Here's a secret. People with engineering degrees don't necessarily make more than people with art degrees.
Ok. Maybe the averages speak differently. We certainly perceive engineers and scientists as high-earners. Meanwhile we perpetuate the "starving artist" stereotype. But the reason that the average engineering major out-earns the average artist has nothing to do with their degrees. Chihuly certainly out-earns the senior engineers at Ford.
For the last few decades, it's been incredibly easy to add value as an engineer or scientist. We wanted to go to the Moon, and everyone wanted a car and a microwave and a laptop. One leader with an idea could hire an army of automaton engineers and produce products that EVERYONE wanted. Thanks Apollo. Thanks Highway System. Those days are coming to an end.
We don't live in a world in which your pay is reflective of how difficult your major was.
We don't live in a world in which your title gives you pay.
People won't employ you just because you have a degree. They will employ you because you add value.
We do live in a world in which the people who add value make more than the people who don't. Just because your degree is "difficult" or sciency doesn't mean you're going to make a killing. I know wealthy artists and I know broke nuclear physicists.
Your degree is supposed to represent your ability to add value. People who add value out-earn people who don't.
Every "job" can be viewed as production. Factory folks take raw materials and turn them into products that consumers will pay for. Not only will consumers pay, but they will pay MORE than they would have for the raw materials. The difference in price is called VALUE.
Why have sciency fields historically out-earned many of the liberal arts? Because people pay more for cars than books of poetry. And sadly, more households in America probably have cars than books of poetry.
...and then the Internet changed everything
We've done it. Go to Walmart: the engineers and scientists have perfected making cheap, functional stuff. Sure we can squeeze another penny out of production costs, but how much cheaper do tube socks really need to get?
More importantly: what are people spending their money on, now that tube socks have reached record low prices as our average income is at an all time high?
the answer is art...
The internet has given us an amazing new ability: we can connect with people who make beautiful art and BUY IT. Sure, you can go to Walmart and purchase a particle-board kitchen table. But you can also connect with an artist who will make you a one-of-a-kind dining set that brings you genuine joy. I'm not talking about shallow joy that comes from buying fancy stuff for status: I'm talking about pieces with a connection. Maybe the wood was reclaimed from a barn in your grandpa's home town. Yes. You can buy that on the internet.
Industrialization targets the masses: make one thing really well and convince everyone that they want/need it.
Art targets the individual. For the first time the artist and the individual actually have a chance of connecting.
Bring This Home
The real reason that people aren't finding a living in their field of passion is that they haven't figured out how to add value in that space. The ability to paint a masterpiece, write a beautiful story, design a building, or even cure cancer isn't enough. You've got to make something that certain people want, and then offer it to those certain people for sale at a price they are willing to pay.
Major In Anything
My advice? Study any major you love in college. But realize that gaining technical skill is only half of the game. In a world of tight margins, you need professional skills to compliment your technical skill.
Technical skill: the abilities someone needs to work in a given field. Artists have technical skills that enable them to produce paintings. Musicians have technical skills that enable them to produce music. Engineers have technical skills that enable them to produce cars.
Are you technically skilled as an engineer? You're going to have a hard time finding an income if you can't manage your time, set goals, lead a project team, maintain a budget. Most importantly you need to produce a product that your target market wants so badly that they will part with their hard-earned money to have it in their lives. This is getting harder to do.
Are you technically skilled as a poet? You're going to have a hard time finding an income if you can't manage your time, set goals, lead a project team, maintain a budget. Most importantly you need to produce a product that your target market wants so badly that they will part with their hard-earned money to have it in their lives. This is getting easier to do.
The projects change. The technical skills change. The markets change. The need to add value to another person's life remains constant. Connect with someone and change their life for the better - the paycheck will follow.
What should you be learning in school (and every day after)? How to use your technical skills and professional skills to add value. And change people's lives.
Want to begin your own journey towards launching your career by adding value and making a genuine impact?
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