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What career path would you advise a younger person to take? This entry at Vdare got me to wondering. [Note: I had genuine reservations about linking to Vdare, which I read about once per fiscal quarter, but facts are facts. It should be accepted among adults that you can read incendiary things without necessarily agreeing with them.]

I realize that the vast majority of GNXP readers’ kids and the kids of their friends are all winners in the brains sweepstakes. Extreme intelligence makes its own rules. But the rest of us must follow immutable laws of the economic universe and have to be beady-eyed about how our talents and capacities dovetail with demand. We’ve got to be brutally realistic.

For those in your acquaintance who are only somewhere above average, what secure career choices would you suggest?

My own would be to advise a young man to go into some kind of building contracting, and allied trades (such as carpentry, landscaping, glaziers, bricklayers, etc.). Contractors are making out like bandits in any locale where development is going on, and that’s in lots of places. I had a conversation with a building contractor in Warwick, New York, in 2004, and he told me that he had to turn down work. Warwick used to be a dreary pit; due to its proximity to New York combined with a picturesque setting, it is now chi-chified and booming. The contractor grew up there when it was poor; he is now turning down business from the people who have moved there. He drove a Ford pickup and was probably a high school graduate. There must be thousands of such counties in these great United States.

Too many middle-class parents look down on trades such as these — what are they thinking? Isn’t it better to be a self-sufficient carpenter than a nervous middle manager who is scared that his job is going to be exported? There will always be a market for superior craftsmanship.

For women those kinds of jobs would be either not attractive or too physically demanding. I suggest cosmetology. Don’t laugh; you can charge a lot for one hair-coloring. Fine motor coordination might make women better at jewelry-making. Another career path would be dressmaking. Back in the day, a good seamstress was able to make a dress without patterns. They fit, they draped and they were beautiful. There are very few custom dressmakers left in New York; people tell me that they are all in Jackson Heights, where the Indian immigrants have moved.

I realize that these jobs can be physically taxing but…you can’t have everything.

Suggestions welcomed! (But please, keep it proper.) The idea is to suggest professions that do not require freakish ability. Just a job that an average but dedicated and persevering yeoman can accomplish.

The comments have proved an interesting exercise. What happens with fruitful comment lines is that certain principles manifest. In this case, the main principle that jumps out at me is that you may not need to be brilliant to be a successful small businessman, but you do need above-average drive and organizational ability. Even a micro-mini-Martha Stewart (who started as a local caterer, another career choice) needs to be very dedicated. A lot of folks simply aren’t. They want to collect a paycheck and let The Man take care of everything.

While I sympathize with this mentality, I can’t agree with it. The Man has taken care of things so well that entire sectors of our economy have been exported. Average America has to start mistrusting The Man, and that’s what I tried to point out with this post. Henry Ford is seriously dead.

(Republished from by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Science • Tags: Economy 
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  1. many aspects of home building involve really hard work. especially masonry and framing (roofing is hell). depending on the area of the country, it can involve long-hour outdoor work in very hot/cold conditions. 
    you have to distinguish the aspects of building contracting that involve indoor/outdoor work. painting, drywall, plumbing, electricity, cabinetry/carpentry, etc. are all more reasonable trades.

  2. Building trades that remain in demand even when homebuilding slows are better than those which are more dependent on the state of the construction market. There’s always a need for plumbers and electricians, for example, even if not many houses are going up, while bricklayers or drywall installers might not be so lucky. Another factor to consider is competition from immigrants. To give an example, in my area (Long Island) the landscaping industry is almost entirely controlled by Mexican and other Hispanic immigrants.

  3. And one more thing to remember, the competion is going to come not just from FOB’s like me(as razib so succintly put it a few days ago at the chat), but from robotics and AI as well. Given the state of AI (what they thought would be easy is hard and what they thought would be hard is easy) accountants are going to be a lot easier to replace than carpenters.

  4. Seamstress? Even in Afghanistan the poor women cannot compete with products from China. Guess again.

  5. I’m a physician in Florida. There’s a severe nursing shortage here, as elsewhere in the US, that will only continue to grow in the future. Typical hospital-based RNs work 7 out of every 14 days (12 hr shifts). A 22 year old starting out with a BSN/RN can earn $50k annually with good benefits. The military, where I’ve also been (out since pre 9/11) also gives one some interesting opportunities (flight nursing, excitement if so desired, etc). 
    The job can’t be outsourced and there are plenty of opportunities in most communities to allow one to pick and choose. It’s also still a respected profession, perhaps the most respected of all these days. This counts for something, in that you never have to apologize or make excuses for your choice of career. I’ve suggested this as a possible career field to my own daughter.

