I picked a bad major. Now what?

I have a major question I haven’t the slightest clue to answer. I am a 22-year-old poor Puerto Rican who went to school for photography. (The worst choice I ever made.) Now I am in debt for said school which only amounts to my poorness.

How do I go back to school with no money? No SAT or ACT scores? I just want to work as a teacher. I just want to live my life.

10 replies
  1. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    You can’t fix things by being a teacher. Teachers don’t make enough money to pay back loans from two degrees.

    But that’s ok because you can just go get an office job and start paying back your loans. Office jobs do not require any special education, so photography is a fine background for getting an entry-level office job.

    Keep in mind that all recent college graduates are the same no matter what their major was because school does not make kids qualified to do anything but more school. Here’s a blog post about that:


    So stop being upset about photography and go get a job. It’s hard to face getting an office job when you had dreams of being a photographer, but what we really all want is to feel connected and valued and for a while, having a job where you get paid enough to support yourself will do that.

    Read about how to get a job when when you have no clear skills. It’s what most people have to do after college and it’s definitely possible. Here’s a post you can start with:


  2. Julia
    Julia says:

    I can relate. I got a BA in music in a third world country with zero viable classical music careers and the course per se let me down terribly. Fortunately, I had worked as a language teacher before and during university so I first got an office job then shifted towards freelancing as a translator and interpreter, which was a reasonably good career 15 years ago and is still an average one now. I could have stayed and progressed in the office job, if I had a different personality or background. The girl who worked with me at the time knew nothing, had not even started college yet, but she stayed and did well there.

    So, I agree with Penelope. Find whatever interesting background you have (maybe photography could send you into marketing or sales departments). Assuming you are fluent in Spanish, look for companies dealing with Latin America, for instance. It may surprise you how difficult it still is.for companies to find people with good language skills (to speak of an area I know well.)

  3. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    In addition to what Penelope suggests, I would also try to keep doing photography on the side and build that business. It may not be able to pay off student loans, but it can help. I pay $500 every time my kid actor needs headshots, and I do that about twice a year. Find a niche market that you can do on weekends and edit in the evenings after your job that helps pay the student loans.

  4. jessica
    jessica says:

    I agree with YMKAS, completely. You have so much going for you with that degree, you just need to get a regular job and get started on photography seriously. That’s it.

    I’m a mom and found an up and coming high fashion Instagram photographer a couple years ago and paid him $1,000 for an hour to do a fun kids shoot in Central Park. I had to sign an NDA to never tell anyone he did a kids shoot, so I can’t reveal who it is, but they explained how they built their portfolio so I’ll describe that here.

    They started small and specialised (think either all hi-def, or all B&W, or all high contrast), they then scoured Instagram for up and coming models with small followings and reached out to collaborate, both people show up, do the shoot and tag each other. It helps that everyone doing this is under 30! Lots of time to connect outside of real work to build portfolios. They put their younger sibling in photos, as his ‘real life’ shots- and people love that aspect of personalization and relatablity (they say their following cares a lot about the kid). In fact, those shots led me to inquiry about my own kids’ session.

    They chose not to disclose publicly that they have done commercial work, while they built their model portfolio. Now they won’t do any commercial work because it’s all high fashion (their goal) and they get invited to do major campaigns featuring younger faces (think when Brooklyn Beckham got invited to shoot Burberry at 16- he doesn’t really count, but they wouldn’t have done that pre-instagram).

    Photography pays well if you have a strategy and focus.

  5. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    In the US, don’t discount loan forgiveness as an option to get rid of those loans. I know many folks who have utilized this option (who are teachers or other public sector employees). Sounds like this LW is from another country, so it may not be an option there, but it’s a great option in the US.

  6. Melissa
    Melissa says:

    Photography is my “mom job”! I do it on the side and even though I charge a lot less than the other pros in my area, I have been making a nice amount of money. Personal branding is only becoming more important to people as they present themselves online. Taking photos can’t be sent off-shore. Although the photo-editing and processing can be done on the cheap with overseas remote workers.

  7. Julia
    Julia says:

    Have you tried using your skills at wedding photography, family portraits, or baby photography? I paid $3k for my wedding photos and $600 for photos of my newborn baby, and both times it felt like a bargain.

    I agree you should get an office job, but you can also do photography on nights and weekends and earn additional money that way.

  8. Alana
    Alana says:

    If you’re in the States, try Teach for America. You get thrown into an inner-city school with little/no teaching training, but get paid, and have to do it for 2-3 years and then come out with a teaching license. Good option without having to go back to school, if you can stick it out those tough first years.

  9. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    There are teacher shortages all over the US. If you have a college degree, a lot of the time you can start teaching while simultaneously getting your certification, which the school will often pay you to get. You could also look into substitute teaching which pays decently (also a sub shortage!) and would be flexible if you wanted to do photography as well.

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