This week I’m featuring guest posts from some of my best blogging friends while I take a small blogcation. Don’t run away – these are awesome posts from talented bloggers! Today’s post comes from TeacHer Finance, an educator who is rocking her debt payoff while educating the masses. Check out her blog, which may or may not have been recently redesigned by yours truly!
I’m American. As such, a common question that is asked of me when I first meet someone is, “What do you do?” (FYI – Europeans usually ask “Where did you go to school?” Interesting stuff, huh?) When I tell people that I’m a high school teacher, I get a lot of interesting responses, such as:
“What? No way – you look like you could be in high school.” (Thanks, that makes me feel confident in my position as an authority figure.)
“Oh my God, I am not patient enough to be a teacher.” (Thanks, but you don’t know the half of it.)
But usually, people say something like:
“Wow! Cool! I always thought about becoming a teacher!”
A lot of college students consider entering what I refer to as the “helping professions,” professions like nursing, teaching, or social work. These are the types of careers that you know will never make you rich, but where you’ll make an impact on the lives of others. In fact, it’s not just college students who enter into this type of work – a lot of people choose these professions as second careers when they feel it’s time to transition out of the first career they chose. As a person in one of these professions, I think it is great when people choose enriching the lives of others over making tons of money. I find my job incredibly rewarding and strongly encourage others with similar interests and personalities to enter the teaching profession.
Becoming one of society’s “helpers” is not a decision to be taken lightly – teaching has one of the highest turnover rates of any profession in the United States. According to this article, nearly 50% of teachers leave the profession within five years, and one of the top reasons cited for such staggering teacher attrition rates is low pay.
Now, money should probably not be the deciding factor when it comes to choosing any profession. There’s no sense in choosing a lucrative career only to wind up rich and miserable. But in the interest of full disclosure, I want to share some of the financial considerations that come along with choosing to enter one of the helping professions:
1. You’ll need to seriously minimize your educational costs
I’m going to be straight with you: if you’re going into a helping profession, you are not going to earn enough money to pay off the costs of a private university education – assuming that you’re taking out loans. If your parents are footing the bill or you’ve gotten a full scholarship, then by all means, go to your dream school. But if you’re planning on taking out loans for college, you might have to let go of the idea of going to your dream school if your dream career is a helping profession. I know a couple of teachers who owe more in student loans than they make in three years of work. Trust me, you don’t want this to be you. Consider going to community college for two years or going to an inexpensive state school. If you just can’t give up the idea of a high-priced education, then maybe the helping professions aren’t for you.
2. You will not be able to take a vacation every summer
I’m mostly talking to the future teachers of America out there with this one. If you think you’re going to have the time and money to go on a big vacation every year, you’re SO wrong. I mean, you might have the time (probably the whole month of July) but you definitely won’t have the money. If you’re thinking of becoming a teacher because you want to travel all summer – and you’re not independently wealthy – you might want to reconsider.
3. You will not be able to keep up with your friends – financially speaking
Right after college, all of your friends will be broke. For the first few years, you’ll all be in roughly the same spot financially. But eventually, they will get significant raises and promotions. Your salary will climb, but not at the same rate that theirs will. Eventually, they will be significantly out-earning you. You’re going to have to be ok with this, and you’re going to have to resist the temptation to try to keep up with them, otherwise you’ll end up seriously in debt. So when your roommate from college buys a new convertible as a reward for paying off her student loans, you’re going to have to smile and nod at her accomplishment then be ok with driving away in your Honda Civic. Smile through gritted teeth, maybe, but be ok with your Civic nonetheless.
4. Buying a home will be harder for you than it is for others
This is somewhat dependent on where you live in the country, but it will probably take you longer to become a homeowner than it will for others in your social circle. You’ll have to save harder and longer because you simply won’t be making as much money as they will. Again, you’ll have to be ok with this. You’ll get there, you just need a little more patience and perseverance.
5. Earning extra money will probably be necessary for a little while
When you first start working, you might not be able to pay all your bills without a second job or working overtime. There is not shame in this. In fact, I think that working a second job while you’re young is a really good financial move. Just be aware that not working a second job might not be an option for you, at least at first.
I should say that I hope that what I’ve laid out here hasn’t totally turned anyone off to the idea of entering one of the helping professions. Again, I am very passionate about my work and would never want to dissuade anyone from considering what I find to be a very fulfilling career. But at the same time, I wish someone had been a little bit more up-front with me about some of the realities of choosing to enter a notoriously low-paying field.
What about you? Have you ever considered a career in a helping profession? Why or why not?