  6. one needs to make a distinction between unskilled labor and skilled trades, though the boundary can be fuzzy. the latter pay OK, but considering that there is no necessity for college loans and you don’t have to start serious earning until 22, it isn’t a bad choice (especially since many college graduates end up in dead service sector jobs anyhow).

  7. “And one more thing to remember, the competion is going to come not just from FOB’s like me(as razib so succintly put it a few days ago at the chat), but from robotics and AI as well. Given the state of AI (what they thought would be easy is hard and what they thought would be hard is easy) accountants are going to be a lot easier to replace than carpenters.” 
    Honda stock for long term investment?

  8. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I am really thankful I became an electronics technician. It’s in between blue and white collar. It depends on whay I got going on any given day. Some days are filled with meetings explaining how instruments and equipment work. Other days are filled with actually fixing stuff. I love to fix broken things, from basic to advanced. Radios, cd players, t.v. every body has stuff that breaks. I take it off their hands, fix it and give it back or sell it if they’ve replaced it.

  9. The laboratory in which I work utilizes the services of electricians, machinists, CAD drafters, cable assemblers, metrologists, etc. – the sorts of services that are listed on this web page. Whenever I talk with any of our lab’s contractors on the telephone, I get the impression that these people enjoy exercising and extending their technical skills – which were acquired through on-the-job experience, not higher education. 
    I also think that there will always be a market niche for small-scale, customized technical services – and, importantly, this market will be resistant to oursourcing. A factory in Guangzhou which employs an army of migrant workers can turn out hundreds of thousands of identical electronic widgets according to a Taiwanese spec, but the same factory does not have the technical know-how and agility to design and fabricate a few hundred circuit boards to meet the special needs of a graduate student in San Francisco (I’m talking about myself here, obviously). Also, there’s the problem of trust: Outsourcing operations require an expensive interface (people who know English and Chinese fluently, who can negotiate the business environment and bring lawsuits in Chinese courts if necessary), which is not economical for a small client like our laboratory. A manufacturer who operates in Silicon Valley (close to me, within the same jurisdiction) is much more trustworthy and thus more employable.

  10. For those top quintile IQs and no other unusual talents, a pharmacy degree is a very good choice. Dentistry pays even better, but is less appealing work to many people. Anyone competent at 9th grade algebra should have a good shot at being an accountant. Anyone with good mechanical skills can be an auto mechanic. (I think plumbing is usually union and harder to enter) People with mechanical skills and top quartile IQs should consider being electricians. People with sales skills can always make money. Pilot is a risky career but intelligence requirements are modest. Franchise businesses are always good if you have some capital. Managing food carts and scaling up has lots of potential. Military and trucking have good benefits and pay respectively, but restrict lifestyle severely. Teaching is a standby. Cook and waiter both have their advocates, and cooking skills are never totally wasted even if work is scarce. Teaching English as a foreign language offers travel opportunities. Construction is good pay with flexibility. Police work is surprisingly safe and boring, but is well paid in some cities. Club recruiters with initiative and style can make lots of money. Americans with management experience and moderate capital, a few tens of thousands to a hundred thousand, can often open very successful commercial enterprises in developing nations if they speak the relevant language. For women, child care is often a good choice. Massage or other forms of personal semi-medical services pay very well by the hour, but finding clients can be difficult for many people. Finally, if you look the part and have reasonable discretion and some public speaking ability, you could try running for a local political office.

  11. I am really glad to see this brought up. My dad used to call the admin side of his work (refrigeration mechanics on ships and oil rigs) the “pencil pushers” and his respect for them was minimal. Yet he was a man who admired intelligence and good conversation when he found them. Computer programmers–key pushers are the successors to pencil pushers. They’re all well and good in their place, indeed I am one in a way, but there is more to life…  
    They had to search both sides of the Atlantic to find somebody who could restore the elegant stucco art/architrectural features of the mayor’s residence in my hometown. I forget the technical word for it. The only people who had the tradition were in Italy and they were few and far between. Eventually they found one elderly gentleman who could the job, when he felt like it. When I was in Italy, many of the famous buildings were covered by scaffolding and tarp because the rare birds who could repair/restore, had to spread their time around. 
    That’s just one example. That’s all I have time to write just now. I have to go and try and find financing for a desperately needed plumbing job…

