Work or go to school?

I sent this in an e-mail to Single Ma the other day:

I'm studying anthropology (to be read as a career with NO money - anecdote: my professor always tells us that if we want to make money in Anthropology, we should marry lawyers!). I eventually want to get into Public Health (to be read as a career with A LITTLE money) and work for the UN/W.H.O. or the CDC/NIH. But, I'm still figuring it out.

It's funny (though, not really), sometimes I struggle with staying at my job and making NO money, but getting my schooling paid and other FABULOUS benefits (these people give me retirement money and I don't have to contribute - yup, just give it to me!) or going to another job and making WAY BETTER money but getting crappier benefits and struggling to study and pay my schooling (i.e. loans) or, hell, even quitting work altogether and busting my ass to finish school (which would get me started sooner in my career and towards making money). For now, I am comfortable with my decision, but I haven't really crunched the numbers.

What would y'all do or what have y'all done?



Millionaire Artist said...

Hey there, Clink. Thanks for stopping by my site and dropping me a note - much appreciated! If I was in your shoes I would listen to your heart first and concern yourself with money second. You can always get more money but not another heart. But that's just me. The good news is that by educating yourself about your choices you'll make the right choice for you. Don't worry: its hard sometimes but just trust you'll make the right decision. Take your time. Good luck!

Clink said...

You know that's good advice. It differs a bit from some standard pf bloggers' advice (namely BostonGal, but I already know how you feel about some of her ideas ;)).

I really would love to be done with my Master's by the time I'm 30 and I'll prob only be able to finish the coursework and not the thesis.

This is good advice. I am REALLY going to have to look at things.


Clink said...

Apparently, there's an echo in my writing...

Miguel said...


1st of all, nice blog. Secondly, I'm curious to understand why you selected anthropology as a grad program. What was your undergrad major?

I've known a couple of Anthro majors in the past (used to date one and met all her friends) and the degree seems fairly limited in usefulness unless you intend to teach. The people I know who majored in it either went into something totally unrelated after getting the degree or eventually completed PhD's and became college prof's.

Clink said...

Hey Miguel, I'm honored that you would stop by, read my site, and tell me it looks nice, all in one fell swoop.

Anthro and Biology were my undergrad degrees (count 'em - 2 BAs). My eventual goal is Public Health, but from a more cultural perspective. I chose Anthro for my Masters b/c non of the PH programs around here are any good and I wasn't ready to move. If I choose to get my PhD, it will be in PH, and I'll move.

And, honestly, I wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to do, but I knew that I needed to start and my studies (and interactions w/ profs) would help me figure it out.

I do NOT want to teach. I would like to work for the CDC, NIH, WHO/UN.

Matter fact, I'm starting to make forward motion (finally) by applying for jobs in the local Dept of Health so that I can get a leg up.

Does that clear it up a bit for you?

Miguel said...

Sort of. Here's my concern (knowing nothing about PH careers). Is an anthro going to help you get the job you want. I would have guessed that a PH degree or biology, or even sociology would be more relevant, though I understand you were looking at the quality of the dept. Still, I'm just asking the practical questions.

Clink said...

A degree in PH would definitely give me a better advantage to a career in PH (go figure), but the PH schools locally don't offer culturally sensitive programs that I want. And this is where Anthro comes in. Global cultural learning is what it's all about. My advisor is aware of what I want to do, so we are working together to maximize my education to learn what I can.

Before my family situation went to pot (why I decided not to move), I was looking at another school that offered a joint MA/MPH program in anthro and PH in the Community/Global Health subdiscipline that I am interested in. I am less interested in the biology/epidemiology of a certain disease than learning how it affects a culture/group and how to mitigate those effects. (Geez, I sound like such a nerd!)

I have investigated taking some PH classes at the other schools to broaden my learning and give me at least a small PH base, which I think will help.

How's about that for an answer?

(Seriously, if you still have more questions, please ask. These are helping me further solidify and make sure I know what I'm doing.)

Miguel said...

Well, here's the thing and the reason I'm asking the questions: It's nice to study what you want and with whom you want, but if your ultimate goal is to get a job in a certain field, then there are some practicalities to consider. Such as: Where did most of the people in your target career go to school and what did they study? The people who do the hiring will have a bias as to what they are looking for. If most of them have MA's in PH, then you can bet that this is their bias. If most of these people tended to go to a certain school, then again, they will be recruiting people who have a similar background. Sometimes, it's good to be the one guy with a different background, but that is more often than not, a long-shot, low yield strategy.

The best way to know is to go straight to the horse's mouth - ask them (ask people who are already in the job you want or doing the hiring, what the best route would be). Too many times, I have seen people get the wrong degree, only to find out after they spent the time and money and that it has cut off some options.

Keep in mind - I have no knowledge of your field - these are simply generic things to consider.

Clink said...

*pondering on this*

Miguel said...

I reread some of the above dialogue to refresh my memory. Here's what I'm thinking so far - It sounds like your area of interest is somewhat unique or unconventional (given that the PH programs in your town do not cover it). If that is the case, then it is especially important that you find some way to hook up with folks who are leading the charge in this fairly new and innovative area - wherever these people might be. If my hunch is correct, these people will welcome you with open arms as a new recruit to their way of thinking. They might not have job leads necessarily, but they can help you figure out what you should be doing in terms of your degree. Could be that you need to mix the anthro with an education or sociology certificate or something - I wouldn't know. Our could be that you're on the right track already.

The big point here is to make sure you're not operating in a vacuum - and not simply trusting the advice of your teachers. I'm sure they truly have your best interest at heart, BUT they also have an agenda too, which is to fill their classrooms and keep their programs running. They may not be the best guides if they don't know the PH field (and my guess is that most anthropologists do not have much to do with PH).

Anyhow, I think we've exhausted the thread. I normally don't question people's choices this way - it's just that I know people who have made big mistakes on this topic where their well-meaning teachers did not give them the right advice about career preparation.

Take care.

Clink said...

Your final comment mirrored exactly what I was thinking. I have a tendency to operate in a vaccuum and, while it normally works out OK, this is something I need to be proactive about. Instead of trusting my prof's advice, I need to get it from the proverbial horses mouth.

My 1st order of business is to find people in the field to network/bounce ideas off/make sure I'm going in the right direction. I'll take it from there to see what I need to do (reg PH program, specialized PH program, course of study I'm on now, etc.).

Again, I appreciate your questioning. My family and friends have asked the same thing, but I brushed it off. It helps to have it come from someone else.

I'll be updating the blog of my progress. Hope to see you back soon.