t dischargeable in bankruptcy.  Borrowing rules changed in 2008.   Your teen, unlike you, will be allowed to borrow through the government guaranteed student loan program the first  $57,000 for their degree without any restrictions or your consent, and then they can continue on to graduate school and receive funding until they reach the cap of $138,500.  Once at that cap, they’ll have to seek alternative sources like parents, banks, or credit cards.  Parents, who usually have some collateral, are tapping into their 401K funds, IRA retirements, and home equity to pay college tuition.  As such, colleges haven’t much incentive to keep costs in line with inflation, and we’ve seen a huge rise in tuition and student loan debt.  To make matters worse, many people are entering into marriage, each bringing their own student loan debt into the family.


If you think this is an exception, you might be surprised to hear that 2/3 of students are borrowing money to follow their talents, passions, and dreams without the wisdom and counsel of their parents.  The young lady caller phoning Dave in this clip was probably encouraged by her coach, but as she soon found out, that passion has a price.  Be sure to hang around through the end.

I’ve written here before about my own son’s scholarship opportunities that we deliberately didn’t pursue with him after high school (diving) because the scholarships would have created significant long-term debt for him. In 4 years, we never met another parent in the league that that thought the way we did.  Everyone we met was quick to mortgage their home or tap their retirement to fund their teen’s education.  If we’d had a large college fund, we may have considered the situation differently, but the point is that we each have limitations.  Having the ability to borrow nearly unlimited amounts of money allows us to pretend those limits don’t exist, but it’s our teens who pay the price.

College budget tips you can start today:

  • While you’re still teaching them at home, inject college credit opportunities into your curriculum.  There are “easier” and “harder” ways to do this, but there is something for everyone.
  • Encourage your teen to earn low-cost college credit in high school.  Some states allow reduced or no cost tuition to teens that qualify.  Join your state’s Homeschooling for College Credit Facebook Group to help navigate the process.
  • If your teen doesn’t qualify for reduced or no-cost tuition, DIY a plan using credit by exam resources that you can arrange on your own.  The tabs at the top of this website provide free planning help.  By using CLEP, DSST, and Advanced Placement exams in high school, your teen can complete 1-2 full years of college credit at home.
  • Just because your teen graduated high school, that doesn’t mean they can’t use credit by exam to finish maxing out their 100 and 200 level credits. Even if it takes another year or two, keep making smart financial decisions. I tested out of an AA degree using CLEP at age 36 just for fun!
  • Unless your teen has an exceptionally high PSAT, ACT, or SAT, do not expect a full ride academic scholarship.  Partial scholarships should be evaluated against the cost of all 4 years, not just freshman year.
  • Parents who work for a college or university in a full-time job usually get free tuition for dependents.  Besides being a teacher, colleges hire cooks, secretaries, janitors, IT professionals, electricians, and safety workers.  It’s worth looking!
  • Many companies will pay for your teen’s tuition.  I have a good list of 100 employer scholarships here.
  • Some schools have guaranteed scholarships for teens who meet academic or geographic conditions.  I have a good list here. 
  • Almost every traditional state university in the country offers distance learning.  If your teen doesn’t need a “hands-on experience” for their degree, consider using your state university – but as a distance learner.  By living at home, your teen can save at least $10,000 per year.
  • Help your teen research the “ROI” for costs that they will spend on their degree.  ROI is a business-school term that means “Return on Investment.”  Some degrees have exceptional ROI.  As an example, nursing, which can still be started at a community college for about $8,000 returns an average annual salary of $68,000 per year based on last year’s census by The Department of Labor. Additionally, while nurses are encouraged to earn a bachelor’s degree, many hospital employers will pay the tuition for nurses to do so while working.
  • Even for teens who are on the lower-average side academically, there are opportunities for college classes that can be done at home in a self-paced setting with online proctoring.  This allows teens (like mine) to make enormous progress, but at their own pace without barriers like taking notes during a lecture, or memorizing huge chunks of content.  General degrees in liberal arts or business are easy to complete this way and can be very affordable.  (about $15,000 total)
  • Talk with your teen about the budget, their responsibility, and what you plan to contribute to the process.