  12. michael vassar: I’m surprised by some of your suggestions. 
    I think that dentistry is not a plausible option for someone with an IQ below the 95th percentile. The work itself does not require smarts – being an electrician is probably more intellecutally demanding – but the barriers to entry are IQ-based. Applicants to dental school, like applicants to medical school, must have very good grades in undergraduate biology, chemistry, etc. Dental school itself is a gauntlet of written examinations, laboratory exercises, and case discussions – all g-heavy activities. The IQ barrier to entry enables dentists to make so much money. 
    In my experience, child care is not a suitable career for someone with above-average IQ. (Unless you’re talking about working as an au pair in a wealthy household.) Most of the nannies I meet around here seem to be of below-average IQ. They wouldn’t be watching other people’s kids if they were capable of getting a more respectable job. 
    Local political office is a career which requires exceptional ability. I am perfectly aware that most county commissioners and school superintendents are, erm, not the most “book-smart” or articulate people. But if you’ve ever seen local politicians in action up close, you know that they have a special finesse that is rare in the general population. I believe that 99% of Harvard undergraduates, despite their high IQs, utterly lack the people skills that are needed to win a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Which is unfortunate, because the average Harvard undergraduate is more thoughtful and discerning with regards to municipal policy than any of our current Supervisors.

  13. My wife recently met someone who seems to be doing well in the recherche trade of chandelier-restorer.

  14. j says:

    Fund manager. Requirement: Ability to convince people that you know more about money than they do. Intelligence is a handicap. You get a handful of people to give you 10,000,000 $ to manage, your take is 300,000 per year. You invest in an index fund or follow orders of a robot computer program.

  15. As others have said, medical careers are excellent choices. The path to becoming a nurse is relatively short and lucrative, and pharmacy (my career path), dentistry, optometry, and podiatry all pay quite well too. 
    Assuming that dentistry is roughly equivalent to pharmacy, I disagree with chairmanK that it’s unsuitable for people with IQs below the 95th percentile. The coursework is not so difficult that you couldn’t make up for an unremarkable IQ with hard work, unlike, say, mathematics or physics, which would be impossible for somebody of modest talents. Most biology courses are just about memorizing facts and regurgitating them for exams. Intelligence is helpful, but optional. 
    But if you’re both lazy and not that bright, forget it.

  16. Great post. Gustave Le Bon’s “The Crowd” has some great passages on how modern education encourages people to turn up their nose at anything less than a desk job. 
    I’d say it’s hard to go wrong with any skilled building or maintainence trade. No matter how much brain work or manufacturing gets outsourced, people need somewhere to live and work and a car to drive.  
    Gustave Le Bon makes the good point that most real life skills cannot be learned in a book, and that overemphasis on schooling wastes young people’s formative years and instills a silly or impractical attitude towards the world. For those without high-IQ aptitude but native practical intelligence, years wasted on info bulemia and truancy instills anti-social aptitudes.  
    For those immigration alarmists, over-education is a prime contributor to the American “those jobs are beneath me” attitude, where people feel more dignified receiving welfare than participating in the economy at lower levels. If demand, then supply. If no demand for unskilled labor, then no supply and no need to discuss border patrols.

  17. Hi everyone, 
    I’m a parent of two pre-teens. I have very mixed feelings about the idea of more-or-less pushing children towards one career path or another. The premise of the discussion seems to be that when a parent senses that her child isn’t quite brilliant enough to blaze his/her own trail, this justifies parental second-guessing and career arrangement. I hope rephrasing it like this gives a sense of how deep and complex (to me) this topic is.  
    Like many here, probably, I have first-hand knowledge of family situations where parental suggestions / choices were wise and good, and others where they were cruel and disastrous. It’s hard for me to guess how this would generalize statistically. I would like to ask the group, what are the likely metrics here that we’re presumably trying to optimize for? The adult’s child income relative to the median? The adult child’s self-reported satisfaction with life & career? Income / satisfaction of adult grand-children? 
    Looking at the complexities this way, I feel the most constructive things a parent can do in this dimension are to help children experience and learn their own strengths and weaknesses in a safe way, by exploring areas of interest with normal curiosity. Also, I think we in America are extremely fortunate that the concept of lifetime career choices / limitations continues to be less and less pervasive. I suspect that a significant number of adults don’t discover what they truly enjoy doing workwise, and can do successfully, until they’ve had at least a couple of different work experiences. 
    Any comments appreciated, 

  18. Brad, 
    I didn’t mean that parents should push kids at all. It’s exactly the opposite of what you are saying: kids nowadays strike me as being very programmed towards a narrow educational groove that (a) may not suit them at all and (b) is bullshit anyway. The WSJ had an article about lawyers. (Sorry, no URL.) The upshot is that 50% of people who graduate from law school are not working in the law after 5 years.  
    My point is to give kids information & let them make their own choices.  
    Seamstresses cannot compete with cheap Chinese imports, correct. But they can compete with the trendy and inferior $150 blouses, $300 skirts and $600 dresses I see at Bloomingdales. You ask: what kind of idiot would pay that kind of money for clothing? 
    There are many. There’s wads of excess cash in this country. The prices I quoted are actually quite reasonable. Check this out. And this. A topflight seamstress could copy that skirt and charge $500 for labor alone. It’s not the most complicated skirt I’ve ever seen. 
    (Come to think of it, add “cobbler” to the list.)

