Published May 01, 2011
Roughly 2,000 students have to decide by Sunday whether to accept a spot at Harvard. Here's some advice: Forget Harvard. If you want to earn big bucks and retire young, you're better off becoming a California prison guard.
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.
It gets better.
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.
Most Harvard grads only get three weeks of vacation each year, even after working for 20 years -- and they're often too busy to take a long trip. Prison guards, on the other hand, get seven weeks of vacation, five of them paid. If they're too busy racking up overtime to use their vacation days, they can cash the days in when they retire. There's no cap on how many vacation days they can cash in! Eighty officers last year cashed in over $100,000 at retirement.
The cherry on top is the defined-benefit pension. Unlike most Harvard grads working in the private sector, prison guards don't have to delay retirement if their 401(k)s take a hit. Prison guards can retire at the age of 55 and earn 85% of their final year's salary for the rest of their lives. They also continue to receive medical benefits.