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In your opinion, for a high school senior who's choosing a career path, which of the following requires the 1st most, the 2nd most, and the 3rd most:

1. Training or education
2. Luck or abnormally high IQ
3. Overall likelihood of getting rich

A doctor, lawyer, investment banker, or something else (real estate, investing well, being thrifty, etc.)?

Feel free to discuss specific specialties or practice areas in your response.

Background: A bunch of us have been debating this lately, so I want to know what you think. Career counselor isn't helpful. Student has an A average and is a high school senior. He's well-rounded and kind of likes all school subjects equally.

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Be a pharmacist. 6 years total education and 125+/year based off of a 40 hour work week. And best of all, that's starting off, right out of college.

The one they're most interested in - I'd have done really poorly in a few areas if I pursued them. That's despite having the pre-req's and credentials to pursue them.

It might help folks focus their comments if you/said student quantify "rich". If you mean a net worth in current dollars of a say $2-3 million then pretty much any reasonably high paying profession (such as the pharmacist job suggested above) will make this possible given a decent savings rate and time. If you mean $10+ million then the number of options (and honestly the chance of success) go down considerably.

Technical sales - if you're good with people and have the ability to understand technology, you can make 100-200k+ within 5-7 years - and a college degree isn't even required.

Honestly, really big success in anything comes from having such a large passion for it that you can spend hundreds of hours involved with few breaks except sleep just because you're so interested in the subject matter. Under that level of focus you can become a great expert on any subject matter and command high pay for your services.

Also, a lot of which career choice will provide the best pay off isn't so much a study of what is happening in that industry today, but will happen in the future which involve people making educated guesses at best as to what will happen in the future.

In terms of serious wealth the best bet has been the same for hundreds of years: start your own business and have it be a commercial success, but what it takes to do that most definitely doesn't come easy.

secstate said:   It might help folks focus their comments if you/said student quantify "rich". If you mean a net worth in current dollars of a say $2-3 million then pretty much any reasonably high paying profession (such as the pharmacist job suggested above) will make this possible given a decent savings rate and time. If you mean $10+ million then the number of options (and honestly the chance of success) go down considerably.

This is a good point. However, I don't want to limit anyone's response. Feel free to answer either way, and to include that information if you want and if you have it.

jepribble said:   Be a pharmacist. 6 years total education and 125+/year based off of a 40 hour work week. And best of all, that's starting off, right out of college.

This. If I could do everything about my education decisions all over again, I'd be a pharmacist. I am related to someone who:
(1) attended a bottom ranked school (not even ranked by US News),
(2) performed poorly in her major (2.8 GPA)
(3) barely got into a bottom ranked pharmacy school where she barely passed (almost was kicked out)
(4) immediately got a job making 140k a year working 35 hours a week at a retail drug store

I on the other hand completely screwed up my career decisions. I:
(1) attended a top university (top 20),
(2) performed well in my major (3.9 GPA),
(3) am attending a top ranked graduate program,
(4) will have to compete with 200+ PhDs for every tenure track job opening, and even if I get the job I'll start out at 70k and cap probably at 100k (in 30 years).

To make it even worse, once I finally get a tenure track job I'll have to put in 50-60 hours weeks doing research to ensure I actually get tenure for 5 years, then do the same to ensure I have enough publications to get full professor. Only after 10+ years of that will I be able to work less than my relative.

Yes, I am bitter. I have no problem admitting it.

magika said:   jepribble said:   Be a pharmacist. 6 years total education and 125+/year based off of a 40 hour work week. And best of all, that's starting off, right out of college.

This. If I could do everything about my education decisions all over again, I'd be a pharmacist. I am related to someone who: (1) attending a bottom ranked school, (2) performed poorly in her major, and (3) barely go into a bottom ranked pharmacy school. She graduated last year and is laughing all the way to the bank working 40 hours a week at a retail drug store chain for $130k. Conversely I worked hard to get into a good university, worked really hard in my major because I knew I needed to go to graduate school, and am now doing a PhD in a field where I'll be lucky to start at $70k a year. Plus I get to compete with hundreds of other PhDs for every open tenure track job.