In closing, I urge parents to understand that you an say “yes” to a college degree while also saying “no” to the snares that trap young students, especially those that result in student debt without the credential to repay it.

If you’ve homeschooled in high school, your teen has already witnessed that education and learning don’t have to look the same for everyone.  Your teen has an opportunity to follow your lead by being resourceful and open to thinking outside the box.  There are dozens of different ways to make a college degree affordable!


Posted in Blue Collar, Career Planning, College Majors

Occupations: Using the Data

Follow your dream…use college to find yourself….you can decide after you graduate.  Those words of the 1950’s-80’s don’t work today when private college tips the scales at almost  $50,000 per year and roughly 1/2 of all college students EVER finish their degree.  Of those that do, we’re seeing it takes average students SIX years to complete a four-year degree.  The investment of time and money mean missteps can not only cost a lot up front but for some students who do make it out of college with a degree, the jobs on the other side may not be what they had in mind.

Last night I watched a documentary on Amazon Prime called Generation Jobless (2017).  It streams free, so if you have Prime, I highly suggest checking it out.  If you don’t, I think it can be rented for under two bucks.  The documentary reflects the over-educated and under-employed young people of Canada, but you’ll observe the same trends and statistics parallel nearly perfectly to the United States with one minor exception.  In Canada, they don’t track labor and market trends across occupations.  In other words, the college students and their parents are literally guessing what kinds of jobs and opportunities may exist when their teen graduates.  And as you’ll see in the story, many guess wrongly.

In the United States, we don’t have to guess. We have a robust Department of Labor that collects mountains of data on every career, every salary, every type of training and every type of credential.  Furthermore, they carefully track the growth or decline of occupations.  Is that important?  Let me put it this way, if your teen wanted to be a VCR repairman, you’d have no trouble advising them against it- that industry is over!  (A bad example since most of our kids have never even seen a VCR, but you get the idea).  Industries do die, and morph, and get disrupted and reinvent themselves.  This is one area where the government’s huge resources can work to our advantage.  They have the information for us, to inform us, we just have to take advantage of what they report.

You’ve seen me offer up the wisdom of Jeff Selingo who has made his career tracking college and higher education trends, helping teens navigate around the pitfalls that eat college graduates.  You’ve also seen me cheerlead for Mike Rowe who beats into our minds about America’s skills gap – and that it’s ok for smart people to pursue a trade!

So, what is the reason that guys like that beat their drums so loudly?  Because despite the statistics, despite the student loan debt crisis, despite skyrocketing college tuition, and despite the unemployment rates…. people are still telling their teens to follow their hearts.  Before you accuse me of being a dream killer, I don’t believe that it’s an “either-or” proposition.  I don’t believe that people have to be happy OR employed.  Fulfilled OR in a career with projected job growth.  Passionate OR in a job that earns a high salary. Educating their mind OR learning a trade.  Additionally, I don’t believe that there is such a thing as a “perfect” job.  Even if your teen finds their idea of a perfect job, they’ll have to keep learning and growing with their industry too – things always move forward.

I wrote last week about what I think it means to find the intersection, the balance, of using wisdom and following our passions.  If you missed it… I (don’t) Have a Dream (Job)

So, this post is where the rubber meets the road.  This post is about putting data to good use.  Trust me, there is no shortage of encouragement to follow your passion – but as a high school guidance counselor to the most important student on the planet (your children) you owe it to them to teach them how to look ahead.  Down the road beyond the here and now, and into the future.  If they aren’t up for it today, trust me, they will be up for it later.  The only question is if it’s before, or after, they’ve invested time and money into their credentials.
I’m slicing and dicing the data – you can do the same on The Department of Labor’s a-mazing website The United States Department of Education Occupational Outlook Handbook.  Their website is super-user-friendly, and these are just shots of ways that I found the data interesting.  I’m sure you’ll find many other ways to use their data!
I’ve copied and pasted so you can see the chart exactly as it appears on their website, however, doing so sacrafices my ability to re-size their columns or format their fonts.  If you’re viewing this on your phone, you won’t be able to view all of the columns. 


