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 Post subject: Advice on Life
PostPosted: Thu Jul 30, 2015 11:33 pm 
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The Real Hamburger Helper
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So, I grew up on the PPK. You all have seen me do stupid shiitake, tried to talk me out of it, and comforted me when it blew up in my face. You have taught me many, many things about being a decent human.

I am stuck at a crossroads, and I would like advice.

I can't go back to school for another year due to lack of financial aid (in a year, I can claim independent status on my FAFSA, and will have more options for aid. My parents make a lot of money, but they don't help me whatsoever, and, no, there is literally no way I can't use their income on my FAFSA until I'm 24).

But after having a pretty horrible meltdown realizing I couldn't be happy being an English lit professor or high school English teacher (my only serious long term life goal...ever.) because of many valid reasons, I've been thinking about the other things I've dismissed, things I love, things that draw me into them.
If any of you are in any of these fields, I'd love to hear about experiences, any advice you could have, potential resources to read.

I've considered:
-Addiction counseling
-Nursing school. The eventual, long term goal being med school to focus in neuroscience, neurology, or immunology, but I am so behind on math and science I'd have to go back to community college and start from scratch, so I figured a nursing degree is a good way to improve my math and science skills, as well as start educating myself in the medical field. If this isn't the case, or any nurses out there want to talk about their work, I'd love to hear. I'm biased against nursing thanks to my mother, and vowed I'd never go that route, but I'm a bit healthier, mentally, now, so I'm open to hearing about it from less horrible people.
-Gender Studies (and Social Work) with the intent of working with teens who have experienced sexual trauma and abuse.

All of these equally pull at me in a "this would fulfill me as a human to help other humans and make me happy with my life." I know for a fact I want to do something that puts me in a role of helping others- of healing, guiding, mentoring, etc. I want my job to be all consuming, mentally and emotionally, because that's how I want my life to be. Also, I know for a fact that's just how I operate, and putting your heart and soul into retail and customer service has sucked me dry, so I want something more fulfilling.

So, if anyone has any advice, please share! I have a year to figure it out, but I'm starting the general considerations now, just so I can find something that I feel really dedicated to before I immerse myself in it.

eta: My life is at a point of starting over right now- figuratively and literally- so I'm really trying to open myself up to possibilities. I really, really want to hear everything.

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Last edited by missdelaney on Thu Jul 30, 2015 11:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Advice on Life
PostPosted: Thu Jul 30, 2015 11:38 pm 
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Hey! I definitely had no idea what i was doing at 24 and I think many people don't, so you're doing ok. I really like working in healthcare. It's hard work and while the work you do can be rewarding there's very little external reward, as in, you'll never get a bonus, your boss may never tell you you're doing a good job, most people will not say thank you when you pour your heart and soul into helping them, but I do really like knowing I helped people even if they have no idea that I'm helping them. Also, if you were to get a nursing or social work degree you'd have a lot of options and you could try out a lot of different areas. I think now that I want to try to work in hospice care eventually.

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 Post subject: Re: Advice on Life
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 12:22 am 
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This ended up being far longer than I meant for it to, so I'm spoilering it. Just a little bit of info about nursing and premed based on friends experience.
Spoiler: show
missdelaney wrote:
-Nursing school. The eventual, long term goal being med school to focus in neuroscience, neurology, or immunology, but I am so behind on math and science I'd have to go back to community college and start from scratch, so I figured a nursing degree is a good way to improve my math and science skills, as well as start educating myself in the medical field. If this isn't the case, or any nurses out there want to talk about their work, I'd love to hear. I'm biased against nursing thanks to my mother, and vowed I'd never go that route, but I'm a bit healthier, mentally, now, so I'm open to hearing about it from less horrible people.


