Best higher education/career options for liberal arts majors with no career options?
I graduated with a history degree from an Ivy League university, and have been a paralegal for nearly three years now. It used to be that law school was the perfect degree for a liberal arts major, but the general consensus on nearly every career website (WSJ, NYT, etc.), newspaper, and blog is that law school is not a good investment unless you go to a top 20 law school, and even then, you really need to want to be an attorney for the rest of your life (a notion which seems impossible to truly grasp until you are an attorney). I feel very stuck—a cautionary tale, even; and feel like I’m withering more each day, although I am lucky to have a job.
The paralegal profession, while promising much growth (according to the 2010–11 Bureau of Labor Statistics annual jobs report), also has a ton of competition; if you Google “paralegal certificate” it’s easy to see that many, many people are trying to break into this field, which I imagine will bring down salaries (perhaps consequently, it was not rated as an “excellent” or “good” career by the BLS). Thus, I don’t want to be a paralegal forever—I need something else, preferably in the “business world”, but there are so few jobs that it’s just demoralizing to apply to any of them. I’ve considered getting an MBA to foray into the business world, and play up my “management” experience as a paralegal, but MBA programs, too, like JD programs, seem to be losing their value and return on investment. I feel like I’m at a total dead end. I don’t want to be wasting my time right now, being single with lots of free time to be learning. This weekend I broke down and investigated getting a paralegal certificate, a real estate certificate, masters programs in information management, as well as masters in teaching programs (although the jury seems to be out for K-12 teaching as well—job security and salary-wise—unless you’re going into special education). For each of these options, I feel fully capable of fitting them into my own continued life narrative so they seem relevant and practical; in other words, none of these options came to mind whimsically—I can see how they could all be great life choices, provided I could find stable employment afterward. The issue is thus more: what should I be learning to ensure I’m always employed.
I suppose my question to you all is should I a) apply my current skills, passions, interests (writing, research, project management, verbal communication/persuasive skills) to a field which would readily welcome those skills, or would I b) be better off “starting fresh” and learning an entirely new set of skills, say, IT, accounting, math or economics skills, and begin collecting credentials that could some day be applied to a position in business?
My thesis is that I’m sick of being labeled a “useless liberal arts major”, and want some “hard” skills. The question is not which ones, necessarily, but which route to take; I realize this is a bit of an impossible question, so I expect a lot of “it depends what you’re good at/who you know/what you want to do” and “just pick one thing and go for it!” But I feel like I need better advice than that. It feels as if every route is a dead-end right now—for me, anyway, and I’m willing to invest a bit more in my education to make up for the time I wasted in college (not that history wasn’t a great thing to study—I loved it). I’d be interested to hear if anyone is in a similar boat, or if anyone has any specific suggestions as to careers, programs, certificates, grad school programs, etc. that might be good alternatives to law school or business school. Maybe I should apply to law/business schools, and see where I get in, and take it from there. But perhaps I could master the same material through adult education courses, online education and self-study… and maybe this would be better (and much more cost-effective)?
If anyone has any questions about my particular skills, interests, experience, background, etc. please ask or PM me.
This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.