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forever undergrad
September 18, 2010 5:55 PM   Subscribe

Please help me find a decent career without a billion years of school ahead of me.

At age 26, I'm starting to resent still being stuck in undergraduate studies. Obviously much of this is my fault: being fickle, taking time off, changing majors, etc.

I've reached the point where I finally have enough credits for an Honour's degree in Sociology. For the last two years I've had a 4.0/4.3 gpa.

I hate research, academia, and tedium, and love practical work which involves working with people (I also am passionate about dogs and dog training...but haven't thought of a profitable career involving this).

I want to have a family, and I want a career which makes decent money (enough to have a house and cottage, vehicle, and put kids in lots of extracurriculars without worrying very much), and one which is low pressure in terms of deadlines and bureaucracy and in which I don't have to answer very often to an authority figure. I'd like to work 9-5 and be able to live in a medium sized city.

Because of all of this, I had until today been going for a PsyD, in order to become a clinical psychologist. While stressful, that is the kind of stress I handle well (other people's problems), and I think I would enjoy the work.

However, that seems like a long road ahead, and I'm getting antsy. Going for this goal would entail taking TWO more years of undergrad courses in psychology in order to get in (including a THESIS! I've already done one and don't want to do another).

So then I considered a Masters in Social Work, and a brief search showed me that I would need a BAchelors in Social work to get into Canadian programs! Paired with work experience! (I have lots of volunteer experience...but these programs are asking for two years work experience as a social worker!).

At this point I just want to find a path and stick to it, and I'd like to have some kind of graduate degree in the next few years. It just feels like I should have known what I wanted to do ages ago, and didn't, and now am stuck doing another bachelor's degree when I really feel over it.

Dear MeFites, impart upon me your infinite wisdom and common knowledge. xo
posted by whalebreath to Human Relations (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
I want a career which makes decent money (enough to have a house and cottage, vehicle, and put kids in lots of extracurriculars without worrying very much), and one which is low pressure in terms of deadlines and bureaucracy and in which I don't have to answer very often to an authority figure. I'd like to work 9-5 and be able to live in a medium sized city.

This is... sort of a lot to ask for. What are you willing to compromise on? Or, rather, what's most important to you? Social work might be for you, but I doubt it would offer that level of financial comfort or be low-pressure. Clinical psychology might give you the independence you want, but you probably wouldn't be working 9-5 (or if you were, you'd be working in a bureaucratic environment). Various corporate options (including some that would involve psychology and problem-solving--such as different kinds of consulting or organizational psychology) would give you the financial security you want, but would involve a high level of pressure and answering to authorities.

I would think that the best course of action would be, first of all, to finish undergrad with your sociology degree--just so you have the flexibility of at least being a college grad. If you end up having to take some extra college courses to fill grad school requirements down the road, so be it, but if a BA is in sight now, bite the bullet and get that sociology degree. Don't do an extra year of unrelated courses only to decide at the end of it that what you really want is a different grad program entirely.

I also think you should give yourself permission to not know. Finish your degree and, if you don't have a path outlined for yourself, find an entry-level job that meets some of your criteria. You don't have to have a straight A to B to C career trajectory. More likely, you'll use your first job much like your first undergrad major, as a starting point to figure out your next steps.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:31 PM on September 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


If you hate bureaucracy, you're not going to enjoy any job with any government, and that's the main place for MSWs.

All jobs answer to "authority figures". I also dislike such types, so I became one myself.

Very few jobs, besides shift work and the aforementioned gov't. jobs, are 9-5.

I'd suggest that you get the BA, and then take some time, working at jobs that might not be directly career-related, so that you can see what you do excel at and what hither-to-unseen skills you might have, lurking.
posted by Ideefixe at 6:37 PM on September 18, 2010


I just finished a PsyD program. I can tell you that it is possible to get into one without having a BA/BS in Psychology. However, if you don't have any experience in the field, that will likely make things more difficult. If you were to get into a PsyD program, expect to be in school for the next 5 years and have massive debt when you get out (these programs usually aren't funded). You will also have to write a dissertation.

I would think that the best course of action would be, first of all, to finish undergrad with your sociology degree

I agree. You can always start a graduate program later. There were several people in my program who decided on a second career in psychology. There were many people who got/were married. There were some that had kids already and a few that got pregnant along the way (not necessarily recommended by the program but hey, things happen).

I think that's what I've got for now. If you have any questions about getting a PsyD feel free to contact me.
posted by Nolechick11 at 6:47 PM on September 18, 2010


Tons of people find their careers without having a plan in college or a specific degree. Graduate as soon as you can, find a job and see where that takes you for a while, you might be surprised.
posted by ghharr at 6:53 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nthing the above. Just be careful about what kinds of funding you won't be eligible for anymore because you have a degree already. Pell Grants, for instance, only fund the first BA.

I can say that social work does not generally pay the kind of money to get you a house and a cottage and extracurriculars. Unless you marry a plastic surgeon, in which case, you could take up the dog watching thing.

