Today's Job Market--how Do You Acquire a Good Paying Office Job?

Updated on July 26, 2015
M.C. asks from Ann Arbor, MI
21 answers

I know that this a very broad question, but maybe someone who is more plugged into the work force can give us some insight into today's job market. Here's the gist:

My daughter should be a junior in college next month. At this point, I do not know if she is going back to the actual college next month for classes. She has completed all of her prerequisites in math, English, and science at a community college. For years, she has been leaning toward a field in allied health. During the past two years, she has job shadowed a nurse, mammography tech, and a dental hygienist. Everything was going fine, so I thought.

Yesterday, she called me sobbing that she simply cannot see herself doing a job in any type of allied health field. She has to sign up for college like right now and doesn't know what she wants to do. She loves the thought of going back and living at her college apartment though...... . BUT.... she told me: "Mom, I need to be 100% honest with you. I cannot live this lie anymore. I absolutely hate school. I hate studying and taking tests I don't know how much longer I can keep going to school, but I love living up at my college apartment." So, what happens now?

Moms, I am at a loss. I didn't know what to tell her. I am a little shocked. But, I am not disappointed or angry. I am RELIEVED that she is no longer keeping this bottled up inside of her for one. I think it is better to know now then later. How we move forward is the big question. My daughter does understand that in order to make a good living, she needs some type of education or on-the-job training. The reason our family encouraged her to look into allied health careers was because there are many job opportunities in demand and most of our family works in some type of allied health field. Now that she has got this out in the open, it is time to move forward.

My daughter really wants a job working in an office. She loves computers and paperwork. A few years ago, she had an office job during the summer and loved it. The big question is: What office job pays a good salary? I don't think she could handle an accounting, finance, or law program. The only thing that I can think of is paralegal or insurance work. Personally, I have been out of the work force for over a decade, so I don't know what is lucrative and what is not.

Any insight and advice is appreciated.


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answers from Pittsburgh on

She 100% should finish college. Her lifetime earnings and potential to hold a rewarding (emotionally not just financially) job are much higher if she does. I cannot believe she wants to work in an office full time but cannot see herself in school for two more years. She needs to talk to the career counseling office at her school. Otherwise, she has decades of just above minimum wage dead end jobs ahead of her. She will be competing with people with a degree for all the positions which have advancement potential. It is two more years. NOT a big deal when you look at the long term.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Toledo on

Is she planning to take classes this fall? If so, she needs to talk to her advisor. It's probably not necessary for her to be that specific about which job she would like. She should be able to take a computer class, economics, accounting, finance, management, etc. if she wants to work in an office, most majors are going to require an intro class or two in every discipline.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Washington DC on

She needs find out WHAT she wants to do. She needs to go to her counselor and talk with him/her and get to the root of what makes her tick.

If she like computers - maybe she can get a certification in programming or something else. Computer programming pays well - especially Reverse Engineers...that's person who can write code/program and then take it apart and find the errors in it and make it right.

Is her object money or satisfaction? There's a difference. IF she's all about the money?? Then she needs to get her degree or certification in SOMETHING.

Money isn't everything - yeah - it's really nice - but when it comes down to it - if you dread your job every day? You won't be around long enough to enjoy the money you make. She's already figured one part out - that's GREAT mama!!

There is a test she can take with her counselor that will help her make a decision in what she wants to do. I personally would finish my degree in something I LOVE rather than something that I dread.

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I would encourage her to talk to her advisor at school. It might be a good idea for her to take a 13 hour load in the fall of business classes. She might find that she would enjoy school more if she liked what she was studying.

The bottom line - she needs some type of education or training. Have her look into a 2 year degree. Paralegal requires certifications. She can't just say "I'm a paralegal". Same with insurance. Any type of office job is going to want training.

Personally, HR is a great field and has some many components to pick from.

If she really doesn't want to stay in school, she needs to have secured a full time job to pay for her apartment. Have her talk to staffing companies as well. They can also express that training/education is necessary.

