What do I do with my life?
February 22, 2016 5:14 PM   Subscribe

I'm 22, I have an AA degree, and I'm currently substitute teaching and tutoring, but need a long-term, higher-paying job. I have bounced from idea to idea (schoolteacher, tutor, professor, pharmacist, accountant), but no careers seem to fit me and/or be reachable. Here is what I have tried and discovered so far:

- I love teaching/tutoring and math. Teaching, unfortunately, is 95% classroom management (not passionate about that), and tutoring is too few hours to be a full time job.

- I also thought about being a professor (seemingly a dream job!) but I'd have to get a master's, and at UCF my best subject (math) left me with a C in calculus 2 and a struggle the whole way through. I learn very well from lectures and unfortunately when most of the teachers are foreign, the spotty lectures and strong accents leave me with no choice but to learn from the book. Reading is not my best learning style and I struggled with most of my classes because of this. I could only assume it would get harder so I decided that wasn't best for me.

- I love chemistry/biology and medicine, but don't want to touch patients, so I thought about pharmacy, but the pharmacy doctorate looked to be as challenging due to the same reason. It's also hard to study enough each day since I need ~10 hours of sleep per day, which means less time to study than other students.

- I prefer being alone and thought a computer job would suit me so I tried accounting, but Accounting 101 was enough to convince me I hated all things financial.

I'm not the manager type. Less leader, more follower. I'd really like a 9-5 or something similar, would rather not work holidays/weekends, and would like something comfortable to live on (say, 50k/yr or up?) which is why most other jobs aren't ideal.

It seems like everything I try just won't work, any suggestions? Am I being too picky? Should I try a different route besides a college degree?
posted by drd to Work & Money (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you like math and being alone, software engineering might be a good fit. It's possible to pick up programming on your own or by going to coding academies and meetups. The tech industry is strong enough now that you can get a well paying job without a bachelors', provided you have the aptitude for it.

FWIW, being a professor is mostly administrative and research rather than pure teaching, and it's certainly not 9-5.
posted by redlines at 5:26 PM on February 22, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you really like math, I wouldn't let that C get you down. I understand the difficulty in understanding teachers who are not speaking in their first language. Calculus (and then Diffy Q) is nothing but hard work. If you are very determined you can do it. You have to do at least an hour of homework every night. I dropped out of Calc I my first time. Then, understanding how much work it was going to be, got A's in Calc I, II, and III. Calc III was the easiest for me. Diffy Q is just writing tons and tons of equations. Just lots and lots of work.

Also, have you looked into why you need 10 hours of sleep? It could indeed just be you. Or it could be diet, or the quality of your sleep, etc.
posted by falsedmitri at 5:27 PM on February 22, 2016

Administrative assistant? You can try temping to see if you like it, and $50K isn't unreasonable after a few years experience, depending on where you are.

Don't be a pharmacist, there are too many qualified graduates right now (ditto professors). There are lots of other chemistry/biology careers that don't involve touching people, though, is there a reason you haven't considered them? Maybe repairing medical equipment / biomedical technician? In my area it's a good field to be in.

I also sleep a lot, and it hasn't been a problem for my studies. Figuring out a way to get around reading not being a good learning style is going to be a much bigger issue, have you looked for techniques to compensate for this? (Also, learning styles are considered to be outmoded and not actually correlated to learning for the average student, consider if there might be other factors in play.)
posted by momus_window at 5:28 PM on February 22, 2016

There are plenty of careers in allied health where you can be involved in healthcare without touching patients, although all of them that I can think of would require at least another associate degree. Clinical laboratory technician is one that comes to mind where a decent amount of your time could be spent working independently. If you want to go all in on something more intense (much longer training but much greater earning potential, and IMO super cool), perfusionist is something to think about.
posted by telegraph at 5:30 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Don't judge all computer jobs based on accounting. There are jobs in computing that never see a debit or credit. If you love tutoring and math but not crazy about classroom management, maybe an IT job where you interact with people and help them find solutions. A good example could be a business analyst.
posted by bhdad at 5:30 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Being a college lecturer is all about teaching if you can make it through a masters. A smaller university may be a better fit with classes for you to do well. It pays terribly though so think about all the other options people are throwing out.
posted by Kalmya at 5:33 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

It seems like everything I try just won't work

Many people (most people?) do not set out with a full career plan; they get one job and go from there. That's what you need to do. Find something steady that you don't totally despise and go from there. I agree that office administration could be a good start.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:37 PM on February 22, 2016 [5 favorites]

There are very few full-time college-teaching jobs these days anyway; little about being a professor could be described as a "dream job" anyway (and I also wonder how well you would get along with your many "foreign" colleagues and students). I suspect that option doesn't need to be revisited.

The sleep thing could hold you back. If you don't know why you need that much sleep, it might be worth trying to find any job with health insurance and working there while you investigate. If you do go back to school for something, and you haven't been tested for cognitive processing difficulties that might interfere with reading (or listening, for that matter), you might consider finding a school that has a good DSS/DSPS/etc. office and will do testing.

Good luck!
posted by wintersweet at 5:44 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Have you considered shadowing some working professionals to see what they do? There are lots of jobs that involve using computers in independent work these days. Try reaching out to your local community college and see if they have a shadowing program. You might even be able to talk to a career counselor who could give you some ideas.
posted by deathpanels at 6:43 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

Medical coding and billing. There's a lot of need, it's an interesting field, it can be 9 to 5 (my best friend works on a totally virtual team and can work any hours between 6 and 6), and she makes north of your stated goal, though it's taken her awhile to get there. You'll want your bachelors if you want to move up into management, but she got her first billing/coding job sans any kind of degree and then completed her AA then BA while working.
posted by joycehealy at 7:09 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

My fiancee is a full-time tutor who charges $75/hr and has a waitlist. It took her maybe three years to get to that point, but it's doable (although not simple.) Some points:

- She is based in a high-income Bay Area suburb, where we could not normally afford to live comfortably (although we have non-job-related circumstances that allow us to.)
- I have a good benefits package, and previously she did very-low-hours office management for her dad's tiny business to be on his insurance. (She still does the work, because her dad is OMG ADD, and a sweetheart, but the pay is basically a gift.)
- She tutors k-12, every subject but especially math up to pre-calc, which gets her the most clients. Working with 17-year-olds and 8-year-olds are totally different games - she happens to be good at both.
- She is fortunate to be able to use the local library as a workspace for free, and since she's become so in-demand, she does almost no travel (and charges out the ass for it when she does.)
- She worked briefly for a tutoring company, but the pay was shite and the hours were worse - plus they didn't pay her for travel time. Solo works way better for her.

If any of the above changed significantly, it probably wouldn't be doable (she could build her business back up somewhere else, but it'd take another couple of years.) Your circumstances may not allow for it, but it is possible to do full-time.

Otherwise, honestly, I'd recommend you spend a couple years thinking less about a career and more about holding down a job consistently - you'll learn more about what does and doesn't work for you if you go out and try it, and you may discover something you're good at and can tolerate in the minutia of some unexpected job. That's how I got here, after all.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:32 PM on February 22, 2016 [3 favorites]

I don't know what it's called, but a a friend learns specialized software and then trains users. I don't totally understand, but the basic idea is that there will be some new software used by doctors offices. She'll learn it and then go out and train the doctors office staff to use the software. Doesn't let you work alone, but it's certainly 9-5, no subordinates, and can be medically related w/o involving patients directly. I have no idea the pay though.
posted by lab.beetle at 7:54 PM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]

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