Career choices of children

Another (potentially) controversial article, although not touching at all on religion.  I like to explore issues by writing, but my aim is never to offend anyone.  If anything, I welcome people to provide me alternative points of view!

It’s a long time before I’ll have to worry about the career choices my children will make.  But then again, high school education is often the start of the path to (hopefully) teritary education that might lead to a qualification for a career.  And high school… well you get the picture.

My child WILL have a blue mortar board too! source:
My child WILL have a blue mortar board too!

I am definitely part of the generation that ‘expects’ my children will receive a tertiary education.  At the same time, I internally criticise the quantity of degree qualified people in countries like the US who remain unemployed despite their qualifications, or require a second degree, such as a Masters or PhD to feel they are competitive in the job market.  I also readily agree that 100% tertiary education is probably both unrealistic, but not ideal for a society.  A high level of education isn’t needed for a great many jobs, and the investment (of time to start with but also financially) in tertiary education can also develop higher salary expectations.


I honestly find it difficult to imagine if my child was to ‘grow up’ to become an artist.  I’d worry they’d lack the work to maintain their lifestyle, at no matter what level, and would be dependent on either others (such as their parents) or the government.  Interestingly, I know more than one career artist who graduated from my private (and expensive) school.  I don’t know them well enough to be as coarse as to ask about finances, but I gather they make ends meet to some degree.

It’s entirely unrealistic and unfair to think I might force my child into certain career paths or courses solely based on the projected earning capacity.  That being said, is the love and passion for something that they’ll call a ‘job’ sufficient to overlook the realities of not being able to house, feed and clothe oneself?  I have no problems should there be some assurance that financial self sufficiency is possible and not just a dream.  I don’t discount doing what you love, but I’m enough of a pragmatist to also look at doing what you can do, that ALSO supports you!

Oh, and the BF, he’s on board too… So at least we agree with some things!

What are your thoughts – especially all you parents?

19 Replies to “Career choices of children”

  1. When Link was about 6 years old, they said they wanted to be a daycare teacher and I quickly squashed it by saying , "Oh, they don't make much money." The crestfallen look on their face really did me in! Many years later, I said I would never want to make a living cutting hair because I wouldn't like to touch people that much. Again, I could see Link mentally striking that career option off a list because of what I said. I always pushed higher education, and the day Link was accepted to university was one of the proudest days of my life. When they quit 6 months later, they didn't tell me for a month because they were too ashamed. Subsequently, Link got no help to make that decision when it was needed. I am kicking myself for being so judgmental. Link is currently struggling on the most minimal of budgets and I am neither bailing them out, nor completely hands-off. I've realized that kids' choices are ultimately theirs to make, but I have to respond in ways that I can live with, too.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with your parenting of Link. I know my parents probably never said to me 'they don't earn much money' – so that's a good start, and truly, whilst I did pick a course based on knowing the clear career (ie engineering course = engineer in a way that commerce course != commeritician!?). However, undoubtedly some level of financial literacy was probably instilled in me to help me make my choices.

      I'm sure, too, that I'd find it hard with my generous spirit not to contribute to my child's budget if I felt they were struggling or suffering. I know my mother still looks for ways to 'give' to us children, though for me it's more the free eggs and leftovers than cash or 'things' from stores.

      I think I support that livelihoods and endorse can come from things other than tertiary studies, however there are limitations or struggles that might come from it.

  2. My father was a bricklayer (Mum was a library assistant) and having seen how physically hard he worked all his life…yes, I would flip out if my son didn't at least try to get an education and a professional job. I just don't want him to have that degree of hardship ahead of him. As for an artist…again, I have pretty firm views that he should be able to support himself fully and any future family. I'm very pragmatic but that's a side-effect of watching so many people I knew as a kid do seriously hard physical labour day in, day out.

    1. That's an interesting thought – manual labouring. I work with a lot of 'blue collar' manual labour based staff here, and I know some of them are physically worn out before retirement age (or being mentally in need of retirement). Sadly, I think bigger organisations don't do enough to move staff once they see them physically ailing, and there's also a lot of skills that need to be learnt to transition from a 'trade' to a 'office' style job. And the older I get, the less flexible and open I am to learning new things.

      At the end of the day, I think pragmatism is the key: if what you do can support you and your family, then that's the key.

  3. I would let them be anything they want as long as they understood what it took to
    a) do the job (not all jobs are as easy or glam as they sound)
    b) be able to support themselves, to which I'd have to teach them how to budget and how much it costs to live

    I'd probably gently suggest being an artist on the side / weekends, and getting a job 9-5 until their artwork can take off. Why not do both?

    As long as the job was practical and a REAL JOB (not some made up one) I'm good with it.

    The ONLY jobs I have problems with? Anything in the entertainment or sports industry. Sports, music, acting, modeling.. all that stuff is really far too competitive and not realistic as a job.

