I was talking to a friend and coworker of mine the other day. She had started school majoring in International Studies, switched to Environmental Studies, but things happened and she took a break that resulted in her working at the restaurant. Now, a few years later, after working full time and taking classes off and on, she has made the decision to go back to school in her home state and be a nurse. It incorporates many of her interests, will give her an interesting and rewarding career, and put money in her bank account. As she was telling me this, I couldn't help but think.
A lot of us idealists end up majoring in the humanities and social sciences. These are good and worthy pursuits but there are some practical ways to make the world a better place. Health care, engineering, business are some I can think of. The issue is that we seem to be scared off by these, whether due to math or science or due to our feelings about corporations. I'll admit, I've struggled with these feelings myself, having burned out of a pre-med program my freshman year and taking environmental and development courses that, for awhile, soured my view on corporations.
A couple things happened. One, I realized that, despite my burnout, I do have an aptitude for both math and science. I may have to spend more time to truly get something but that's different from not having talent at all. Two, I had a roommate who was a business major and felt I learned a lot from her perspective. Three, the internships I had focused on the need for people in poverty to become financially stable and independent. Four, I am fascinated with finance myself, especially since I've had to learn much in the way of personal finance. Five, depending on who you work for, business school could actually be free. And finally, I'll admit, I want a job that allows me to travel and make a good salary. I do intend to have a family some day and, well, I'm a city chick. Cities are expensive. I tend to go for guys who are into the humanities. You do the math.
In addition, there are a lot of good things I can do in the world of business. I can encourage partnerships between corporations, small businesses, non-profits, and communities. I can aid people in starting small businesses, do work in extending financial literacy education, and help with sustainable practice that respects workers and the environment. I could help market low cost, low tech products that pull people out of poverty (low tech products that allow for higher yields of agriculture, for example). I could aid people in getting access to capital. There are actually quite a few possibilities here.
I'm obviously not jumping the gun yet. However, it does give me an interesting perspective about what I could do with my career. One can still do good things for society, practical things that are needed just as much, while making a good salary. I also want some skills. I need to be able to do something besides write well academically. Speaking languages helps, but I want a skill I can give. And, while money isn't everything, it is nice. Considering I want to pay off my loans, travel the world, live in a city, and, yes, have a family, money is actually very nice.