From the Classroom to the Boardroom: Putting Your Degree to Work

Putting Your Degree to Work

From the Classroom to the Boardroom

Economist Alex Tabarrock once said, "Education is the key to the future. You've heard it a million times, and it's not wrong. Educated people have higher wages and lower unemployment rates, and better-educated countries grow faster and innovate more than other countries. However, getting into college is only the first important step. Deciding on a major is equally, if not more, important." His views are well supported. Statistics from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reveal that those with tertiary educational attainment (college and advanced degrees) will earn an average of 67% more over their lifetime than their non-degree holding counterparts. Yet, according to the OECD, more than 41% of the U.S. population ages 25-64 holds such degrees. The question, then, is how to be the most competitive in an increasingly globalized workforce.

While degrees in business and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) are traditionally viewed as having robust earning potential, and indeed are seen as trending that way for the foreseeable future, they are by no means the only path to financial and personally-rewarding success. Columnist Elizabeth Segran, Ph.D. recently reported on the growing demand for graduates with liberal arts/humanities degrees in technology fields. The reasons may surprise you.

Educated people have higher wages and lower unemployment rates, and better-educated countries grow faster and innovate more than other countries.

Humanities/Liberal Arts graduates are seen as being able to move fluidly in abstract and complex spaces. They thrive on ambiguity and can bring a variety of perspectives to an issue or problem. These are valid and valuable skills to possess in a field where little is black and white. This is not to say, however, that technical knowledge is not a requirement. Indeed, for women who may face societal bias regarding proficiency in math and science, it is absolutely essential.  However, as astronaut Mae Jemison has stated, "The difference between science and the arts is not that they are different sides of the same coin even, or even different parts of the same continuum, but rather, they are manifestations of the same thing. The arts and sciences are avatars of human creativity."

Thus, no matter if your chosen degree is in the sciences or the liberal arts, it is prudent to be able to combine these seeming binaries into a lucrative and rewarding career. The following professions are just a few that may provide you with the opportunity to do just that:

  • Audio/Video Collections Specialist

    Those in this field combine technical and artistic talents to create and archive collections for a variety of audiences. Salary range: $45,500.00 – $65,000.00.

  • Commercial/Industrial Designer

    Combining both science and art, designers create innovations to address needs from the home to major industries. Salary range: $62,400.00 - $89,000.00+.

  • Computer Systems/Technology

    From Apple to Yahoo, those who can combine technical knowledge and creativity will be highly sought after. The opportunities and possibilities in this field are virtually unlimited. Salary range: $68,000.00 - $125,000.00.

  • Market Research Analyst

    Professionals in this field research market conditions in a variety of fields to determine the success and profitability of goods and services. Salary range: $58,800.00 - 112,500.00.

  • Natural Science Manager

    Those in this field plan, direct, and coordinate activities in fields ranging from life and physical science to math and statistics. An advanced degree may be required. Salary range: $100,000.00 - $145,000.00.

  • Postsecondary Educator

    While teaching at the community college or university setting may require an earned doctorate, the ability to combine both science and humanities backgrounds is unparalleled. Salary range: $69,300 - $121,300.00+

As you may observe in even this small sampling of careers, those who are able to merge their creativity with their technical knowledge will have the ability to put their degrees to work for them in a variety of fulfilling ways. While today's sometimes unpredictable world may cause even the most determined graduate to waver in the job market, Dr. Anil Kumar Sinha states, "To realize a dream; focus on the powerful, magical part of life known as vision, innovation, and attitude. Devote yourself to a purpose, struggle on it, overcome fear and move forward with courage and conviction."

Bottom Line: In applying that sentiment to translating your education into your career path, do not overlook opportunities to apply your workforce training in creative and innovative ways. The results may surprise you.

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