    1. Agreed, a lot of this comes from teaching money management skills and responsibilities in childhood. If kids learn no concept of money cause their parents pay for everything, they'll likely struggle when they need to understand a job is not just about what they like, but what $s they need to live.

      I agree, the sports and entertainment industries, while they can be incredibly lucrative, rely too heavily on the whims of taste (entertainment) or the body (sports and modelling and acting and evening singing). It's so easy for a 'look' to be out of fashion, or an injury to sideline a sports or singing career. At least most other industries, an injury doesn't entirely rule out work opportunities. And then there's the supply vs demand. SO MANY people want that high earning power of the stars, but so very few make it that high!

  4. Interesting to think about. I don't really want kids, so I haven't thought about it, but I do think about my cousin often. My aunt and uncle went through a bad divorce, and my cousin barely graduated high school. He doesn't really have a passion for anything but video games, and my aunt got him a seasonal job as soon as he graduated. He has stayed at that job since. No aspirations, no nothing. It makes me sad. Then again, he lives rent-free, and I think he only pays for gas and car insurance, so he doesn't have much motivation.

    My boyfriend went to college for graphic design, and unfortunately, he realized after the first year or two that it wasn't going to work out for him. He loved it as a hobby, but didn't want to be in such a competitive job market. His mom threatened him to continue on, or she wouldn't co-sign his future loans. This was because it would have taken him longer to graduate as he would have had to start over on some things. Otherwise, he would have gone the route of accounting. He regrets going to college for the field he did, but thankfully he has found a decent job outside of it.

    My parents did not attend college, but both my older cousins did, so I knew it was the path I would take. I don't regret it, but I don't have a job in my field of study, either. I think it's worth it to be supportive to a point, but some young adults don't know the realities of the job market. Parents should offer guidance and wisdom. In college, we were often told not to expect much upon graduation because of how bleak prospects were.

    1. I really feel deeply for those how drift in life, like your cousin. I don't feel like I have a driving passion, certainly not one sufficient to maintain a 40 hour working week, but that's not to say I don't like my job/career. When there's limited bills, it's also a little easier to coast, until you (perhaps) think 'is this what my life will be forever?'

      Your boyfriend is incredibly pragmatic – and I know he's the driver to move close to your parents, and an incredible hardworker. Does it haunt him to have dropped graphic design, or is he happy with the decision he made now? Oh hold up, he continued with the graphic design irrespective, so not increase his debts?

      I agree – the job market changes a lot, year in, year out, and at the same time even your parents couldn't tell you what the job market would be like when you graduated. I do appreciate that you realised jobs in your field would be hard, but you still found a job, and when it didn't work for you, found another one. You're definitely in touch with the realities of being an adult, and your parents and grandmother must be so proud of you!

      1. I honestly don't know what goes through my cousin's mind. I guess he's content with things being the way they are. Even before the divorce, he was never a passionate or strong-willed individual, but I know he's smart!

        Well, it did haunt him in the beginning that he didn't go with his gut and take accounting. He still thought about going back to college for it when we first started dating. He knew there was money there, and he likes numbers. According to him, if his mom didn't co-sign the rest of his loans, he wouldn't have been able to afford to go back to college at all. So unfortunately, he didn't really have a say in the situation. She wanted him to keep going with graphic design. I don't believe in controlling your child's future like that unless they're clearly going down a bad path.

        I might still use my degree some day. I'm not opposed to it; I just hope the right opportunity comes along. Thank you for the kind words! I am grateful to have supportive parents; I pressured myself more during school to get good grades more than they ever scolded me.

  5. Parenting is full of tough decisions! I believe higher education depends on the child. There are some kids with disabilities, some kids who are so hands-on that they would be better off attending a trade school than college, etc. Education is VERY important to me, but I also don't want to pressure my kids down a certain path to please me. I want them to think things through and pick something they enjoy and can be successful at, and also make a living. Not sure how exactly to accomplish all that, but that's about as far as I've thought since I don't have kids yet!

  6. Sarah, having a degree and working in a profession that requires one, is no guarantee of happiness. Likewise earning lots of money.

    If one of my sons was suited to and desired going into a trade, I'd be happy for them.

    Life, and our working /income earning part of it, is long. What you decide to do in your late teens, when you may decide to go or not to go to uni, does not mean you will be limited to that one choice, or that you won't move on. Many people go to uni as mature age students, or change careers. Others leave a profession to become a skilled tradie, or artisan. And many high income earners didn't go to uni.

    Bottom line, I'd rather my children be happy. We can be frugal, live within our means, and be much happier and more fulfilled than someone who sells their soul and gives up their beliefs working for a large company.

    How much money would be enough? To have a home, a family, holidays, food, clothing, entertainment. These can all be done on a such wide range of costs – camping vs first class air travel.

