to get hired, will I have to take a job outside my field?

A reader writes:

I’ve been told by some professionals in my field that in order for me to get hired in this tight job market I would have to take a position that I don’t want. My field is environmental science, and they have suggested that I try similar fields such as environmental health, public health, and other similar fields.

Although I am qualified for these positions, I don’t have that great of an interest to actually work in these fields. I was advised to apply for positions and then work my way into what I really want to do once I get my foot in the door.

I don’t know if this is the best advice because I don’t want to be stuck doing something I don’t like for a year or two, but I do desperately need to get a job in my field even if it is not what I want to study. Am I just being a prima donna? Should I suck it up and branch out more, or is this a terrible idea? What do you think?

I get versions of this question a lot, and the answer always comes down to two factors:

1. Realistically, what are your job prospects? What signals are you getting about your prospects for getting the jobs you want? Are you getting lots of interviews and second interviews and hearing that the decision was close but they ultimately went with someone else? If so, it’s not unreasonable to think that you’re a strong candidate with a good chance of getting an offer reasonably soon. But if you’re not — if you’re not getting very far in employers’ hiring processes, or even getting many interviews at all, then those are signals that you — for whatever reason — aren’t viewed as an especially strong candidate for those jobs. If that’s the case, it makes sense to be realistic and look at what other options you have.

2. What’s your financial situation? How quickly do you need to take a job? Are you in a financial position that allows you to wait many months more? Or is your situation becoming increasingly dire? If the former, you obviously have more flexibility (although you should also factor in that the longer you’re unemployed, the weaker your candidacy might become). If the latter, then your finances might dictate that you be willing to work outside your field, whether that appeals to you or not (since paying your bills trumps job satisfaction).

And assuming you’re not in a position to wait indefinitely, when will things become more urgent? It’s helpful to figure out things like, “I can wait and see what happens for the next four months, but if I’m not getting multiple serious bites by July, I’m going to be more flexible about what positions I’ll apply for because I don’t want to eat into my savings much beyond November.”

In other words, you can’t make these decisions based strictly on what type of work does and doesn’t interest you, and how far outside your field you are and aren’t willing to go. You need to make them based on a realistic — brutally realistic, I’d say — assessment of what your prospects are in the current market, how many options you have, and how long those options will support you.

{ 64 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    How does this advice interact with the post a few days ago about trying to branch out into making green widgets when you are an expert at brown widgets? (In other words, having the necessary skills and qualifications but lacking the direct experience.) For me, this is a constant struggle in job searching.

  2. The IT Manager*

    stuck doing something I don’t like for a year or two

    The only thing I have to add is that taking a job in another area isn’t forever, but a year or two seems awful short time. You should consider that the time in the area you’re not interested in might be more like 3 or more years.

    1. Tara*

      Also, be aware that the more time you spend working in something outside of #ChosenField, the harder it will be to become a strong applicant for jobs in #ChosenField because employers are likely to assume that because you recently spent X years doing #NotChosenField work, your skill level in #ChosenField isn’t up to date.

    2. Chinook*

      I can understand not taking a job you don’t like but don’t forget Allison point#2 – sometimes you have to take a job to pay the bills for a few years until the economy shifts. If you are being told that a similar field may help, that is so much better than “just any job.” At the very least, it shows a willingness to be flexible and to keep a toe in your field and this can even be spun in a cover letter to be an advantage.

      I know that no one like to do what they don’t like, but sometimes being a responsible adult means sucking it up and moving forward.

      1. Alicia*

        Great point about sucking it up for the time being. I am a rexent grad (PhD in natural sciences) and while I would love to be in my exact field of expertise I had to broaden my search to a more general chemist. I am sure the skills I learn will be helpful in the future so it isnt a complete wash but I had to suck up the fact that I only ever had part-time or summer jobs and I needed to pay the bills. Finances matter and so now I am ensuring my nest egg/emergency fund is enough to let me be choosy when the next job search starts up.

  3. AnotherAlison*

    While I’m not in environmental science, I did notice 3 linkedin job postings for environmental scientists (3 experience levels) at a local competitor this week (I rechecked, and yes, it’s true).

    Of course a specific field like this is not going to have as many openings as say, accounting, when every company has finances to manage, but being somewhat adjacent to the OP’s field, I find it hard to believe there’s *nothing* out there.

    I wonder if it’s a case of not having geographic flexibility, as well.