  19. It’s a very tough position for a parent to be in. The problem isn’t really with parents so much as the education system and social attitudes in general. American culture encourages teenagers to rebel against whatever their parents tell them and do the opposite (much cooler to listen to MTV and equally clueless school buddies).  
    One of the most important tasks for a parent is trying to notice what a child’s useful aptitudes are, and encourage or give them opportunities to develop (or fall flat). Easier said than done, but parenting is a big job.  
    This country utterly lacks a mentor/apprenticeship system for young people. Instead, upper level work and education is a perpetual kindergarten competition, where individual aptitudes are often objects of peer jealousy instead of recognition. Vocational freedom and equality come at the expense of honor and respect, because all “equals” are competing for the same limited slots, and educators/employers become jaded and impersonal. 
    Effect: Americans are notorious for spending “work time” in office politics instead of actual quality work. This is most pronounced in the overstuffed upper-middle class sectors of the economy.

  20. I cannot stress the importance of occupational assessment and vocational education (broadly defined). Murray had the right idea in that college is good, fine and well for certain folks with the intellectual and personality requirements, but it does not, ipso facto, result in a good, happy life (again, broadly defined). Secondary schools do many students a world of disfavor by making them complete “esoteric” classes in upper math/science/English when, instead, the time would be better spent in helping them (a) find their penchants and understand their abilities, (b) learn how to use their penchants/abilities to provide services that others will pay for, and (c) give them some “on-the-job” training. Contracting and cosmetology may work fine for some, but I wouldn’t make the blanket recommendation as I am sure the turnover in those professions is high, for a reason.

  21. I think Diana is right about seamstress jobs as a possibility for those with hs or less than a hs education. I’ve seen advertisements for seamstress on Craiglist, and the pay didn’t seem bad, just for minor gigs. Not like nursing, but not bad. A lot of fabric stores and drapery places will hire seamstresses to design curtains, deal with furniture, teach sewing classes, making prom and wedding dresses etc. Those types of jobs can’t be outsourced as easily. And since fewer people here know how to sew, it could be a decent choice.  
    Nursing, cosmetology, and seamstress also have the benefit of having some flexibility, which would be good for those with kids.

  22. High schools should incorporate vocational training as a routing part of schooling. Every high school graduate should have the skills to instantly get a job at 2-3X minimum wage. If they start earning and investing at age 18 or 19, by their late 20’s or early 30’s they would be in a good position to decide where to go then. 
    Of course if they must go to medical, dental, law, business, or graduate school, they will always have practical skills that will help them along the way.

  23. Really a different question, but for a bright person with primarily liberal arts skills, research librarian is the place to go. You learn these fantastic skills, and if you want to work in libraries you can get a job, and if not, your can use your research abilities. Or both.

  24. I wouldn’t think it would be too hard for Al Fin’s plan to be implemented. A semester of typing, decent English classes in spelling and grammar, and a semester in computer software like Excel, Power Point, and Word and one can go to a temporary agency and get at least 2 to 3X the minimum wage. Those temporary jobs very, very often lead to full time jobs if the person is halfway competent. You can get close to 2 times minimum wage just stuffing envelopes, but that’s not fun. Though I guess if more people knew how to use Excel and could halfway spell, the increased supply might drive down wages… 
    Aside from that basic knowledge, I would think a year of mechanic or electrician classes or cosmetology classes would be easy to incorporate into high school instead of making a kid wait until graduation, if he can make it there, and then have to pay to go to vocational school.

