Job Security: Finding a Career that’s Right for You

For the past several years, the United States economy has been held hostage by a recession that has left 14.6 million Americans jobless. Nearly every sector of every industry has fallen victim to this indiscriminate downturn which economists predict will keep the national unemployment rate hovering around 7 percent or above through 2012 – it is currently at 9.5 percent. With bills to pay and mouths to feed, many of the unemployed have opted out of searching for a new opportunity in their present field, and are testing the waters of careers offering more stability and security.

Every job certainly carries risk, but a handful of professions have earned the reputation of offering a solid amount of security.

Registered Nurse. The bottom line is, recession or not, people will always get sick. In June, health care employment gained 9,000 jobs according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), with an increase of 217,000 positions over the past 12 months. As Baby Boomers age, the need for Registered Nurses will continue to grow as their health care needs place demands on the nation’s medical resources.

Government Accountant. As the government places a more intensely watchful eye on Wall Street and other big businesses, the need for industry accountants will increase. Relmod Van Daniker, executive director of the Association of Government Accountants, expects steady hiring over the next five years or so.

Federal Judge. So it may not be the easiest of career jumps, and odds are the majority of us will not become Federal Judges, but considering the job brings with it lifetime tenure, it does earn a spot on the “secure jobs” list. Not all judges are awarded such stability. Most are appointed to renewable terms of four to six years. Those who do earn a spot in the Federal arena have proven themselves as the best and brightest.

College Professor. There has been a recent trend of colleges and universities hiring for limited-term or adjunct faculty, but for those who earn a full-time position on the tenure track, job security is almost a given. Most institutions require a doctorate in your field of study to pursue the tenure option.

Public-School Teacher. As in the higher education arena, educators in the public-school sector are given the gift of tenure, which requires their employer provide just cause and due process in the case of a firing. Tenure is usually granted after a few years of teaching and most states carry tenure laws to protect teachers. Secondary-school teachers are currently in the highest demand, especially those with degrees in math, science, and special education.

Truck Driver. One of the largest groups, truck drivers and driver/sales workers, encompass 3.2 million of the country’s workforce. This includes the many trucks on the road carrying goods from coast to coast and drivers with more localized routes and destinations. Job security is most prevalent for individuals with more skilled levels of the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) required for many driving positions and for those working in industries least likely to be affected by the economic downturn, such as grocery stores.

Lisa Tortorello

Lisa Tortorello has been a Director of Public Relations and Marketing within a large East Coast health care system for more than 11 years. She has an associate’s degree in Liberal Arts and a bachelor’s degree in Public Communication.

Do President Obama’s Higher Education Initiatives Make the Grade?

The now-President Barack Obama campaigned on a platform of change amidst a difficult economy with a struggling job market and education system. While he and his opponent, Sen. John McCain, wooed voters of all types, Obama had a distinct edge in one key group: college students.

According to MSNBC, post-election polling conducted by the non-partisan group CIRCLE showed that college age voters preferred Obama over McCain 68 percent to 30 percent, the widest margin since this type of polling began. While experts cite a number of reasons the President ranked so well among college voters, perhaps his emphasis on higher education reform struck a major chord.

President Obama’s Higher Education Agenda in a Nutshell

According to his White House statement on education, President Obama believes our nation’s economic competitiveness depends on the quality of our education, pledging to help the United States have the “highest proportion of students graduating from college in the world by 2020.”

According to the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, President Obama hopes to accomplish this goal through legislative reform addressing the following:

  • College Affordability
  • Access to Higher Education
  • Fiscal Sustainability for Public Colleges and Universities
  • College-Based Research Funding
  • Support for Two-Year College Programs

Setting an ambitious goal is one thing; achieving it quite another. What has President Obama actually done to reform higher education to date?

Key Obama Legislation Affecting College Students

Though less than 2 years into his term, President Obama has enacted a number of changes to higher education. Here are the most significant.

1. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009

Passed in February, 2009, this $787 billion stimulus package was designed to create jobs and boost consumer spending. It included the following provisions addressing President Obama’s overall goals for higher education reform:

Focus: College Affordability

The ARRA established The American Opportunity Tax Credit, a national tax credit allowing up to $2500 of college expenses, including tuition, fees, and course materials. Up to $1000 is refundable, so those who do not owe taxes will receive a rebate. This credit set through 2011, but is expected to become permanent. In his 2010 State of the Union address, President Obama also pledged to extend application of the credit from 2 years of college to 4 years, though legislation has not yet been proposed.

