Encouraging Your Kid's Career Dreams Is Easier Said Than Done

graduationWhat does your teen want to major in in college? Architecture? The arts? Does he or she want a well-rounded humanities or liberal arts degree? If so, bad news: A new report from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce has found that recent college grads with those degrees have some of the highest rates of unemployment: 13.9 percent unemployment for architects just getting out of undergrad institutions, 11.1 percent for those clutching an arts degree, and 9.4 percent for those who majored in the humanities and liberal arts.

Even if your kid is lucky enough to get a job in one of those areas and hold onto it, maybe even collecting a graduate degree along the way, he or she is not looking at a lot of upward potential in terms of salary. Arts majors with graduate degrees earn about $55,000 annually, on average, whereas engineers with graduate degrees pull in about $100,000. Or, you know, more.

So what are you supposed to do?


Do you discourage your son from wanting to be an architect or artist -- or, and I speak from experience here, a writer -- to save him from a life of job scarcity and low pay? Do you encourage your daughter to pursue her dreams and figure she'll be better off, in the long run, doing work she loves? (Assuming, that is, she'll still love it after it becomes ... work.)

Honestly, it's a tough call. My kids have yet to reach their teen years, when "What do you want to be when you grow up?" questions take on a more serious, if not yet urgent, tone. But already (perhaps prematurely) I've been contemplating their future.

Although I want my kids to feel they can do anything, I also want to teach them that it's awfully nice to be able to actually get a job and make a living in your chosen field. Doing work you enjoy (or at least, don't hate) is essential. But ultimately, work is work -- something you (hopefully) get paid to do. And if you're going to have to show up every day and do something, you don't want just to enjoy it, you also want to be remunerated adequately so you can, I dunno, pay your bills, buy a house, support a family.

So yeah, even as I'm encouraging my 8-year-old son to continue dreaming of becoming a Major League Baseball star (a kid needs his dreams; I'll let the world -- not me -- squash those when the time comes), I'm also talking up lawyering, for which I know he'd have a natural affinity. (Would being a sports lawyer be so bad?) And my 6-year-old daughter, who wants to be a baker? Sure, I'll help her measure the flour and roll out the dough to make cookies. But I know she'd also make a great engineer. She could use the same creative, hands-on skills. And you know what -- $100K is some pretty good bread.

Do you think kids should take into account how in demand and well paid a career is as they contemplate their future?


Image via Jason Bache/Flickr

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