Professionals Give Real Advice To High Schoolers Wanting To Pursue Their Profession.

Knowable

High school is an extremely odd phase in life where you are expected to know what you want years down the road. In actuality, you probably don't (or didn't) know what you want(ed) for lunch. Truth is, nobody really knows exactly what they want or has a clear path of how they'll get there - we are all just winging it, and taking it one day at a time. Although, it doesn't hurt to have some idea of what you want or direction for the future. 

Ask Redditors responded to the question, "High schoolers, what do you want to major in? People who majored in that field, what are the pros and cons?"

If you're interested in other professions or more responses take a look at the original thread at the end of the article. 



If anyone that comes along wants to be a Music Major of any kind, think extremely carefully about that choice. Taking on a Music Major is one of the toughest decisions you can make, and over half of my class dropped after the first semester, leaving them with 15+ hours of useless music credits. It is hard, the content is hard, you will have many days where you will be so buried beneath work, practice, and stress that you will not be able to breathe. You will spend MANY long nights stuck at school because of rehearsals and concerts you don't want to go to and you will have to do things that you're going to think are unorthodox and unnecessary. I stuck it out but I have a lot of friends that couldn't. Make that choice carefully, it's a four or more year commitment that you have to be sure you want.

I'm currently a sophomore now at the University of West Georgia and I'm a Music Education Major with a principle in percussion.

MusicalDefiance

Some of your course work will be out of this world but stay on top of it. Also, keep your nose clean and go after jobs that require a security clearance (any level). You will probably not be a millionaire in this field, but you should be very comfortable.

I have been an Aerospace Engineer for over 6 years and graduated from Auburn University in Alabama. 

Tcraw487

Astronomer here! Warning: it is really hard. And incredibly competitive at every level, for little pay compared to what you'd get in the industry.

That said, I rather love what I do, and can't believe I get paid for it. 

Pros: Getting paid to increase my level of understanding about the universe, teaching is a joy, as is writing, and my colleagues are incredibly wonderful. And when it works wow, there's nothing cooler than knowing something in the universe no one else knows!

Cons: Stuff doesn't work a lot so everything takes way longer than you think it will. I don't like programming but really need to do a decent amount of it, and sometimes the people I work with can be incredibly frustrating. 

Andromeda321

I've had my degree for seven years. One of the biggest benefits is that mechanical engineering can be used in every industry and there is a wide variety of jobs available. The downside is that once you graduate and get that first job, it is very hard to get into a different industry or a different role in the same industry.

Let's say you graduate and start working in the manufacturing division of a medical device manufacturer. After a few years, it grows boring and you want to try something else. Want to work as a designer for a car company? You have no chance of landing that job. You are considered to have the same experience as somebody fresh out of college for that job but will be needing a bigger salary to match your raises at your previous job. The only way to move from one industry to another would be a similar role in the new industry (manufacturing engineer of medical devices to manufacturing engineer of automobiles). Even then, it can still be difficult. Sure, the overall goals of reducing scrap and increasing production will still be the same. However, each industry will be held to different regulations that somebody with a few years experience will be expected to know.

To move to a different role, the easiest way is to take a new position within your company (manufacturing engineer of medical devices to design engineer of medical devices). However, if you are unhappy with the industry you are in this solves nothing.

I don't mean to use this to discourage you from pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering, just a word of caution for when you are graduating and looking for that first job. If you need further examples, look into job postings for Mechanical Engineering jobs that require a few years of job experience. The specific requirements listed will show you how difficult it can be to land the job without experience in that field.

19Styx6

Pros:

  • There seem to be many post-college options, especially if you have to learn to program . If you like challenges and love math, it can be very enjoyable at times. Not that many people want to study just mathematics in college, most take Computer Science or something like that instead, thus, you will have classes that very few people attend, the ones only for math students. Which can be quite fun compared to the huge lectures that have hundreds of students attending. You'll also get more personal attention.

Cons:

  • It's hard, often really hard. Even if you were good at math in high school. Being good at math in high school helps but does not guarantee that you will do well when you major in math, especially if you are used to just memorizing a lot of stuff. No matter how much you like math, some of the material will be boring. Math requires a lot of precision, thus there are so many little details to remember about everything that can make a beautiful theorem seem quite boring. And those little details must not be missed, ever.

  • Mathematicians tend to be very strict. Details matter, you will lose points on tests even if you understand the general idea but miss details. You'll have very little free time, there is a ton of homework and a lot of classes (I just had two big tests today and an exam yesterday). In many majors, you will just have lectures, in math, you will have lectures and classes to practice mathematics. My roommate literally has half as many hours I have that she has to spend at school and very little homework while I also have a lot of homework which is often quite challenging. There is a lot of information to learn and unlike many other majors, math requires a lot of practice (you can be a pro, depending on the person!). Like one of my professors says "Mathematics is the art of proofs". There is a lot of proofs and you have to think about maths very differently.