Both my kids went through this. Both started college in one degree and graduated with another. Keep talking and please listen to what she is saying. She is very confused because her "plan" is falling apart around her and she doesn't know what to do. Good luck!!!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

I had a very wise professor once who said internships were ok about finding out what you wanted to do but it was WAY more important for finding out what you DIDN'T want to do.
People get this image in their heads about what a job is like and then when the reality sets in (finds out the real job is NOTHING like they imagined it) - it can be a rude shocking scary wake up call.
Your daughter should see her counselor at school and take some aptitude tests.
That's what I did when I washed out of becoming a pharmacist (Organic chemistry culled me out).
I had NO IDEA what I wanted to do.
Started taking intro-to-everything (discovered I could draw but didn't want to make a living with it).
I took an aptitude test and found out that being a mechanic, a mortician and being a computer programmer all took a lot of the same characteristics.
So I took some programming classes and found my passion!
(Funny but I know some programmers who later became morticians - so the aptitude test was really pretty accurate.)
It wasn't without some additional twists.
I excelled at scientific programming BUT hated the work that it was applied to, so I transferred schools and became a business programmer.
I got a BS degree for Information Science Management an was a cobol programmer for 15 years.

Since she had an office job a few summers ago, could she go back to that job/company?

6 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Data entry, paper shuffling only pays just above minimum and it always will. Even here which pays above scale our data entry people only make between 9 and 10 depending on how long they have been here.

The thing she needs to realize is if it is easy then she isn't the only one going in that direction so she will be one of millions, that just doesn't command a good wage. There has to be something that limits the employee pool to have a good wage attached. That can be it is is crappiest job on earth, like cleaning out outhouses, or it is something that most don't have the natural ability to do.

So she needs to look at her strengths and consider how those strengths can help her get a unique ish degree.

I love all things math, you can imagine I am not the norm. Logic is my greatest strength and it happens to drive a lot of good paying jobs. I have multiple degrees and college was fun because the hardest parts were things I love to do anyway. I love my job because it is doing something I probably would do for fun anyway.

All office jobs that pay well require a specialized degree. We do pay above the norm but we have never advertised a position in the ten years I have been here, you have to know someone. I think that is kind of the norm for offices, if you can find one that pays well you have to know someone to get a job there.

Not sure if you are going to go back and read this but it almost sounds like she is asking you to let her drop out but still pay for her apartment. If this is where this leads, don't do it! Take it from someone who's kids are in their mid 20s, they have friends who's parents did this and they are still paying the rent. It is a very hard thing to cut off when it becomes obvious the child is never going to stand on their own two feet.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

There are so many office jobs that they are too numerous to count. I have been working in a big, traditional, global business for 15 years and there are still people doing things here who I have no idea what they do. A college degree in just about anything (like a general business degree) will help open doors into businesses - outside of administrative positions (and even those are filled by college grads), most entry-level positions into companies where one can build a career are filled by college grads.

My own career path has been very serendipitous...after college (majored in Communication and English) I worked for a food-service management company for 18 months and then wanted to switch over to something closer to home with better pay and hours as I was a single mom and couldn't do my old hours. I went to a staffing agency, which set me up for interviews for administrative positions with several great companies and a large investment management firm with a suburban office was the best fit for me. I fell into a team where I was able to provide support above and beyond my job description and after 2 years, was recruited to join a reporting and analytics team. I was on that team for 10 years, rising to fairly senior position before taking on a role that focused more on investments for a few years. I recently took a promotion into a client-facing role and earn a 6-figure salary...not a bad career path for a former admin assistant!

Many of my colleagues earn decent livings doing all kinds of things...processing payroll files, servicing clients, basic data management and analytics, etc. Many of the admin assistants I started with moved on to roles in sales, marketing and client services and one completed her MBA and is a very successful investment consultant.

If she needs a break from school, I would suggest that she take a year off and go to a staffing agency to be placed in an entry-level office job. If she likes the environment, she could re-enroll in school next year and work on a degree in business, which will give her exposure to lots of different areas of business without diving too deeply into any of them like a specific degree in accounting, finance, or an MBA would do.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Encourage her to change her major. She needs to talk with an advisor about what she REALLY wants to do. Once she is taking courses based upon her interests instead of courses based upon what she feels she HAS to do, she'll feel better and enjoy them.

So, if she loves officework, perhaps she should consider changing to a business or management major. Regardless, she needs to go and talk with an advisor. It's not uncommon for students to become burned out and realize that their choices was wrong....but dropping out entirely would be regretable, especially when she's SO close to a degree.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

I think that the first order of business is finding out what she actually might want to do as a career, instead of focusing on how much that job would pay. If she can type, has any organizational skills, and can use most computer programs, she should be able to get a temporary office job through Kelly Staffing (or whatever the equivalent is in your area). Once she has done a few temporary jobs at different places (they will put her in different businesses - might be an insurance office one time, a law firm the next, an accounting office next, etc), she can perhaps decide on which field she might want to go into. Of course, all she will be likely doing at any of these places is basic data entry, answering phones, and filing, but she will have the chance to "taste" the environment and perhaps see what other folks with more schooling and training have been able to accomplish in those fields. Once she has a better understanding, she can pursue additional schooling and training in that specific field.

