Thinking about my college years brings back memories of strolling across campus past old brick buildings laced in ivy, crisp autumn leaves crunching underfoot. It certainly was an exciting time in my life. But amidst all the new faces and new experiences college offers there’s that all important task of selecting a major.
I earned my bachelor’s degree at Augustana College, a liberal arts school in Rock Island, Illinois. There, I double majored in Psychology and English; psychology because I was intrigued by the human mind and human behavior, and English because I had always wanted to be a writer. But after four years of college and a bachelor’s under my belt I still didn’t quite know what I wanted to be when I grew up so I headed to Illinois State University to study Criminal Justice in the Master’s program there.
After earning the master’s degree I considered working for the FBI, but I never ended up going for it. As of last year, though, I’ve now passed the maximum age requirement to be a special agent so that’s out of the question. So what am I doing instead? After years of job hopping that included everything from working with mentally ill inmates to teaching at-risk youth I have finally settled into a career as a freelance writer and Subject Matter Expert.
The great thing about freelance writing is that I can write on a variety of topics. That means I can remain connected to my criminal justice and psychology roots, but I can also branch out and write about other things like nutrition or health and wellness. Over the years I’ve established professional relationships with a few companies that continue to hire me whenever they need some writing done. I’ve written everything from textbook chapters to sales copy. For the past two years I’ve enjoyed a steady gig writing training materials for the security industry.
As a freelance writer, you have the flexibility to specialize or diversify. You can specialize within a particular industry or write for a wider market. It’s really up to you. Just be sure you are knowledgeable about whatever it is you plan to write. I enjoy writing about issues in criminal justice and psychology, but I don’t limit myself to those two subject areas. Developing expertise in several different areas will open up more writing opportunities for you.
Subject Matter Expert
Now what in the world is a Subject Matter Expert? Subject Matter Experts (also known as SME) specialize in a particular area and provide their expertise on a topic, almost like a consultant. Because I have an advanced degree in Criminal Justice Sciences and extensive work experience in the field, I am able to qualify as a criminal justice Subject Matter Expert. I am typically hired as an SME to review the materials that will be used to teach various criminal justice courses at different colleges and universities. Generally that entails reviewing all materials that will be used in the course to make sure the information is accurate and current within the criminal justice field. Course materials include lecture presentations, assignments, projects, and tests for example. Subject Matter Experts are needed for a wide range of subjects from general education courses to ones in the social sciences or natural sciences.
So that’s my story. Of the different jobs I’ve held since college, several of them have combined at least two of my areas of study. With a background in English, psychology, and criminal justice I’ve been able to enjoy working in different fields. For instance, I’ve worked with the California Department of corrections and for contractors of the Department of Defense and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Having a varied educational background has opened up many doors. For me, I guess the old saying rings true: “Variety is the spice of life.”