Hi Heather, and all the staff and volunteers,
I'm a 26 year old guy with a B.A. in English -- which, if you've ever seen Avenue Q, isn't exactly the most lucrative degree out there. I've been freelance writing for three years now, and while it's fun, it's not sustainable. I still have over $20k in student loans, and I've had to work all manner of jobs on the side (barista, tutor, etc.) to make ends meet.
So I've decided to change careers -- or at least get a steady 9-to-5 that pays more and offers benefits. (Don't even get me started on how scary it is to be uninsured.) I'm considering a career in something sex ed-related. It's something I'm well-informed, articulate, and passionate about ... Problem is, I don't really know where to start looking.
I have a couple criteria:
I'm not going back to school, at least not right now. (I have enough student loan debt already - more per month than I pay in rent!)
Ideally I'd like to do something that builds off of my current experience as a writer (though I've been an English teacher & tutor, and I'd be comfortable in front of a classroom or teaching groups as well).
It has to pay, even if it's just an entry-level salary -- no internships.
Should I do some work for a group like Planned Parenthood to get my feet wet? Do a lot of sex ed-related jobs require specialized degrees (i.e. should I search for different jobs)? Are there areas in this field I'm not thinking of? Do any of you have contacts that need help?
Any info you guys and gals have that could help me refine/focus my search would be HUGELY appreciated.
Posts: 2 | From: Connecticut | Registered: May 2007
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Sex ed generally just really doesn't pay the big bucks, or even the decent bucks, because from a non-medical end, you're mostly talking about either the same sort of freelancing you're doing already, or working for non-profits (which in nearly any arena, pays like crud). May as well be straight-out about that, since it seems some of your complaint (and I hear you, was a lit scholar in school mostly myself, and also a former classroom teacher), and sex writing, especially, REALLY doesn't pay, primarily because there just isn't really a market. It's also an arena where, if you're really great at it, or have something about you that gets readers and publishers excited, you CAN do decently if you can nab an ongoing column somewhere, but those opportunities are very, very limited and also often have a lot to do with heritage -- in other words, folks brand new to sex ed/advice tend to have to put in a LOT of legwork and time before the decent opportunities are even an option.
And benefits? In sex-writing? Ooosh. Not likely.
People who really go into the medical side fare far better, but sometimes -- especially if they stay in public health -- not by much.
If you don't have any background in the field, you're also likely going to be looking at a lot of volunteer/internship work that is often totally unpaid first.
I don't mean to be a buzzkill, especially since hte more motivated people we have in comprehensive sex ed, the better, but if what you're looking for is a lucrative day job, and not coming at it from the medical side, you're generally looking the wrong way when it comes to sex ed.
-------------------- Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen About Me • Get our book! Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead Posts: 63243 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000
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Well, yeah, on one level that's something of a buzzkill; but on another level, it's sort of what I expected. Back when I was more ardent about trying to make freelancing work, I flirted with the idea of writing erotica ... But after investigating and seeing how little it paid, I steered clear. And cool though it might be to have a sex ed column, I already have a weekly rock column, and it's far from paying the bills.
While I'm not looking for some job that's going to make me rich, I do want one that will help me put some cash away, because I'd like to go to massage school in the not-too-distant future. I wanna be able to pay for it, though, and not take out student loans. That's why a lot of the more medical career paths are no-gos for me. I need that time and energy to work in the here and now. (I also want to focus on physical healing rather than psychological healing. I know myself, and I'm too sensitive/susceptible to other peoples' problems to go into sex therapy and unplug myself from all of that at the end of the day.)
* * *
I was asking myself "what do you want to do?" the other day, and I had a flashback to freshman year in college. This really cool girl from a local organization came to our dorm one evening and had a teach-in where she answered a bunch of our questions about sex, gave us all kinds of safe sex supplies, and was just generally super-helpful and informative. I remembered that and I was like, "I wanna do that!" Of course, I'm sure that those sort of visits couldn't have been her sole job responsibility -- and I've got an inkling they were probably one of the easier tasks on her plate. Perhaps you know: are there a lot of organizations with outreach missions like that on the local level in New England? (AIDS projects, etc.?) And if so, do you think I would be able to get a job like the above without a background in the medical/health stuff you mentioned earlier?
If not ... Is there some other path focused on getting good sex information to people that I'm not aware of? Or should I just, like, throw the towel in on this idea and look for editing positions somewhere?
(It's just, if I gotta do an intermediate job between freelancing [bleh] and massage [yay!], I still want it to be something enjoyable and positive, something I can be passionate about and good at, you know?)
* * *
Hey, also: thank you for being so accessible. It's pretty cool when you get a reply from the head honcho not even an hour after your initial post. I know you work your butt off to make Scarleteen like that, and I appreciate it.
Big hug, Dan
Posts: 2 | From: Connecticut | Registered: May 2007
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Dan, why did you decide to leave teaching? If you're talking about a public school system, that would likely be a job that pays the bills, has benefits, gives you time off to follow other interests as well as chances to further your education for free. (I have a friend in the CT system who attests to this.) If you have, say, certification in English, maybe you could take a few classes over a year or two to get an endorsement in teaching health/sex ed, too.
Just keeping up-to-date and informed as to the latest studies/reports/writings on sexuality and sexual health is really important, if you aren't doing that already. Volunteering is a great way to try things out and gather knowledge and experience, so you certainly could inquire at Planned Parenthood about that, as you mentioned. What about looking around for state-sponsored youth/youth sexuality initatives to volunteer for, especially ones geared towards young men and/or physical fittness, since you mention it's an interest? Massage school sounds like a great goal, and something you can start gaining experience in now.
I think a lot of this comes back to the "day job" thing. For most of us, it's just the way to go to make ends meet, and there's nothing wrong with it. However, the other 16 hours in the day are yours to do whatever you want with. As someone at 23 and a half , I'm realizing my possibilities are more limited in the future in terms of paying work, but that's no morbid thought. I have been fortunate enough to have varied life/work/education experience, but completely changing directions, i.e. medical school would be years and years and huge loans away. (Just as an example since med school is neither your nor my goal anyway.)
However, I find my current field not just bearable, but really fun despite certain aspects like paperwork. (It can be what I make of it, i.e. I can write for trade journals, etc.) There are so many opportunities to volunteer in things I'm interested in, like here at the site. (I honestly wouldn't want to do sex ed as a career, because while I find the idea great, I'm just not into keeping up on the latest statistics, etc.) I would love to live off of my art, but I also am realistic about it; I do it for fun and for me. (Hey, writing a regular rock column for a newspaper is pretty awesome, something many people would like to do!)
All summed up, I suggest finding a decent/bearable job that you can do now (with chances to increase your education, etc.) and persue sex ed as a volunteer and writing erotica as a hobby. At first at least, because you never know where it might take you, but think more long-term. Since you're a college graduation, why not talk to your alma mater's career services department? They're there for alums, too.
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