As far as "good paying" office jobs? I think that depends on a combination of luck, schooling, and determination. I work as a senior paralegal at a smaller law firm. I could make more if I worked at a large firm, but I like where I am. I know folks who have less schooling and work in the manufacturing industry who make more than I do. I know folks who work at the post office who make more than I do (and have almost no schooling). I also know attorneys who make less than I do. You cannot equate "good" with "money" in all situations, just like you cannot equate "money" with "happy".

Good luck!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

oh, i too am glad that she's put the brakes on spending college $ on something she HATES!
but, of course, any college courses involve studying and taking tests.
it doesn't sound as if she's settled on any job path yet, so i think you may be jumping the gun in trying to nail down what She Should Do.
college is more than living in a fun apartment. if that's ALL she wants out of it, she needs to rethink that, and go get an entry-level job at an insurance company or other big impersonal sort of firm and work her way up from the mail room.
(are there still mail rooms???)
but you know what i mean. bottom-up.
if she can hack college, just not the health field courses, then she needs to take more general courses with a heavy focus on computer and office management classes. and keep expanding her focus and working with her counselors on seeking out professions that might work for her.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

If she hates college classes, then she should not go back, at least not now. She loves independent living and her friends, of course - who wouldn't? But coursework and perhaps deadlines/studying are not for her. So she was honest, and that's good.

If she has been going to college, or if she has been job shadowing in the health fields because she thinks it pleases her parents or because others have urged her to do so, then she needs to stop that. She's not invested.

I think it's a mistake on your part, however, to make assumptions about the workforce, such as "accounting is hard but paralegal work is easy." People TRAIN for paralegal and insurance work just as they train for accounting and other business programs.

If you're going to invest any money at all, I'd put it toward a good life coach and some aptitude testing to help your daughter discover - with her coach - what she enjoys and what she has natural abilities in. She can get an entry level job in an office, and she can look into taking any needed classes in things like Microsoft Office and other programs she will have to use pretty much anywhere. Sometimes the state's unemployment office sponsors free classes, and so do public libraries on occasion. Otherwise, the local community colleges often have courses - she can take 1 course without enrolling in a degree program IF she thinks she can manage in the college environment. But if she's upset and soured on college right now, then this isn't the right time.

She can make a good salary in any field if she's willing to put in the time to learn the skills. Have her sign up for Monster or other on line job sites and look at the entries for administrative assistant/entry level. She can look at higher paid positions for those with more experience, things she can aim for.

College is not for everyone. She should not apologize to a prospective employer for not completing her program. She can say how much she loves the office environment and mastering new computer skills, and that she learned that health fields are not for her. That doesn't mean she can't have an administrative job in a health care facility - there are tons of administrative assistant jobs there but she can also look at any large company that has a training program or a lot of upward mobility. This could include insurance, banking, software, international business, manufacturing and much more.

It's really important that she feel it's acceptable to her family that she embark on her own path, and that no one looks down on her for loving the office environment. No one in the allied health fields would have as smooth a job if not for some sharp administrative people behind the scenes, keeping the gears turning in a well-oiled machine.

She has to start somewhere. But she seems a bit lost and perhaps a bit lacking in confidence. That's where a seasoned life coach or someone with good experience in HR can help her sort out her skills, wishes, and needs. There are plenty of people who help hone a resume too, to give her a leg up and help her get noticed, but I think your daughter needs a boost to help her interview well and actually snag that good starting job.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

She's at the ideal point for switching up career plans. I realized I didn't want to be a government major anymore late sophomore year of college. I took a journalism class for GE and realized I loved it. Government became my minor and I majored in journalism. She's not too far along to switch her focus.

If she wants to earn a decent living, she needs that degree. Even administrative jobs request degrees now. "Working in an office" is very vague and could mean anything. There are a million paths she could take. I second all of the recommendations that she meet with a counselor at her college for advice and assessments to determine what might be a better path for her to pursue in college.

I wouldn't let her quit now. She's going to regret it later on. Honestly, who LIKES studying and tests? It's hard work, but you have to put in the hard work to achieve your goals.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Lakeland on

If she is so close to finishing then I would have her finish. There are times in life when we are un-happy about jobs, school, etc. but we still need to follow through. If she wants an office job she should consider working in the medical administrative field since she probably won’t need too many more classes.

I’m not sure what the pay is for office jobs, but I think they are few and far between. I have also been out of the work force for almost 10 years, but I see my friends struggling at times to find work.