    1. LouG*

      I’m in environmental science, and the field is extremely broad. A lot of jobs with the title Environmental Scientist are really looking for environmental engineers/geologists, in my experience. Especially in large cities. The OP mentions she is also qualified for environmental and public health position, so I would be curious to know what her background is in.

      1. OP*

        Hi, I am the OP. My background is in environmental science and policy. During undergrad I focused mainly on environmental economics and environmental policy. I also participated in an marine biology internship for 6 months to gain research experience.

        1. EM*

          Okay, that makes sense. I responded separately below. The places that are hiring are hiring scientists and engineer in technical positions. I think generally policy jobs in any field are difficult to get unless you know someone. My sister finally got a communications/policy job as a political appointee after working in various political and quasi-communications jobs for about 5 years. With a policy background, you may be better off looking at regulatory agencies, state and federal, for positions.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            I think this is a case where the taking a job you don’t love makes sense. . .

            The 3 jobs I mentioned are technical positions. (I work for an engineering & construction firm. The competitor I refer to has an environmental group, and these are env sci jobs, not env engr jobs.) If you could take a technical job there, although it isn’t clear to me if the OP is qualified for those (dual majors – econ & env sci?), you could transition into a more policy-oriented role in their consulting group.

            1. Rana*

              Yes – as an outsider (so ignore if this is silly) – it seems to me that it would be easier to go from a technical job to a policy-focused one than vice versa; knowledge of in-field work can be useful in policy making, but I’m not sure if the reverse is true. (It may well be, but, as I said, not my particular field.)

              1. Anonymous*

                Agreed. At least within climate science, I know a number of scientists who have become prominent policy people as they gained experience. Policy wonks have a harder time gaining the math/physics/chemistry background needed to be at the forefront of current research.

        2. Zahra*

          Food for thought: A company in my region specializes in “social and environmental impact management in the context of large international infrastructure projects such as those found in the mining and oil & gas industries”. (Direct quote from their website)

          Would that be in your field (or close enough)? If so, it may be an avenue you have not explored yet.

  4. Toni Stark ` Stark Enterprise*

    Working outside of you area isn’t always bad and may benefit you. I’m in IT now and in a very good position for a few reasons. I didn’t start in IT though. I started in customer service, then graphic design (this was all at the same company/internal positions). They asked me to apply for one of the IT positions and I was skeptical (even though I am pursuing a B.S. in Computer Science.) They said they would train me on what I needed to know but they said I had a unique skill set. I am now learning the mobile provisioning side of the house but being asked to join in on some pretty cool design projects for our organization as well as coming up with end user verbiage for customers. 11 years ago, when I was answering phones, I would never have thought I’d be where I am now. Make the best of it; never know what you might learn along the way.

    1. Chinook*

      I agree with Toni that there can be unforseen circumstances to working outside your field if you have right attitude. I trained as a teacher and loved it but the provincial budget has made it difficult for all of us certified teachers in Alberta to be hired. So, I have worked as an admin assistant for years. In that time I have created presentations for colleagues and become a resource for how to use various programs all because of my training and experience in educational theory and techniques. Basically, some companies are learning the value of having an on-site trainer when it never crossed their mind before.

      Do I wish I was back in the classroom? Absolutely! I still tutor and monitor teacher job postings. And now, when the market shifts, I can show that I will bring real life circumstances to the classroom to make up for a lack of current experiences. Is it ideal? No but complaints about it won’t change the reality.

      1. Toni Stark ` Stark Enterprise*

        I agree, it isn’t a bad idea to look at other options. You have to know your market and what works but don’t count anything out just yet. Being able to use the Adobe Creative suite in my sleep has opened many doors for me thanks to my previous position that I held for 7 years.

      2. Chriama*

        Go Alberta!

        I know this is off-topic but I’m from Calgary and I just want to give a shout-out to my Canadian peeps :)

        1. Canuck*

          Go BC!

          Canucks vs. Flames today! Too bad you had to trade Iggy – as much as I detest the Flames, I always liked him. Great player, full of class too. I hope he re-signs in the off-season and retires a Flame.

          Sorry for the thread hijack, but had to jump in :)

  5. Coastsider*

    I can relate to this question – when I got my environmental science masters degree in the 90’s I was having a tough time finding a job. It was era of the dotcom boom, so everyone told me to look for a tech job. After months of temp work and fruitless interviews, I was seriously considering it. Luckily, volunteering at a conference got me some connections that I was able to turn into a consulting job doing what I wanted.
    It’s a tough field to get into now – there are more programs out there that offer a environmental related major and so more people to compete with. When I talk to graduates that want to work in the area I’m in (corporate sustainability), I tell them not to try and get the perfect job right away. Look for a position that offers even a little of what you want, and try to get the sense if there is more opportunity to grow/expand the role once you’re in the door. You’ve got a long career ahead of you and any experience you put on your resume is valuable. Besides, I’ve learned that, in general, more who work with, rather than what you do, that makes a job worthwhile.

