Notes From the Fieldby Martin Weil

Posts Tagged ‘Careers’

August 7, 2014

Career Advice?

I keep saying that the sexy job in the next 10 years will be statisticians. And I’m not kidding.

Hal Varian, chief economist at Google, in an article at the site Quartz that questions whether “statistical literacy” needs to be added to the increasing attention paid to mathematical competence in basic education.

June 27, 2014

The High Price of Admission

Nearly 45% of 25-year-olds have outstanding student loans with an average balance of more than $20,000. Worse yet, more than one-half of recent college graduates are unemployed, or under-employed working for substandard pay at jobs that do not require a degree. One in five has moved back in with their parents, and more than half receive financial support from them. These alarming data points are from the recent NY Times article The Boomerang Kids Won’t Leave.

How much of this is simply the prolonged fall-out of the Great Recession and how much is structural change is unknown. But the Times article, and many others, suggest that the increasingly high costs of a college education may require a rethink of the automatic decision to attend university at any cost. Where college once was the best, and affordable, guarantee of a well-paid career, today it is increasingly just a very expensive admission cost with an increasingly uncertain payoff.

April 12, 2014

Recommended Book for New Grads

The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead comes highly recommended by Tyler Cowen, my favorite economics blogger

October 28, 2013

A New Way To Rank Colleges

With college education costs now a major financial planning challenge for all but the wealthiest households, students and their families can no longer assume automatically that a college education will be the “no-brainer” investment it has long been considered. Many students leave college these days with crippling debt levels they can ill afford to support.

In response, there is a new movement to rank colleges on more than just the basic quality of their education. Where the elite schools – Harvard, Princeton, Stanford etc. – once dominated all the “top college” lists, the new rankings feature some unexpected winners. Payscale ranks colleges based on ROI, the expected lifetime return on investment for the cost of an education. Harvey Mudd College tops their list with usual suspects Stanford at #10 and Harvard #14. Washington Monthly features their “Best Bang for the Buck” rankings that use student loan default rates as a key metric. Amherst tops the WM all schools rankings.

Students, and parents, are also advised to note the sizable gap in average starting salaries for college grads – 2013 Engineering grads received an average $62,000 out of school while Humanities majors earned $37,000. The costs for the two degrees are the same, but the earnings discrepancies only increase over the life of a career.

May 13, 2013

Sticking with the Careers Theme

For those entering college and thinking about a major, and for those about to depart and considering a career path, I am a big fan of local Bay-Area career coach Marty Nemko.  Nemko has an on-air career advice call-in show on KALW radio and is the author of Cool Careers for Dummies. See also my earlier post on the highest paying starting salaries.  No longer finance.  Think engineering.

May 12, 2013

How To Get Well Paid Right Out of College, 2013 Edition

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.

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And what a relief to see that finance (the art of moving a dollar from one pocket to another) is no longer the star attraction that it once was.

May 8, 2013

Need a job? Think Texas.


  • A donut house in Blaine TX is hiring at $18.50 per hour and having trouble.
  • If you have a commercial driver’s license, you will be hired at $105,000 to drive an oil rig, no experience necessary and high school diploma optional. An experienced driver starts at $125,000. (I hear the same holds in the shale oil regions of N Dakota and Montana)
  • Unemployment rate in Midland is 3% and anybody who wants to work will find a job – all energy related.

From 361 Capital Research Weekly

The 361 folks also suggest that those who are college-bound think of focusing on math skills, noting this list of starting salaries (from the WSJ) for college grads in various better-paid professions today:

  • Petroleum Engineering: $93,500
  • Computer Engineering: $71,700
  • Chemical Engineering: $67,600
  • Computer Science: $64,800
  • Aerospace/Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering: $64,400
  • Mechanical Engineering: $64,000
  • Electrical/Electronics and Communications Engineering: $63,400
  • Management Information Systems/Business: $63,100
  • Engineering Technology: $62,200
  • Finance: $57,400

January 6, 2012

Job prospects for college grads

MSNBC reports on this Georgetown University study of job prospects for new college grads by various majors.

Best majors for finding a job out of college, according to the Georgetown researchers:  Education, Health, Life Sciences, Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Worst majors for job prospects, by large margins: Arts (no surprise there) and Architecture (!),


August 11, 2011

What I learned from Costi

Yesterday, in the midst of the market’s mayhem (and in the midst of a family vacation), we had to call AAA for a battery jump.  The driver who arrived was named Costi, an immigrant from Roumania.  Costi’s story went a long ways to help me put our current financial and political challenges  in perspective.

An electrical engineer, Costi came to the US, five years ago at age 50 and speaking no English. He supported himself cleaning carpets while he learned English on tape and eventually landed his current, better, job as a driver for triple A.

Costi is a remarkably cheerful guy under circumstances that would have the average American bemoaning his fate.  Jailed for 18 months as a college student under Ceausescu, Costi lived through both good periods and bad under the Soviets and then independence.  At one point, his family received government rations of only a loaf of bread and 10 eggs a week for a family of four. He insisted that “Americans have no idea how lucky they are.  Here I am free and I can work.”  He added that his favorite thing was skiing and he settled at lake Tahoe so he could do just that.

“Everything’s going to be ok” were his parting words.

June 14, 2011

Failure as an option … on the way to success

Most successful businesses basically have trainwrecks behind them.

Tim Harford, author of  The Undercover Economist, one of my favorite books on economics, has a new book, Adapt or “Why Success Always Starts with Failure.”

According to Harford, success is built on the back of hundreds if not thousands of failures. Harford’s contention is that failure, rather than being an impediment to progress, is instead an essential part of the economic cycle.

In this Planet Money podcast, Harford talks failure in depth while discussing New York, Gutenberg, Woolworth, and Wall Street. Regarding the latter, Harford concludes that the biggest problem with the financial crisis was not the cost to the taxpayers, but that the major banks could not be (or were not, in my own view) allowed to fail.

“Don’t be afraid to fail” was replaced by “too-big-to-fail” in this case. With failure not an option for these largest firms, they become inherently incapable of learning from their mistakes. And this is the true market problem, one that stifles innovation and progress.

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