If the constant downsizing in the news-media industry hasn't already convinced you to pick something else to do with your life, a new study shows the worst "return on investment" for a four-year degree is a job in journalism. It takes journalists nearly 32 years to pay off their college loans.
With a median salary of only $37,090 and college costs of $52,596, it would take today's newly-degreed journalist 31.84 years to pay off a student loan at 5% interest, according to Bankrate.com.
Add the insecurity and shame associated with the reporting life, and you've got a recipe for a life of intolerable misery and want. But it doesn't have to be that way. Journalism is dead, anyway—news is created by blogs and NSA leakers and press releases. Why not do something exciting and get rich in the process?
Forbes notes that the 25 colleges with the best return on investment includes a pair of state maritime schools.
One is SUNY Maritime College, founded in 1874 and based in the Bronx, N.Y. It has 1,700 undergraduates and military service is not mandatory for grads. The 30-year ROI for in-staters is a hefty $1,586,000 and for out-of staters, $1,552,000. On its website, the school boasts that nearly 100% of its alums find employment post-graduation. Massachusetts Maritime Academy, which dates back to 1891, is also in the top 25. As at SUNY Maritime, students are not required to join the military on graduation. Based in Buzzards Bay, Mass., it has 1,100 undergraduates, known as cadets. The 30-year ROI for in-staters is $1,316,000 and for out-of-staters, $1,259,000.
The Bronx is about the last affordable place in New York City! Here is a hot tip for today's high school grad: Enroll at SUNY Maritime, get a cheap apartment in the Bronx, and in four years you'll be sailing the Ocean Blue and making $59,000 a year right out of school. Your return on investment is estimated at $1,586,000 over 30 years.
Compare that to a starting salary of just $30,000 for a lowly journalist, and that's only for the lucky few who find a media job at all.
Journalists are also terrible at writing, compared to sailors. Consider a famous journalist who writes books: Bob Woodward. Even though English is reportedly his native language, he doesn't know how to use it at all. He has no sense of humor and no idea how humans function. (Bob Woodward was a "naval intelligence officer," while good writers would've been in the Merchant Marine, like Ralph Ellison, Allen Ginsburg, Jack Kerouac, Alex Haley, Lenny Bruce, Woody Guthrie, Langston Hughes, Mark Twain and so many other famous writers.)
Other elite journalists write books about an old guy they occasionally visited to get a book deal, or how they used to be crack addicts, or whatever. This is not the path to literary greatness. Most don't even earn back their advance from these unwanted books. Books! Why do journalists always want to write books? Because they hope to quit journalism! It's a bad career.
Sailors, however, are great writers and also do something useful for work. They know about things! They visit exotic ports and bring home weird diseases. Joseph Conrad worked the maritime trade, and he was in his 20s before he learned English. And he was (and still is) just about the best writer in the English language. (He was also fluent in French, and could get by with just about everything else: German, Greek, Latin, etc.)
Herman Melville took to the seas, and that's where his "life began." He caused political trouble with the Christian missionaries in Hawaii, went native with the local girls on Polynesian islands, and learned firsthand the horrors of the whale trade. When he finally settled in New York again, he had a trove of experience and characters to populate his tales while he taught soft city college kids. He was a pretty good writer, too.
And then there was America's greatest chronicler of adventures upon land or sea, Jack London of San Francisco and Oakland and Alameda and Glen Ellen. London always wanted to write, but he wisely (accidentally) flunked out of Berkeley and couldn't make much headway with his political blogging. So he took to the seas, worked in Alaska, became a hobo, took over a seafood shop from an "oyster pirate," traveled the world, drank with his fellow sailors and longshoremen, and wrote stories that kids will be reading for as long as adventure still seduces the human soul.
Do you know what Jack London's beautiful, sleek and custom-built sailing boat was named, when he took possession of it at a San Francisco boat yard and took it to dock across the Bay at Alameda? The Snark.
The Snark. Let that be a lesson! Do not begin a terrible career of barely re-framing other content for some blog network and thinking you are practicing "snark," which everyone quit doing years ago anyway. Keep your snark on the sea, where it belongs, where you can earn so much money while being a real human out in the world. Enroll at a maritime college today!
(This will all be updated in a few years to "space maritime college," which is even better.)
[Top photo by Getty Images.]