Yes, I am bitter.


A graduate degree in the right field and ability will net you far more than being a retail pharmacist ever will. Choosing not to go into retail pharmacy was a great career decision for me, financially as well as intellectually. You possibly can not imagine how boring working at a pharmacy is or at least was 7 years ago.

absolut812003 said:   
A graduate degree in the right field and ability will net you far more than being a retail pharmacist ever will. Choosing not to go into retail pharmacy was a great career decision for me, financially as well as intellectually. You possibly can not imagine how boring working at a pharmacy is or at least was 7 years ago.


I would love to know what graduate degrees other than pharmacy: (1) pay 130k+ starting, and (2) are so in demand even people who perform at the bottom of their class can get the job. I would gladly exchange that work and pay schedule to be bored at work.

By the way, not on topic but I find the degree inflation in the medicine related fields to be hysterical. Until a few years ago pharmacy was a bachelors level degree, now its a doctorate. Nursing and physicians assistants are doing it too - if they don't both become doctorate degrees magically in the next 15 years I would be surprised. I guess everyone wants to call themselves Dr.

magika said:   absolut812003 said:   
A graduate degree in the right field and ability will net you far more than being a retail pharmacist ever will. Choosing not to go into retail pharmacy was a great career decision for me, financially as well as intellectually. You possibly can not imagine how boring working at a pharmacy is or at least was 7 years ago.


I would loveto know what graduate degrees other than pharmacy: (1) pay 130k+ starting, and (2) are so in demand even people who perform at the bottom of their class can get the job. I would gladly exchange that work and pay schedule to be bored at work.

I love the degree inflation in Pharmacy too. Until a few years ago it was a bacehlors level, now its the PharmD. I guess everyone wants to call themselves Dr.


Perhaps I am not being clear. I was only providing you my perspective as a pharmacist who chose to get an alternate graduate degree and not work in retail for more than 6 months.

Retail pharmacist may start at 130K, however, I do not think you realize that salaries in that profession do not go up significantly, so you are pretty much stuck at that rate, and from what i hear jobs in that profession as drying up.

If you are only interested in a high starting salary, but limited growth potential then you are correct IT IS the job to go for.

Some (like myself) prefer to obtain alternate skills in the pharmaceutical business where potential salaries more than double those of retail pharmacist.

magika said:   
I on the other hand completely screwed up my career decisions. I:
(1) attended a top university (top 20),
(2) performed well in my major (3.9 GPA),
(3) am attending a top ranked graduate program,
(4) will have to compete with 200+ PhDs for every tenure track job opening, and even if I get the job I'll start out at 70k and cap probably at 100k (in 30 years).

To make it even worse, once I finally get a tenure track job I'll have to put in 50-60 hours weeks doing research to ensure I actually get tenure for 5 years, then do the same to ensure I have enough publications to get full professor. Only after 10+ years of that will I be able to work less than my relative.

Yes, I am bitter. I have no problem admitting it.


nah, u just need to get a job at a LAC and suck up to the right people for 5 years. and then BAM!, you've got a do-nothing job (with summers off) for life!

that's way better than standing on your feet for 7+ hrs/day, dealing with the public, and waiting anxiously for the day that automation kills you.

#1 on every list should be "motivation." Countless people are equipped with the right tools to do anything, but lack that fundamental characteristic to make anything happen.

I wouldn't go near the Pharmacist field - in fact, I think (and kind of hope) that it will be a dead field in a decade. Machines can automate the filling process, do it much faster and efficiently with less errors. I know, I design some handling components that could very well do it. Pharmacists consult a software program to look for adverse drug interactions - this again could be automated through software. Many chain pharmacies are farming out the filling of prescriptions to bigger warehouse type places anyway. Any of the schooling necessary for the job has been extracted from it already, it's not long until the profession is identified as one that should be cut... Just my opinion. I have many pharmacist friends, it's rare to find one who actually "likes" their job. Also, like someone mentioned earlier, the wage is kind of stagnant.

