From Pay to the Day-to-Day: What to Expect in 5 Common Careers

Choosing a career can be difficult, and sometimes people choose before they really know what they are getting into. Different careers have various job duties, and depending on your skills — and also your limitations — it’s important to choose a career that you will enjoy, but can also handle.

Some careers sound romantic or ideal, like becoming a movie actor; however, when you consider the long hours that many jobs like this require (and the lack of privacy), these jobs may not be as ideal as you think. Knowing what you are getting into before you choose a career can help you choose one that will be a good fit for you, so hopefully you won’t have to switch careers several times.

Here are five common jobs, explanations for what to expect during a typical day, and a job description and job duties, as well as potentially difficult parts of the jobs, and the rewarding aspects.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

1. Retail Salesperson

As of 2013, the highest employment occupation was retail salespersons, with over 4 million employees. The typical job description for a retail salesperson depends on the industry: department stores, clothing stores, merchandise stores, as well as several other industries all employ retail salespersons. However, usually a retail salesperson sells a product to customers. A typical day may require the salesperson to interact with customers, describe a product, and even clean and tidy up sales areas. Job duties can also include moving merchandise or cleaning out fitting rooms.

The most difficult aspects of being a retail salesperson usually include the amount of time spent on one’s feet, as well as the potential to interact with angry customers. Salespeople need to be patient, and can sometimes get bored. However, if you enjoy meeting new people, this can be a great job for you. The mean hourly pay in May 2013 was $12.20, so these jobs do not pay very much (and they usually do not require a degree). However, many college students and graduates do work in retail.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

2. Registered nurse

Nurses are another one of the jobs with the highest employment, and they usually pay much better than retail sales positions. The mean hourly wage is $33.13. The main responsibility of a nurse is usually to help patients in various ways, and the job duties include anticipating needs, providing care, and sometimes completing administrative tasks. A typical day might include seeing several patients in an emergency room or in a doctor’s office. There are several different kids of nurses, so the job duties change depending on the type of nurse that you want to become.

Being a nurse can be extremely rewarding, but it can also be very stressful. While you get to help people regularly, you also may have to do a lot of strenuous lifting and a lot of standing. You also may face long hours on the job.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

3. Teacher

In addition to nursing, if you are interested in teaching, which is another common job, you will usually need at least a bachelor’s degree. Unfortunately, although teachers are extremely valuable, they typically don’t make very much money (the median wage in May 2013 was $53,590 for elementary teachers). Teachers are typically in charge of a certain amount of students, and either specialize in elementary education or a specific subject for secondary education. Job duties include keeping a grade book, creating a curriculum, making lesson plans, and many other duties as well.

Teachers need to be organized, patient, and very informed about their subject matter. Teaching can be very rewarding because becoming a great teacher means you influence many people, but it also comes with a lot of responsibility since you are in charge of training and teaching other people.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

4. Firefighter

The mean annual wage for firefighters in May 2013 was $48,270, which, again, isn’t very impressive considering all that firefighters do. Firefighters are responsible for responding to emergency situations, and often, putting out an actual fire. They also provide community awareness and prevention training. A typical day might include responding to an emergency call, talking to a group of elementary students, and also cleaning equipment. Firefighters work long shifts and their job can be very stressful. They are literally responsible for the lives of many other people and animals.

However, the job allows firefighters to make a difference every single day that they work. Firefighters have to pass physical and written tests in order to qualify, and often must also be certified as EMTs. Firefighters do not necessarily need a bachelor’s degree, but you will need training.

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

5. Engineer

There are many different types of engineers, making it a very popular career choice. Engineers perform many different job duties, and the specific job description varies depending on which type of engineer you want to become (including a chemical engineer, mechanical engineer, civil engineer, computer engineer, environmental engineer, and so on). You will need to have excellent analytical skills, be a strong communicator, be creative, be a team player, and be able to evaluate and work on existing and new systems. You will need a bachelor’s degree plus possibly a license.

Engineering can be very demanding, and requires a lot of constant thinking and analysis. It also requires both teamwork and individual work. In general, engineers do fairly well as far as pay. According to the BLS, in 2012 the median pay for aerospace engineers was $103,720; $74,000 for agricultural engineers; and $94,350 for chemical engineers.

While choosing a career that is one of the most employable is a great idea, some of these careers didn’t make that list because many of those occupations don’t require a bachelor’s degree. There are many other common careers to consider. Before you choose the right career for you, make sure you consider the job requirements, the potentially hard parts of the job, and the pay.

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