Welcome to part 1 of SMARTer Job Hunting: Choosing a Career Path. Our goal is to help you plan your career opportunities by researching potential job areas such as the ones listed below.
The Labor Department recognizes around 900 major careers, which are usually grouped into the following six areas: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, and conventional.
In this post about Choosing a Career Path, we will look at the first three career paths. Let’s look at some examples to check out potential costs and benefits. We’ll omit obvious high-earning ones like surgeons and dentists, which require a great deal of additional expensive schooling.
1 – REALISTIC. These jobs involve hands-on work in practical, real-world problems and solutions. They involve real-world materials like wood, cars, or machinery and often include working outdoors. Some examples are:
Bakers and cooks. Starting salaries for these are about $32,000. After a few years, you can graduate to become a chef, but these still only average $56,000, not enough for a decent apartment in an area such as Los Angeles or Boston.
Camera operators for film and TV are in this category, earning $58,000 on average. The prospects for jobs in this area are good, although they involve stress, late hours, and perhaps travel.
Civil engineers average $88,000 a year. This involves a lot of detail work and may need a love of math. The good news, I was told by the president of the IEEE, the engineering association, is that this type of job is less likely to be taken by a cheaper worker imported from overseas, as is the case with aerospace and other engineers.
Nurses generally have to be hands-on. Getting your certificate will take an extra 3 years of school. You need to be able to tolerate a lot of stress, especially in a time of pandemics. Salaries have been going up slowly in most of the country, to an average of $77,000, but they are much higher in California, with an average of $133,000 per year. Not surprisingly, a lot of US nurses are moving to California.
Veterinarians have a bright future, with salaries averaging $104,000 in the country, with much higher pay on both coasts. Unfortunately, you may have to be an assistant for some time, at much lower pay of around $55,000. You’ll need skills in biology and reading diagnostic outputs and deciding on treatment options. This is not the field for you if you hate the sight of blood or animal waste.
2 – INVESTIGATIVE. Employees with Investigative interests like work that has to do with ideas and thinking things out rather than physical activity or leading people. They like to search for facts and figure out problems. Examples of this type of work are:
Aerospace engineers and technicians. Professional aerospace engineers require at least a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree and 4 years of experience and earn $126,000 per year on average. The top three engineering jobs are in the petroleum, computer/IT hardware, and aerospace fields. For some companies, you may be competing with foreign engineers willing to take much lower compensation. One way to avoid this is to find a job that requires a security clearance or US citizenship at companies such as Boeing and Northrop.
You can become an aerospace technician with a 2-year degree and certification from an organization such as SpaceTEC, which tests basic engineering skills, and earn $75,000 on average. Like engineers, you’ll need skills in pattern recognition, paying attention without being distracted, and reading long manuals.
Computer programmers fall into this category. You’ll need skills in computers and applications, listening to others and asking good questions, and choosing the optimal options. You’ll also need to play well with others. Of the hundreds of IT personnel I’ve hired over the years, this was the first quality I looked for. Many projects involve different experts, in modeling, movement, audio, special effects, and so on. The ability to interact with experts in related fields and come up with joint solutions is key. On average, computer programmers in the US earn $98,000 per year. Your chances of getting a top job will increase with a certification in some area of AI, such as business intelligence developer or big-data scientist. As an AI software architect, for instance, you would design and maintain systems, tools and platforms, create a smooth data flow, and earn an average of $150,000 a year.
Nurse anesthetists. They are not as hands-on with all-day services for patients as other nurses. Instead, often may confront vital problems threatening a patient, and come up with immediate answers and solutions, they administer anesthesia, monitor vital signs such as blood pressure and pupil dilation, and assist anesthesiologists and dentists. They usually need Registered Nurse certification and on-the-job experience. Demand is strong, and pay is high, averaging $203,090 annually.
Archaeologists. Study the origin, development, and behavior of human beings, including the way of life, language, or physical characteristics of people in various parts of the world. They conduct a great deal of fieldwork, collecting fossils, tools, pottery, and other evidence of earlier civilizations. They then write up their results, generally in scientific journals and presentations. Getting into this field requires a love of research and long hours. Compensation will probably require living in non-expensive areas and averages $64,000 annually.
Food Technologists. These investigate and help develop new or improved ways of preserving, processing, packaging, storing, and delivering foods, using their knowledge of chemistry, microbiology, and other sciences. This area is expanding with public interest in genetically modified foods, food allergies, sustainable farming, and synthetic meat products. Required skills include biology, chemistry, and analytical thinking. Average salary is $80,000 per year.
Recreational Vehicle Service Technicians. RV usage in the US is exploding, with vehicles sporting ever more features and costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Designing and maintaining such vehicles, including their air conditioning, solar power screens, and luxurious accommodations, requires much more than an average truck mechanic concerned mainly with engines. One or more certificates and a high school GED are generally needed, as well as an investigative mind and the ability to interact with customers. The average salary is $45,000 per year.
Web Developers and Architects. These design and develop websites, web applications, application databases, and interactive web interfaces. They investigate problems and optimize website performance, and server-side code and processes. In addition to an extensive knowledge of internet-related software and applications, such workers must be able to listen to and interact with customers, who often do not know what they really need. Demand is high for such workers, and the average salary is $78,580 annually.
3 – ARTISTIC. People with Artistic interests like work such as acting, music, art, and design. They value creativity in their work and often work in areas that are not easily quantifiable and do not follow a set of rules.
Actors play parts in stage, television, radio, video, or film productions for entertainment, information, or instruction. They often collaborate with other actors as part of an ensemble and may need the ability to dance or sing. College backgrounds in psychology or sociology may be useful. Modern acting can involve the use of riggings on special stages for motion capture, where the physical actor is replaced by a 3-dimensional digital creation, such as in films like Avatar or The Mandalorian. The average salary is $17.94 per hour, which translates to $35,880 per year for full-time employment.
Art therapists conduct art therapy sessions or programs to improve clients’ physical, cognitive, or emotional well-being. This is a relatively new field that supports non-traditional mental health programs, by enabling the patient to express feelings, problems and emotions by painting, video production, dancing and other artistic media. Art therapists provide guided self-expression experiences to help clients recover from, or cope with, cognitive, emotional, or physical impairments, in settings such as drug, alcohol, or other substance abuse rehabilitation clinics. Psychology and Theater Arts may be useful college majors for this. The average salary is $60,800 annually.
Special Effects Artists & Animators. These create special effects or 3D animations using film, video, computers, and electronic tools and media for use in productions including computer games, movies, music videos, and commercials. A degree or certificate in computer science and design is useful. The ability to interact with other team members is essential. Average pay is $98,950.
The above are the first three of the six career path job categories you can consider when choosing a career path, with a few job examples in each. I hope you found some jobs you might not have thought of. We’ll cover the next three in another post.
As we’ve said, when choosing a career path, you should plan ahead for your new career by researching potential job areas such as these, and if possible, check them out personally “on the ground.” This can greatly reduce the months spent looking for a well-paying job. To help you with your research, may find our free Jobcast and Webinars of interest.
Much of what we covered in this Choosing a Career Path post is in the recently published book SMARTer Job Hunting, available on our SMARTer Job Hunting website or on Amazon. It addresses the problems those in the job-hunting industry face, including job seekers, job counselors, and human resource executives, who face the high costs of layoffs and outplacement.