Focus: Fiscal Sustainability for Public Colleges and Universities

The ARRA also established State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, which provides funds to states in order to counteract education cuts tied to the poor economy.

Focus: College-Based Research Funding

The ARRA provided colleges and universities with billions in research funding, including:

  • $10 billion for the National Institutes of Health
  • $3 billion for the National Science Foundation
  • $2 billion for the Department of Energy
  • $580 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology
  • $280 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

2. The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA)

Signed into law by in March, 2010, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) was a key part of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010. The SAFRA included a number of major provisions related to President Obama’s education goals.

Focus: College Affordability

The SAFRA eliminated the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP), a program which allowed private banks to service student loans backed by the US government. These loans will now be serviced by government’s Direct Loan Program, a change the National Association for College Admission Counseling notes will save $61 billion over the next 10 years.

These funds will be redirected to students by increasing the Federal Pell Grant Award from $5550 to $5975 by 2017. Starting in 2013, the award will also be indexed at the Consumer Price index and increase with cost-of-living. The SAFRA also expands the Federal Perkins Loan Program to include more colleges and universities.

Focus: Access to Higher Education

The SAFRA provides $3 billion over 5 years to the College Access and Completion Initiative Program, which focuses on retraining and graduating more college and university students. An additional $750 million is slated to provide additional college access and completion support to students, including additional funds to the College Access Grant Program.

Focus: Supporting 2-Year College Programs

The SAFRA founded what’s known as the American Graduation Initiative, authorizing the program to assist low income and non-traditional college students in completing 2-year college degree programs. The Act also creates a grant program designed to expand online learning opportunities for students preparing for postsecondary education.

SAFRA also includes $2.5 billion in grant funds to states for the construction, modernization, renovation, or repair of community college facilities.

Budget Proposals for Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011

According to USA Today, President Obama dedicates a sizable portion of his national budget to higher education, distinguishing him from predecessors who focused primarily on K-12 education. Highlights include:

  • Increasing the maximum Federal Perkins Loan award each year and a proposed $6 billion Perkins fund in 2011
  • A 5-year, $2.5 billion fund to improve college success and completion among disadvantaged students; States could use a portion of the funds for college outreach programs.

The Bottom Line for College Students

It’s no secret that higher education or career training improves salary and advancement. President Obama’s higher education reforms to date improve college accessibility and affordability overall, an important note in a sluggish job market. While more than two years remain in his first term, the ongoing economic recession may limit future education initiatives, so consider investing in your education now rather than later.

Aimee Hosler

Aimee Hosler is a freelance journalist specializing in career- and education-focused topics. The self-described political junkie minored in political science and media law while studying journalism at California State Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo.

College Trends – Accelerate Your Earning Potential with a Two-Year Degree

It’s one of the most popular of the American dreams. Graduate from high school, spend four years in college pursuing a career you are passionate about, earn a bachelor’s degree and go on to work for a respected company while collecting a decent salary. However, since the country’s most recent recession took hold of the economy, and our pocketbooks, many students find it difficult to make this dream a reality – partially because of their parents’ inability to finance the growing costs of higher education and the decreasing likelihood they will find a job after graduation that will offer a paycheck large enough to help them repay a hefty student loan debt. So rather than carry a four-year financial burden, the trend in higher education has been an increase in enrollment in community colleges.

Community College – A Benefit to the Brain and Bank Account

Considering the average cost for a student to attend a private four-year college is $26,273 (up 4.4 percent from last year) and $7,020 annually to attend a public institution (up 6.5 percent from last year), it’s no wonder college trends show potential students and families are opting to take the two-year route to a degree. In fact, 31 percent of all full-time college students in the United States attend community colleges, and enrollment across the county has increased 24 percent for full-time participants and 17 percent in the part-time arena. With the average annual cost at about $2,544 (up 7.3%), the potential financial savings is astronomical, even when students opt to continue their education at a four-year university after completion of the two-year program.

