How to Land the Career of Your Favorite TV Character

TV Character Careers You Could Land

Want to be the next Don Draper or Meredith Grey? See how the right education could help you make it happen.

By Chelsea Lin   

Ever watch "Grey's Anatomy" and wonder if you, too, could help save lives?

Think you have what it takes to create ad slogans with the best of them a la "Mad Men"?

Whether your TV idol is Will Schuester ("Glee"), Dwight Schrute ("The Office"), or Temperance Brennan ("Bones"), following in your favorite character's career footsteps is definitely possible... if you're willing to put in some work to get there.

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"I think that no matter the job or industry, you have to have the right combination of education, personality traits and motivation to be the right person for the role," says Maggi McConnell, who owns and runs Seattle-based HR consulting firm Hire or Be Hired.

With McConnell's help, we've put together a few tips on how to land the careers of your favorite TV characters.

Don Draper, AMC's "Mad Men"
Creative Director & Founding Partner of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce

A creative director at an ad agency would generally oversee the head copywriter, art director, and associated staff, spearheading the creative process behind the pitches and ad copy.

"Advertising is a sophisticated form of pure sales," McConnell says, "so you have to be persuasive, have strong oral and written communication skills, and be able to think of creative solutions to sometimes mundane problems."

While Don's only prior experience was selling fur coats, McConnell suggests that a degree in business, marketing, or communications could be beneficial to someone looking to follow in his footsteps.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average annual income for an ad agency creative director is $93,490, though you can bet Mr. Draper wasn't making that in the 1960s.

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Meredith Grey, ABC's "Grey's Anatomy"
Surgical Resident at Seattle Grace Hospital

If we've learned anything from watching her show, it's that Meredith's job makes up her life, love, and social circle. Not so bad when you're staring into the eyes of McDreamy, but a little less glamorous when you take into account that it likely took her almost 10 years of post-secondary schooling to get there.

The good news is that not all careers in the health care field require nearly a decade of education.

For example, if you'd prefer to work in the office side of the health industry - medical billing, health care administration, pharmacy, etc. - consider pursuing a degree in a field within health care and human services. There are also nursing and medical assisting programs, which could prepare you to pursue a career in phlebotomy, registered nursing, dental assisting, and more.

When Meredith and her friends met at Seattle Grace as interns, she probably wasn't making half this much, but as a surgeon, she could be pulling in about $124,800 per year, which is the average wage for those in this profession, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

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Will Schuester, FOX's "Glee"
Spanish Teacher and Glee Club Director for McKinley High

Teaching at the public high school level is not a career you can simply fall into. In addition to passion for the subject you want to teach and an interest in your students, you must have a related bachelor's degree, state teaching credentials, and a clean background check.

That said molding young minds is a powerful thing, and a great career opportunity for the right person. "The best teachers I've ever had took a personal interest in the success and struggles of their students, had passion for the subjects they taught and made learning fun," says McConnell.

Single-subject high school teachers average at $55,150 annually, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, explaining why Will's materialistic ex-wife so desperately wanted him to go into accounting.

Thankfully for his students, passion prevailed.

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Dwight Schrute, NBC's "The Office"
Sales Representative for Dunder Mifflin

If "The Office" is to be believed, the key to being a successful sales representative is not falling for the old stapler-in-Jell-O trick. But McConnell explains that the skills required of the position, whatever you're selling, are actually more practical.

"Persuasive skills are key," she says. "Most sales positions have commission-based compensation [where you are incentivized to sell more, have specific sales goals, etc.], so if you're competitive and motivated by the size of your paychecks, this is the field for you!"

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No formal education is required to enter the field of sales, though priority is usually given to those with a bachelor's degree or certification, particularly if the products you sell are scientific or technical in nature, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. For management opportunities - always a dream of Dwight's - look into certificate programs in business management.

As McConnell says, each company has a different sales commission structure. And while the range in salary varies greatly depending on both industry and the ability of the sales rep, the U.S. Department of Labor states that $59,250 per year is the national average.

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Sheldon Cooper, CBS's "The Big Bang Theory"
Theoretical Physicist at California Institute of Technology

McConnell labeled Sheldon's career, which requires a doctoral degree to do even basic scientific research, the most challenging of this group.

The U.S. Department of Labor states that physicists for a college, university, or professional school have an average yearly income of $82,790. Since Sheldon shares a rental apartment and eats cheap take-out every night, we're guessing he's got quite a hefty sum in the bank.

But theoretical physics is not the only career that lets you study numbers and data for a living. Consider looking into technology certificate and degree programs, which could set you on the path toward a career in engineering and technical fields, like network administration, computer programming, or web design.

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Temperance Brennan, FOX's "Bones"
Forensic Anthropologist at the Jeffersonian Institute

The extremely intelligent, though socially awkward Temperance Brennan "Bones" - what a nickname! - has long had a keen interest in the forensics field, something necessary if your career is analyzing death.

In the first season, it was disclosed that she holds a Ph.D. from Northwestern University. McConnell confirms that to enter this field, "a masters or even Ph.D. in anthropology are critical! Forensics experience is secondary, but still important."

Anthropologists (not specifically those working in forensics) average at about $57,230 yearly, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, though we're hoping Bones brings home more since she has to put up with a lot of gore.

If forensics is where you want to end up, but you don't have the time to devote to years of graduate study, there are other career paths that require less in the way of advanced schooling. Start by looking into a school that offers certificates or a bachelor's degree program in criminal justice, with an emphasis on crime scene investigation or forensic psychology.

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