Tuesday, July 02, 2013

From Our Father Agent in the Field

Dear Cappy Cap,

My 14-year-old son had been talking of working in IT, which sounded like a decent plan to me.  Somebody in India or China can't come in and fix your dead computer, or get the network switch installed down the hall.  He's a kid who set up Linux on his PC on his own, and regularly jailbreaks phones/tablets/etc. for himself and his friends.

Anyway, the other day in the car, he announced that he might be interested in entomology, with perhaps IT as a minor.


"Son," I said, after managing to not crash the car, "I'm sure bugs are interesting, but what's your plan B?  What are you going to do to actually, you know, earn money so you can eat?"

So the rest of the way home, we talked about how useless his entomology degree would be, compared to IT.

And in a bit that may bring a tear to your eye, his younger sister, who had been silently taking this all in, piped up with, "So maybe being an actress isn't such a good idea?"

I gifted "Worthless" to my son on Kindle about 5 minutes after we got home, and he read it within 24 hours.  Now he thinks petroleum engineering might be a good major.  On his own, he's searching up websites about job salaries.


Ahhhh....warm Cappy Cap fuzzies.

That and knowing I cost the liberal art academian vampires over at Big Education another $100,000 in tuition they'll never get.


Green Steelhead said...

But....but.....he could have joined the Peace Corps and went overseas to solve malaria or stayed at the university and studied ants.....

Damn you and your books, Cappy!

Green Steelhead

Anonymous said...

That damn book should be MANDATORY reading in high school - for everyone. Here's my condensed story, different flavour:

Daughter was doing well in the sciences in university except that it was just chock full of those icky mathematics. She wanted out, and one day chanced upon an open house for a no-name college where she ran into a cool old guy with a ponytail that filled her head with the future she had ahead of her..in FINE ARTS. He was a prof, right? He just HAD to know what he was talking about, right? Who would you believe at that age - your cranky old man back at home, or this trendy hipster who told you your 'art' was 'exceptional'?

Today my daughter is a failed gay artiste that flies a cash register at a retail shop, is slowly paying of a mountain of student debt (and I will be damned if I will bail her out - even if I could). When you become an adult kids - you answer for your own decisions, good or bad, just like I did when I was young.

The Cap correctly describes those academic scum of the earth "educators" as 'vampires' as they lure kids into costly mickey-mouse programs. They are very, very good at what they do and they know how to blow smoke and where to blow it.

I would heartily recommend the Captain's book, and enlistment for kids that aren't ready to make a decision. Kids need the straight poop to make sound decisions and their educators aren't giving it to them. It is up to you as a parent to make sure they make the right decisions for them.

lelnet said...

Hey, if he wants to study bugs and she wants to act, that's cool. But you don't need to invest your college education in either of those things, in order to do them, any more than you need to study Literature in order to read books. (Indeed, on the evidence, it seems like doing so is a detriment, not just to your finances and your prospects in life, but to your passion for the thing you used to actually enjoy.)

miforest said...

great cappy, another young man's future saved. and maybe his sister too. my son starts college in the fall,-Chemical engineering

Dreamer said...

I tend to go contrarian too much don't I?

Serious question. This is (I guess) the "LionoftheBlogosphere/Half Sigma" view (though he is really too fixated with elite-ness). Also, Entomology is a science, though removed from direct applicability but research-only instead.

Thus to the logic, if he can get into an elite school and thus giving him an actual high chance to have access to actually do research in the field after graduation. Would you be okay? Throw in scholarships too for good measure. **

**To note, full ride and semi-full scholarships/financial aid does exist. It does happen as long there good grades and lower-middle income (for financial aid).

I bring this hypothetical thought up because he's 14, if he's really bright (top 10 type of kid), he could get such an offer.

It also help build my understanding of your view about positions that's not direct in making value but not total BS either (archaeology is a good personal example - few open positions and not exactly making direct value, but can't say it like HR either and the re-discovery of history has its arguments).

Dreamer said...

I missed the line he plans to be a petroleum engineer. Yeah, that pays.

My question still stands though. As I said above, I ask more to get a better understanding about fields that do do something (archaeology to search history, entomology to know how bugs and thus animals works better, etc) but can't say it have immediate value like petroleum engineer.

Anonymous said...

warms my heart

Anonymous said...

"On his own, he's searching up websites about job salaries."

This is a bad sign that needs warning! Job salaries do not reflect the cost and probability of failed training, cost of living, hours de facto worked, time value of money (and this includes reduced lifespan too for many jobs), and intangible benefits.

Salary information is best to see what kind of job is in demand for employment stability purposes, which truly matters, but there are so many other factors to look at first.

self-exiled Spaniard said...

I recommend reading N. Taleb's Antifragile for some thoughts on what makes steady income and allows for life-long income. Being a civil servant does not appear to be a good choice of career for those who intend to remain employed over their entire adult life.

Anonymous said...

Actually, most of the fields in agriculture are really hot right now. Not the want to be professors, but guys willing to actually work in the field under a hot sun, but smart and educated enough to know what they're doing. I have five agronomists that work for me; all make more than $150K and we have to turn away business because we don't have enough trained people.

As an aside, I only hire guys right out of college that interned for me when they were young. Once they've worked for a government lab or university they are ruined.

Karl said...

good story. Glad his son is thinking this way at 14. He'll be far ahead of his peers if he keeps this focus.

Borepatch said...