I do know there is a high demand for skilled labor jobs and most will train and starting pay is usually high (as long as someone is willing to get their hands dirty and travel). These would be physical jobs not office jobs.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I think you should let her take a break and look for a job. It will be hard to find anything that pays well. But she may need to experience this to understand the value of finishing her degree. And working a while may allow her to step back and figure out for herself what she wants to do longer term.

However if she is going to stop going to school she needs to get that job to pay her own rent even if that means working retail and having housemates.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

All good paying jobs whether office or trade requring work, training, schooling, etc. My job for example I had to go through two weeks of training and take a test for a license. I am also required to take classes that have tests to maintain my license. She needs to figure things out on her own at this point in time. If you have supported her in college and she has choosen to leave, not changing majors, she kind of needs to figure out on her own what she wants to do. There are great programs out there for buisness admin or a paralegal but they do involve some sort of training and classes. She may also have to start some where and work her way to the position she wants as alot of offices jobs require atleast a 2-4 year degree.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

If she has completed her many more classes does she need to complete a degree? No matter what she ends up doing if she can say she has completed college on her resume it will help her tremendously. I remember in college I was sick of it...and so were quite a few friends. We did not want to study and were feeling burned out but we stuck with it and slogged through and finished. My brother HATED college and it took him 7 years. He is not good at testing and academics. But he is so thankful he stuck it out and has a degree because after many years of first construction jobs, labor jobs, and then firefighting jobs in Alaska...he went on to become a fire manager and now he is a forest manager with the Forest Service which is a very good job. He would not be qualified without his degree. He never thought when he was younger that he would have such a job so you just never know. Can she apply what classes she has completed towards a degree? If I were her I would meet with a guidance counselor to see what she can do. Perhaps she can complete a degree in Office Administration. Studying and schoolwork are not for everyone but if she can slog though this and get a degree it will really help her in the long run and she will learn more about what kinds of jobs she can get. I realize I am not answering your question properly because I am not sure about how lucrative an office manager job is. I would guess it depends on who you work for.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I agree that she should contact the advisor at school. She may just be burnt out from pursuing this one line. While your family members may love it, it may just be the wrong field for her. She may be more analytical and thrives on the office work she did before. Honestly, "wasting" the money she has spent on medical classes she would not need to pursue some type of business or computer degree is money well spent if it helps her realize what she wants to do. Better to waste a bit of money now than a lifetime of unhappiness doing something that makes you miserable.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Top Admin Assts earn good money, but most that I know have degrees.
"Office jobs" is s vague term.
Corporation have departments: accounts receivable, payable, HR, marketing/advertising, purchasing, legal, credit, customer service, inside sales, telemarketing, sales....good positions in each department require related degrees.
She's making a HUGE mistake letting that degree slide.
Even though it seems unrelated now, a health related degree could boost her chances of success landing, for example, a telemarketing position at a company with a health focus, etc.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

Perhaps a sales position would interest her. Pharmaceutical sales is very lucrative but she will need a degree in something (management, marketing etc).

Your daughter could also look into doing a co-op or internship. That is how I got my foot in the door at a J & J company. I had many positions there that I enjoyed but never heard of prior to working there.

Best of luck. My daughter is a HS senior and is totally stressed trying to find a major. I sympathize with you.☺️

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

She needs to change her major to computer science. It can be really fun and it will help her do the sorts of jobs she might enjoy. Everyone in the world that works with computers have degrees and more degrees if they want good paying jobs.

If she just wants a secretarial job then she can go to the vo-tech or a business school at take classes for about 9-12 months and can get a certification in some sort of specialty. Then maybe she can find a job she likes.

Public health has a lot of branches, can't she look at the office jobs within that field? I know many people who are nursing home admins that have health degrees or case managers or even going to work in a hospital setting. Office work is office work.

If she wants to live in the apartment she either has to work near it or go to school there. She might find a couple of roommates that would pay her each month, enough to pay the rent then she could work and pay the utilities or something, where her portion is a lot less than theirs.

There aren't any rules that say a person looking for a roommate can't simply say I want $XXX.xx per month from a roommate and it not be based on half the rent or one third of the rent or anything. They're renting a room so she can set the price.

But if she's in college housing that's different of course. They set the rate and you have to pay that.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

She needs to get a degree. I have a degree in education, but I work in accounting. I have always had office jobs, and I would have had none of them without a degree-most of my jobs didn't even care what field the degree was in, although my current job has offered me tuition reimbursement if I want to take accounting classes.

Once I had a degree, I signed up with staffing agencies and they hooked me up with jobs.

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