Monday, February 11, 2008

Best Careers of 2008

You may have heard by now that Librarian made the U.S. News list of "Best Careers 2008." The summary of Librarian begins where you would expect it to: "Forget about that image of librarian as a mousy bookworm." Ahh, yes, the mousy bookworm. Where are all the mousy bookworms of yore? They might be less annoying than the "high-tech information sleuths" we all must be who "may also go on shopping sprees" and "put on performances, like children's puppet shows." Ugh. The main attraction, though, is that "on top of it all, librarians' work hours are reasonable." That's why I'm a librarian. They say the national median pay is $51,400. I'm always on the lookout for another career, so I took a look through the list.

There's Hairstylist. Does that count as a career? Seems like it's just more of a job, but that's probably because of where I get my hair cut. The benefits of being a hairstylist are that "there's a lot of time to chat" and the "career is a fashionista's dream." That's exciting. Certainly attracts a different demographic than being a librarian. The national media pay is only $33,700, though, so I think I have to keep looking if I want to try something different. Plus you have to go to school for 9-24 months. If I'm going to do that, I might as well be a librarian.

But then there's Investment Banker., with a national median salary of $258,000. That's more like it! Can I get that with reasonable hours? Alas, no. The "first few years usually require 70-to-100-hour workweeks." Definitely not for me.

Professor is a good one. I like that one. The summary begins: "If you can land a tenure-track position at a four-year institution, you'll enjoy many advantages." I certainly can't argue with that. "The downside? It's tough to land a tenure-track job." Really? Darn it. That career's out, I guess.

At first glance, Ghostwriter seemed perfect, and in some ways I'm already a ghostwriter. I write for a little blog called the Annoyed Librarian. "You do need to forgo the glory of seeing your name in print." Consider that glory forgone! "Consider any writing career only if you like the process of writing, whether or not your name appears on the product." This might be the career for me. "Of course, to be a professional writer, you must write powerfully and quickly—those with writer's block need not apply." Well, I think I write powerfully and quickly, and if you have any different opinion go post it on some other blog. But then there's the national median pay: $61,000. Better than the median librarian, but I'm not the median librarian. Maybe I wouldn't be the median ghostwriter, either. I just don't know, but I bet my benefits are better.

How about Government Manager? Check this out: "Unless you're a superstar, a government job is often a terrific deal. If a company doesn't control costs, it will go out of business. Government won't, so it can continue to offer full-time, well-paying positions with generous benefits, including ample holidays, sick days, and vacation days. You're less likely to have to work beyond 9 to 5 and more likely to enjoy lifetime job security because firing is most difficult." And a national media pay of $97,900! What a great deal, and if I took that job it would be your tax dollars at work instead of mine. That sounds like a winning scenario all around, except for you, but that can't be helped. The problem is I am a superstar, so I'm not sure a government job would be a terrific deal.

Oh well, I guess I'll stay a librarian. The hours are reasonable, and I get to put on puppet shows.

The lesson we all need to learn is that some people, like the non-librarians who make up these "best career" lists, think Librarian is a fine career, but all you frustrated librarians should also remember that there are plenty of other "best careers" besides that of Librarian. You can always go be a locksmith, a firefighter, or a genetic counselor. Opportunity awaits.


Anonymous said...

AL, did you miss this?

Skip the Overrated Career of Medical Scientist and choose Medical Librarian instead!

And the training is shorter and easier to complete: A career in medical librarianship requires only a master's in library science. Further boosting your odds of success, it's an under-the-radar career, so you'll have less competition for job openings.

Anonymous said...

Actually, AL, I am all of these. Of course I am a librarian. I'm also a hairstylist--I brush my son's hair every morning.

I'm an investment banker. I have a savings account that I plunder every couple of months for important things like, hmm, utility bills.

I'm a professor. I teach people how to do research, plus I profess stuff all the time.

I'm a ghostwriter--or at least the students would like me to be. "Can you write out the citation for this in APA format?" Not likely, bud. That's why I'm a librarian, not an English teacher.

Government manager's a little tougher. Ah. I know. I supervise a program of eight other librarians. That counts.

Let's see now...(busily adding things up)...$502,000 not including whatever I might earn as a ghostwriter. (Gotta love their idea how to start as a ghostwriter: you're supposed to find somebody famous you respect (oxymoron there?) and ask if you can write his/her biography.)

Yup, this is one lucrative business we're in!

Minks said...

Best career sure, if you can get a job. Good luck with that whole $50k a year business. ROFL

Maybe in cities that are up against large bodies of water. If you look out your window and see ANY type of livestock (pigeons do not count) you are looking at less,, way less.

Anonymous said...

Puppets you say? You actually have money to buy puppets? Shoot we just have to use old socks in cast-off cubicules.

Christ said...

About those hairstylists: I have followed my hairstylist to new salons twice. She has a degree from a technical college and goes to workshops all the time to keep her skills up-to-date. The company she works for (Aveda) flies her and her colleagues to conferences, workshops, and other training events all over the country. She can talk about everything from your hair's molecular structure to biohazard technicalities to an aesthetic analysis of Reese Witherspoon's recent style changes.
The best thing about my hairstylist is that she keeps me from looking like a librarian! (I keed, folks!)

Christine said...

That last comment was from Christine, not Christ! Sorry about that.

AL said...

I thought it was a bit odd that the second coming was happening on the AL.

