Must-Ask Questions Before Investing In A University Major/Career Path

It’s not just about the money and job market. With the fast paced changes, building a flexible and adaptable career can make all the difference.

Like most investments, investing in an education to a career path, requires a lot of research. But financials and job markets are only a part of the research.

So here are 8 key questions (bolded throughout) you need to ask yourself before investing in a career path (including what I think is the most overlooked section – lifestyle!).

SALARY

Money isn’t the most important thing in the world, but it is a very important factor. And while salary is an obvious decision

What is a realistic entry level salary?

Use sites like Glass Door to see what entry positions pay at companies in your area (not what Google estimates). What are the hard numbers of a salary and will it sustain your desired lifestyle? It’s also important to look at the entry level salary, not the median average. So many people make the mistake assuming they will be making the top pay grade in their industry right away. You will be able to get there, but it will take time.

What is the cost of the degree in comparison to the cost of the education? More important than salary is the salary in relation to how much you much financial and time resources you are putting into the degree. One of my favourite blogs/YouTube Channels that talks about this is One Big Happy where Joseph and Tasha explain how they do not regret their 400K debt for law school because it enables them to have a 6-figure income. Debt shouldn’t automatically scare you out of making life choices; the most important thing is to be informed of the risks, consequences, and benefits.

Look of it as an opportunity cost:

If a degree is $50,000 and takes 4 years to complete, you are not only losing that $50,000, but also the cost of 4 years’ salary of working full-time. Look at your earning potential with and without the degree. Does the earning potential out weight the cost of the degree?

This is especially important for Graduate Degrees or Masters.’ Because they are such specialized fields, unless the job specifically requires a Masters, they can be obtained later in a career (if required) and if it is desperately required, your employer

Does it justify the cost of the degree? Most people will not make 6 figures after graduation so how long will it take for you to pay it back? Make a mock payment plan – is it worth it?  Some people are in their 40s and are still paying off student loans. Some people pay it their whole lives.

JOB MARKET

Glassdoor is also a great resource to evaluating the job market and demand for that position. There are a million careers past the generic careers that are advertised. Within each career there are also multiple specializations and avenues, not everyone with a law degree are lawyers. If you love Sciences, there are many options besides research and being a doctor, nursing, consultancy, private sector are there as well, just look at what the skillset required and cover your foundation bases first.

What does the job market look like for that position? 

There are some fields more saturated than others. Fields like computer science and trades are actually quite competitive because they are always needed. You don’t have to think about the future job market as much as the skill set acquired.

How volatile is the future of that job market?

So overlooked is the future of a job market. With rapid changes in the economy and technological advancements, traditional ideas of staying in a career for 40 years are just not as common anymore.  Engineering is always looked upon as one of the best career options because of the market need, but as explained by Peter Cappelli on PBS NewsHour it pays off if it’s the right field of engineering. For example, engineering in oil mines used to be a really lucrative career, then the oil market crashed as fracking and new technologies and resources arose.

What is the job security?

Remember to invest in the correct skill-set. Skills are transferrable so don’t limit yourself to careers that are only available to you today. Technology has changed the work landscape; there are now jobs that didn’t exist 20 years ago. The secret to a successful career path is flexibility and adaptability.

LIFESTYLE

Most importantly, does this fit your lifestyle needs? Looking at a ball-park figure salary is great, but salaries and opportunities vary across the country from big cities to small towns – would you be willing to move?

Analyze the geographic demand of industries. Technology is pretty much centred in big urban cities (ex. Silicon Valley, Seattle, New York, Toronto. etc.) – would these cities be appealing to you? Also, many health services related positions pay far more in small towns because the demand is so high – is that an option for you?

What are the day to day demands of the job?

Some jobs also make a lot of money, but are very demanding on your time and resources – is working 12 hours a day the lifestyle you want?

I knew people who made very, very good money out of post-secondary. But they worked 12-18 hour days in incredibly stressful environments and were under a lot of pressure. This is more common than you think. Some companies, especially in Finance, are actually known for only their new hires to only last 1-2 years because the demands can take a large toll on your relationships and mental and physical health.

If you love what you are doing and being career-driven is the most important thing to you, then you’re in the right field. If not, it’s a lot of sacrifice. Remember: If you do not enjoy your job (even if you are good at it), it may not be worth the price.

When choosing a career, it can be easy to only consider the salary and perhaps the job market. And while a career does not define you, it will make a large impact on your personal and financial well-being. Being well-informed is the best way to leverage changes in the career market to avoid investing tons of money in a career that will not pay off.

Most importantly, remember it’s okay to change your mind. Give yourself that luxury by doing the research it takes before investing heavily in a career.

Good luck!

K ✨

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