Expanding Demographics

It’s not just the traditional recent high-school graduate signing up for courses. With the national unemployment rate hovering close to 10 percent, many out-of-work adults are contributing to college trends and heading to admission offices across the country to take advantage of opportunities at two-year community colleges. They are hoping to garner new skills or prepare to switch career paths and make themselves more marketable. Most cite affordability, a faster time to program completion versus the four-year approach, and minimal commuting time as reasons for their choice.

The White House Weighs In

President Obama has contributed to pushing college trends toward two-year programs even further. Last year he announced a $12 billion community college initiative to assist facilities in making physical plant improvements, expanding online curriculum offerings and developing programs to increase graduation rates and better prepare students to move into the workforce or to a four-year institution. The President also put a call out to community colleges to increase its number of graduates by an additional five million students by the year 2020 – an accomplishment that would help him achieve his goal of the United States being home to the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020.

Lisa Tortorello

Lisa Tortorello has been a Director of Public Relations and Marketing within a large East Coast health care system for more than 11 years. She has an associate’s degree in Liberal Arts and a bachelor’s degree in Public Communication.

The Importance of College: Is It Worth the Sacrifice?

Given the expense and effort invested in a college education, it’s natural to ask about the importance of college. Across factors including financial considerations to personal fulfillment, most Americans believe college is worth the effort.

What’s the importance of attending college? A college education has replaced a high school diploma as the gateway to the middle class, according to an extensive public opinion survey completed by the non-profit group Public Agenda in 2000.

Even most young people who leave college before completing a degree acknowledge the importance of college, according to a December 2009 study by Public Agenda and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Of those who failed to complete a degree, 89 percent said they had thought about returning to college, and 97 percent said it would be important for their own children attend college.

The Importance of College to Financial Success

And if money does indeed talk, the importance of college is enormous. Consider the following average annual incomes compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau:

  • High school dropouts: $18,900
  • High school graduates: $25,900
  • College graduates: $45,400
  • Professional degree recipients: $99,300

Why is a college degree so beneficial to a person’s earnings power?

  • More and better career choices. College graduates generally have more transferable skills, meaning they can perform a number of positions across different industries and companies. That means they’re more valuable to employers, who are then forced to pay more to attract and retain them.
  • Technological skills. College students today are exposed to technology that’s driving the economy, making the importance of college an even bigger factor in employment. And because they’ve learned how to learn, they are better able to adapt to new technology and workplace changes.

In today’competitive job market, the importance of college can’t be overestimated. A college degree offers many workplace advantages, from increasing an employee’s chances of being promoted to making it easier and more likely that he or she is able to transition to a new job, industry or even an entirely new career.

College Value vs. College Cost: What’s the Value of College?

After hearing stories about unemployed college graduates with six-figure student debt loads, Americans may be skeptical about college value and wary about college costs. Recent research shows college remains one of the best investments you can make.

  • More money over a lifetime. Full-time college students generally forego a living wage while studying, but after graduation, they more than make up for that income shortfall by earning more over their lifetimes than those with only a high school diploma. Also something to consider in the college-value-to-college-cost equation: those who earn degrees in science- or math-related fields generally earn more as soon as they graduate than students in other majors, according to studies cited by The Wall Street Journal.
  • Non-monetary value. According to studies cited by U.S. News & World Report, “College graduates are healthier, contribute more to their communities, and raise kids who are better prepared academically.”
  • Living an inquisitive, well-rounded life. Value can be intrinsic, and it often is with a college degree. College introduces students to new ideas and can awaken interests and aptitudes people didn’t previously know they had.
  • Zeroing in on work you enjoy. Especially at colleges that offer a wide range of programs and the flexibility to study across disciplines, higher education can help those unsure about a new career path decide upon the best one for them.
  • Technological literacy. Especially for older adult learners, the speed with which technology has changed the workplace can be daunting. In most college programs, students are required to learn to effectively work with technology, experience that can serve them well post-graduation.
  • A bootstrap out of poverty. College is a particularly good value for students from low-income families because receiving an education is the best chance of helping them break out of low-paying jobs.

College value versus college cost is often difficult to quantify: how do you place a value on learning? “Higher education is an investment in human capital,” former Gettysburg College President Katherine Haley Will told National Public Radio. College value outweighs “any simple calculation of costs.”