Our strict parents need to listen up!
Once upon a time, parents couldn’t stop bragging when their sons or daughters were studying to be lawyers or family doctors. But thanks to our changing job market — and the fact that college and graduate school costs have ballooned — some of these formerly brass-ring jobs are losing their luster. Here are five once-prestigious jobs that aren’t quite what they used to be.
Overall enrollment in law school has plummeted to a 27-year low and enrollment of first-year law students to a 40-year low, according to a report on annual enrollment released in December by the American Bar Association. That’s likely because those considering becoming lawyers know two things: 1) they’ll likely face relatively dismal job prospects upon graduation, and 2) they’ll likely have a ton of debt coming out of law school.
A report released last year by the National Association for Law Placement found that overall employment for recent law grads fell for the sixth straight year in 2013 (to 84.5%); unemployment specifically among 2013 grads was 12.9%, a slight uptick from a year prior. And even those who are employed may not be getting rich — the median starting salary is $62,000, down 13% over the past six years — and still far from the cushy six figures Mom was probably hoping for.
Furthermore, they’ll often contend with six-figure debt. According to the New America Foundation, the typical debt load (undergrad and graduate debt combined) for those who go to law school is nearly $141,000 among those who borrow money — an increase of more than $51,000 from 2004, which is climbing faster than that of many other professions. That means law grads who had to borrow money are likely to face typical monthly payments of nearly $1,200, which can be hard to shoulder if you don’t land a six-figure job.
Combine those two factors with the less-than-stellar reputation some lawyers garner (ever heard the phrase “colder than a lawyer’s heart”?) and you can see why this once lucrative, prestigious career has now been relegated to the B-list for many.
The academic job market isn’t what is used to be: Since 2001, the percentage of Ph.D. graduates who have neither a job nor a postdoctoral position lined up upon graduation has climbed steadily, and now more than one in three recent Ph.D. grads don’t have either.
Plus, those prestigious and coveted tenure-track positions that give you veritable job security and sabbaticals are increasingly rare, thanks in part to the fact that some colleges are cutting such positions to save money. From 1975 to 2007, the percentage of tenure-track positions fell from 20.3% to 9.9%, while the number of full-time non-tenure track positions rose from 13% to 18.5% and part-time from 30.2% to 50.3%; non-tenure-track positions typically come with less job security and sometimes less pay. “For the last thirty years the share of tenured and tenure-track faculty positions has been declining, while the proportion of non-tenure-track appointments (both full-time and part-time) has continued to grow,” Boston University notes.
At one time, being a stockbroker was a genteel and lucrative position, and while it can still be lucrative, few see it as genteel (sorry people, but post-financial-crisis mom’s probably not going to brag to her friends about you being a stockbroker). “It used to a more prestigious job,” says Nicole Williams, founder of career firm WORKS. “Now it’s almost like you have to prove you are ethical.”
Plus, the big bucks are often harder to come by. This is thanks, in part, to the fact that a lot of what stockbrokers do can now be done online, so there’s sometimes less of a need for a full-service broker. The pay, while extremely decent, isn’t exactly going to make most stockbrokers rich either: The median salary is a little over $71,000 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
While some doctors certainly make bank (for example, the median salary of an orthopedic surgeon is $435,000, according to Salary.com), family practitioners — who are among the lowest paid of all medical specialties — now face similar challenges to what lawyers do. Even though family practitioners can expect a median salary of well over six figures once they complete residency, the median amount of debt med students who borrowed had upon graduation was $180,000; nearly eight in 10 had more than $100,000 and fully 10% had more than $300,000. What’s more, once they graduate from medical school, they still have three years of residency to complete — and will likely make only about $50,000 a year during that time. And “it’s more expensive to be a physician now” thanks in part to insurance issues, including payments from insurance companies and the cost of insurance (like malpractice) required for those who want to hang up their own shingle, says Williams.
It used to be that companies and individuals would feel lost without the help of a travel consultant or agent to help them plan their trips, but thanks to the Internet, that’s changed. “People book online now — you don’t usually need a person to do that,” explains executive coach and career consultant Marc Dorio. That may explain why the field is rapidly drying up — and is projected to continue to well into the future. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that from 2012 to 2022, the number of travel agent/consultant jobs will decrease by 12%; furthermore, the pay isn’t the best (a median of $34,600 a year with the lowest 10% earning less than $20,000 a year and the top 10% not even topping a median of $60,000).