Grads await an unknown future

The five high schools in southern Chesterfield graduated along with sixth others in the northwest part of the county over the weekend and extending into Monday. Over 4,500 seniors walked across the stage at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center and received their diploma.

What’s next for these bright and engaged graduates? A four-year college or university; a two-year degree at a junior college; the military or a technical school or will they go right to work?

As some of the keynote speakers said over the weekend at the ceremonies, they have a bright future ahead of them.

But I wonder. I’m sure 99 percent of them will complete their coursework or stint in the military, but have they been trained to accomplish a vocation that will make them happy, excited to put their feet on the floor every morning?

I know some graduates don’t know exactly what they will be doing for the rest of their lives.

They should explore their opportunities, while exploring what type of work or hobby makes them excited. Working on their car, interested in animals, the way people behave, the way people used to behave or becoming a chef.

Doctor, lawyer or Indian chief (manager) – there are so many choices. But I’ve seen too many young people graduate from college with worthless degrees without a market for the expertise they garnered in school.

So maybe graduates may want to stay away from majors.

According to Forbes Magazine: “Based on high initial unemployment rates and low initial earnings, the following represent the least valuable college majors for your time and financial investment. The data was provided by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW), from the 2009 and 2010 American Community Survey, with median earnings based on full-time, full-year workers.”

First let’s take a look at the best job that promise fulltime work over the long term and offers the best long-term income for those who hold a Bachelors degree.

Once again Forbes weighs in: “Individuals with engineering degrees, [Georgetown] indicates, experience lower unemployment and make more money than graduates with any other major. Undergraduate majors in computer science, mathematics, statistics, business, life sciences, and physical sciences are next in line. Liberal arts majors are at the back of this pack.”

A Bachelors in Engineering will earn its bearer $3.3 million.

Computers, Mathematics, and Statistics will earn the Bachelors degree holder $3.0 million.

Physical Science will earn it bearer about $2.5 million during a lifetime.

Science and Engineering Related Fields earn about $2.5 million but it’s a crowded field with 1.8 million holding the degree in the U.S.

Social Science is a growing field, which will bring a Bachelors degree holder $2.5 million in a lifetime.

A Bachelors in business will earn its holder $2.5 million during their lifetime.

In Communications, a Bachelors has a possible lifetime earnings of $2.3 million.

Biological, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences degrees earn their Bachelors degree holders $2.2 million

A Liberal Arts and History major will arrive at $2.0 million by end of his or her life.

The data on a Bachelors degree in Literature is also about $2.0 million.

A pathway in Psychology will bring $2.0 in earnings over a lifetime.

Visual and Performing Arts surprisingly is a job that earns its bearer about $2.0 million for a lifetime of work.

According to census data, educators with a Bachelors degree earn about $1.8 million during their lifetime, which is amazing because they teach all of the students who end up making better money than they do. Something wrong with this picture, especially when Chesterfield administrators say the Chesterfield Public School System claims it spends $8,656 per student each year. There are 14 school systems, which spend more than Chesterfield does on each student.

Salaries in some fields earn a student exponential earnings (Masters, Professional) until they hit the Doctorate level, where earning typically levels out or even drops substantially.

Others who may or may not hold a college degree make far less annually than those with a college degree:

  1. Cooks, Fast Food $18,720
  2. Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers, Including Fast Food $18,790
  3. Dishwashers $18,840
  4. Shampooers $19,130
  5. Baristas $19,450
  6. Counter Attendants, Cafeteria, Food Concession, and Coffee Shop $19,450
  7. Dining Room and Cafeteria Attendants and Bartender Helpers $19,540
  8. Hosts and Hostesses, Restaurant, Lounge, and Coffee Shop $19,660
  9. Amusement and Recreation Attendants $19,960
  10. Nursery Workers $20,020

This is not to say that high paying jobs are what college grads or high school grads should be seeking. As I said earlier, the first criterion is to do something you love. A job that you enjoy doing and getting out of bed for each morning may be worth a lower pay than one that you make the big bucks on, but hate doing the job. If you love what you do, eventually the money will come, and if it doesn’t, at least you have a happy life to look back on.

High school seniors should think hard about the next step in their education. Maybe college is not for you. Maybe a trade such as mechanics, woodworking or farming is your thing. When you look into your crystal ball, ask what is really in your heart, not what pays the most. 

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