First, a big congratulations to all 2023 graduates! You have achieved a significant milestone in your life, which should give you a measured sense of pride.
The world in 2023 certainly differs from 2013, 2003, or 1993. It used to be that the sensible path was to graduate from high school and then move immediately to higher education. That’s because the canon of knowledge existed primarily in schools, and to access that and learn from it required being a student.
Now, it’s fair to say that almost all the knowledge known and created by humans is available to all. The amount of knowledge is ever-expanding, AND it is open to anyone seeking it. That has never been the case in human history.
We also have experienced an explosion of Artificial Intelligence that not only accesses the world’s information but also synthesizes it and creates new knowledge. The impact of this will be monumental in the coming years and decades. We have already seen AI being better at stock picking, passing the bar for a law license, and, much to the chagrin of teachers, researching and writing much better essays than humans.
What does all this mean for 2023 graduates?
- Some jobs in their current forms will cease to exist in the near future. Customer service, some creative content creation jobs, and even things like computer programming and legal research might be in little demand in the future.
- Those who do the programming and support of AI systems will be in great demand.
- Those who can integrate AI into systems that work for medicine, business, law, manufacturing, and government will also be in great demand.
- A 4-year college degree’s value must be seriously considered given the time (4 years) and costs (thousands, if not several hundred thousand dollars).
Planning for the future
Many jobs will mostly stay the same in the future. Homes and buildings will still need to be built, and all of them will have plumbing and electrical needs now and well into the future. Getting certified in a trade will continue to be a great career path offering above-average pay and entrepreneurship opportunities.
Health care, especially nursing, is a guaranteed good choice for job security, good pay, and a rewarding career. People are people, and we will always need medical care.
If you are set on a 4-year college experience, work on developing excellent written and oral communication skills, the ability to synthesize information, and the base knowledge you might need for a field. Accounting, finance, engineering, entrepreneurship, marketing, and business management are all solid fields, but you need to develop “soft skills’ in addition to field-specific skills. It is implausible that you will stay with one company for your entire career.
The simplest way to look at careers and their pay and stability is to determine their entry barriers. For example, a doctor requires about ten years of schooling and training post-high school–a massive barrier to entry, so they generally command high salaries. A plumber or electrician usually needs a Contractor’s license, which may include years of mentored work. Alternatively, a daycare worker or home health aide is open to just about anyone, so the pay and conditions are not very appealing to most. Look for jobs that require specialization or licensure to find the best opportunities.
2023 is a time of extraordinary change and upheaval in how things are done. In this time of transition, many new opportunities will arise, and many of the old ways of doing things–going to college and getting a 4-year degree–might not be the best choice. Making yourself unique and valuable will require focus, hard work, and dedication.