One of the most respected professions anyone can enter is a career in education. Whether it’s an early childhood teacher or a tenured university professor, jobs in education remain in constant demand and typically command outstanding salaries, benefits and job satisfaction.

(Photo Courtesy of Joanne Spetz)

(Photo Courtesy of Joanne Spetz)

While each level of education in California requires at least a bachelor’s degree and a teaching credential. Many new college graduates realize the value of pursuing an advanced degree, given the increasingly competitive job market.

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Joanne Spetz, PhD, Professor of Economics at the University of California, San Francisco, offers expert advice for individuals interested in a career in education, particularly for those hoping to teach at the university level.

What is your title and the focus of your work?

“Professor of Economics, Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies, University of California San Francisco.”

Is an advanced degree necessary to excel in this field?

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“To be a professor, one needs a graduate degree – usually a doctoral degree. But, many of the researchers at our institute and other health policy research organizations have bachelor’s degrees in social sciences, statistics, public health and other fields. Many of my colleagues worked for a few years in a health policy or public health organization, then did a master’s degree in public health, worked a bit more and later pursued a research-based doctorate.”

What is the most valuable advice you can give to individuals interested in entering your field?

“Develop skills in areas that are highly valued in research settings while you are working on your bachelor’s degree. The two most important things I look for are good writing skills, and some data analysis ability. No matter what you are majoring in, try to take some courses in statistical analysis. This will set you apart from other candidates.”

“If you are thinking toward a doctorate, pursue a field you love and find fascinating. Doctoral programs are tough, and you will be less likely to finish if you pick something because it’s “a good career move” as compared with your true interest. In my office, we have faculty with doctorates in sociology, economics, anthropology, public policy, public health, epidemiology and other fields, along with people with clinical doctorates such as medicine, physical therapy, nursing, dentistry and pharmacy. Those with clinical degrees usually get some training in research methods in one of several on-campus programs or pursue a master’s in public health.”

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Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on