Doctors may make a lot of money, but maybe not quite as much as people believe with the overhead of insurance costs etc. Plus the debt burden you'll carry coming out of school. Might be best to map out this profession and see what the trade-offs and opportunity costs are versus having money grow for you during the lengthy education period. I don't discourage this profession at all, its just best to know all the factors going into a decision before making it.

Recently, lawyers have been finding the job market isn't so kind. There are a lot more graduates than jobs currently.

The high paying jobs take a special sort of personality as a skill. Sales always has a high potential, but the burnout opportunity is huge. Medical device sales positions can rake in 200+k/year for companies like Medtronic... Those people just dont last long, it's always a competitive environment and never turns off.

I don't mean to sound like a negative Nancy, or want to be in anyway discouraging to anyone - just wanted to offer some random internet guys thoughts on some things.

What are the next big fields/sectors that will be booming? Those are the ones to get into.

For profession on what not to be, don't become a lawyer. We recently just finally hired for an in house attorney, and out of the 75 open positions (ranging from admin to engineers, at all levels) it had the most number of applicants (~400). The next closest was IT helpdesk at 100.

i believe consulting(think Mckinsey or booz allen) and Investment banking have high pays and high growth potential. But it is not for everybody. I think you need to be type-A personality. One more think, do start a job for the money because that's all you will get. In such situations people burnout and switch careers.

Make sure you are interested in the area and love to work on it. Money will flow automatically.

user1337 said:   For profession on what not to be, don't become a lawyer. We recently just finally hired for an in house attorney, and out of the 75 open positions (ranging from admin to engineers, at all levels) it had the most number of applicants (~400). The next closest was IT helpdesk at 100.
This brings up such an interesting point and is an extension of dshibb above.

What if our answers here are backward looking, and that invalidates them?

For example: If lawyers were in short supply for a while, law schools may have expanded to provide for more graduates, which in turn could have led to an oversupply of lawyers. This won't change their salary from $180k down to $45k, but might take away from the extra it pays over other jobs with the same level of education.

So maybe if we use history to predict what the best jobs are, we will see them going away. I'm too ignorant to comment on a pharmacist, but let's say that some of their jobs are automated with robotics and/or triple verification systems to ensure the correct medications are dispensed, and remote pharmacists are used for any questions that consumers might have, then we might see their demand decrease. This could be a job that looks great today, but goes away by the time someone gets around to looking for a job. We have to be forward looking - history is a great tool though, so I'm not saying to ignore it, but we ought to have an understanding of why something hasn't already been eliminated by technology and what might pose a threat to it in the future.

I think the best career will be the one in which a person is most interested. They will be the most likely to find a way to make it happen, because quite frankly, they're going to do it anyway, there's no stopping them. You can adjust the size of your car, home, etc. to accommodate big differences in wealth/income/etc.

The person also needs to think about why they're getting rich - if it's simply for financial stability, then they can probably find better ways to do that, like decreasing expenses. (Have roommates, live in a lower COL city, etc.) If you are just trying to get to your death bed with $2M in the bank, then you have to ask what benefit that really provided.

if you think wealth comes from your job, you are in the wrong place...

magika said:   absolut812003 said:   
A graduate degree in the right field and ability will net you far more than being a retail pharmacist ever will. Choosing not to go into retail pharmacy was a great career decision for me, financially as well as intellectually. You possibly can not imagine how boring working at a pharmacy is or at least was 7 years ago.