I'm not a nurse, nor working in the human med field, but I have a ton of pre-med and nursing friends so I can offer this:

Don't become a nurse if you want to be an MD. The required sciences classes are totally different, and you'll have to petition to have the pre-med ones count. A friend of mine started out pre-med, realized patient care was what she actually wanted to do, and switched to pre-nursing. She had finished the general chemistry and general ochem series, but the prereq for nursing was a three quarter over view of gen chem, ochem, and biochem. She had to take that series because the nursing adviser told her since her grades had been pretty average in the long series, petitioning to have them used in place would hurt her since people usually do better in the over view series and she wouldn't be as competitive of an applicant to the nursing program. So if MD was your end point, you'd basically end up having to complete two degrees to satisfy both requirements.

Also, very few med school applicants have ever actually worked in a medical setting. Most just have a lot of shadowing and volunteer experience in hospitals, so becoming a nurse first isn't a requirement. I know with vet med, being a LVT and applying to vet school can be bit of a hindrance, because they don't want to take licensed techs out of the field. I wouldn't be surprised if it was the same with RN and med school. If you'd consider becoming a PA though, RN first would be a good step. Several friends became RN's with the eventual goal of PA, and another friend currently applying to PA school was told by an admissions counselor she'd be much more competitive as an RN, as many of their applicants are. Her plan if she isn't excepted this year is go back and get her RN and work for a few years before applying again.

Over the next year I would try to start volunteering at hospitals (Children's and UW med center accept pre-med volunteers, though I know Children's is pretty competitive to get a spot) to see if working in a medical setting is what you actually want to do.

Oh, and you can work in neuroscience, neurology, or immunology as a research scientist if that aspect is of interest to you. It would require far less schooling, and be far cheaper to boot, than med school followed by a residency and fellowship, etc. to be boarded in those fields.


I was in a similar position last year. I was finishing up undergrad and preparing to apply to grad schools, and was like, "I don't want to do this for the rest of my life. I don't even want to do this temporarily." I basically reconsidered every career path I'd ever so much as thought about: teaching, social work, nursing, vetmed, etc. I kept coming back to vet med, and had going back and forth on pursing vetmed all through college. It had been what I originally wanted to do, but I ended up majoring in Ecology due to lack of faith in myself. A year later, I've worked my asparagus off over the past year to gain a bunch of experiences that have firmly cemented my desire to become a vet, and I'm in the process of applying now.

A year is plenty of time to explore options, and hopefully when you're ready to go back you'll have figured out what you want to pursue (or have narrowed it down a bit!).

I just wanted to say I've been there and sympathize, and wish you the best of luck! :)


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 Post subject: Re: Advice on Life
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 12:25 am 
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Agree with what idji said, as I'm a nurse. Don't forget about working nights, weekends, and holidays while the rest of the world is having fun. And why UPS can't understand why you answer the door at 1pm in your pjs (after working all night).

My mom is a nurse too, and she begged me not to be one. That being said, I love helping people, I will always have a job, I have pretty decent benefits and great pay here in WA. As far as wanting to go the med school route, have you considered being a nurse practitioner or physician's assistant? I ask because I'm in NP school now. I've craved more autonomy forever, and primary care has an abundance of needs these days. You get to be autonomous and write prescriptions, while still taking time to care about your patients. Also, there are so many different specialities out there that you could choose to work at, say, a neurology clinic if you wanted, or with adolescents.

Good Luck in whatever you decide. I think it's great that you're reevaluating your life plan. Most of us change ours frequently throughout life.


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 Post subject: Re: Advice on Life
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 1:32 am 
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Nurses make sooo much money and financial stability is a really nice thing that I definitely underestimated when choosing a field.

I majored in women's studies and I'm not a social worker but my field is...social work adjacent? A lot of my unemployed MSW friends would love to have my job. It is a degree that can apply to a lot of things, though, which is nice--including addiction counseling. I've thought about getting an MSW but it seems like a lot of debt to not make much more than I make now. If you're interested in working with youth, have you spent time volunteering with youth programs? Maybe do some informational interviews with people with jobs you're interested in?

Honestly if nursing is appealing to you, my nurse friends make literally 3 times what I make, if I could handle blood and guts I would do it.