This is the ranked list of the BEST PAYING occupations
in industries that are growing MUCH FASTER than average job growth
in occupations that anticipate better than 50,000 job openings 
In my opinion, this is the creme de la creme.  Pay special attention to this set, because these are the college graduates who are walking across the stage and onto a job.  There are more jobs open and in demand than qualified candidates to fill them (as evidenced by the high median pay).  You can click on each occupation, when you land on the page, be sure to notice the additional tabs at the top of each occupation that allow you to explore deeply.
2016 MEDIAN PAY Help
Physical therapists Doctoral or professional degree None 50,000 or more Much faster than average $75,000 or more
Medical and health services managers Bachelor’s degree None 50,000 or more Much faster than average $75,000 or more
Health specialties teachers, postsecondary Doctoral or professional degree None 50,000 or more Much faster than average $75,000 or more
Software developers, applications Bachelor’s degree None 50,000 or more Much faster than average $75,000 or more
Nurse practitioners Master’s degree None 50,000 or more Much faster than average $75,000 or more
Financial managers Bachelor’s degree None 50,000 or more Much faster than average $75,000 or more



This is the ranked list of  industries that are growing FASTER than average 
in occupations that require an Associate Degree.
This is an exciting set because many of you reading this post already have students taking community college courses through dual enrollment.  Even if you don’t, these programs are abundant and offered at community colleges all over the country.  I want to draw your attention to the fact that some of these occupations will require state licensure, and that varies by state, so be sure you take the time to investigate the licensure process as you evaluate educational programs.  In addition, there are a number of for-profit career schools that offer degrees in some of these occupations.  You’ll want to use caution that they meet licensure and accreditation as well.  A good rule of thumb:  all community colleges in the United States are regionally accredited, so that’s a really great place to start.
2016 MEDIAN PAY Help
Medical and clinical laboratory technicians Associate’s degree None 10,000 to 49,999 Faster than average $35,000 to $54,999
Radiologic technologists Associate’s degree None 10,000 to 49,999 Faster than average $55,000 to $74,999
Web developers Associate’s degree None 10,000 to 49,999 Faster than average $55,000 to $74,999
Veterinary technologists and technicians Associate’s degree None 10,000 to 49,999 Much faster than average $25,000 to $34,999
Paralegals and legal assistants Associate’s degree None 10,000 to 49,999 Much faster than average $35,000 to $54,999
Physical therapist assistants Associate’s degree None 10,000 to 49,999 Much faster than average $55,000 to $74,999
Respiratory therapists Associate’s degree None 10,000 to 49,999 Much faster than average $55,000 to $74,999
Occupational therapy assistants Associate’s degree None 10,000 to 49,999 Much faster than average $55,000 to $74,999
Diagnostic medical sonographers Associate’s degree None 10,000 to 49,999 Much faster than average $55,000 to $74,999
Dental hygienists Associate’s degree None 10,000 to 49,999 Much faster than average $55,000 to $74,999


These occupations require a degree but are in decline.  That is to say, your teen may not find employment at all, even with a degree from a good school, good grades, and a good internship.  They are sorted by degree type.  It’s noteworthy that any occupation for which a Master’s or Doctorate degree is required, there are no declining industries.  *required means you need it to practice, not that you’ve added it to boost your resume.