Not link-whoring, but I've put up a couple of posts on how to teach yourself networking and computer security:



I link to free resources and low-cost tools that will help you pass your Cisco certification. You don't need college at all - for probably $1000 you can get your Cisco CCNA certification which will land you an intro IT networking job pulling in $45k.

Get your CISSP security certification and you probably double that.

What you need is the discipline to put the hours in on your own, but there is a TON of free and cheap course study material. And to bet against networking and Internet security in the long term is basically betting against the Internet.

And just to reiterate: you don't need a college degree which makes a degree in Computer Science or Computer Engineering plausibly worthless. It's a little more complicated as you'll hit a ceiling in promotions if you don't have a BS degree (thanks for nothing, HR!), but as far as starting out in a well paid field where you can hang out your own shingle as a consultant, you don't need a professor.

Like I said, not trying to link-whore. However, you have a bunch more readers than I have, and this is something that some of them might be interested in.

Paul E. Zimmerman said...

Good call. With a degree in entomology, you could go into academics, espresso, or pest control. Also, without a degree in entomology, you could go into pest control. I've taken my pest control business from zero and borrowed funds to grossing six figures and debt-free in a bit more than two years. The most entomology chair time I've had was a 101 course. As long as you know how to research a subject, apply a little reasoning, pay attention to detail, and you're not afraid of experiencing the up's and down's of OJT, the entom. degree and the (likely) accompanying debt albatross are not required for competency and success. Sounds like the kid may be interested in bugs, and it sounds like he already knows how to research something. He can run with that and skip handing tens of thousands of dollars over to a bunch of soft-handed academics.

Anonymous said...

Entomology? Must be a weird kid. The entomologists I've known have been exactly that.

It's not a subject I would dismiss out of hand. There is some need for them in the health professions. It's one of those jobs where low demand runs into low supply (not many people want to spend a life with bugs). A priori an outsider couldn't say which is dominant.

BTW the writer Margaret Atwood is the daughter of an entomologist, and the writer Vladimir Nabokov was an entomologist.

Some entomologists spend much of their time looking at insect genitals - both with black flies (150 species) and Nabokov's favorite butterflies can be told apart mainly by inspection of their genitalia. BTW one specialist on moths and butterflies noted that butterflies had six times as man receptors for sexual stimulation than mammals. When asked if that meant that butterflies enjoyed sex six times as much as humans did, he gave his considered opinion that, yes, butterflies did get much more enjoyment out of sex as we did.

Jeff Brown said...

If it saves one child...

PRCD said...

I don't think entymology is a bad major if you apply the knowledge properly. People are always trying to find more-efficient ways to kill bugs.

suyts said...

Well, I agree with the concept, but, the last damned career you want is an IT career. Sure, it paid pretty darned good in the 90s. Too good. So, I was a bit disappointed when I went to it in the 2000s. You see, a bunch of companies got together and decided Americans were getting paid too much. So, they told congress they needed to import help because Americans were too stupid to be IT people. Forget what we did in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. We were now too stupid. So, MS, IBM, HP, and the rest told congress and INS that we needed to import about 100,000 people a year specific for computer related jobs. H1Bs in visa vernacular. I've heard about, but have never seen, some of them going back home. So, now, over the course of time, if you're in the computer biz, you're competing with an additional million people for a job. Which is fine. If you're any good, you'll have a job. It just won't pay anything. Simple supply and demand.

Mind you, this isn't a career where you just get a degree and call it. You can't. The crap you learn in college was dated the day you learned it. First of all, those who can do...so consider what your instructors teach. But, secondly, you can't print text books fast enough to keep up. So, any degree is either worthless, or simply a validation of knowledge one already possessed. But, again, that's not nearly enough. As an IT pro, you're expected to be on the cutting ... bleeding edge of tech, and be an expert at it. From how come the latest I-gizmo won't do something to how come the DBIV database won't talk to the Oracle db, and how oh how are you going to, once you get that fixed on a Unix box, are you going to get it on a Win server with MS sequel so all can play with it? And, how come when I put the latest Win OS on my box my screen won't scroll when I touch it like it does on TV?

In the mean time one of the H1Bs wrote a really cool program which he needs some help with.... too bad you don't speak his dialect of English. You can't understand a damned word he says. But, his buddy back home does and he'll work for 1/2 of what you are. Did I mention H1Bs are obligated to stay with their sponsor company?

If you want a wonderfully challenging career which constantly keeps you on your toes, and expands your knowledge exponentially, with almost no financial reward beyond a factory worker, with no job security, and when you do gain great victories and innovate, no one will remember beyond a few months, because what you did then, everyone is doing now, then IT is for you!!!

Okay, because that sounds bitter, I'll leave this with any wannabe IT person. It's simple but, worth keeping in your mind. As an IT person you will constantly be asked to fix things. In all things techy, in order for them to work you must have two things. Power and data. Know both. Where they both come from and how they matriculate through the system. If you do, then you can identify the source of every problem.

Fred Burroughs said...

Humanities majors != science majors, Cappy. It's thinking like this that is (partly) responsible for scientists being 95% left-wing. It's true that science doesn't pay well, but maybe if more non-leftists went to grad school and became scientists we wouldn't be facing such a monolithically left-wing scientific establishment selling us phony problems. Maybe if more ordinary people became scientists instead of elitists, it wouldn't be so politically charged.

And yes, I'm putting my money where my mouth is. When I graduate next year, I could make much more money using my programming skills in a software job but I am instead going to grad school to get my PhD in physics.

Anonymous said...

Nothing wrong with entymology... just gotta figure out how to feed yourself first :) . Then indulge in all sorts of crazy ideas :) .