  6. JR*

    For me, I got a job at an office that was completely unrelated field that I did my Masters in. I was mostly just happy to be young and have a good job/salary. Few years later a position opened up in the same office for a Librarian and they hired me right away (I did an amazing job in my first few years even though it was a lot of grunt work). I was just lucky enough to be working in a job that had positions that I did my Masters in, but yeah, sometimes you do have to take an unrelated job to get ahead. It’s tough market out there. I’d say about 80% of my classmates are unemployed, mostly because they refuse to take a mundate office job to get some sort of experience under their belt.

  7. littlemoose*

    To the OP – it might be helpful for you to concentrate more on what type of day-to-day job duties you are looking for, because I think that has a lot to do with job satisfaction. If you like research, you can look for a research-type job in the related fields you mentioned. If you want to be out in the field doing stuff or doing experiments in a lab, look for those types of jobs in your related fields. You may be able to maintain some job satisfaction if you ensure the jobs you apply for are the kind of day-to-day work that fits for you, even if the field is not ideal. I think that also will help build some experience in doing the type of daily work you want that may eventually translate to your preferred field. Alison is right that your decision hinges on how long you can wait and your financial situation, but personally I think you can get a lot of experience and maybe discover a niche or interest by branching out to related fields. And she is also right that, unfortunately, staying unemployed longer is not good for your candidacy.

  8. Chriama*

    OP, I feel your pain.
    I do think you need to take a realistic assessment of your current situation and the advice other people are giving you. Are they people you trust? Does their career history match your desired trajectory?

    Also, maybe you aren’t considering the right alternatives.
    I’m looking for internships right now and even though I’m in business, I’m in information systems and it’s tough to find internships that aren’t accounting/finance/marketing/hr. I’m interested in being a business analyst or involved with project management, but the learning curve for most of that stuff is generally longer than 4 months, and the few consulting internships are very competitive. So I’m looking at IT support. It’s not quite requirements gathering and systems analysis like I really want, but it puts me in contact with both people and technology, and it’s better work experience than plain old administrative support.

    Consider what aspects of the job interest you and identify fields that will offer you the same experience, if not the same content.

    Also: have you worked on your resume and cover letter?

  9. Christa*

    I can totally relate to you since I too come from an environmental science background. And while, I was really lucky, and landed two great interviews after graduation through just sheer luck and heavily investing in networking opportunities, I realized I had to be practical about where I stood financially. In truth, environmental science remains a field where if you want to earn a decent paycheck on your own, you usually have to sell your soul to the gas and oil company (no offense to anyone who does, but most environmental science majors tend to be idealistic and want to work against big oil and coal). One company I interviewed with had a starting salary ~30K, and I talked with the alumni who helped me get the interview and she said during her 4 years she had to push hard for her pay raises. She was leaving for a Masters since she didn’t see herself going far within the company.

    I currently work as GIS analyst for a government contractor, and in my office, I have met several people from the environmental science field. I think a lot of us there just appreciate having a job in the current economy, and in truth, all of us are learning some great new skills and experiences that could definitely be passed on to other fields if and when we choose to leave. I know I myself am sincerely grateful that the basic GIS I learned through environmental science granted me a great job these past 2.5 years, and while, I can bemoan the fact that work we do does not really address environmental issues at all, I do appreciate the years of experience I have gained. In fact, I am taking steps towards my career goals in environmental science, and soon will be leaving my job for law school.
    Alison has given some great advice. It’s never about the destination, but how you get there. I think you will be able to find your path in environmental science, but just be realistic about your goals. Good luck!

  10. Leslie J.*

    I totally see Alison’s point, and the questions she said to ask yourself are all good ones. That said, I hope you hold out for as long as possible before taking a job that you don’t really want. It’s been my experience that your next job will look an awful lot like your last one, so fight for what you really want to do. Job satisfaction is everything it’s held up to be.