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 Post subject: Re: Advice on Life
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 2:07 am 
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I'll just throw out there that immunology and neurology involve a lot of animal research. Not sure what courses you'd take in med school but if you take neuro lab in undergrad or do immunology fundamental research you will be killing and maiming a lot of mice and rats. Nearly all of the media to grow cells is derived from animals (mostly blood). I started my career as an immunology researcher. It was not compatible with veganism, at least for me.

Pre-med requires a huge commitment. You're looking at two full years of chemistry, a year of physics, a year of calc, and a lot of bio (With excellent grades in everything) not to mention years of volunteering in hospitals and maybe even a year or two of basic research. Many of my friends went to med school and I had to watch them suffer a lot to even get accepted. Not to discourage you *at all* but it's one of those things you really have to have an incredible passion and drive for because it's a long, exhausting road.

I think nursing sounds so interesting and seems like a more direct way of helping people. I don't know anything really about the profession, I just have a lot of respect for nurses and it seems like it pays well and there's a lot of job security.

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 Post subject: Re: Advice on Life
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 3:09 am 
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It sounds like you should pursue a degree in nursing or social work. As everyone else has said, nursing pays better. You could certainly end up working in adolescent medicine or addiction medicine with a nursing degree, so that may be the way to go. Nursing also has the advantage over med school that much of your training is on the job. No 3-7 year residency to slog through. It's also much easier as a nurse to change your specialty. An ICU nurse can fairly easily go work in a pediatric office. A pediatrician cannot just decide to start working as a surgeon. Nursing is obviously a better bridge than social work to to nurse practitioner, physician assistant or medical school.

Here's my most important advice. Go get a job now in the medical field. There are jobs you can get with no experience that will give you a meaningful exposure to medicine. Google Scribe America. This company hires young people to do doctors' charting. You'll have direct contact with doctors, learn how to interact with patients, learn a ton of medical lingo. The pay is shiitake, but the experience is gold. You could scribe part time for the experience and have another job that pays better. Or look into volunteering as an EMT. Many squads will send you to EMT school for free. I know nothing about the Seattle area volunteer EMT climate, but most places you get better experience in more rural areas where volunteer EMTs are crucial rather than a nuisance to the career staff. Finally, look in to being a tech at a hospital. The requirements are usually minimal. Most of the training is on the job. Some hospitals will help with tuition for nursing school.


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 Post subject: Re: Advice on Life
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 3:49 am 
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That's excellent advice, Evie. I totally recommend the scribe route first.


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 Post subject: Re: Advice on Life
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 7:10 am 
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So a few years ago I thought I wanted to go to nursing school, started taking community classes, started saving up money for it and all that jazz. I mostly was trying to go that route because I was unhappy with work. I did all the pre-reqs and I liked it quite a bit but I'm an oddball. I loved microbiology. In the end, my current career got better and I decided I didn't want to go that route after all. I don't regret it though.

I agree with Scooter though that Nurse Practitioner/Physicians assistant are the way to go. To be a PA, you have to have experience on some level in the medical field, such as working as a CNA, EMT or similar but those jobs require minimal training (1 year? or less?) and you could do that while taking classes just to be sure it is the way you want to go. Being a CNA or similar also wouldn't hurt your application to nursing school either. PA schools are often linked to the medical schools but sometimes they are separate. Nursing schools are most of the time separate.

With medical school, it is doable but there are a lot of hoops. If you have already graduated with a BS/BA, you'll need to find a postgrad program to sponsor you for med school. They exist, but you can't just walk up to a med school and apply. The post grad programs are expensive but they will help you complete all the classes you need, give you all the recommendations and then be your sponsor.

If you don't have a BA/BS, then a normal degree program will be fine to pursue with the required pre-reqs.

I will say that I was originally pre-med in undergrad. I was in a special program at USC for those wanting to go to med school where I was able to meet with medical professionals and get guidance from current med students. It was a great program, I enjoyed learning and I was well on the path to completing my pre-reqs. In the end, I decided I didn't want to spend 10 years or so to get where I wanted to be in life. For some people it is worth it and that is all well and good, you just have to decide what is right for you.