2016 MEDIAN PAY Help

Bachelor’s Degrees

Radio and television announcers Bachelor’s degree None Declining Decline $25,000 to $34,999
Reporters and correspondents Bachelor’s degree None Declining Decline $35,000 to $54,999
Adult basic and secondary education and literacy teachers and instructors Bachelor’s degree None Declining Decline $35,000 to $54,999
Wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products Bachelor’s degree Moderate-term on-the-job training Declining Decline $35,000 to $54,999
Buyers and purchasing agents, farm products Bachelor’s degree Moderate-term on-the-job training Declining Decline $55,000 to $74,999
Labor relations specialists Bachelor’s degree None Declining Decline $55,000 to $74,999
Purchasing agents, except wholesale, retail, and farm products Bachelor’s degree Moderate-term on-the-job training Declining Decline $55,000 to $74,999
Insurance underwriters Bachelor’s degree Moderate-term on-the-job training Declining Decline $55,000 to $74,999
Computer programmers Bachelor’s degree None Declining Decline $75,000 or more
Chief executives Bachelor’s degree None Declining Decline $75,000 or more

Associate Degrees

Broadcast technicians Associate’s degree Short-term on-the-job training Declining Decline $35,000 to $54,999
Desktop publishers Associate’s degree Short-term on-the-job training Declining Decline $35,000 to $54,999
Human resources assistants, except payroll and timekeeping Associate’s degree None Declining Decline $35,000 to $54,999
Respiratory therapy technicians Associate’s degree None Declining Decline $35,000 to $54,999


This is the apprenticeship set.  The apprenticeship programs in this set are those that are growing as fast or faster than average.   It’s worth pointing out that all of these apprenticeships report minimum wages over $35,000 – but elevator repairmen rise to the top (haha, see what I did there?) at over $75,000 median salary!

Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters High school diploma or equivalent Apprenticeship 50,000 or more Much faster than average $35,000 to $54,999
Brickmasons and blockmasons High school diploma or equivalent Apprenticeship 5,000 to 9,999 Faster than average $35,000 to $54,999
Elevator installers and repairers High school diploma or equivalent Apprenticeship 1,000 to 4,999 Faster than average $75,000 or more
Glaziers High school diploma or equivalent Apprenticeship 5,000 to 9,999 Faster than average $35,000 to $54,999
Insulation workers, mechanical High school diploma or equivalent Apprenticeship 1,000 to 4,999 Faster than average $35,000 to $54,999
Millwrights High school diploma or equivalent Apprenticeship 1,000 to 4,999 Faster than average $35,000 to $54,999
Reinforcing iron and rebar workers High school diploma or equivalent Apprenticeship 1,000 to 4,999 Faster than average $35,000 to $54,999
Stonemasons High school diploma or equivalent Apprenticeship 1,000 to 4,999 Faster than average $35,000 to $54,999
Structural iron and steel workers High school diploma or equivalent Apprenticeship 5,000 to 9,999 Faster than average $35,000 to $54,999
Terrazzo workers and finishers High school diploma or equivalent Apprenticeship 0 to 999 Faster than average $35,000 to $54,999


This set represents the highest educational requirement (doctorate or master’s degree) for entry-level, crossed against the poorest future predictions of employment rate.  These jobs all pay well, and some industries are beginning to grow, but in this niche, there are fewer than 1,000 open jobs predicted across the entire country.  This could mean moving across just to find an open position. Sorted by degree type.

2016 MEDIAN PAY Help

Doctorate Degree

Administrative law judges, adjudicators, and hearing officers Doctoral or professional degree Short-term on-the-job training 0 to 999 Slower than average $75,000 or more
Agricultural sciences teachers, postsecondary Doctoral or professional degree None 0 to 999 As fast as average $75,000 or more
Forestry and conservation science teachers, postsecondary Doctoral or professional degree None 0 to 999 As fast as average $75,000 or more
Geography teachers, postsecondary Doctoral or professional degree None 0 to 999 As fast as average $75,000 or more
Judicial law clerks Doctoral or professional degree None 0 to 999 As fast as average $35,000 to $54,999
Library science teachers, postsecondary Doctoral or professional degree None 0 to 999 As fast as average $55,000 to $74,999

