Have you noticed the recent emphasis on preparing young people for jobs in science, technology, engineering and mathematics — also known as STEM? Florida Gov. Rick Scott is one of the major proponents. He not only encourages more students to earn STEM degrees, he heads a state task force that proposes charging less tuition for college students on the STEM track and more for students pursuing non-STEM degrees.
There's no question that our country needs people with STEM skills. But what about folks who are more right-brained than left? Some of us (me included) didn't receive the math and science genes. Instead we gravitate to the liberal arts, communication, teaching, psychology, etc. Are we doomed to no respect and low-paying jobs?
Not at all. Research shows that there are and will be plenty of opportunities for long, satisfying and well-paying non-STEM careers. Here are a few examples:
Interpreter: The global economy means global communication. Anyone who can proficiently read and write in more than one language (Spanish, Mandarin, Portuguese and languages spoken in south Asia especially) has a bright future. Interpreters must also understand and respect other cultures and employ the people skills necessary to work with all people all over the world.
Market researcher: There are subtle reasons we buy goods and services. Most often our decisions are based on emotion, habits, long-held beliefs and ingrained likes and dislikes. Market researchers know how to ferret out our innermost drives and turn them into selling tools.
School psychologist: Bullying. Troubled kids with and without guns. Children from other countries adapting to a new culture and language. Who helps these kids? School psychologists counsel, research, help set administrative standards, discipline and often are the only people their young charges will open up to. In fact, the Department of Labor predicts we will need nearly 22 percent more of them by 2020.
Speech/language pathologist: These professionals help people with all types of speech and language deficits. They work in schools, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, colleges and geriatric facilities. It is predicted that there will be a need for 28,000 more of them.
Human resource specialist: Where there are employees, there are human resource issues. Wages, training, benefits, administering the new health care laws … the list is endless. Predictions show that there will be 62,000 new HR jobs by 2020.
Journalists: Split majors and specialization. Diane H. McFarlin, the new dean of the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida, has this advice for future communicators. Build your basic skills, keep up with all the new media and then specialize. Great journalists are not only excellent writers and speakers, they are critical thinkers. McFarlin adds that preparing for a journalistic future may mean splitting your major and taking health, sports and courses in other "hot" fields where critical thinking, research and strong communication skills are needed.
Sources: US News.com/money: "The 100 Best Jobs in 2013" by Jada A. Graves, Dec. 18, 2012; Communigator, University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications Alumni Magazine, Winter 2013.
Marie Stempinski is founder and president of Strategic Communication in St. Petersburg. She specializes in public relations, marketing, business development and employee motivation. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her website: howtomotivateemployees.org.