I need help with finding a Master's program. Priority: money, honey!
October 27, 2009 5:39 PM   Subscribe

I need help with finding a Master's program. Priority: money, honey!

I have a BS in Science, majored in Forestry. I have next to no professional experience in the US (where I live). I have a GPA of 3.1 and am preparing to take the GRE (my GPA is mostly due to Professors in my home country not using the whole grading scale, I actually graduated third in the class).

I have decided, after a long time of considering, that what I want out of a job is money. I'll take care of having fun on my free time. Can you please recommend what sort of graduate program is adequate? the alternatives I have thought of:

- Environmental engineering
- Public health
- MBA (I think the competition for this one is crazy, but my boss seems to think it's a good idea)
- Something related to the paper industry (I thought something like a niche would make it easier to always be employed)
- Landscape architecture
- Remote sensing
- A career in the Forest Service? This means possibly a degree in Ecology, or Forest Management.

If you have any other ideas, please suggest! My American working experience consist of a tiny position as Assistant Manager, and a possible promotion to Manager. I find it I'm sort of good at management, but mostly think I could be good at anything (sorry to sound stuck up).
posted by Tarumba to Work & Money (19 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Of those you listed, none seem particularly lucrative except the MBA.

With Forestry I suppose you could get a job with a US National Park. It seems that job is secure, but not a way to get rich.
posted by meadowlark lime at 5:46 PM on October 27, 2009

I don't really wish to be RICH, but I do want to make enough so I can travel a little bit, have a quiet life, and no worries.

By all means, tell me what other alternatives I can consider!

On different note, so a MBA would be lucrative? despite the huge amounts of people who have an MBA?

Thank you!
posted by Tarumba at 5:52 PM on October 27, 2009

Have you considered law or medical school?
posted by box at 5:54 PM on October 27, 2009

I am not very familiar with the way things work here. Would I be able to attend law school with a degree in Forest Science? Isn't it crazily far from my major?

I actually like law.
posted by Tarumba at 5:58 PM on October 27, 2009

MBA is more a qualification than a career choice. If you took one then what sort of job would you look for?

Here is the Economist's recent table of those MBA that pay the most. This is also interesting background.

Many of your career suggestions seem to relate to your background in Forestry. One option you don't mention would be to start your own business in this area: tricky, risky and stressful - but potentially lucrative (and you may even be able to calculate how lucrative from your business plan).
posted by rongorongo at 6:01 PM on October 27, 2009

I know people who work in environmental engineering, public health, landscape architecture, and the Forest Service. Many people with those jobs do them for the love of them, not for the money. Of those four, environmental engineering probably is the best paying and may be a good niche for you if you are quite good at math and have a logical, detail-oriented mind. Landscape architects can also make quite a lot of money but it is an incredibly competitive industry that seems to be hard to break into. Public health and Forest Service probably do not provide the salaries you might be hoping for.

In general, in all of 4 of those professions you will be competing both in grad school and for jobs with people who are very passionate about what they're doing and may be less interested in money and willing to work for less pay than you might be. An MBA is one of those degrees people get who want to make a lot of money. But I don't know much about it beyond that.

Do you have any GIS experience from forestry? That's certainly something easy to gain from a master's program and that's one of those skills that is growing in demand and competent people are paid well and have their pick of jobs (when the economy doesn't suck). While there are plenty of low paying civil service GIS jobs, the "extraction industries" in particular will pay you quite well to do map analysis for them (when the economy doesn't suck).
posted by hydropsyche at 6:05 PM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Management in a logging company? I have no clue!

thank you for the suggestion, rongorongo!, I thought about it, too, but I think I'm not experienced enough, I think eventually I would like to be a consultant for logging, or environmental law, for example. Definitely having a business (as long as the economy improves) would be the best way to make the most out of my work!
posted by Tarumba at 6:08 PM on October 27, 2009