  11. Abby*

    Hi OP–

    I’m in environmental policy and I can totally sympathize. It’s a *tough* field and the jobs are few and far between. I’ve gotten incredibly lucky, but this position (like others I’ve held) is grant-dependent and so somewhat unsteady. A master’s is nearly a requirement, and many policy positions want a PhD. Location plays a big factor in job availability, too. I had to move to get my current job and may need to move again in order to find a more senior position.

    Alison, is there a way I can get in touch with the OP without having to post my email address here on the site? I’d love to help if I can.

  12. The IT Manager*

    I’m going to quote Jackie quoting her boss from the “what’s the best career advice…” post

    Figure out what tasks you love and what tasks you hate. Be specific. When searching for a new job, make sure the day-to-day will include much of what you love and little of what you hate. It’s the daily stuff that can eat away at you, regardless of how meaningful your work or important your “mission” at work.

    I though it was great advice and seems to be relevent to this question.

    1. Manda*

      See, this is frustrating. I feel like the only jobs I might have a shot at are customer service jobs because I have a lot of retail experience. But I’m tired of dealing with people and I hate being on the phone. I’m trying to get away from that.

      1. The IT Manager*

        This advice does not recommend that you look for job interacting with the public then because you’ll remain unhappy. You probably can’t avoid dealing with any people, but it’s probably better if its your co-workers rather than the public/customers.

        1. Manda*

          I just feel like that might be the only way to get in somewhere, since it’s what I’m most familiar with. But I know I’d be miserable. It’s jobs I have some experience doing vs. jobs I’d be happier doing but less likely to get hired for. I can handle covering the receptionist’s lunch break, or occasional calls from clients, but I do not want to be on the phone often. I might just have to suck it up though. Sometimes it’s tough to gauge from an ad how much the job involves being on the phone and then I hem and haw about whether to even apply.

      2. Rana*

        I understand what Manda’s getting at, though. It’s fairly easy for me to get teaching based jobs, because that’s pretty much what I did most during the last decade, but I am BURNT OUT on teaching and never want to do it again. So it’s easy to say that I should avoid jobs that expect me to teach, but not so easy to convince people that I, with all that teaching experience and not much outside it, am a good candidate for non-teaching jobs. (Plus then there’s the question of why I worked for so long doing something I disliked.)

        1. Lindsay*

          I think the advice can still hold relevance.

          Did you love developing lesson plans and content but hate the actual teaching part? Then you could branch out and look at companies like SuperDuper* (I know they do SLP materials, not sure about general education). Did you like teaching, but not having 30 kids in each classroom? Look into some high paid tutoring companies. Like working with kids but not so much the teaching part? Organizations like the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club hire people in youth development.

          A strong cover letter and networking could easily convince someone you would be a good fit for any of those jobs, and I think most people understand being burnt out on teaching after awhile.

          Obviously, transitioning into something completely not related would be more difficult – it would be much harder to convince someone to hire you as a project manager something than one of the jobs above, but I don’t think that is what the advice is saying to try to do anyway.

          1. Rana*

            Heh. I liked researching new subjects and designing projects; dealing with students in any way (for all but the most motivated students) was pretty unpleasant by the end. So, not so much teaching, as research and writing. But I knew that already; I went to grad school for the research opportunities, and to avoid teaching as much as possible, and got stuck with the teaching anyway.

            But I get your point.

  13. Christine*

    I can relate to this as well, although I’m in social work. I took the direct practice track in my MSW program, but quickly found out how hard it would be for me to find a job because 1) I didn’t have my license in-hand for several months (which is required to practice legally) and 2) I can’t drive. Both severely limited my options until I finally landed something that wasn’t *true* social work, but it was closely related and seemed to fit well given my transportation limitations.

    (FTR, I ended up getting laid off just 10 months later; haven’t had a social work job ever since).

  14. Cathy*

    How many people reading this are working in “your field” as defined by your college degree?

    I ask because I see this idea from new grads that you’ll get a degree and then work on something closely related to it, but I don’t think the real world works that way and this is not something new, nor is it related to the current economy.

    I’ll start. I graduated in 1985 with a degree in Mathematical Sciences. My career has mostly been in software engineering and management of engineers, so technically I’m not in “my field” but somewhat close. One of my friends got his PhD in Physics and runs a business building optical elements. Amongst our old college gang, he and I are the only ones even close to what we studied. The humanities majors (like Poli Sci, History, English) tend to have the least related work.

    1. Darcie*

      Thanks for your comment! I’m graduating with a math degree this June, and trying to figure out what comes next is really daunting. I’ve come around to the point of view that I might end up in software, even though my degree is in cryptography.

