Expanding Parnassah Options: Many Paths to One Destination

Selecting a parnassah, especially as a young woman, can be baffling and nerve-wrecking to say the least!  Some post-seminary girls embrace the historic routes of becoming a secretary or teacher.  But it’s become really difficult to count just on their more limited compensation levels. Some instead study to become therapists, nurses, or accountants, in hope of establishing steady and substantial salaries.  There’s definitely an attraction to certificates that boast peak earnings of six-figures, but these options require years of study and are quite costly as well. 

What profitable employment paths might young people consider beyond the traditional professions?

Note: this article discusses big-picture career categories, not specific niches which are endless and need to be selected on a case-by-case basis.

Professional Salaries Are High and Stable…

With standards of living skyrocketing, many in the frum community, both men and women, are looking for occupations with the likelihood of the highest possible salaries. Although it is expensive and time-consuming to attain professional licensing, a review of median annual earnings data from Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) explains why so many are gravitating to becoming therapists ($95,000), nurses ($82,000), accountants ($80,000) and lawyers ($120,000), etc. In addition to being high paying, requirements for extensive education and licensing create barriers to entry, keeping jobs and salaries relatively stable. Most licensed professionals earn well above the state median wage ($44,000), and following these tried-and-true paths to moderate financial success is tempting to many.

…But Are Costly and Capped

However, frum professionals are also unlikely to make top dollars. Firstly, educational requirements can easily cost tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition and salaries forgone during the study period. And unless they become business owners (via a partnership or opening on their own), most professionals cap out near the median salaries for their professions (i.e., the best nurse doesn’t make much more money than the average nurse). While Accountant Joe and Nurse Sue from Farmingdale may live very well on $165,000, Accountant Yossi and Nurse Shaindy in Lakewood (who probably have much greater expenses) may barely get by.  In fact, should a post-seminary girl need to cut back her hours later on during her child-rearing years, she can be left with student loan payments without the income to pay them down. Although getting professional jobs may be a good parnassah avenue for some, there are multiple other rewarding paths to consider.

Manage Your Way to Growth

The employment category with the highest median pay tracked by the BLS is management ($132,000), and fantastic managers can significantly out-earn even their well-compensated peers easily. Most companies require leaders to guide their employees and projects and pay top dollar to those with the ability to do so. On the other hand, the path and skill sets required for a successful management career aren’t well defined, and many aspiring managers will never get their chance to shine.

While managers need knowledge of their fields of choice (human resources, finance, marketing, warehousing, etc.), and studying about general management can be helpful, realistically, the best way to train as an effective manager is to work for one. Young job hunters may become very successful by joining a growing and well-run company with an eye to rising through the ranks. Good bosses promote smart and eager people, so with hard work and loyalty, you can find yourself on the fast track to a lucrative management career.

Selling Is Hard, But Offers Great Potential

Due to its inclusion of minimum-wage cashiers and retail workers, the sales sector generally is very low paying (median salary of $30,000). But above these entry-level tiers, salespeople are often the best-compensated employees in any field, many earning $150,000 and some much more. Because they may get a share of the income they generate, those who consistently bring in streams of clients will rise to the top pay levels of any company regardless of their ages, education, or connections.

However, this compensation model cuts both ways: if sales slow down, so does the salesperson’s income, making selling a very pressurized way to make a living. While it’s not for everyone, those who learn to sell can earn hundreds of thousands—even millions—without formal education.

Technology: The Future Is Here

Computers are now driving so many aspects of our lives, and those who know how to design and use cutting-edge technologies are in high demand by companies in every sector. For example, over 25% of employees at Goldman Sachs, the famous financial firm, are computer engineers. An Israeli start-up, Lawgeex, designed legal document-review software which in under half a minute achieved more accuracy than a team of lawyers who spent 92 minutes on the effort!

There will be a growing need for technology workers, and many are well compensated with many categories in the BLS earning over $80,000 in median salaries. The industry is very results based —basically, if an employee can get the job done, how they got their knowledge matters little. This attitude makes it possible for smart and energetic technology people to earn six figures at some point even without jumping through the hoops of extensive degrees and licenses.

Tipping the Scales

Picking an appropriate occupation is part of hishtadlus, however, as is well known, there are rich and poor people in every field. There are many ways to pursue a parnassah, but tefillah and zechusim are what truly tip the scales.

Want to dig deeper?

Try these related articles

Career Selection: Answering the Four Questions

Sell What You Know

Helping Your Child Land Their First Job

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