Anecdotal: I completely understand the "I can't believe I am still stuck here oh my gosh I can just graduate and be DONE" thing. I wish I had stuck it out for the degrees that would have taken, I'm not kidding, two more academic quarters: dual degrees in Political Science and History, with a Russian Studies certificate and a minor in International Studies - I ended up with a double major, and lost the History and Russian Studies notes on my transcript for want of 24 credit hours.

If you haven't done work in someone's lab or for their research project, this might help you feel like you're on a formal path, while not cutting the undergrad thing short.
posted by SMPA at 7:06 PM on September 18, 2010


I want to have a family, and I want a career which makes decent money (enough to have a house and cottage, vehicle, and put kids in lots of extracurriculars without worrying very much), and one which is low pressure in terms of deadlines and bureaucracy and in which I don't have to answer very often to an authority figure. I'd like to work 9-5 and be able to live in a medium sized city.
...
However, that seems like a long road ahead, and I'm getting antsy.


OK, so you have a somewhat steep requirement for an ideal work situation (make enough to have a second home and never have to worry about money, low pressure, no deadlines or bureaucracy, little day to day input from a "boss" figure). And you've found a job you think will give you all this. And it's a job you're pretty sure you would enjoy doing enough to make it your career.

But it takes a few more years of training. And you would have to... HORROR OF HORRORS! Write a thesis. Oh no! Not a thesis!

It seems like kind of a no-brainer to me, especially seeing as, from where I'm standing, very few people have all of that in a career they love. Put your nose to the grindstone and do the work necessary to get what you want.

Or maybe this isn't really what you want, and none of those requirements are really all that important to you. If that's the case, sure, quit, go find a j-o-b somewhere and see where life takes you.

If you're burnt out on school, why not plan a gap year between finishing up your undergrad studies and staring a grad program?
posted by Sara C. at 7:21 PM on September 18, 2010


You probably don't want more schooling, but UBC offers a 2-year bachelor's program in computer science if you already have a BA in another subject. 180 degrees from the fields you've already listed, but the money is good. Other Canadian schools mught offer something similar.
posted by ripley_ at 7:32 PM on September 18, 2010


I see you chose a best answer already, but is there an equivalent of a Physician's Assistant in Canada? A friend of mine went back to school (in her early 40s) to become a PA; I think she had to take a few undergrad science classes to fulfill pre-reqs. It's a 2-year program and she came out with a lot of debt, but three years out of school she is now making a good amount of money (I think around $85,000 American). She is very comfortable with underserved populations: poor people, addicts, criminals, as she was formerly a social worker, and she is now working in a prison clinic. She finds that there is a lot of autonomy in working with underserved populations (her previous PA job was in the worst hospital in Detroit), which is satisfying to her because she has problems with authority. In addition, each year she works in the prison, she is able to get $25,000 toward her student loans through an incentive program to get medical professionals into underserved areas, so she'll be debt-free in a few years.

Her hours are fairly regular, though she occasionally works into the evening to catch up on paperwork. She has also interviewed at posh suburban clinics where the money is good, the hours are very regular, and the stress is low, but in those kinds of settings she would have less autonomy because of the working relationship she would have with a doctor. But if you like solving other people's problems and are not too squeamish to get through cadaver lab and do procedures like biopsies and suturing, such a path could fit most of your criteria. Especially if you're not single forever; with her wife's 50k salary, they're really sitting pretty now.
posted by not that girl at 9:37 PM on September 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


How about HR? Human resources for a large corporate organisation might have the type of job you're looking for. I've never worked in HR but a lot of the roles seem to be people-centred and practical and getting started doesn't require a higher degree. You probably need to do a professional qualification to get into the higher wage bracket but you can do that whilst working. They are also generally 9-5 (although this is in the UK where 9-5 is more towards the standard).
posted by freya_lamb at 1:53 AM on September 19, 2010


You might want to check into Applied Behavioral Analysis programs. You can become board-certified at the MS level, although I'm not sure if that's thesis or practicum-based. I'd guess the latter, given that most people are going into practice at that point. It's highly in demand due the the rise in autism cases, but people in that field also do work with training animals. It's also one of the better-paid specialties within psychology.
posted by bizzyb at 6:07 AM on September 19, 2010


Wait, you want a job that allows you to have two homes and support a family, and that is low-pressure, doesn't have a lot of deadlines or bureaucracy, doesn't have you answering to anyone, doesn't involve significant upfront education, and lets you leave at 5? And you want to find this job during a global recession?

I'm not trying to be pointlessly snarky here, but I suggest you recalibrate your expectations of something - either the kind of money you want to make or the kind of job you're willing to work. The majority of jobs that pay very well either require lots of education or at the very least are pretty high-pressure. A job that pays people enough to own two homes is a job that is in high demand, which means a lot of people want it, which means you are easily replaceable, which means pressure.
posted by Ragged Richard at 6:48 PM on September 19, 2010


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