Friday, April 15, 2011

How useful are these career guidance tools?

These are the information that BLS puts out:

What thought process does some one go through when looking for a job, or deciding a major and how useful are these sources to the decision-making process? The information have been around for quite a while and thinking back I do not recall ever using these resources in determining my major or my career choice. The main drivers were what do I like and this essentially decided my major which in turn influenced the career choice. But there are some majors that do not point the way to a career or job.

Would a tool such as the following website from Washington State be more useful?
1. Pick a major or an interest. (I picked Animation, Video Graphics and Special Effects.)
2. Then it lists all of the colleges and institutes that offer courses/programs/certificates in the area of interest.
3. For instance, Animation Gaming Production Module 3 from Olympic College offers a certificate of recognition. The course costs $940 for 12 credits.
4. Click on the tab Employment Results and I see that 65 persons took the course with a 52% completion rate and of those 40 found employment with a median annual wage of $21,000. Unfortunately, only 2% are in the Arts and Entertainment industry (which I would expect is the industry targeted) and most are in retail, presumably working there to make ends meet while trying to achieve their goal of working in the field.
5. The tab on Occupation Information gives the expectations from working in the field.
6. The Student Characteristics tab shows that almost all the students do not have a BA.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of missing data and because of this it is of limited use. A loft of the 4-year colleges do not report the information and a lot of majors/fields do not have data for the colleges in terms of labor market outcomes.

Comparing the general guides from BLS and the Washington state website, I find that the latter is a more useful site and a more natural way to think of how people choose majors and then find out what they can do.

From where I'm sitting there are two ways to approach this:
1. Here's what I want to do, how do I do it?
2. Here's what I want to study, what can I do with it?

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