  25. I don’t understand the hype about becoming a seamstress. Over-romanticized view, perhaps? I was talking recently with an immigrant from Prague, who graduated about 5 years ago there from the top national college degree program in clothing design. She told me that out of eight grads, only one was still involved in the field in any way.  
    I also know two Polish immigrants, both of whom are highly skilled and artistic seamstresses, and have sold their work at open marketplaces in Poland. One actually does earn some money here (in Chicago) sewing for a designer, but the other told me that the piece-rate is absurdly low, almost on a par with China (see “China Blue” for example, an excellent documentary). 
    On the other hand, another Polish immigrant I met recently was making a good living sewing drapes for interior designers, but her success seemed to be due just as much to excellent management skills and business sense… 
    Just a few anecdotes… 

  26. Custom dress-making is not a field that can accommodate many women – most seamstresses will have a very hard time making a living off of their sewing skills. Jewelry-making is a very difficult trade to make money at, especially without the right connections & financial resources. Child-care, which has basically no entry barriers, pays next to nothing unless you can create a large, successful daycare business. 
    The better option for average women who don’t want to be nurses or teachers & are not interested in physically demanding jobs is to become technicians – like medical technicians (EMTs, pharmacy techs, lab techs, dental lab techs), which only require vocational school & are in stable, growing fields.  
    There’s also social worker-type jobs, which can’t be outsourced & are secure, as we will always have abused kids, substance abusers, excons, etc. who need their services. However, being a pink collar job, it doesn’t pay very well unless you’re promoted to a management position (except for criminal social workers, who do pretty well at any level).

  27. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Nursing, dentistry requires brain too.  
    Theres a big difference between nursing and cosmetology workers. 
    You must be talking about caregivers, not nurses. 
    Registered Nurses have to pass state exams. Its not something you learn on your own. 
    The RN state Exams include medical and pharmaceuticalterminologies, English grammar and usage, psychology, etc. 
    I dont think creatures like George Bush or Antonio Villagroisa can pass those tests. 
    If Nursing is easy, then why is there a shortage of them? Your Average American female would rather strut her behind in front of camera than study for those tests.

  28. There are different types of nursing degrees–LVN, RN, Bachelor’s RN. I don’t think anyone was meaning to equate nursing with cosmetology.

  29. “designers, but her success seemed to be due just as much to excellent management skills and business sense…” 
    I was waiting for somebody to bring that up. 
    Every man I know who is in a building/construction trade who has done well has been a fanatically meticulous, neat, orderly person. Which is ironic considering how dirty these fields are. A greasemonkey cannot afford to let his shop get dirty. I know a guy who is a glazier & you could literally eat off his shop floor. You have to be very precise to do what he does for a living… 
    Maybe they are not Feynman’s in terms of raw brain power, but these people have some traits that really stand out. How that fits in with ‘g’ I do not know.

  30. “There’s always a need for plumbers and electricians, for example, even if not many houses are going up, while bricklayers or drywall installers might not be so lucky. Another factor to consider is competition from immigrants. To give an example, in my area (Long Island) the landscaping industry is almost entirely controlled by Mexican and other Hispanic immigrants.” 
    Peter’s right about the landscaping. How long will it be for the rest of the trades?  
    Of course, the entire question takes in issues of outsourcingand and illegal immigration. The first is not controllable by US citizens and never will be but the second theoretically is.  
    But dealing with illegal immigration rationally doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. It flaired up and died down. I wonder why.

  31. I was going to suggest pharmacist as well. Probably requrires around a 115 IQ and definitely college though. 
    Lady cop or firefighter would be pretty plush, and there are still places looking to up the female quotas.  
    A real nice job for attractive females with perhaps only some college, or a non elite college education, is pill pushing — that is pharmaceutical sales. These salespeople are overwhelming young women. Some of them no doubt marry doctors or pharma execs as well. They usually have small territories around where they live so the travel requirements aren’t too great. 
    No one’s mentioned realtor, which is a women’s classic sales job.  
    Executive assistant is actually a pretty good job these days and can lead to other sorts of staff positions within corps. Again some college ought to do it. Junior college type thing. Also has interesting marriage prospects.

  32. 1) dental schools are easier to get into than medical schools last i checked (and the requirements aren’t as difficult in terms of course load). i.e., my exp. is that pre-dentals wanted to stay above 3.0 GPA to be safe, while pre-meds were looking for at least 3.5. 
    2) mortician. this not a job that is going to get outsourced, and last i heard you require 2 years of prep. schooling and make lots of money immediately. of course, there is the issue with low status and ‘creep factor,’ so if you are a guy wanting the ladies, might be good to work and save money and then do something else.

  33. Speaking as the husband of a registered nurse I can say that nursing is a pretty good career choice in many respects. Getting through nursing school is not easy, however. I’d guess that anyone below the top two I.Q. quintiles would have a very hard time of it. Another thing to consider is that nursing can be a very demanding job, both mentally and physically. Even so, it’s an excellent choice. 
    I’ve heard that dentistry is not as lucrative as one might expect. Among other things, the cost of getting started in practice can be extremely high. Dental equipment doesn’t come cheap. Optometry might be a better option for those interested in the health care field, podiatry too.