    What if you got a kid who worked life consuming hours and earned bucket loads of money? But they never had time for you and held views that denigrated others and whose employment exploited others and destroyed the environment. Better that they were a professional earning income?

    Or a carpenter, who built homes for people? With time for family, friends and their community. Who took on apprentices to share their skills and knowledge.

    Or an artist who created works of beauty but had to take casual jobs to keep the wolves from the door, and the bailiffs.

    And you know, ultimately it may not matter what you want for them or what you prefer. It will be your child's life, your child's choice. And if you are too closed and judgemental they may take decisions without telling you, just as Dar's child did, and lock you out of the part of their life.

    1. Don't I know that a degree doesn't provide happiness. However, it does seem to be some large filter used by SO many employers. If you can stand 3-5 years of further study, you'll like stick out this job. Shame really.

      To the same extent that I would struggle with a child who was uninspired and couldn't support themselves, I would equally despair for a child so money hungry that it clouded their every decision. Actually, when speed dating and online dating in my 'youth' (hahaha…) I was pretty quick to rule the investment bankers out. I couldn't reconcile their motivations – I assumed they were money hungry, at the expense of time with others and balance in life.

      Of course, I wouldn't want my child to lock me out of their life, but I think my opinions and convictions will seep out no matter. I'm not a secretive person. That's not to say my child/ren will be given a 'doctor/lawyer/engineer' expectation. I want them to know understand that life can be tough, and they need to know how to handle it. That bias exists, and education is one path to opening job choices that might otherwise be closed to someone. A trade is more than OK. A lack of desire to work at all would dismay me.

  7. We're going to sit down and have some long talks with them about the ROI on their education. But I won't stop them from pursuing their passion if they've really, really thought everything over and talked it over with me. I have a friend who is a career artist, and it's not insanely lucrative for him, but he makes enough to live. And he's happy. And that's what life is about. Sustaining yourself, yes, but being happy doing it if at all possible.

    1. I think that's what it comes down to – ROI – particularly where some or all of their education has been paid for by the parents (such as private high school, or the college costs).

      I agree, if they are passionate and can live, then that's all matters. Being happy most certainly must be more difficult without being able to support at least your basic needs… Money doesn't make you happy, but no money makes life incredibly challenging (except in Mali… they have a great 'gift' culture!)

      1. Absolutely. Food and shelter first, then passion, then a Mercedes if it floats your boat and you can afford it. So interesting about Mali's gift culture…where can I read more?

  8. My husband is a career musician. He has a degree in music performance. We do not earn much money. But, money does not equal happiness, imo. He is self employed and we spend a lot of time together. We have enough $ to pay the bills, but not much else.
    I have a 2 year degree, I am a nursery school teacher, but at then end of the day my true calling is motherhood.
    I want to encourage my kids to do what they want to do to provide for themselves. It is not a one size fits all for everyone. Right now my son wants to be a plumber (he's 8) , and I'm okay with that.
    I pray for God for guidance on career path and child rearing. So far he has always managed to keep us afloat!

    1. Oh Katie – that's right – I hope I didn't offend you (which would NEVER be my intention). I will admit, I would worry so much in your position, but then I'm such a pragmatist! That being said, I also have seen evidence of prayer working too… so. I can only agree – money doesn't equal happiness, but a little too little money can cause stress at time. I think a plumber would be great – as my father says – it's one of the 'safest' trades, the worst that can happen is you get drenched. Of course, wash your hands and all… But not like electricians.

  9. I learned that doing as you are told by your parents is not good for you. I have two qualifications but due to disability can work neither.

    Anyway onto my three.

    The eldest is nearly at the end of an apprenticeship as a chef. He works so long and so hard. He has educational difficulties, mild autism and language problems. For him this apprenticeship is a difficult and long slog. I swear I could not be more proud of his work ethic or his goals even if he were a bright lad doing medicine.

    My middle child is in semester 7 of 8 for a dual degree to become a language teacher. She works long hours at university, school and several jobs. She is brighter but unfortunately university has greatly increased her snobbish behaviour. Hopefully she will lose that trait as she works in the real world.

    My last child played up and managed to get herself out of school. She was not expelled. She chose to run away to avoid school. No one would have her back. Now she is making her second attempt at an industry qualification. I am disappointed in her choices but you can drive a child to school and then sit in the office all day while she refuses to enter the buildings, or you can drop them off and they just leave as soon as possible. I have tried but she needs to learn about life the hard way I guess.

    1. Oh wow, that is a big mis-step on your parents part that you can't work either. My parents suggested my career but certainly wasn't pushed that way…

      Your daughter sounds like the worst of uni has worn off on her – hopefully her upbringing, family and her work will mellow her a little. Your son sounds like he's done well with challenges life has presented him with. And you second daughter, well… hopefully it'll all work out.

      Thank you for commenting, and I hope my views weren't too close minded

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