I would love to know what graduate degrees other than pharmacy: (1) pay 130k+ starting, and (2) are so in demand even people who perform at the bottom of their class can get the job. I would gladly exchange that work and pay schedule to be bored at work.
I have a friend about to graduate with a 4year-degree in computer science who's been offered $145k starting...

javaman2003 said:   i believe consulting(think Mckinsey or booz allen) and Investment banking have high pays and high growth potential. But it is not for everybody. I think you need to be type-A personality. One more think, do start a job for the money because that's all you will get. In such situations people burnout and switch careers.

Make sure you are interested in the area and love to work on it. Money will flow automatically.


Veryyy doubtful on consulting! You can make a lot of money only if you can sell a lot of business and become a partner.

Even then, I doubt many partners cross 1MM/year and many (I believe almost the majority) of them can bounce around in $200-400k till they retire. Becoming a partner at one of these firms come with a lot of paraphernalia that very few people know about (to be fair, these firms don't want you to know the details, else they can no longer "peddle" their line that you've "made it" if you become a partner in their recruitment drives).

Hardly "get rich" stuff there!!!

Incidentally, did you know that the partners that retire from consulting firms at 60 live on an average for only 7 years after retirement? The job takes a lot out of you for not really "get rich" kind of money!!!

Consulting can become a "get rich" money maker only if you can find the right exit ops, not from the salary or commission you can get from the position itself. However, for each person that finds a great exit op, there are probably two that cant and lands himself/herself in an un-enviable position for many reasons.

Investment bank is quite a bit more of a money maker. If you can make a career out there then you can expect to make around $500k/year as a middling I-banker. However, no education can really guarantee a I-Banking job. You can only be reasonably certain of getting through the door if you have strong connections. After that it's all about how lucky you are (directional bets and risky trades) or how good a salesman you are.

In your opinion, for a high school senior who's choosing a career path, which of the following requires the 1st most, the 2nd most, and the 3rd most:
I think one field that hasn't come up yet is becoming a software developer. You can make $150k/year easy as a plain vanilla tech developer with a lot less stress and no managerial stuff. If the kid is young, even if he is not into hacking and computers, just get him introduced to programming.

Contrary to what many of my fellow geeks will tell you, programming is not "difficult" and anybody with some analytical abilities should be able to do it!

Even if this person ends up doing something other than becoming a developer, the programming skills will come in really handy in many ways. Being able to fire some quick SQL's or writing scripts to automate your and others repetitive stuff can quickly differentiate you from the colleagues. Also, I know quite a few BA's who became a business analyst in the respective fields because their career plan in the original field of work did not really pan out that great. Being a skilled programmer can only help in this scenario.

Training/Education: Not too much to start. To become really good at it, you need quite a bit of math/CS and/or a significant amount of domain knowledge.

Probability of becoming rich:
Better than most other fields. Some plausible avenues:
1. Do something of your own. e.g. Write then next cool iphone app.
2. Become an expert in a domain and get fat salaries ($200+/hour).
3. Entrench yourself in one of the legacy industries known for handing out sweetheart consulting deals to middling programmers (e.g. Utilities).
4. Or just earn $150k/year and invest well.

<Edited to add: cross posted on the software developer idea.>

One more think, do start a job for the money because that's all you will get. In such situations people burnout and switch careers.

Not necessarily. if I knew now how rough the job market was with a generic degree, I would gladly 'suffer in silence' with a boring job that paid twice than the stuff I am now applying for.

It depends on the person, I think. By all means, if there's some job out there that you love, do that, but if there is not something specific, it's quite possible your realistic job choices end up being:

A.) Be bored and get paid well for it
B.) Be bored and get paid little for it.
C.) Be bored and get paid nothing for it.

Join a frat, make good friends for life and go into commercial real estate with your frat buddies. I have known a few people that do this and are very well off.

Definitely IT. Fiance's degree is Information Systems, so no crazy undergrad math requirements (he didn't even take Calc I), he has 4 yrs. experience and is starting a new job making $92k this week (Chicago).