  34. Allow me to put some practical experience on the table here. As a retired gardener (65 in January) and a former carpenter (I won’t mention a dozen other kinds of menial labor I used to do back in my hippie days) I can testify that there is, indeed, much to be said for a life in the trades. (I believe Charles Murray is now pushing this general idea btw, as does the book, “The Millionaire Next Door.”) I have led a comfortable life, with lots of leisure and freedom to move around, and with more financial success than I ever imagined or even wanted. But there are some caveats. Carpentry is definitely a young man’s game. Climbing through rafters and joices, cutting polygrams of plywood, hefting sheetrock, forget about it unless you work in the Bay Area, which is one of the last union towns in America When I started out as an apprentice there I made the equivalent of $20 an hour, but that was 1968.  
    Eventually I switched to gardening because it is simpler work, more forgiving, and a lot more aesthetic. But it may also have something to do with the fact that I met a very talented, good looking woman who was a trained horticulturalist and garden designer, with a degree in Italian, for what it is worth. In the landscape industry, it turns out that unless you have entre to the elite (translation, a fashionable garden designer who can schmooz with high soceity), you are going to be cutting grass and competing with Mexicans. 
    Another general tip. Running your own small business has more fringe benefits than you ever imagined. It’s amazing how many trips in your SUV — I mean “truck” can be written off, to say nothing of all those gardening books I have (in my library they are all gardening books I maintain, for the cultivation of my mind). Of course not all of this would fly with the IRS, though you would be surprised with what does (swimming pools anybody?), which is why I always do my tax returns in pencil, with lots of smudge marks, and file on the very last day after all extensions have been exhausted. Not that I don’t pay my taxes, I do, sending roughly a third of my income to the IRS, but who wants the hassel of an audit? 
    Bottom line: merry a talented woman with a head for figures and more interest in money than you have. It also helps if you can keep her entertained, because she sure is going to complain about all the books you buy and the time you waste reading them and staring out the window. 
    (razib, would you take my name off this comment in a couple of days? I don’t want to go looking for trouble. thanks)

  35. The ancillary fields of law.  
    Being a lawyer itself sucks (plus you need at least some brains to pass the bar) but paras in thriving practices, case managers, etc., can do quite well.

  36. When I suggested nursing as a field, it was based on my observations over a fairly long period of time (I graduated from med school in 1992 and spent 9 years as a military physician, currently am a civilian Emergency physician). A well-motivated female or male with an above average IQ (~110) can do very well.  
    Simply graduating from a 4 year college with a BSN is the easiest (to me) path, but one could also earn an RN via alternate pathways. While the pay is less than that of what I make, the typical RN won’t spend an additional 4 yrs in med school and 3-6 years in specialty training (I graduated from college at 21 and, because I switched in training from Internal Medicine to EM, was 31 before I left residency training and was considered competent to work on my own). The field is very prestigious still, I feel, and again I think that’s something positive to emphasize. Finally, the flexibility in scheduling is very appealing (a major reason that EM was attractive to me). 
    One additional, less commonly thought about reason for heterosexual males to consider nursing: an unbelievably high female:male ratio (a serious fringe benefit).

  37. Bill – 
    My wife and I were talking just yesterday about her getting a bachelor’s degree in nursing. She is an RN with a 2-year community college degree. To my surprise, she said that at the large teaching hospital where she works getting the bachelor’s degree would lead to only a trivial pay increase, perhaps $20 a week. Hardly worth the time and effort.

  38. Blue collar guys in Southern California and New York who are good with their hands should look into movie, TV, and stage set construction and similar work. The hours are long and erratic but it’s unionized and the pay can be excellent. The work is fairly creative, there’s good espirit de corps, and other people outside the Industry are interested in what you do and will hang on every word of your stories about what Tom Cruise is _really_ like. Plus, the catered food on sets is spectacular, and there are lots of cute rich girls working on the sets as production assistants and the like.

  39. Peter- 
    I was talking in general about someone graduating from HS who’s expected to go onto college and do “something”. Rather than study English, say, why not go the Nursing school and get the BSN. 
    In your wife’s case, where she already has an RN, there’s no reason I can think of to get the bachelor’s degree (unless she’s interested in entering administration and going on for a PhD or MBA, say). It won’t make her a better nurse, put more money on the table, and likely won’t make a real difference. 
    I’ve suggested to several people in my local area that if their kids aren’t sure what to do with their lives, they should encourage them to get the 2 yr community college degree like your wife did. They will make a very good living and do very useful work that makes a real difference in other peoples’ lives. 
    Likewise, for someone who did get the BA in English, or another field where employment is problematic, earning the RN is definitely the way to go. There’s no snob value as far as I know in having a “higher degree”. I’ve personally never noticed any difference in nursing ability either. 
    On a related note, the other paramedical fields, such as Pharmacy, are also excellent options. Skilled Radiology Techs, especially with ultrasound or CT/MRI ability, can do very well with relatively little training. On the other hand, dentistry may not pay all that well relative to the costs (time and money) to enter the field, though the specialists (such as my Periodontist) can make a tremendous amount of money.

