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you can have a job that you like

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People take the mickey out of media studies graduates in the UK. I think the equivalent in the US is probably the English major syndrome. I know nothing about the career possibilities of either subject, but I do know that just because Joe Bloggs in the street can’t think of what you might do with a particular degree subject, doesn’t mean that there’s nothing well-paid you can do with it.

I am a maths graduate. If I’m talking to people outside of work, lots and lots and lots of them are surprised that I’m not a maths teacher, because that’s the only thing you can do with it, right? I also keep hearing of people who want to study maths, or wanted to study maths, but didn’t because they thought that some other subject would give them better career opportunities.

I find this really annoying. The company I work for is large and diverse and doesn’t particularly recruit mathematicians. But, we employ an awful lot of them in all sorts of areas. Many of my acquaintances with maths degrees work in finance, others work in transport planning, cold fusion research, logistics and scheduling, river and coastal engineering, encryption and secret spying stuff, computer graphics, ship navigation, aeroplane design… The list goes on and on, but the best I’ve heard so far is designing a better way of icing donuts.

Maths, is a lot more useful than the man on the street thinks.

By the way, all of those jobs are reasonably well paid, certainly more than the national average.

But, I suspect that there are a lot of interesting careers out there that people don’t generally know about. I bet quite a few of them can pay quite well too. And if there are lots of interesting careers, and you don’t enjoy yours, perhaps you should thinking about looking for another one.

The best resource that I’ve heard recommended is the book What Colour Is Your Parachute?

If, you’re more interested in free resources, and ideas about jobs that you didn’t know about, check out some of the following:

  • Prospects graduate careers, excellent for *what can I do with a degree in…?* questions
  • US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook US-centric, but a huge list of occupations
  • Careers Advice from Direct.gov.uk some pretty nice ideas here, with less focus on degreed occupations

If you’re not sure whether you want to look for a new job, why not check out:

  • 10 signs it’s time for a new job

For more general job hunting links, have a look at this collection of job hunting resources.

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12 comments for “you can have a job that you like”

  1. Great post! I never thought I would be a freelance writer on the internet! I am now using skills I didn’t even know I had. And I am enjoying every minute of it. Life is too short to spend it in a job you hate.

    Posted by Rika Susan At Home | October 6, 2008, 1:47 pm
  2. Lots of college students in the US shy away from degrees in math and other subjects in which performance can be objectively measured because they are not guaranteed an easy grade. On the other hand, we hire only those who have degrees in engineering or science for just that reason.

    Posted by Mr. ToughMoneyLove | October 6, 2008, 2:50 pm
  3. hooray for being promoted! wow, i had no idea anyone would ever give a maths grad flak for an impractical choice. i thought that only happened to we philosophy grads.

    Posted by neimanmarxist | October 6, 2008, 7:40 pm
  4. have you read the book “tc mits”? it’s about math in everyday life. i think you will enjoy it.

    Posted by jun obille | October 7, 2008, 7:50 am
  5. Too true. I get a similar reaction from people when I tell them that I have a degree in Psychology. Everyone thinks I’m going to be able to psycho-analyze them while we’re having a normal conversation.

    But I do understand how some people can get frustrated with feeling stuck about career opportunities. It’s far too easy to let yourself get pigeonholed in one career field without looking around to see what else is out there. Thanks for the great resources!

    Posted by Maggie | October 7, 2008, 1:53 pm
  6. I studied English Literature at university, and have lived for years with other people’s disbelief that anyone would ever throw away four years studying THAT! I’m now employed as a full time writer though, and get to do what I love all day every day, so it doesn’t bother me anymore, even though it used to! I always think that it doesn’t matter what you study so much as that you DO study. No form of education is a waste in my opinion.

    Posted by FruGal | October 7, 2008, 3:49 pm
  7. I have a degree in Maths too, and I am not a teacher. Math is useful everywhere!

    Posted by smartypantsmoney | October 8, 2008, 2:22 am
  8. A degree in Maths? I wonder why it is plural in the UK. Here, you’d have a degree in Math, just one math, not all of them. :)

    I can see how people can think that, because the degree doesn’t immediately connect with the job, such as accounting = accountant, engineering = engineer, etc. Plenty of people have math degrees, and you just don’t know it.

    The trouble is when young people selecting their course of study don’t realize what can be done with the degree

    Posted by SP | October 9, 2008, 6:17 am
  9. I took a degree in Ancient History - I get laughed at a lot. However 2 years out of university, I have a pretty good job (not teaching History) and things are looking fairly positive! People have to remember that you learn more than just subject-specific skills when you take a degree - be that Finance and Accounting or Fine Art.

    Posted by cable_zombie | October 9, 2008, 11:10 pm
  10. I always tell college students to major in something interesting, and minor in something practical. In other words, get a high GPA and a good foundation of analytical skills.

    My favorite example is my art history major friend with the minor in chem and the 3.9 GPA. Hired by McKinsey before Christmas.

    Posted by deepali | October 10, 2008, 1:54 am
  11. @SP:
    Here in the UK we study mathematics and not mathematic, so we abbreviate it to maths. ;)

    But you’re right about people not realising what you can do with a subject.

    That’s exactly what I mean. Ancient History graduates get into surprising places.

    That’s a good idea, if only the system were like that in England. Here nearly everyone does exactly 1 subject at University (it is possible to do 2 but they are in a minority). I did exactly 6.25% of all my credits outside the maths department.

    Posted by plonkee | October 10, 2008, 8:44 am
  12. That was interesting. Looking through at the links you posted. Thanks for sharing!

    Posted by Roger Hamilton | October 10, 2008, 11:15 am

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