You won't go very far in a field even though it's a lucrative one if you don't have a passion for it and in it purely for the money.

LongDongSilver said:   You won't go very far in a field even though it's a lucrative one if you don't have a passion for it and in it purely for the money.

He has many passions and is equally good at just about everything, on high school level anyway.

Think outside the box?

Jim Rogers: Be a farmer

hebron1427 said:   magika said:   
I would love to know what graduate degrees other than pharmacy: (1) pay 130k+ starting, and (2) are so in demand even people who perform at the bottom of their class can get the job. I would gladly exchange that work and pay schedule to be bored at work.
I have a friend about to graduate with a 4year-degree in computer science who's been offered $145k starting...


I don't know if you can make $145k starting from a bottom ranked program, but if you're good, you can definitely make that starting (especially if you factor in signing bonuses over a few years). On the other hand, most of the software engineers will need to work 60 hours a week. You can do a bit better if you're more on the data analysis side though.

Luck Luck Luck ... you need lot of it, irrespective of any carrier you choose to make money.
I have seen several super brains working for idiot lucky person.
Besides making money, you need to save it, invest it, and grow it ... all of these also requires luck.

As far as which carrier to pick ... go with your interests ... for me grass is always green on other sides (carriers).

1. Neurosurgeon
2. Lottery winner or Rocket Scientist
3. President of the United States

FYI all the people riding the pharmacy thing... market is pretty saturated with more and more diploma mills opening by the year, its the next bubble after law. They start at like 100k, and have little to no room for advancement or raises. Not to mention pharmacy school costs >150k most places, so that 100k ends up being about 50k takehome after taxes and loan payments.

The cherry on top is that their jobs could be easily automated by machines and face to face interactions replaced by more or less a VOIP/Skype station at the grocery/Drugstore.

Whoa. Stop right there.

Before he or she decides on a career, take an aptitude test. If they have what it takes to be a successful salesperson pulling down $400K/year, then they'd be a miserable failure as as IT type. And vice versa. The only way to be a success is to know what you're good at, and do it.

Anything in healthcare = guaranteed job. Look at our country's population pyramid. There will be much more patients once baby boomers reach life expectancy and less healthcare workers available.

I will have to warn you about pharmacy. Everyone complains about changes to their field but I think pharmacy will be hit hardest as the government tries to cut healthcare costs.

jepribble said:   Be a pharmacist. 6 years total education and 125+/year based off of a 40 hour work week. And best of all, that's starting off, right out of college.

One word of warning in general about "hot" occupations is that sooner or later the bubble tends to pop on them. People see them making all that money and get into it, more schools open or expand their programs for it etc. There is often about a 10-15 year period where they stay very hot with a shortage of people then the flood of new people comes in and wages drop drastically.

I don't know for sure if that is what will happen with pharmacist, but I see it as a definite possibility. Also people were telling me to go into it 7 years ago when I was entering college so we are at least 7 years into that cycle.

hebron1427 said:    I have a friend about to graduate with a 4year-degree in computer science who's been offered $145k starting...

I agree IT can be good (it is where I have done well) but I bet the difference is that your friend has been offered that in a high cost of living area (e.g., Bay Area or other major metro area on east or west coast). Pharmacists can work pretty much anywhere and still get a decent salary. $130k in say Dallas is greater than $145k in San Jose. That said I'd much rather work in IT and be a pharmacist.

adawra said:   Luck Luck Luck ... you need lot of it, irrespective of any carrier you choose to make money.
I have seen several super brains working for idiot lucky person.
Besides making money, you need to save it, invest it, and grow it ... all of these also requires luck.

As far as which carrier to pick ... go with your interests ... for me grass is always green on other sides (carriers).

You need luck to save money, invest it, and grow it? Seriously? Saving it is not luck at all - it's just future planning, while knowing full well that as Pogo says, "the future ain't what it used to be."