  40. For someone around the average 
    Electrician, plumber, etc 
    You can do quite well in these trades, the biggest problem is that many of the people who go into them have low impulse control and end up screwing themselves. 
    ~1 sigma 
    Government restriction of this profession pushed salaries way above market levels. 
    ~1.5 sigma 
    Dentistry or pharmacy 
    same as above 
    2 sigmas and up 
    Tax and financial law 
    Of course, the money is where the money is. 
    If I could start over, I would get a B.A. in finance and/or economics and go on to my J.D. specializing in financial law. I have a B.S. in chemistry and a B.S. in physics and am currently a Ph.D. student in physics specializing in theoretical and computational quantum chemistry. My plan is to work in quantitative finance.

  41. Anyone who suggests something like cobbler, custom seamstress, or other bespoke craftwork (and I’ll include cooking here for the sake of argument) as a career is probably underestimating the degree of sales and business management skill required to be successful in those fields. Not that they’re a bad choice for someone with the love of the craft and all the other required attributes, but they’re hardly a good choice for the average or even typical above-average person. 
    I second plumber and electrician as good choices (if unions don’t make barriers to entry too high). Can’t be outsourced, and Baumol’s paradox suggests that real salaries in those fields will just keep rising. Nursing should be good money too, but not a real pleasant job IMO.

  42. The Derb addressed this some time ago at NRO. He suggested learning a trade such as plumbing or electrical work rather than dreary cubical jumping. From personal experience I would recommend a hybrid. I have a contracting business along with being a statistical consultant on a project basis (I have a bachelor’s & masters in statistics). It seems to be working out.

  43. I see no one has yet linked the Department of Labor’s Dictionary of Occupational Titles – which includes narrative descriptions of the jobs and estimates of their preparation, educational, and mental requirements. Cabana Attendant, as an example, lists 
    GED: R2 M2 L2 SVP: 3 DLU: 77 
    That’s level 2 reasoning, level 2 mathematical ability, level 2 language ability (all fairly low); level 3 specific vocational preparation (takes 1-3 months to learn the job); DLU is the year the entry was last updated. The terms are explained on this page: — and the numbers assigned also tell something about job requirements for dealing with data, people, and things – .  
    There’s rather a lot, for anyone who wants to spend some time exploring it.

  44. For IQ 100 whites, it’s not a job, but join the LDS church, the Mormons, and let them find you one, and probably pay for your college.  
    For IQ 100 blacks and Hispanics, take advantage of affirmative action to get through college with a degree in nursing. If possible also get an education credential. Get as much financial aid in college as possible, preferably coming out with no debt and some net assets. If it will cover an extra year or two of college, have fun. After college try nursing and teaching, do whichever you prefer. If you get bored with or don’t like one, give it at least 2 and no more than 5 years, then try the other. If neither works out, join a police force or do other government work. All this time, save at least $5000/year, preferably $10,000/year and invest it in half domestic and half foreign index funds and don’t (not having kinds will help here). Once you have at least $100K of net assets have worked for 10 years (locking in about $500/month of social security benefits, plus giving you time to save $100K if you are spend cautiously and don’t have kids) you don’t need to save any more (though it wouldn’t hurt) and can now afford to retire and live on your investment returns in Jamaica, or even more nicely in Cuba or the Dominican Republic if you speak Spanish. Try to have any kids you want prior to leaving in order to lock in citizenship for them. Try multiple countries before settling down. While abroad you can try your hand in business if you feel inclined with little personal risk.

  45. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    >Seamstress? Even in Afghanistan the poor women cannot compete with products from China. Guess again.< 
    Guess they don’t have formal dances in Afghanistan.  
    There was a seamstress in our small college town who did a bit of everything, but formal dresses were her specialty. I’d guess she spent about half her working time on them, and she got top dollar because she was so good at it. It was year-round work, too, because people would make appointments months in advance, and these things go on year ’round these days. My daughter has had two formal dances this school year, with one to go. In the ninth grade. Now the magic seamstress is unable to work, no one locally has been able to fill her shoes, and people travel (and often)1-2 hours to get a similar quality of service. I guess the moral is to be really good at something and the world will beat a path to your door, and all that, but this is the starkest case of it I’ve ever seen.