Master’s Degree

Sociologists Master’s degree None 0 to 999 Little or no change $75,000 or more
Survey researchers Master’s degree None 0 to 999 Little or no change $35,000 to $54,999
Anthropologists and archeologists Master’s degree None 0 to 999 Slower than average $55,000 to $74,999
Political scientists Master’s degree None 0 to 999 Slower than average $75,000 or more
Epidemiologists Master’s degree None 0 to 999 As fast as average $55,000 to $74,999
Farm and home management advisors Master’s degree None 0 to 999 As fast as average $35,000 to $54,999
Historians Master’s degree None 0 to 999 As fast as average $55,000 to $74,999
Home economics teachers, postsecondary Master’s degree None 0 to 999 As fast as average $55,000 to $74,999
Industrial-organizational psychologists Master’s degree Internship/residency 0 to 999 As fast as average $75,000 or more


You decide!  Do you have a set you’d like me to compile using the data in a different way?  Leave a comment below and I’ll add your request to the page.

Posted in Career Planning

I (don’t) Have a Dream (Job)

passion1I don’t remember being commanded in high school (late 1980’s)to find my “dream job.”  I remember having a few subjects I really liked: Home Economics (cooking) and Biology (genetics).  However, after many years of taking aptitude and ability test, my guidance counselors pushed me into cooking over biology (they were right).  Still, no one asked me if cooking was my “dream.”  In fact, if you ask me today about my dream or passion, my career is only a small piece of the picture.  In fact, as a middle-aged adult, my career aspirations are merely tools to support and facilitate my real dreams.

Today, our young teens are blasted with what I call “dream propaganda” from a very young age.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to be a dream crusher.  If your teen has a dream job goal, research suggests they’ll have high job satisfaction if they land their dream job.

Researchers have found that workers who feel a higher calling to their jobs are among the most content. Take zookeepers, for example. Though more than eight in 10 zookeepers have college degrees, their average annual income is less than $25,000. The typical job description involves scrubbing enclosures, scooping waste and spending time in the elements. There’s little room for advancement and zookeepers tend not to be held in high regard, says Stuart Bunderson, Ph.D., a professor of organizational behavior at the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis (Administrative Science Quarterly, 2009).


Modern dream propaganda assumes:

  1. There is such a thing as a dream job.
  2. You must identify it in the first 25% of your life if you are to achieve it on time.
  3. You must begin dedicated and formal pursuit of it immediately.
  4. It will be built on a 4-year degree.
  5. It will provide a good living for you and your family.
  6. You will live happily ever after.  The end.

What if your teen ended up working at an average company, earning an average living, with average job satisfaction?  What if your daughter ended up as a homeschooling mother instead of an employee?  <gasp>  Would that be terrible?  Are our children homeschooling failures if they aren’t chasing a dream job?

This post is meant to prompt you to consider your role as your teen’s guidance counselor.  We, as homeschooling parents, have the luxury of not only parenting our teens through this very important transitionary time in life, but we get to help them navigate the educational landscape too.

It’s easy to get lost in the propaganda of our time, and if you don’t think you’re influenced by it, consider the other extreme:  coal miners of the 1700’s.  Clearly, no one believes that this type of work was anyone’s dream job!  It was dangerous, dirty, hot, rough, and physically hard!  Still, I don’t believe that the lives of the men in this photo were empty.  I don’t minersbelieve that they never felt the satisfaction of a job well done, or didn’t appreciate the opportunity to provide for their families. I don’t believe that they didn’t have fun with their co-workers, telling jokes and stories.  What did career guidance look like in the 1700’s? Clearly, in 2017, we want more for our teens than working in a dangerous coal mine.  But, are we taking it to the opposite extreme by insisting that they chase a dream at the expense of all else?  At the expense of common sense?  Are we asking them to go deeply into debt to finance the pursuit of a dream?  (Even though we know 50% of those who start college won’t finish).

