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I have a friend with what some may call a dream job. Three years ago, he became a professional gamer. It’s a career that many aspire to have but few can make work. It is also one of those careers that kids will use to show that they don’t need an education to be successful. Prior to his gaming career he was a statistician so I knew he would be a good person to reach out to and chat about what students can do to give them the best future.

Six years ago, I wrote a blog about this same topic, so if you have not read that you may want to catch up.

The first question for my friend, let’s call him Pat, is if he feels a college degree is a necessity. It was interesting talking to him about it. Pat’s opinion is that you don’t need a degree for some careers, but statistically speaking a degree is the fastest way to success. He said that only a handful of the guys he competed against in his first year are still competing. Most have taken on other jobs or gone back to college. You may be surprised to learn that his winnings are a small fraction of his annual income. Even at the highest levels, the competitors often have other sources of income.

I asked Pat an important question. If you could go back, would you get your degree in Statistics or go straight into gaming? He said he would have planned better and focused on what helped him get to his goal. He loves what he does now, but he estimates that he loses 10-15% of his income because he does not have skills that others have. He plans to take marketing classes at a local community college to help him build his branding.

Pat and I came up with some suggestions for you to consider as you plan your career.

  1. Have a long-term outlook with short-term actions.

Pat wishes he planned to be a gamer from the beginning. He would have achieved that goal faster and been more focused. He still would have gone to college, but would have chosen a different major, one that moved him closer to his goal.

  1. Fear debt, don’t avoid it.

Had he not taken out student loans he never would have received his degree. Without his degree he would never have saved enough money to support him over the first two years of his new career. Limit how much money you take in a loan and when you graduate pay it off quickly so you can focus on the things that interest you.

  1. Hedge your bets and know where you will be most successful.

Some careers don’t require a degree, and some people are very successful having only completed high school. Pat said that the data is not on your side though. The highest median salaries and the best job quality scores come in careers that require at least a two-year degree. So, if you are undecided we suggest you consider trying some things while in high school with dual credit or take some community college courses.

If you need ideas on careers that offer a lot of opportunities, check out Hot Jobs in the state you want to live. For Nebraska you can find them here.