Overall, I am very happy with my choice to study mathematics but it is not for everyone.

anonymous

I am currently a graphic designer who is currently steering my career toward User Interface Design.

The first thing I will say is that college will wear you down. Once you get your first job after graduating, you will realize that you don't have to be the greatest designer that ever lived and that your work is actually pretty normal for someone starting out. It's a huge sigh or relief.

As for the industry,  there are far more options for earning a living than you could ever imagine. But the truth is that when you are any kind of graphic designer, employers expect you to be a graphic designer plus something else. A designer and a social media coordinator. A designer and a copywriter. A designer and an illustrator. In other words, you are going to need to pick up some other skills over time. Additionally, if you don't end up working at a design firm, and even more so if you end up being the only designer at the company, you will need to learn how to communicate your ideas to people who have no clue what you are talking about. This will be very frustrating at first, but get's easier over time. It is also extremely important to regularly expose yourself to creative things both inside and outside of your industry. You don't ever want to get that feeling of being "dried up" creatively.

As for User Interface design, I have to say that most UI designers I know or work with are consultants and freelancers. I rarely see job postings for UI and UX designers that aren't for freelance work or temporary positions. Not to say that places never hire UI designers, but it may be more difficult to land a full-time career position as a UI designer. As for me, that is exactly what I am aiming for. Because on the up-side, there are so many postings for freelance work for UI designers, I know many people who make a decent living off doing so.

I will say that other designers will always be your worst critique, you will eventually stop caring about what they think anyway. Just learn how to take constructive criticism and roll with it.

I hope this helps your career decision. Just remember that everyone's experience will be different.

sincebecausepickles1

Creative Director for an Ad Agency here.

Concurring that you should avoid most of the for-profit design and art schools - especially the ones that advertise on TV and in the backs of magazines.

Find a school where the instructors are also working experts in your field.

Learn to be flexible and never stop learning. Ever. Especially when it's "off the clock." Technology changes instantly and is constantly changing. Today's "must have" skills are tomorrow's dust catchers.

Don't limit your educational experience to one point of focus. Be as broad in your learning as you can. An omnibus of knowledge is a useful tool.

Network early and often. Instructors are a good start. Fellow students, too. Join a professional group, like your local chapter of The Artists Guild, or similar organization.

Be nice to everyone you meet. You never know who can help you or who has a story you can learn from.

Every creative has a certain amount of expertise in them. Some have more, some have less. Work constantly to get stuff out of your system, however long it takes (My version of the 10,000,000 Hour Rule).

JasperDyne

Consider studying Geographic Information Systems (GIS). It's basically people manipulating geospatial data and creating maps and stuff. Businesses and companies utilize GIS to digitize their spatial data onto a visual platform. For example, forest conservation programs may use GIS to create maps that effectively show the deforestation and regrowing of forests. 

PancakeMafia 

Accountant here.

It is indeed a safe bet. While the job security is good, what's even better is that there's always tons of job openings for Chartered Professional Accountants. The pay is decent, not amazing, but for most people, it's going to get you a comfortable middle-class lifestyle.

HOWEVER, the hours are very, very long. The vast majority of accountants work a ton of unpaid overtime, they come in just behind lawyers and doctors in terms of work hours, but on average, they also make a lot less than lawyers and doctors.

Yes, the work is boring, really damn boring. In fact, I think that fact is key to the success of the profession. If this work wasn't so damn boring, people would just do it themselves and the wages in this profession would plummet. Because accounting isn't hard, there's a lot of material to memorize at first, but it's not terribly difficult or complex. It's just time-consuming and boring to get through, and that's why accountants get paid for what they do, because they're the people with the patience and tolerance for boredom to actually pay attention to the little details and technicalities.

On the plus side, accountants do at least get to dip their nose in everything. It doesn't require much math, but it takes a lot of professional writing to pump out memos, policies, reports, presentations and more. You'll do a little project management to manage all the projects that inevitably pop up, particularly for system add-ons, integrations, and/or replacements. You'll need at least some familiarity with IT to get a sense for the company's enterprise resource planning flows and ensuring we keep it all contained in a solid control environment. You'll chitchat with sales and departmental heads on how things are going with the business to help improve the accuracy of financial forecasts and so on. 