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 Post subject: Re: Advice on Life
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 8:34 am 
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I agree that the best thing you can do is take this year to work jobs in different industries. Because when you're young and just thinking about what you want to do everyone picks idealized things like doctor, astronaut, etc. Nobody says "I want to be an auditor" or a human resources agent, but those are clearly jobs that people do in the real world. I feel so old and jaded thinking it's idealistic to have a career goal like neuroscience doctor, so I'm not sure you should listen to me. Someone has to go do that job, but to me being in school into my 30s sounds awful. I think if you become a nurse first there's no way you'd want to quit that job to do 5 more years of school followed by all those years of residency. You'd essentially be giving up your 30s and be poor and busy while you watch your friends grow up, settle down, buy houses, have kids, etc. If you want to know what that's like read the "Graduate Students of the PPK, Assemble!" thread. It's tough getting a PhD.

I guess I'm just saying most people don't have some life plan where they knew what they wanted to do for a career in their 20s. If you're going to pick something like doctor the opportunity costs are huge, so you have to be sure. So I recommend getting a job in that field first.


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 Post subject: Re: Advice on Life
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 8:52 am 
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I also had no idea what the hell I was doing at 24.
I went into college wanting to write about science, did premed and drank the premed KoolAid, but basically the same story as Linalil, after doing a internship in an ER one summer, decided med was not for me and I did not want to spend the next 10+ years with my horrible peer group... changed directions and went into teaching, and after a few years in the middle of anguish about missed opportunities, here I am-- writing about science. Go figure.

But in the middle there we had a lot of medical issues due to my kids (and I thank my lucky stars that I changed my mind about MD, because I would not have been able to handle my kid's illness if I had been an MD. Of course, I would not have married a Brazilian in Japan either, so who knows).
Anyway, some of the best people we dealt with were nurse practitioners in specialty areas- a pedi cardiology LPN stands out in my memory as someone with amazing specific knowledge and organizational skills- she ran the pedi card department and was hugely respected. She was not a floor nurse, she ran the clinics. My midwife was a nurse practitioner as well with a giant practice. I always said if I wanted to do something in medicine I would look at that type of trajectory instead.
PA programs are great, although a friend of mine who went into nursing tried that and wasn't able to get in. But we also dealt with PAs during my daughter's illness and they were uniformly fantastic (mostly ex-military, which might have been why it was hard for my friend to get into programs at that time).
I think nursing, you can find accessible programs (technical schools) and maybe even funding, much more easily than gender studies, for example. And with some kind of nurse practitioner training in gyn, for example, you could probably work directly with teens who have suffered sexual abuse.
But definitely, definitely, see if you can work in the field. And talk to people.

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 Post subject: Re: Advice on Life
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 9:19 am 
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If you want a facebook connection to an internet friend who is a nursewife/NP in SoCal, send me a PM. She started as a miwife and then added NP (for reasons which aren't clear to me; because, facebook friend).

One of my best friends in high school did biomedical engineering in undergrad, intending to continue in the R&D dept. of a major medical someone (not Big Pharm, but the kind of people who make all the machines used in hospitals; ....GE?) and decided it was too profit-driven and not human enough for her. After undergrad she decided to switch to medicine, and wasn't sure whether to go the MD or NP route. She ended up choosing NP because of more human interactions with patients (and somewhat less time with bureaucracy). She went to a small NP program in the East Bay and is now working in the oncology dept. of a major hospital in Oaklahoma. She never imagined living there, but she is so much more satisfied with her life and work now. If you want a connection to her, send me a PM as well.

fwiw, I liked the advice Evie gave. Good luck figuring this out! You got this.

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 Post subject: Re: Advice on Life
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 1:44 pm 
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Have you considered Speech-Language Pathology? Allied to medicine, ok pay, changing lives, better hours than nursing. I retrained in my later twenties, and I absolutely love the work I do.

