A great career essay will give your reader a balanced idea of what it’s like to train for and enter a particular field. In addition to the usual topics like education, training, and job duties, an interesting and well-researched essay will also cover things like perks, promotion possibilities, eligibility for freelancing or consulting and an overall job forecast.

Getting into the Field

Devote about half of your essay to the education and training needed to break into the selected career field. You’ll find much of this information in the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook. Other good places to look are college websites. From state universities to vocational schools, many institutions list specific classes and curriculum requirements for a degree or certification program. When you write your career essay, give the reader as many specifics as possible. Are there certifications required in addition to a degree? Are some schools or programs particularly dominant in the career field? How long does an apprenticeship last? What does it take to become a journeyman in the field?

Let’s use a specific field as an example. If you’re writing about graphic design as it pertains to advertising, the Occupational Outlook Handbook advises that a degree is usually required, although an associate’s degree might be enough to get you in the door. Your essay could list the pros and cons of a bachelor’s degree versus an associate’s degree, including how much student debt one is likely to accrue while pursuing each type of degree. You could also discuss the percentage of people in the field who work as freelancers or are self-employed–for graphic design, the OOH gives this figure as 25 percent. More freelance work means more freedom for those following this career path, but you should also highlight the potential drawbacks, such as a lack of employer-sponsored health care.

Job Duties in the Field

The second half of the essay should cover the job duties, working conditions and expected earnings/benefits. What types of things does this employee do on a daily or monthly basis? Is specialized equipment used? Is pay based on the number of job bids won or products sold? Describe any types of continuing education required. For example, many colleges and community colleges offer online courses, so an instructor’s continuing education might involve training with software providers like Blackboard, Inc. or Apex Learning.

Be sure and discuss the career trajectory an entry-level participant in the field might follow. For example, in the field of marketing, an entry-level database coordinator might rise to a marketing analyst position, then a customer relationship director or even a vice president title. However, it’s unlikely that a pattern cutter or fabric buyer for a design house would become the creative director or design chief, since these positions are usually filled by someone already recognized in the field. Keep your trajectory practical.

Forecast for the Field

Try to conclude your essay with a job forecast for this career field. Should a person in the field be optimistic about growth in the next few years? For example, someone entering the real estate or construction field might not have good job prospects based on the economic downtown that began in 2007. You can find statistics on job growth and job loss through the Bureau of Labor Statistics, including a top 10 list of industries with highest projected growth and highest projected losses.

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