    2. Dan*

      Wiki says that mathematical sciences is a really broad discipline that encompasses many small fields :)

      But I have an MS in a mathematical sciences discipline, and am directly employed in the field.

      One thing I mentioned to my dad the other day is that I when I was younger, I got excited when companies were recruiting “all majors” at career fairs. I thought it was awesome that they had a little something for everybody.

      And then I found out that those companies hired all majors because they didn’t care what you studied — you were going to be in sales or marketing or whatever, and it just didn’t matter.

      1. Cathy*

        My diploma actually says “Mathematical Sciences”, so I wasn’t just giving a generic identification. In my case it means I know some about operations research, some about probability and statistics and quite a lot about physics.

    3. The IT Manager*

      Great question. I think maybe Alison should make this questions a separate post and then we can compare how far from their degrees peoples careers are.

      I’m not far at all. I have a computer science undergrad and IT-Info Security Masters, and I am a software development Project Manager. But it worth noting that my mid 90s comp sci degree was completely computer programming focussed, and I graduated knowing I didn’t want to be a programmer. I was in the military which completely skews my career path, but it led to me an opportunity (because I did a tiny bit of project management in the military) to this job as a SW dev project manager.

      I would not call it my dream job (which would be network operations or security), but I wonder if my dream job is over idealized since I have actually liked this job since I started a year ago and I seem to be good at it.

      1. Jamie*

        Liking something you’re good at and being able to make a living…you are way ahead of the game. I think that’s great – a lot of people would give anything for that.

        But then I’m a cynic and don’t believe the dream job exists any more than I believe a perfect person exists…it’s just finding someone (0r some job) where your crap and quirks co-exist with their crap and quirks without too much friction…and you’re happier more often than not.

    4. Jesicka309*

      I have a media degree, and I work for a TV Station. You would think that’s a pretty good match up, but it’s not, because I work scheduling commercials on TV (ugh data entry and internal sales).
      Best of all, I get to see people doing my ideal job from a distance (integrated marketing). And applying internally for a transfer doesn’t work as everyone in my dept has a comms degree, so it’s nothing special, and our dept isn’t known for doing creative or strategic work.
      Sometimes you have to take a job outside of your field…but just be careful that the job you take doesn’t lock the path back to your field, or you’ll have a mountain of regrets.

    5. Lorena*

      My degree is in English/Communications, and I worked in the field (television) for over 20 years. I walked away so I could have a more predictable schedule and stop doing cross-country moves.

      And it was the biggest mistake of my life, bar none. I haven’t had a really happy day at work since, because at the end of the day, it’s just paper-pushing. Yes, I have looked at lots of other career paths, but once you have done what you were born to do, nothing else will do.

    6. AL Lo*

      I graduated with my Bachelors in Theatre Arts and a MFA in Producing, and I currently work as the Producing Director of a small professional theatre company and a Productiom/Program Manager at a larger community arts organization.

      I’m using my degrees, but I can sympathize with the OP’s struggle — my passion lies in the professional arts world, not community. I love what community arts orgs do, and I fully know the value in providing educational opportunities to kids and adults, but what drives me is working with other arts professionals in what we create. I’m not ashamed of my work at the larger organization, but when I’m asked what I do, I always respond first with my work for the smaller organization, because that’s what defines my career goals more accurately. Both my jobs focus a little more on Production Management than Producing, but the two disciplines overlap in many ways, so it’s mostly an issue of semantics.

      I know I’m lucky — most of my undergrad classmates aren’t working in the arts, although most of my grad school classmates are working in our field — but even though I use my degrees on a daily basis, I still struggle at times with the more specific niche.

      1. glennis*

        I began my career in theatre production and branched into event management and then venue management, with a strong association with community arts. Now I’m losing my job in venue management due to a funding crisis, and I’m finding it difficult to get anything at all, but I’d love to work in community arts. I’m finding it’s kind of damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t – venue management is a very small field, and so is community arts. At my age (over 50) now I’ve decided to settle for pretty much anything I can get for the final part of my career – and even THAT’s feeling impossible at times.

        1. AL Lo*

          People often tell me that if I ever want to shift paths, I could become a wedding planner. True, but I’m not sure I want to deal with brides for a living!

          The arts as an industry tends to be very much about who you know, and even in different disciplines, in most cities, it tends to be a fairly tight community. Once you break it down by discipline, it seems that everyone has worked with everyone else at some point. That’s not quite the case when you compare the sector as a whole (theatre professionals haven’t necessarily worked with all of the children’s music professionals, for instance — but still, many of them have worked together), but it’s still not an industry in which you can afford to burn bridges.

