Mike Kueber's Blog

May 15, 2012

Career planning

Filed under: Economics,Education — Mike Kueber @ 4:16 am
Tags: , ,

While listening to Savage Nation on the radio today, I heard the host gleefully celebrate a news report that graduates from America’s law schools were having great difficulty finding good jobs.  He noted that a law degree used to be a ticket to prestigious career, but those days are over.

A few weeks ago, I discussed the same issue with an eHarmony friend who was a journalist in Nashville.  She asked me why I went into law, and I told her that when I was planning my career in the early 70s, law was considered the most glamorous job in America.  It had high pay and prestige, in addition to being a noble professional calling with no heavy lifting. 

Shortly after I decided to go into law, however, the profession went into a tailspin from which it has never recovered.  Nixon’s Watergate conspiracy not only tarnished the legal profession, but it also created the new glamour position – journalism, and this, I suggested to my younger Nashville friend, was why she went into journalism instead of the law.             

Like the law, journalism has been in a tailspin in recent years, too.  Public opinion surveys list both of these professions as unworthy of respect because their practitioners are more and more likely to be controlled by greed instead of integrity.  Glamour and professionalism are not very compatible.

So, what would I do today if I were heading off to college like my youngest son Jimmy?  Jimmy is planning to study business, and I think I would give that option a lot of thought.  Whereas my Cold War generation was directed toward science & math to help America compete with Russia, Jimmy’s generation realizes that American businesses need to be able to compete in the global marketplace with Europe and Asia, especially China.  The thing I don’t like about business is that it is highly practical and doesn’t put a premium on intellect.

Another option is medicine.  One of my sons, Mikey, recently obtained his M.D. and is working at the Mayo Clinic as an E.R. resident.  Although health insurance companies have dramatically altered the economics of medical practice and ObamaCare threatens to do more damage, Mikey is reasonably confident that the economics will remain relatively favorable.  Furthermore, various specialties within the profession offer highly interesting, challenging work.  And of course, there is still a huge need in the American economy for scientists and mathematicians.  The problem with these fields, however, is that they are numbingly boring. 

I guess that at heart I remain a social scientist who enjoys the humanities.  And that is why the law and journalism remain my favorite career choices.  Both focus on public policy, and I can’t imagine anything more interesting.  The only possible exception would be teaching.  Although there is little glamour associated with teaching, it does fully engage the brain and provides unparalleled satisfaction.

So, if I were setting off for college this fall, I suspect I would be again be a pre-law student, but instead of majoring in political science, I would study public policy.  The practice of law may not be exciting, but the J.D. can be a springboard to all sorts of interesting careers – just ask Obama and Romney.

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1 Comment »

  1. hmmm, i’ve told my daughters to get a left brain major and a right brain minor. whether employers want discipline or creativity you’ve got the right stuff.

    Comment by Q — May 19, 2012 @ 7:39 pm | Reply


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