If you're one of the kids who's spending the weekend trying to decide whether to go to Harvard next year or become a prison guard in one of California's luxurious prisons, you might check out the Wall Street Journal.
See, the Journal wants to help you avoid making the wrong decision: If your goal is to get a college degree and live in Taxachusetts, then go to Harvard. But if your goal is to line your pockets with other people's hard-earned money and live the easy life, become a California prison guard and watch the money roll in, says hard-working day laborer Allysia Finley:
The job might not sound glamorous, but a brochure from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations boasts that it "has been called 'the greatest entry-level job in California'-and for good reason. Our officers earn a great salary, and a retirement package you just can't find in private industry. We even pay you to attend our academy." That's right-instead of paying more than $200,000 to attend Harvard, you could earn $3,050 a month at cadet academy.
And that's not all:
Training only takes four months, and upon graduating you can look forward to a job with great health, dental and vision benefits and a starting base salary between $45,288 and $65,364. By comparison, Harvard grads can expect to earn $49,897 fresh out of college and $124,759 after 20 years.
As a California prison guard, you can make six figures in overtime and bonuses alone. While Harvard-educated lawyers and consultants often have to work long hours with little recompense besides Chinese take-out, prison guards receive time-and-a-half whenever they work more than 40 hours a week. One sergeant with a base salary of $81,683 collected $114,334 in overtime and $8,648 in bonuses last year, and he's not even the highest paid.
The guards also get longer vacations, awesome pensions, medical benefits forever and ever—and all at the public's expense. So many perks! They probably get their Chinese take-out delivered to them in compartmentalized cartons made of silver, while the Harvarded lawyers and consultants are stuck with those low-class plastic things.
Sure, being a corrections officer has a few drawbacks—for example, you have to spend your days in a depersonalizing environment defined by barbed wire, locks, and concrete, which can be a bummer. But you can leave that all behind at the end of the day and go shopping. Yeah, sometimes an inmate will try to pull out your dreadlocks—but if that happens, you can just buy new, even better dreadlocks. Every now and then, an inmate might punch you for no reason or kill you while trying to escape—but with all that taxpayer money you can just go to the hospital and get the best health care available (or a doctor who performs resurrections, if you're dead). As a guard, you'll have to constantly be aware that someone could shank or tackle you at any moment; hire a good therapist and you'll be just fine.
So kids, what's it going to be? Shouldn't take a Harvard degree to figure out which way to Easy Street.