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 Post subject: Re: Advice on Life
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 2:03 pm 
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I think nursing is a great base for working with victims of sexual abuse, especially if you go on to become a nurse midwife. For me, one of the great advantages of a nursing degree is that there are so many different fields to work in. An acquaintance just went on to start a PhD in Public Health, after working as a nurse for a few years.

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 Post subject: Re: Advice on Life
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 2:52 pm 
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My advice would be to not worry about it and not be married to the idea of going back to school in a year.

School is great, and if you're independently wealthy, then it's totally worth it to go just for the experience of learning and the knowledge itself, rather than its career-enhancing potential. However, if you're taking out loans to do it, I think you'd better be 200% sure of what you want to do, and if you're not, I think you're better off working and doing other things until you have a better idea.

I think we're really sold on degrees being the only way to a good career, and I think that is such a terrible lie. It seems like it is more and more rare that a college degree leads directly to a decent job in your field of study. Instead, it seems like it's becoming more and more common for people to find their dream job via the "scenic route." One of my most career-fulfilled friends is a project manager with a degree in classical literature. Her job and current career path have nothing to do with her degree, and when she was in school, she didn't even know what project management was, let alone that it was such an outstanding fit for her. She fell into the role by happenstance and is now certified and very well regarded in the local community of PMs. Yes, there are professions that require formal schooling and degrees, some of which are on your list, but again, if you're not sure you want to do them, why take on the debt?

I'd also say that I think following your passion is rather terrible career advice. What you think is your passion at 16 or 18 or 21 or 25 might well not be your passion when it comes to doing it as a job. When I was 17, music was my passion. It was all I wanted to do, and I was good at it. I have a degree in classical performance, but one of the things I learned getting it was that I would HATE for music to be my full time job. I couldn't have known that at 17. Here I am at 34 embarking on a career change that I never would have seen coming even 6 months ago.

I don't know. This is all ramble-y, and, of course, just based on my own experience. I do think it's important to take a step back from the idea of school being the only route to a good job and career when you're thinking about this stuff. Just my 2 cents.

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 Post subject: Re: Advice on Life
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 2:55 pm 
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I wrote you a novel about being a social worker and then deleted it, but it boiled down to:

1. Don't do an undergrad degree in social work because you won't learn enough (my #1 school in the region MSW was a total joke academically - it was easier than high school). Major in a harder subject, develop some transferable skills or topic expertise, then you can do an MSW later if it's necessary for your career.
2. Agencies where staff have personal experience with the trauma they're helping clients with are often shockingly dysfunctional and awful places to work (pm me if you want more info).
3. Social work pay sucks, it only becomes worthwhile if you're really sure about the path you're taking and have specialized skills that can put you higher up on the pay scale from the start.
4. Most social service agencies are incredibly under-resourced and will expect you to make up for their funding shortfalls with your free time and emotional energy. You'll pay a real cost in your life if your agency can't provide the resources you need to do your job well.
5. Seriously think about PA/NP jobs if you think you'd like that sort of work.

All that said, I'm happy with my decision to go to social work school and my job situation is pretty great. But, I don't think it's the norm and I followed a very weird path, so just really be sure about social work if you go down that road (and think about policy instead - it pays better and you can help people en masse by changing laws/regs/etc instead of one-on-one).


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 Post subject: Re: Advice on Life
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 3:16 pm 
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Going back to my second bullet - I don't mean that to exclude people who've had traumatic experiences from working to help others deal with the same sort of trauma. Rather, if people are constantly having their unresolved issues triggered at work, it causes a cascade of bad feelings and behavior that managers often don't know how to deal with constructively. And then you get stuck in a super crappy work environment where people are constantly seething and unhappy. My worst experience with this was in anti-violence/sexual assault work, so it seems relevant to your question.


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 Post subject: Re: Advice on Life
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 3:19 pm 
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jordanpattern wrote:
My advice would be to not worry about it and not be married to the idea of going back to school in a year... I don't know. This is all ramble-y, and, of course, just based on my own experience. I do think it's important to take a step back from the idea of school being the only route to a good job and career when you're thinking about this stuff. Just my 2 cents.