And given the same money to invest, I bet the "super brains" you know would accomplish more than the idiot lucky person. So the point is that if they're held back by not having money, they ought to start saving well in advance.

I'm not saying luck isn't involved, but luck really only helps out those who try in the first place.

LordB said:   jepribble said:   Be a pharmacist. 6 years total education and 125+/year based off of a 40 hour work week. And best of all, that's starting off, right out of college.

One word of warning in general about "hot" occupations is that sooner or later the bubble tends to pop on them. People see them making all that money and get into it, more schools open or expand their programs for it etc. There is often about a 10-15 year period where they stay very hot with a shortage of people then the flood of new people comes in and wages drop drastically.

I don't know for sure if that is what will happen with pharmacist, but I see it as a definite possibility. Also people were telling me to go into it 7 years ago when I was entering college so we are at least 7 years into that cycle.

This. We're ultimately dealing with humans that are still... human. They will overshoot on the euphoria far into the future (as a group) and when things are bad, they'll see doomsday in the following few days. There's a reason our societies still get addicts, alcoholics, etc.

This isn't something going away. The "hot" professions will face unexpected changes either with decreased wages and/or job elimination as computing/robotics/etc. all advance.

I'd advise any young person regardless of their interests to acquire strong programming skills. Even if you're interested in something else, knowing how to use a computer will amplify your abilities in that field.

unimeg said:   Definitely IT. Fiance's degree is Information Systems, so no crazy undergrad math requirements (he didn't even take Calc I), he has 4 yrs. experience and is starting a new job making $92k this week (Chicago).

It is possible to do programming without much math, but it significantly limits you in many ways. If you have a degree in a CS related field (MS-IS qualifies) AND you've still not heard anything about some very useful things like Reg-ex'es, lambda calculus, and the big/small O'h notation, then will set off many red flags during an interview for any programming position. Interestingly, if he had no degree, he would be unlikely to be judged to the same standards and not knowing anything about these things would likely be fine.

My DW is doing an MS-CS degree coming from a lib arts background. The math path I suggested her (and she is doing it right now) would be:
1. calculus/diff. eq.
2. Discrete Math, Linear Algebra
3. Theory of Computation (Turing machine and stuff).

After that, depending on inclination and opportunity, some coursework containing combinatorics, stochastic processes, queuing theory, advanced probability, and "Math Modeling" (an interesting course in her college with interesting mixture of things in it) can only help. The nice thing is, she can pass many of these as optional elective for her MS degree given they are often cross-listed with MS courses.

Two things:
1) I know enough people who completed their pharmacy in the past 2-3 years and they cant get a full time job. They work part-time in different pharmacies covering pharmacists who're on vacation/sick/etc.
2) 150k easily for a programming job? I dont think so. I work for a Fortune 50 company and I started off with 55k. I'm up to 70k now after 6 years. Yeah I'm not in a "tech" area (I'm in North NJ.. but not NYC/Jersey city area), but that doesnt matter that much.

KayK said:   150k easily for a programming job? I dont think so. I work for a Fortune 50 company and I started off with 55k. I'm up to 70k now after 6 years. Yeah I'm not in a "tech" area (I'm in North NJ.. but not NYC/Jersey city area), but that doesnt matter that much.

North NJ is very much in the high paying area. You also have the hedge fund hub in Southern CT that is within commuting distance.

Trick of the trade is to not stick around with the same employer for more than 2 years, specially not big companies. Do a few strategic jumps and in 8/10 years you will be pushing $150k/year doing exactly what you're doing right now.

It sounds counter-intuitive and even stupid. I used to think just like you a few years ago. After a few salary negotiations, I now know how the HR behaves during the negotiations.

Once you reach the right pay band, then you should stick around with the same employer.

Skipping 120 Messages...
Gotta love this thread... For the most part an expression of ideals, predispositions... And very little about what the end goal aught to be, though based on the ops skewed misunderstanding of.... Of course the answer lies within oneself.



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