Young People Ask . . .
What Career Should I Choose?
‘WHAT shall I do with the rest of my life?’ Sooner or later you confront this challenging question. A confusing array of choices present themselves—medicine, business, art, education, computer science, engineering, the trades. And you may feel like the youth who said: “What I consider to be successful . . . is maintaining the comfort level that you grew up with.” Or you may dream of improving your financial lot in life.
But is there more to success than material gain? Can any secular career bring you real fulfillment?
‘It Didn’t Mean a Thing’
Glamorous, exciting, lucrative! That is the way movies, TV, and books often portray secular careers. But to attain so-called success, career climbers must often vie with one another in a life-and-death struggle for recognition. Dr. Douglas LaBier tells of how young adults, many “with fast-track, hi-tech careers, report feelings of dissatisfaction, anxiety, depression, emptiness, paranoia, as well as a whole range of physical complaints.”
Long ago, King Solomon exposed the futility of mere worldly success. Backed by virtually limitless resources, Solomon built up an astonishing list of career accomplishments. (Read Ecclesiastes 2:4-10.) Yet, concluded Solomon: “I, even I, turned toward all the works of mine that my hands had done and toward the hard work that I had worked hard to accomplish, and, look! everything was vanity [“I realized that it didn’t mean a thing,” Today’s English Version] and a striving after wind.”—Ecclesiastes 2:11.
A job may well bring wealth and recognition, but it cannot satisfy one’s ‘spiritual needs.’ (Matthew 5:3) Satisfaction thus eludes those who build their lives solely around secular achievement.
A Career That Satisfies
King Solomon advises: “The conclusion of the matter, everything having been heard, is: Fear the true God and keep his commandments. For this is the whole obligation of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13) The prime obligation for Christians today is to preach the Kingdom message. (Matthew 24:14) And youths who take seriously this obligation feel compelled to have as full a share in this work as possible—even if they are not naturally inclined toward preaching. (Compare 2 Corinthians 5:14.) Instead of pursuing full-time secular jobs, thousands have chosen to serve as full-time evangelizers (pioneers). Others serve as foreign missionaries or at branch offices of the Watch Tower Society.
Emily, who gave up a career as an executive secretary to become a pioneer, says: “I have developed a real love for this work.” Yes, the full-time ministry is the most satisfying, exciting career imaginable! And what greater privilege could one have than to be one of “God’s fellow workers”?—1 Corinthians 3:9.
Most pioneer ministers support themselves with part-time work. But what if later on you need to support a family? Surely one would never regret devoting one’s youthful years to God’s service! Still, some ask, Would it not make sense for a youth first to obtain a university degree and perhaps pursue the ministry later?
The Bible, of course, does not spell out exactly how many years of schooling a Christian youth should obtain. Nor does it condemn education. Jehovah, the “Grand Instructor,” encourages his people to read well and to express themselves clearly. (Isaiah 30:20; Psalm 1:2; Hebrews 5:12) Moreover, education can broaden our understanding of people and the world we live in.
Nevertheless, is a university degree always worth the huge commitment of time and money it demands?a While statistics indicate that university graduates earn higher salaries and suffer less unemployment than high school graduates, the book Planning Your College Education reminds us that these statistics are mere averages. Only a minority of university graduates actually receive sky-high salaries; the rest are paid wages that are far more down to earth. Besides, the high incomes attributed to university graduates may also result from such factors as “unusual abilities, motivation, area opportunities for employment, . . . special talents”—not simply the amount of their education.
“A [university] degree no longer guarantees success in the job market,” says the U.S. Department of Labor. “The proportion [of university graduates] employed in professional, technical, and managerial occupations . . . declined because these occupations did not expand rapidly enough to absorb the growing supply of graduates. As a result, roughly 1 out of 5 [university] graduates who entered the labor market between 1970 and 1984 took a job not usually requiring a degree. This oversupply of graduates is likely to continue through the mid-1990’s.”
Further Facts to Ponder
A university degree may or may not improve your employment prospects. But one fact is indisputable: “The time left is reduced”! (1 Corinthians 7:29) For all its presumed benefits, would four years or more in a university be the best use of that remaining time?—Ephesians 5:16.
Would a university education steer you toward or away from your spiritual goals? Remember, a high income is not a Christian priority. (1 Timothy 6:7, 8) Yet, a survey of U.S. university administrators described today’s students as ‘career-oriented, concerned with material success, concerned with self.’ One group of students said: “It seems like all we talk about is money.” How might being immersed in an atmosphere of intense competition and selfish materialism affect you?
Universities may no longer have the riotous scenes of the 1960’s. But a decrease in university bedlam hardly means the campus environment is wholesome. Concluded one study of campus life: “Students still have almost unlimited freedom in personal and social matters.” Drugs and alcohol are used freely, and promiscuity is the rule—not the exception. If this is true of universities in your land, might living there thwart your efforts to remain morally clean?—1 Corinthians 6:18.
Another concern is the well-documented association of exposure to higher education with decreased “adherence to core religious tenets.” (The Sacred in a Secular Age) The pressure to maintain high grades has caused some Christian youths to neglect spiritual activities and thus become vulnerable to the onslaught of secular thinking promoted by universities. Some have suffered shipwreck concerning their faith.—Colossians 2:8.
Alternatives to University Education
In view of these facts, many Christian youths have decided against a university education. Many have found that the training offered in congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses—the weekly Theocratic Ministry School in particular—has given them a real edge in finding employment. Though not possessing a university degree, such youths learn to be poised, adept at expressing themselves, and quite capable of handling responsibility. Furthermore, while in secondary school, some take courses in typing, computer programming, auto repair, machine-shop work, and so forth. Such skills may lend themselves to part-time employment and are often in high demand. And though many youths disdain ‘working with their hands,’ the Bible dignifies doing “hard work.” (Ephesians 4:28) Why, Jesus Christ himself learned a trade so well that he came to be called “the carpenter”!—Mark 6:3.
True, in some lands university graduates have so flooded the job market that it is hard to obtain even commonplace jobs without additional training. But often there are apprenticeship programs, vocational or technical schools, and short-term university courses that teach marketable skills with a minimum investment of time and money. Also, there is a factor that employment statistics do not take into account: God’s promise to provide for those who give priority to spiritual interests.—Matthew 6:33.
Employment prospects and educational systems vary from place to place. Youths have different abilities and inclinations. And while a career in the Christian ministry is recommended as being beneficial, it is still a matter of personal choice. You and your parents must thus carefully weigh all factors involved in deciding how much education is right for you. ‘Each one must carry his own load’ in making such decisions.—Galatians 6:5.
If, for example, your parents insist that you attend a university, you have no choice but to obey them as long as you are living under their supervision.b (Ephesians 6:1-3) Perhaps you can continue living at home and avoid getting caught up in the university scene. Be selective in your choice of courses, for example, focusing on learning job skills rather than worldly philosophies. Guard your associations. (1 Corinthians 15:33) Keep yourself spiritually strong by meeting attendance, field service, and personal study. Some youths who have been obliged to attend university have even managed to pioneer by choosing a schedule of courses that made that possible.
Choose your career carefully and prayerfully, so that it not only will bring personal happiness but will enable you to ‘store up treasures in heaven.’—Matthew 6:20.
a In the United States, university costs average well over $10,000 a year! It often takes students years to pay off their indebtedness.
b It may not be necessary to receive a four-year degree to satisfy your parents. In the United States, an associate degree, for example, is acceptable to employers in many professional and service-related fields and can be acquired in two years.
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‘A university degree no longer guarantees success in the job market.’—U.S. Department of Labor