Yeah, all of what JP said. Personally, I regret grad school. 30 years of debt for a career that isn't paying any better than I could do without a college degree. My priorities in college involved imagining interesting careers and pursuing those because that's what I'd been told to do growing up. If I did it all over again I'd want to know that most jobs feel the same, are repetitive, and what really matters is the field's unemployment rate, typical salary, typical work week (40 hours or 80, working weekends?), and what kind of people I'll be working with.


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 Post subject: Re: Advice on Life
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 6:15 pm 
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You have already gotten excellent advice, so I will try to make this brief. I am a clinical social worker and I worked in addiction as part of my training. I don't really recommend working in addiction. I don't want to make assumptions about you or your life, but there is a bias against people who are not themselves recovering addicts. I faced a lot of, "What do you know about my life," type attitudes and felt like I had to prove myself all the time. And while that might be ok, the other thing I didn't like is that our very best programs have, at best, a 10% success rate. At least 90% of the people you see are going to relapse, and likely pretty soon. It was hard for me to have job satisfaction or feel like I was doing anything remotely helpful with numbers like that, and I could not sustain that long term.

In contrast, I love my work as a family therapist. And there are so many areas of specialty available for a licensed clinical social worker. And honestly, I have found the pay to be decent. I'm not rich, but I make a decent living.

I do agree that a bachelor's in social work is not super useful. That will only qualify you for low paying jobs in overtaxed institutions. If you don't have your bachelor's yet, maybe get one in a related field. If you already have a BA and are looking at masters level work, my MSW was a great investment. And there were quite a few stipends available if you are willing to commit to working for a government agency for 1-2 years.


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 Post subject: Re: Advice on Life
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 6:31 pm 
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Ruby Rose wrote:
Have you considered Speech-Language Pathology? Allied to medicine, ok pay, changing lives, better hours than nursing. I retrained in my later twenties, and I absolutely love the work I do.

As a 24 year old who finally decided what she wanted to do and it is this (doing grad special coursework starting in three weeks!), I would like to second this.

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 Post subject: Re: Advice on Life
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 6:54 pm 
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This is all so useful! Thank you so much! I'm certainly not determined to go back to school- clearly, I've made my life work without a degree, so I'm not hellbent on it unless I am really sure of what I want.

Also, I didn't even think about being a PA (or EMT, which, after someone mentioning that, sounds like a possibility). The jobs I'm applying for are all over the map right now- arts, medical office, admin work, whatever I'm qualified to apply for. I'm hoping something may stick out and interest me. I think, long term, I want to work in medicine or social work of some kind, but I definitely want to take time to figure out exactly what that may entail for me.

Right now, I'm just learning to accept not knowing and experiencing new possibilities.

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 Post subject: Re: Advice on Life
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 7:15 pm 
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Top of the food chain & doesn't need to prove it

Joined: Wed Oct 03, 2012 1:00 am
Posts: 613
FWIW, when I got my MSW, most of the students were a bit older. Very few had gone right from high school to 4 year degree to masters. Almost everyone had a detour in there somewhere, and probably 1/3 of my cohort was pursuing this as a second career. It is definitely not something you need to jump into.


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 Post subject: Re: Advice on Life
PostPosted: Fri Jul 31, 2015 7:53 pm 
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Should Write a Goddam Book Already

Joined: Sun Jan 16, 2011 6:40 pm
Posts: 1054
You should do some volunteering/shadowing in hospitals or clinics before you consider a career in health professions. Talk to people in various positions - find out what they like and dislike about their jobs, and how they got to where they are. There are a lot of things you might either love or hate about medicine, and it's not for everyone. There are many, many ways to help people, many of which don't require poking them with sharp objects or cleaning up their excrement.

Also consider that nursing is not necessarily an ideal stepping stone to medical school. Some nurses do end up going to medical school later on, but nurse and physician training are generally independent tracks. Coursework for a nursing degree may not necessarily fulfill medical school prerequisites, for example. You can try studentdoctor.net if you have more specific questions.


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