Anonymous said...

You should see the house my wife's hair stylist lives in. It's the size of a medium sized airport.

The guy's a genius.

Anonymous said...

Face it, a hair stylist, barber, nail tech or whatever is the only person you let alter your body without the benefit of an doctoral degree.

How many librarians do you know that alter any thing besides your pathetic brain?

Anonymous said...

Don't pass on the professor gravy train so easily. Getting the Ph.D. is a lot like library school, only there's a big paper at the end. Plus you can actually tackle some interesting research topics (if you want to "press yourself", which is optional, and overrated).

Getting a job is easy too. If you've ever worked in a library before, you have the jump on about 2/3 of the i-school Ph.Ds who won't even dare to utter the word "library" except in disdainful tones, and surely wouldn't be caught dead doing research on something as mundane as libraries. That's a career-killer in most places.

20 hour work weeks, easy access to bars (mostly beer, but some martini), generally nice working conditions and locales, getting to tell people what to do, easy publication routes, directly shaping the next generation of Annoyed Librarians. It's got it all

Please reconsider, AL. The LIS faculty needs you!

Anonymous said...

PhD's are available in most fields for the souls who just really can't cut it in the real world.

AL said...

Whatever the "real world" is.

But I was thinking of Professor in a more respectable field.

Anonymous said...

Become a Professor of Information Science. I had a boatload of them in Library School.

And between them all I bet they could find their asses with both hands, if you gave them a 45 page report describing hands, asses, and the finding tools needed.

Anonymous said...

True. And the thing that some people consistently forget is that every career has its downside, and most are more difficult than they look until you've actually done it.

Conflicted Librarian said...

Government managers have a "national media[n] pay of $97,900!"??

I must be working for the wrong government! MY [state] government is paying me less than the national median for librarians. Oh, wait, maybe the librarian part trumps the government part.

Plus, since I didn't start working for you, the people, right out of school, I'll have to keep working until I'm something like 75 years old in order to enjoy the really good retirement package (unless, of course, the legislature and governor argue the union out of even more of those benefits.


Anonymous said...

Teaches us to waste our time trusting everything we read, especially since half the jobs are the same as last year. Just reading the descriptions of the jobs on the list I'd translate "under the radar" as "dying profession" and "little opportunity for promotion" as "slim job prospects." And who the -bleep- put in "Government Manager" for $97,000 a year? That's like saying "Medical Professional" and listing a doctor's salary.

Kevin Musgrove said...

Have you noticed that they never include:

Journalist: earn the gross national product of a small emergent nation by writing lazy copy and cut 'n' pasting from this week's press releases in between shots of metal polish and blackcurrant in the bar that used to be the compositing room.

Anonymous said...

English is a gendered language, mother county, ship being she.

I am a guybrarian, because as a guy I am in a female dominated profession (many years sitting at a lunch table by myself because I was the smelly, caveman male who invaded the sanctity of the pristine female environment).

skeptical thomas said...

Just a quick follow-up comment on the Ph.D.'s - Professor idea: I'm about to finish my Ph.D., and no, I don't feel like a soul who can not cut it in the real world. Every professor I know works 70-100 hours/week, takes at most 2 weeks holidays/year, works his butt-off to publish a paper and the list could go on. But they're professors in Sciences, not Library Science. When I mentioned to a librarian friend that I'd like to take some time-off post Ph.D. before jumping into library school, I was told "Don't take time-off. Library school will just that, holidays". Hope that clears some air.

Anonymous said...

um...half of the people who accompanied me through library school were mousy bookworms. I wish I could forget them.

Grateful & Guilty said...

Helllloooo...hasn't anyone heard of a government librarian? Yes, I'm at the government manager median pay of $97,900, and I'm a librarian, with all that that implies -- easy work, low stress, dorky co-workers. If I could only get over the guilt!

Anonymous said...

Basically until the Baby Boomers retire -- and with the right stimulants that may be in 30 years for all I know -- I wouldn't recommend librarianship.

It's really not worth it.

Anonymous said...

This site should be called the whining and bitching sarcastic librarian. Lighten up.

Marty Nemko said...

I'm the guy who directs US News' Best Careers issue, and I gotta say, even though you guys are poking some barbs at me, I really appreciate the candor.

But what I thought is the most trenchant point is: all careers are more problematic than they appear from the outside.

I will say that, at least from where I sit, librarianship, especially special librarianship, despite its liabilities, is one of the best careers. And I've found that librarians to be some of the kindest and most interesting people I've ever met. If I were single and trying to meet someone, I'd probably head to a librarian's convention.

Daniel said...


I AM a 'Special Librarian'.

I'll give you a moment to let that sink in.

Forget the hype, it actually kind of sucks. First of all, being designated as a 'special' anything is going to rankle, and second of all, you're generally forced to work in a stiflingly liberal university environment.

I'll tell you what, I was watching a roofer put shingles on my garage the other day and found myself murmuring - 'now that's the life...'

Sad, but all too true. If you pursue your work as a Special Librarian you are condemning yourself to a career or committees, political correctness, and not doing much of anything very useful.

Anonymous said...

For some of the idiots out there who know nothing about libraries or librarians - read up! It is underpaid and jobs are scarce. The ALA publish crap about the shortage of librarians, but this is just not true and only feeds university information school's pockets. Take it from me, do computer science or information systems instead - those jobs are better paid and in demand.