Your child’s first job after graduation may not lead directly to her ultimate career path. However, this strategy provides a dignified approach through which your child can cultivate a work ethic, learn to manage her own affairs, and begin to save money to continue her exploration into what she really wants to do in her career and life.
As a parent, you can play a crucial role as you encourage your child to select a financially viable path to a secure occupation as the first step to financial freedom rather than a childhood dream job that may be out of reach at this time in his life. Ideally this approach will allow him to transition into his dream career.
Many of us have experienced career selection paralysis resulting from the fear of choosing the wrong career path. If your child is worried she might be pigeonholed, she may be hesitant to consider education paths that initially lead to more marketable skills and job security. Assist your child with this conundrum.
Listen and explore
Listen to his concerns. Help him understand that it’s okay if he doesn’t initially choose the “right” career. Have these conversations about education and career options with a mindset of exploration and adventure. Make it purposeful fun and your child will be more likely to open up to and enjoy these discussions.
The first step in helping your child obtain a job after college is to begin to explore educational expenses and outcomes of career paths as she enters high school. Examine your networks to discover opportunities for you and your child to learn more about careers of interest and to shadow professionals in fields that intrigue her. Look for future internship opportunities. Review the summer camps and educational programs available. Some businesses welcome student volunteers who gain experience and skills in fields such as veterinary medicine, accounting and healthcare.
Reduce education debt
Encourage your child to earn academic or athletic scholarships. The money is only one of the many benefits! If you are wealthy enough to not need or want loans, guiding your child into a profession where they can emerge from college with marketable skills and the ability and ambition to land a job is still paramount.
I advise families with fewer resources to redesign the conversations about college they have with their children. In today’s environment, I emphasize that it is best to emerge from college with marketable skills so they can find employment. I urge them to be dispassionate in strategizing how to accomplish this with little or no debt. If you thought a bachelor’s degree was the only path to achieving desired career and financial goals, think again. Median earnings of an individual with an associate degree in applied science parallel that of a bachelor’s-degree holder a decade after graduation – $54,146 compared to $55,287 respectively.1
One strategy to reduce education debt is to attend the local community college for two years, then go to a nearby state school campus as a commuter. There are also local trade schools such as The Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades that offer tuition-free programs [http://www.williamson.edu/]. Compare pay scales by region of the country. New data shows that future elevator mechanics and plumbers who complete trade school programs and state-recognized apprenticeships in Florida earn close to $70,000 after a year as a journeyman. Industrial-machinery maintenance mechanics and millwrights earn nearly $80,000 on average.1 Nation-wide median pay for these occupations is $76,650, $49,140, $45,840 and $50,460, respectively.2, 3, 4
Find a viable path to job security
Here is an example of a two-step approach to becoming highly employable with little or no debt. In Delaware County, PA, a student can earn a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing for about $50,000 including commuting and other miscellaneous costs for a live-at-home resident. Here’s how. An associate in applied science degree from Delaware County Community College would cost a sponsored resident $12,196 and qualify the graduate to sit for the Registered Nurse (RN) exam.5 Then an RN to Bachelor of Science program would cost an additional $20,670 at Temple or $19,407 at West Chester University.6
Employment for a registered nurse is forecasted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to be one of the 20 occupations with the highest projected numeric change in employment (+526,800) from 2012-2022. The median wage for an RN was $65,470 in 2012.The projected growth rate of this profession is 19 percent, almost twice the average of 11 percent.7 A Master of Science degree in nursing will open up even more possibilities and lead to higher compensation.
Another occupation expected to be one of the top 20 in terms of growth of employment between 2012 and 2022 is that of an industrial-organizational psychologist, with an estimated growth rate of 53 percent and a 2012 median pay of $83,580 per year. This occupation requires an advanced degree and generally the completion of an internship and/or residency program. Due to the small number of people involved in this profession (+2,500), this impressive expected growth rate is a bit misleading as it translates into just 900 additional jobs by 2022.8
Minimize your default risk
When loans are necessary, I help my clients examine their front-end ratio (housing expense as a percent of gross pretax income) and their back-end ratio (total debt service-to-income which shows how much of their gross income is consumed by all monthly debt obligations). The standard for the front-end ratio is 28 percent and the standard for the back-end ratio is 36 percent, according to Bankrate.com.9
If their stats are lower than these standards, they can, on average, safely “loan-up” to these limits with federal or state loans if necessary. Federal school loans tend to be the least expensive.
When speculating with your child about her career path, recall that about 10 percent of borrowers with federal student loans defaulted within the first two years of required payments, and 14 percent defaulted within the first three years. The average borrower owes more than $26,000.10
Keep your eye on the Prize
The initial key to prosperity for your child is for him to “get in the game” right out of college and this requires marketable skills pertaining to a job that is in high demand and requires human effort rather than robots or automation. A few years after graduation, once he has learned to manage as an adult living on his own, he can devote time and resources exploring his dream job. Everyone wins when he gets off to a good start with a decent job and little or no debt to hamper him.
This article originally appeared in the July 19, 2015 issue of Main Line Times.