          It’s also a case of not becoming too good at what you don’t want to be identified with, since arts admin/producing skills are so transferable within disciplines. I worked in children’s theatre for a number of years in high school and college, and it became “my thing,” even though I totally didn’t want it to be my (only) thing. There were people who kept pigeon-holing me there — and now I work at an organization that serves ages 4 through adult. It’s easier to distance myself now, though, since I don’t teach or work directly with the kids in my org; I work on the arts admin side, so there’s less of an association that I work in children’s arts.

    7. Rana*

      Ph.D. in history here, and I’m working as an indexer and editor (which usually are preceded by work in either English or library sciences). I’d love to do more research work – it was the part of academic work I enjoyed most – and more writing, but those are harder to do freelance.

      I’ve pretty much given up on being employed by someone else in any of these fields, so I do what will pay the bills and take advantage of the skills I do have, particularly my strengths in analysis and writing assessment.

      (In between, it was years and years of adjunct teaching, which mostly served to demonstrate to me what the difference between enjoying your work and being good at your work looks like.)

  15. EM*

    I am an environmental scientist and I have a job in the field. My very small company (less than 50 employees) has hired five people since the beginning of the year, mostly entry level positions. Have you been having trouble finding environmental scientist positions open in your area? I do know that jobs in this field tend to be more abundant in larger cities, and cities where the EPA or various state agencies (such as state departments of transportation or the state EPA) are headquartered.

    Also keep in mind that the work you will likely be doing as an entry level environmental scientist will be boots-on-the-ground fieldwork, and sometimes that fieldwork is pretty crappy. I really don’t think you need to look to the healthcare field to find jobs, because there are jobs in the environmental field. Yeah, it’s not as easy to get a job in the field as it once was, but that’s true for every industry.

  16. Kou*

    As someone in public health, I can’t say there are very good prospects that you can “just take” a job in this field as an interim for your own. Public health is stretched thin to breaking and has had major cutbacks over the entire country, state and federal levels. Those of us in the industry are worried about job security, or losing their jobs and frantically struggling to find new ones. In fact, I actually ended up working for the parks service for a while during the deepest pit of the recession because there weren’t even openings in my field, let alone actual opportunities.

    So the generic advice here, yes. The specific field they’re directing you to, probably not.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I’m glad you said that. A friend of mine is trying to move from urban planning to public health (thinking of going back for a second masters), and I thought it might not be her best idea, but I didn’t have real info.

      1. RM*

        My background is public health as well, and just want to add that there are many jobs for people with public health that are not “public” in the sense of government or nonprofit. Many pharma, biotechs and private sector companies hire MPHs and PHds in public health. Either to run their charitable giving or health programs or for epidemiology and biostats. If you have a strong background in either of those you can make a lot of money in big pharma.

        1. Kou*

          They are more or less the only options you’ll have right now, but there are still not enough of those openings at the moment for this to be an easy career switch. I’ve never eliminated private sector from my options and I haven’t had any better luck than the people I know who are only interested in philanthropy, though I suppose I’ve thrown out a few more applications than they have.

      2. Kou*

        I can’t really say whether I would or would not recommend it. If you want to do it, do it, but if you think (as OP’s friends suggest) that you can just pop over into it as a backup, that’s not a great idea. And depending on where you are and what you do, you’ll find a huge array of opinions on whether or not an MPH/MSPH is really a door opener on its own or not.

  17. short geologist*

    As others have mentioned, most entry-level environmental science jobs will be have a fieldwork component. If you’ve had a few basic science courses (chemistry, ecology), you can start there and move up into more policy-based positions. I had a friend who did this. If your class work was entirely policy-based, you may be better off trying for an internship or grunt work with an advocacy group or political campaign – totally separate career path.

  18. EngineerGirl*

    There is a huge difference taking a job in a related field Vs outside your field. In a saturated market it may be necessary to take a job in a related field, or in an undesirable geographic area, etc. I’m saying this as someone who took a job in my 2nd choice industry and had to move 3000 miles.
    Work hard, develop a good reputation, network like crazy. These things will get you closer to the job you want.

  19. Ivan*

    It may be less than ideal but at the end of the day some experience in a related field is better than no experience at all. If you’ve had absolutely no luck getting your foot in the door after a while I don’t see how you even have much of a choice.

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