You'll also deal with some resentment though, because anytime you show your face, it means it's time to deal with some meaningless numbers that don't actually matter (at least not to them), but you need to force those conversations anyway. Even after you're not doing audit anymore, accounting/finance people still get painted as the "bad guy" in a lot of these situations, so you also need people skills to try to ensure everybody feels like we're on the same team, and make sure that those annoyed people still get you the deliverables you need and respect your timelines.

If you want to get a reliable fast-track to a successful career start in public accounting with the big 4. You will work OBSCENE hours, literally over 100 hours a week, for weeks on end, and you'll be paid less than what you'd make in private accounting. But you learn incredibly fast, and most companies will specify an expected amount of years of public accounting experience for their open positions. Then when you finally leave public accounting for private accounting, you work much more reasonable hours and get paid a whole lot more. It IS possible to be promoted up from within private accounting, but it'll take longer to move up. Public accounting moves you up so quickly because if you're not promotion material, they'll fire you to make way for others (but most just leave of their own volition for better pay and hours).

yumcake

I got my foot in the door because of who I knew. I had a friend from high school that was also interested in publishing, she ended up at the company I work for now, and told me about a position that opened up. She had nothing to do with my actual hire, but referrals are a big deal for any job.

That being said get to know others in your classes, and stay in touch with them. Networking is everything. Get involved with extracurriculars. I worked at the school paper, university literary journal and interned for the English department reference journal. 

Having published work is always helpful. Reach out to local papers, or even community magazines. Get in touch with their editorial staff, pitch a story idea about something going on in the community and offer to write about it. If they have an online presence, even better. It doesn't cost them to print online.

Also, understand what an editor does. There are different types of editors: book editors, magazine editors (consumer and trade), newspaper editors. I'm in trade publishing also known as business to business publishing. I have candidates for entry-level positions (e.g. Assistant Editors) interview all the time saying they wanted to be a writer. I'm all for hiring someone that understands HOW to write but there's a bigger skillset that comes with being an editor. My position actually consists a lot more of organizing and editing already created content, working with contributors, traveling to industry events and organizing projects. I do get to write and come up with story ideas but that's about 25 percent of my actual job.

 I recommend having job skills like being able to juggle a number of items at once and prioritizing your deadlines. Have a good understanding of content management systems, how to organize content and developing online/web content which is HUGE. Understand your audience online versus print. Basic photo and video skills are helpful too.

redpantomime 

Actor here. My wife (also an acting major) runs a theater education program for kids, and I travel around giving presentations to high schoolers, so we are both kind of in our field, but we're the lucky ones. Dozens of the other actors from my program went to New York and L.A, some of them very talented, hard-working, attractive, everything you could hope for. None of them are making a living acting, not a single one and most of them are working in the service industry.

However, I am convinced that Acting is perhaps the single best major for learning people skills. Nobody really hires exclusively for that, they want an expert in one area who also happens to already be a people person, but perhaps a double major would work out well.

delventhalz

It is only a crap-shoot because 90% of those that go to law school are not capable of being a lawyer. They never had a job in their lives and went straight to grad school. 

They won't be able to get anyone to hire them and they are not smart enough to start their own practices.

But don't let these stats deter you from taking law. It is a great degree, but it's not for everyone. 

The cause is law schools need money, so they will basically accept anyone to keep the money flowing in. They don't care that it is obvious you won't make a good lawyer.

My friend just graduated law school 2 weeks ago.
I have two other friends that are lawyers and neither of them had "connections".

I will say that  I don't recommend 'pre-law' as a major, it sort of lazy. You can go to law school with any undergrad. Most people get a degree in something else like engineering to fall back on if they have problems finding a lawyer job.

financee

While I'm not making films, I am in the video production industry. I work for a very large corporation and most of my time is spent filming and editing live music performances. I make good money, have wonderful benefits, and never work weekends.

I also didn't finish school.

I did a year at a Junior College in Central California and was able to learn a lot of television production hands-on. I cannot stress enough the importance of hands-on learning when it comes to video production. I worked for free for a few companies for about 5 years after that (as a side job, obviously) and eventually landed the job I have now.

The best thing that film school will do for you is potentially let you network with thousands of other students that are competing with you. When you're done, you'll have so much debt that unless you fall into a spectacular job right out of college (which is absurdly rare), you'll be underwater for years, possibly decades.

The thing about the video production field (all aspects of it) is that experience is just as, if not more valuable as a degree. I'm not saying that there aren't companies out there that require a degree for employment, but there are options out there.

The one other thing I'll say is to keep an open mind about video production. Out of high school, I wanted to make movies. Now, the thought of living in Hollywood and making movies sounds like something I would hate doing. But I'm still in the video production field, doing work that I love, with amazing perks.

AlaDouche

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