Michael Bloomberg didn't become a billionaire by being impractical. The former mayor of New York City spoke on Monday at a Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) meeting in the Big Apple, where he gave some unexpected career advice. Bloomberg advised that graduates consider becoming a plumber over going to college. But if you're a parent, don't start creating your anti-Bloomberg protest sign just yet. If you hear him out, his reasoning is actually pretty sound, given the nature of our workforce and economy today.
Believe it or not, unclogging pipes could be the new investment banking; technology is making unglamorous jobs more and more lucrative.
At the annual meeting for financial industry trade group SIFMA, Bloomberg once again played the part of practical guidance counselor, a role he's familiar with after he suggested plumbing as a career to students last May. This time, he told parents to "think long and hard" about their kids' career choices, particularly if their kids are not so academically inclined, and that means considering options like plumbing.
If he's not going to go to a great school and he's not super smart academically, but is smart in terms of dealing with people and that sort of thing, being a plumber is a great job because you have pricing power, you have an enormous skill set.
In fact, even if your kid is faced with the option of becoming a plumber or going to Harvard, arguably the most prestigious school in the world, he should stop to do the math first. He could be paying $50,000 to $60,000 a year to attend the Ivy League university or he could be making that much each year as a plumber's apprentice. And yeah, while the lack of a college degree would prevent one from entering a large number of industries and fields, if you were to stick to plumbing, you could build a tremendously successful business.
Bloomberg cited the father of one of his employees, who never went to college and heads a successful plumbing business, saying, "He's got six plumbers working for him, he's a scratch golfer, he goes around playing golf courses I only dream about."
Bloomberg's friend is not an outlier, either. There is concrete reasoning behind this kind of success. In an age where technology has displaced countless jobs that used to be manned by humans, there are some jobs that just cannot be outsourced, and they don't usually require a college degree. These are usually the ones that few people grow up dreaming of doing, but the practical needs they serve make the payout pretty handsome, even if the job is anything but. Here are four jobs besides plumbing that Bloomberg might also endorse.
This profession may have spawned the expression, "It's a dirty job, but someone's gotta do it." Collecting heaps of trash bags containing rotten food and God knows what may sound far less appealing than, say, handling PR for a fashion client, but the former can make as much as $60,000 a year while the latter requires a college education and can often start in the $20,000s.
Cleaning out portable toilets is not only horrifically disgusting, but it can also be highly hazardous to one's health. Cleaners must use a vacuum wand to suck up all the waste into a tank and wipe down all surfaces that may have been soiled. On average, cleaners tackle 10 to 60 porta-potties a day, and the daily exposure to human waste can also expose them to possible diseases. Luckily, they take home an average of $50,000 a year.
This one's a bit out there, literally, as the job takes place in the frigid Alaskan waters. As made famous by the Discovery Channel's The Deadliest Catch, crab fishing has consistently topped the list as the most lethal profession in America. It requires long hours on rough waters in below-freezing temperatures. Since the crab season is only about three months, fisherman have to catch as many as they can during that window. The $50,000 check they can take home for three months of work probably makes it all worthwhile.
Like portable toilet cleaners, sewer inspectors literally make a living by surrounding themselves with fecal matter all day long. What makes this job even tougher is the prospect of rats, roaches, and the occasional dead body. But as long as you follow CDC guidelines, you'll be safe and most likely get used to the smell. And you'll take home an average salary of $47,000.
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