Modern dream propaganda promotes to our teens a very scary notion:  that a dream is out there, and it’s up to them to “find” it immediately.  If they don’t, then there is something wrong with them!  If we take a moment to think about the modern “dream job” message before we support it, the message is very damaging.  The message tells our children that “everyone else” has this great personal insight revealed to them by the time they are in high school, and that if you’re late gaining this insight, you’re doomed to a life of poverty and unfulfilling work!  Wow.  Talk about pressure.

I’ve been guilty of applying that pressure to my teens, most notably with my oldest (the guinea pig) when we started career exploration in middle school.  I handed my son a book called College Majors, which explored majors in Anthropology, Biotechnology, Dermatology, Human Resources, etc.  Who wants to guess how many 8th graders know passion3what any of those words mean?  It’s about zero.  Yet, onward.

In an effort to make an efficient and resourceful high school plan (one that injects college credit) it’s easy to become too narrow too soon.  For those rare teens with an early and clear passion, having a resourceful parent will make all the difference in the world.  But for teens developing at a normal rate of emotional and cognitive (mind) development, it would be unusual to have such a strong sense of identity and purpose at an early age – especially at the exclusion of everything else.

When I look back on a conversation I had with my Home Economics teacher, a special mentor to me, I remember telling her my dream job was to work on a cruise ship.  Later, after working as a chef for 5 minutes, I knew that would be a terrible job for me!  The job was in conflict with my dream– my imagination of what that job might be life.

It’s easy to have a dream job when its crafted in our imagination.

As an adult, we have a better understanding of the world than our teens.  When we consider a decision, we base it on our life’s experiences and our understanding of the world.  Our teens aren’t broken, they just don’t have the life experience we do!  A teen can’t know what it really means to work on a cruise ship from inside the profession (sleeping in a public bunk, working 12 hours on/off, leaving family and friends for buffetmonths at a time, being one of a thousand insignificant employees, working in very hot- or very cold kitchens, having large stock pots of boiling soup slide off the stove during a storm, etc.) but a teen can imagine it from books, tv, or being a guest (beautiful and elaborate food buffets decorated with fruit and vegetable platters displayed perfectly, ice carvings, and the most elegant and delicious food imaginable).  See the gap?  When we look at dream jobs, they are just that:  dreams.  We are looking from the outside, and the reality can be very different from what we imagine.

If you ask adults about their dream job, you’ll notice something very interesting.  You’ll get answers like this:

“having autonomy over my schedule.”

“helping people accomplish their goals.”

“watching the joy in my patient’s eyes.”

“having enough time off to take vacations with my family.”

What did you notice?  These dreams are all based on a quality of life and contribution to society!  They aren’t about tasks or being an employee.  If I look at those answers through the lens of my trade (culinary arts), I could identify specific jobs where someone with my training could pursue their dream.  Want autonomy?  Write cookbooks.  Helping people accomplish their goal?  Teach culinary arts.  Watch joy in your patient’s eyes? Meals on Wheels.  Having time off?  Corporate dining.   As you can see, nearly any occupation can be made into a dream job, but it’s unlikely that your teen will have the insight and life experience to pull that together as a very young person.

You are your teen’s best guidance counselor!

As your teen’s guidance counselor, you may want to consider helping them see the converse side of modern propaganda:

  • There may not be such a thing as a dream job. But we all have dreams.
  • You may not be able to understand your dreams and gifts until you’ve had more life experiences.
  • Dreams and passions can be practiced through volunteer work, ministries, activities, clubs, sports, hobbies, and other informal activities right now!  They can also exist alongside our careers- with our families, not just at work.
  • One’s dreams and passions will likely change, evolve, and morph over time as we experience various stages of life (marriage, parenthood, retirement) and the unexpected events of adulthood (death of a loved one, a spouse’s deployment)
  • Pursuing a 4-year degree may be separate and apart from a dream job!
  • Advising your teen to secure a good living means your grandchildren will have food on the table and a roof over their head…it may not include a fancy sports car.
  • Life is short, live it well.