I have 4 years of experience in GIS and took a couple of well known courses, so I think that may be a good idea, hydropsyche! I also think you hit an important subject - I am not passionate about Forestry. I am quite good at it, but I don't love it, which is why I'm just trying to conform with my major. If I could redirect my career, that would be awesome, but it seems like a waste of degree, doesn't it?
posted by Tarumba at 6:11 PM on October 27, 2009

With your degree and no further graduate school, you could probably get an entry level job in environmental consulting. In my neck of the woods, entry level pays between $35k and $40k. PM me if you would like more details on the job - I've been working at an environmental consulting firm for about 5 years. I have a BS in Biological Sciences, and an MS in Molecular Biology (which has nothing to do with my job, and had no impact on getting the position), fwiw.
posted by tryniti at 6:40 PM on October 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

Short answer: Diploma in Nursing.

Long answer: Seriously, if your theory is that you don't want a job you love, why invest in a Master's degree? Deciding you don't have to love your job before you decide what you want to do is a great way to become poorer, older and sadder very efficiently. The likely possibility is that you'll discover, oops, you did actually want a job you loved, and now you are $50-$100K poorer, two or three years older, and well-qualified to do something that makes you miserable. First, find a way to get experience doing things that could eventually become lucrative. Second, figure out a way to do that as your career.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:40 PM on October 27, 2009

Well, just make sure you're interested in the fields you mentioned. Otherwise, I think the boredom would eventually overwhelm the desire to make a lot of money.

Having just graduated with a Master's in Public Health, I would say that the best jobs are in health care administration or something with a quantitative focus. A lot of my classmates are still looking for jobs - those who have gotten jobs received them from the state health department where they worked as students - especially those in Maternal and Child Health and Community Health Education. If you can get into a program related to health services research, hc administration, or even some policy and administration course, it will be a lot easier to find a job since you also get some concrete skills out of it. More specifically, having knowledge of some statistical analysis software like SAS (recommended since most employers still use this) or Stata, decent writing skills, and ability to analyze and manage data sets, especially claims data will get you far.

Forget anything architecture related. Around eighty percent of architects in the Twin Cities are unemployed and it doesn't look like there will be a demand for them anytime soon. I would imagine the rest of the country looks pretty similar regarding the market for architects of any kind. One of my friends graduated from an architecture program with massive debt and has not been able to get a relevant job.

The economy has also taken a toll on a few of the other fields you have mentioned. I think MBA's are overrated for the most part unless you have a lot of professional experience already, which you say you don't have. A colleague who is now in law school finds that summer law internships are difficult to find. Additionally, many in law do not end up in lucrative jobs and those jobs are already shrinking. Law school is expensive and not a sure bet of high income.

I think your best bet - if this is a field you are actually interested in - would be engineering, since the market for that seems to be pretty stable. Geography would be another field, since you mentioned to hydropsyche that you have experience in GIS. Health geography, specifically, would be a field that I imagine would be valued in the job market, due to the value of data analysis by region.

One thing I would stress that before you enter in any graduate or professional program, make sure you have a definite source of funding. Too many people take on debt and believe it's worth it, but for most, it will take years to pay off 40k or whatever. And for a lot of these graduates, they will not be making that much in their first few years, especially if they don't have a lot of relevant professional experience.
posted by mlo at 6:41 PM on October 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

Large environmental/engineering consulting work can be relatively lucrative in the long run, but it is very much a "pay your dues" system, you need the experience before your company can justify charging a client very much for your time spent on a project. Just because you feel like your worth more does not mean you will get it early in your career. Some example companies (none of which I have or do work for) are Arcadis, Tetra Tech, ERM, and Civil & Environmental Consultants.

Your Forestry degree and GIS experience makes you a great candidate for an entry level position. My experience is that they really look for versatility- can you crunch numbers, write reports, then drop it all and spend a week collecting field data for twelve hours a day?