  46. As a former lawyer in a big NYC law firm (once a lawyer always a L but haven’t been employed as one for some time), I second the paralegal and ancillary positions within mid to large size law firms idea. 
    As well there are great marriage prospects. There is a considerable tendency for attractive paras to be considered hot stuff by unmarried young attorneys, who often have really limited amounts of time at that point in their careers to shop very widely.  
    It’s also the sort of career that one can return to quite easily, and as well perhaps come back to on a part time basis. Upward career path is a bit limited by not so much as one might think. Aside from supervising paras, there’s such things as human resource type jobs, or within the firms pension or asset management or space planning, and other administrative type positions. Middle management in other words. In these kinds of off line type positons law firms are often kinda lose on graduate degrees for all but perhaps the top person in the department – or perhaps the acting top person will be a former para with some law partner or committee of partners formally in charge but very happy to leave it to the admin person if he/but probably she, is doing a good job. 
    Bigger firms usually want college degrees in paras, but the school was much more important that how well the woman did there. Gentilewoman C’s from name schools were just fine. And our firm had a particularaly status conscious head of para operations. (I was almost as if she were trying to higher potential wives for associates with a shot at partnership.)

  47. That should be “gentlewoman” and “hire” in the last sentence.

  48. “Gentilewoman”–Dougjnn, you have clearly been reading too much Philip Roth. 🙂 
    bald cypress, that was what I talking about. Someone who really knows how to construct a garment can make a decent living. I didn’t even think of the prom dress angle…

  49. Let me just correct something, if I gave a wrong impression. 
    Our paralegals, overwhelmingly female from GOOD undergraduate colleges, sometimes Ivy, usually no more than JUST UNDER Ivy, were smart and good at their fact checking jobs. They were also usually hot stuff. It wasn’t like our associates had easy pickins. (I was married within 3 months of starting full time law firm employment, to a woman I’d met in my last year of law school at my brother’s wedding, who was an accomplished artist.)  
    These girls had plenty of offers. Yet still they were there at the firm, with potential plutocrats in the making. And interacted. And romances within the firm did occur with some regularity.

  50. But still, the majority and probably the great majority of the paras that worked at my NYC law firm did not end up marrying a lawyer they met there (though a much larger number probably did have some sexual relations there) — all from the extensive but still fragmentary info I have.

  51. I used to develop online training materials that taught people how to navigate the Cisco IOS. I quit to start my own landscaping company. Guess which pays more, knowing how to operate a rake or knowing how to set up a router? If you guessed knowing how to operate a rake you were correct. Landscaping work bills at about $60 an hour. Bonuses include not being downsized, having a business I can sell, employees doing much of the work, and no more performance reviews from lazy and often incompetent managers. Most students that earn advanced degrees will never earn $100,000 to $200,000 a year at their jobs. Earning that much in landscaping is unremarkable.

  52. General Comment: 
    Many trades jobs have been mentioned. But if, sooner or later, the public gets de-hypnotized from college, competition will drive income from these occupations down.

  53. No, MensaRefugee, no. 
    But computers and robots will soon replace most attorneys, non-surgical physicians, pharmacists, and middle managers.

  54. Nope. Not most attorneys. Maybe they should but they won’t. It’s a guild. It’s a guild that’s deeply embedded in our system of government.  
    Some nipping at the periphery perhaps, but not so much.  
    Somewhat similarly pharmacists though I think they’re considerably less guild protected. Not embedded in system of government at all fundamentally.  
    Doctors … well maybe some replacement but the field is growing so fast that I don’t think many who update their skills have much to worry about. 
    Many middle managers are definitely at risk. They have been and will continue to be.

  55. “Doctors … well maybe some replacement but the field is growing so fast that I don’t think many who update their skills have much to worry about.” 
    And consumers will always prefer human doctors if they aren’t price-conscious, and with insurance most consumers aren’t.

  56. I have worked in constuction (plumbing and remodeling) and in our area illegal immigrants are doing much of the work. At first it was only in the general laborer catagory but you will find them in every job that you don’t have to have a license now and in some jobs that require licenses. 
    I have no doubt that this trend will continue. In addition when you put pressure on the lowest rungs of the ladder you force those people to look for those jobs somewhere. It makes for a rather mushy job market for some. You can still make money but if a crew of illegals will do the work for half of what a legal crew will do, the legal workers are in trouble.

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