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7 Television-Inspired Careers for Your Summer Binge

Need a career? Need a path? Watch some television. If these seven television shows don’t kickstart your career choices, we don’t know what will. Let’s take a closer look.

Sep 6, 2023
  • Student Tips
7 Television-Inspired Careers for Your Summer Binge

Need some career inspiration? Watch television. Sure, we’ve all seen those shows with doctors, lawyers, and police officers, but what about some of those more obscure career choices that are calling your name, and you have no idea yet?

Last year, a combined undergraduate and graduate research team at Rutgers University studied television’s effect on career paths. What did they find? Scripted shows show a lot of the day-to-day business of working, but not necessarily the trajectory to get that kind of job. They also found that law enforcement, law, and medicine were the most frequent career paths.

What spurred the research? Research Bernadette Gailliard said, “These days if you talk to a teenager or even a college student, may tell you they got interested in a career from a TV show they watched.”

What’s most striking? These career paths make an impact on the choices students make. According to Nielsen, the company that tracks Us media consumption and habits, 18-24-year-olds watch more than 17.5 hours of television per week, on average.

That’s a lot of television—and a lot of career options.

Take a look at these less conspicuous career paths all based on television shows:


1. Crisis Manager: Scandal

Watch an episode of award-winning Scandal, the political thriller partly based on former President George H.W. Bush’s administration’s press aide Judy Smith—who’s also the show’s co-executive producer. The show takes place in Washington, D.C., and focuses on the main character Olivia Pope’s crisis management firm—which focuses on crises of all kinds and at all political levels.

If thinking about ways of managing disruptive and unexpected events, and mitigating the public relations fallout intrigues you, consider a career in public management.


2. Scientist: The Big Bang Theory

The Big Bang Theory has brought physics center stage into the career limelight. Since the show’s inception in 2007, the number of physics degrees in both the US and the UK has increased significantly. According to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, there was a 10 percent increase in the number of students accepted to physics programs in 2008. In 2010, applications for college-level physics increased over 17 percent. In 2012, the number reached its all-time high.

Part of the reason? The science on the show is accurate—and interesting. David Saltzberg studies high-energy particle physics and high–energy neutrino astronomy—and is the show’s consultant. He reviews all the show’s scripts for scientific accuracy, and writes the show’s whiteboards every week.

If the mathematics of the world intrigues you, watch an episode of Big Bang Theory—and consider a career in physics.


3. Advertiser: Mad Men

Delve into the advertising world of the 1960s with Mad Men, a drama about one of New York’s finest advertising agencies. On the air from 2007 through 2015, the award-winning show chronicles the lives of those in the advertising industry. Where did they work? Madison Avenue. The nickname “Mad Men” stuck—and the show adopted it.

If competition, scandal, and the business world inspire you, think about a career in advertising—it may be just the ticket.

4. Forensic Anthropologist: Bones

If you’re into the mystery of human remains, catch an episode of Bones—and consider a career in forensics. The show, which aired from 2005 through 2017, focuses on the fields of forensic anthropology and forensic archaeology. Each episode centers on solving a mystery of human remains, as found by the FBI.

Not only does the show reveal the nitty gritty of forensic science, it also poses questions about the debate between science and faith.

Not only will you enjoy the drama, you’ll be left with an essential question to answer at the end of each episode—in addition to the one about your career path.


5. Undertaker: Six Feet Under

If you’re less interested in the mystery of human remains and more interested in the treatment of them, watch Six Feet Under. Dark and funny at the same time, Six Feet Under offers a macabre—and realistic—glimpse of the world of death.

What’s helpful about it? It allows you—practically forces you—to laugh.

If you’re considering the career path of undertaker, you’ll need to know when it’s ok. This show tells you when it’s ok—and when it’s not.


6. White House Staffer / Political Advisor: West Wing

If any show lends insight into politics, it’s the award-winning West Wing. The seven-year series, which ended in 2006 chronicled US politics through the new millennium. The show’s main focus was to show the daily work of the federal government at the highest level.

Lauded by critics and political scientists alike, West Wing offers a keen perception of the lives of those in politics—and what it means to be in the spotlight all the time.

Before launching your political career, watch at least one episode.

Parks and Recreation - Season 5

7. Urban Planner: Parks and Recreation

Channel the enthusiasm of Parks and Recreation’s main character, Deputy Director Leslie Knope, and believe you can be the change in the world.

Urban planning is it in Parks and Recreation, which takes a wide-eyed, funny, and dark view of American bureaucracy—and vision—at its finest. In politics meets planning, you’ll glimpse the larger parts of urban planning, including budgets, town meetings, and political divisions.

Inspired? We hope so. At a minimum, you have a few new shows to check out. At best? Maybe a new career path. Go forth and watch—and learn.