For immediate results, consider investing in a short course on wetland delineation. You should do well there since you'll have a background in plant ID. Consulting firms are always looking for people to do wetland delineations (well, unless you are in the southwest US). Companies that do licensing for transmission lines, natural gas pipelines, transportation projects, etc. will need people with a background in what is essentially applied botany.
posted by nowoutside at 7:43 PM on October 27, 2009

Chesty a Arthur has it. I see more and more of my friends blindly jumping into advanced degrees because the conventional wisdom says its the only way to make more money throughout your career. Most people who make serious money either run their own business (most w/o MBAs) or are in some other way entrepreneurial. Or they find a job with the potential for strong growth through contacts and continue to trade up through the food chain through networking and adding useful skills like professional qualifications, expertise in languages or computer skills. All of my anecdotal experience thus far in life suggests work experience and your actual skills are significantly more important than advanced degrees. Unless you are passionate about a field (doesn't sound like it), want to enter (mostly low paying) academia, or literally need a degree to progress at all (to be a doctor, say) I would highly suggest finding a job with potential for growth that allows you to start compounding savings for retirement, while you get serious about what you want to do. Trust me, the MA programs will still be there in 5 years time...
posted by the foreground at 7:01 AM on October 28, 2009

I totally agree with the foregrounds comments. It depends on what part of the country you live in, but it seems like Masters degrees do not guarantee security at this point in our economic history.
posted by Rocket26 at 10:16 AM on October 28, 2009

If you want to be Rich with a capital R, but with all the cons of long hours, stringent entry requirements:
Anything finance, law, or medicine-related.

If you want to be considerably well-off, without having to experience (relatively) long hours and stringent entry requirements of the fields stated above:
Anything engineering-related (need Masters or specific skills).
Management-consulting, with an emphasis on the environment, biotech, etc (MBA)

Anything else gets you either below or average wage (Landscape architecture, public health, remote sensing).

(On a random tangent: It's nice to hear someone who actually states that their first priority is money, because I know so many people who's first priority in a job is money, but they waffle and say real interest blah blah blah. Seriously, if all you want to do is earn money, just say it! Their hypocrisy drives me up the wall.)
posted by moiraine at 11:47 AM on October 28, 2009

Another vote for MPH. Even municipal epidemiologists can expect around $70-80K per year, and it goes up the more you're willing to sell yourself/work for evil insurance companies. GIS experience may lend itself favorably to a career in epi, especially infectious disease. Look for CDC fellowships!
posted by The White Hat at 2:31 PM on October 28, 2009

I know, I mean what would really make me happy is staying at home, practicing medieval calligraphy and reading. But I certainly cannot get paid for doing that, so I figured I'll have a life on my spare time.

Thanks to everyone for your advice. I think I may go for environmental engineering or remote sensing, since I have experience in the latter.

I know it would be ideal for me to get a job and wait to discover my vocation. But it seems like getting a job without a Master's is impossible (I visited some foresters at a convention today, and they also told me this.) I have given myself six months, and if I am not employed in a related field within this period of time, I will enter a Master's program. I will use this time to prepare for the GRE.

Thank you so much! You helped me narrow down my choices to two!
posted by Tarumba at 5:25 PM on October 28, 2009

If you want to be Rich with a capital R, but with all the cons of long hours, stringent entry requirements:
Anything finance, law, or medicine-related.

True - but three more tangential routes exist:

1. Marry into money. You might cringe but it is probably no harder than some of the other options. There are potential partners out there who might love to have somebody with a forestry background around just to keep control of their enormous garden.

2. Develop a less stringent definition of "Rich" than most other people. You might read "Your Money or Your Life" and have a look at some of the other finance recommendations on askmefi for example. If you can save effectively and reduce your expenditure to what really brings you pleasure you may be able to flourish while doing a job you love - rather than waste money doing one that devours you.

3. Consider very carefully what "Being Rich" would mean to you in terms of a lifestyle. Then look for cheaper ways of being able to have that experience. Want to live in a huge house? become a house-sitter. Like large yachts? deliver them.
posted by rongorongo at 11:15 AM on October 29, 2009

I never really said the word "Rich", I said my priority is money (I also specified how much money is enough). I did marry into money! I just want some of my own.

Thanks for the nice try at humor, though!
posted by Tarumba at 11:32 AM on October 29, 2009

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