• Eric Bowie

Should You Rethink That Extra College Degree?

I want to preface this blog post with saying that college is a good thing. I don't want to downplay the importance of a college degree. That would be hypocritical, especially since I have a Bachelor's Degree. However, I want to address a sort of over-dose, for lack of a better phrase, on advanced college degrees that I seem to see a lot.

I know a lot of educated people that get degree after degree after degree, yet see very little in the way gains and increased opportunities from their increased education. All they see is massive amounts of MORE student loan debt and a greater sense of frustration! That's a problem. If you've spent anytime in the corporate world, or any industry for that matter, you've likely seen this same issue.

At some point you have to begin to ask yourself, are these extra degrees really worth it? Is their a subsantial return on my investment into this advanced degree? When you go to college to get an advanced degree, you should treat that education like an investment, meaning your goal should be to get som ROI (return on investment). College is too expensive nowadays to go in an effort to just get some advanced learning, or go just to say "I have an MBA". You can go on the internet and get that same, or similar, knowledge for free. If you want to know quantum physics just to learn quantum physics, that's fine, but go to YouTube to learn it instead of spending an extra $100K for an advanced degree that you may not use, and that will stick you with a loan that you may spend the rest of your life trying to pay off.

I'm not sayin don't go to college or don't get the advance degree. I'm saying have a long hard and honest conversation with yourself about whether or not that extra advanced degree is worth it. If you say it is, then focus your advanced college degree on something that is economically viable, and will help you definitively and quickly, pay your bills, and then some, when you come out with the extra advanced degree. You should get an advanced degree that will help you earn substantially more money in your area of expertise. In other words, if you are a nurse and want to become a nurse anesthesist, then go for it. If you are a paralegal, and need a law degree to become the highly sought after criminal justice attorney that you always dreamt about, and it pays an additional $100K per year at a minimum, then go for it. But if getting your MBA cost $80K, and there is only a slight chance that you MAY be getting a $5K raise at the end of the 2 years it takes to get it, then you should re-think that!

Adding letters on the end of your name is a process that needs to be contemplated with a great deal of thought. You need more than an empty promise of prestige before you do this. This is where people go looking for "acceptance" and "self-esteem" through advanced degrees. Before you do that, again, ask yourself, "is this advanced degree worth it"?

In other words, don’t over-educate yourself to the point of disappointment. Sometimes, very educated people have a tendency to want to lean on the notion that an advanced degree will somehow make them more palatable and acceptable in their career of choice, or in the corporate world. This is usually not the case. In fact, it can sometimes be a monumental disappointment when you ultimately come to the realization that your degree doesn’t propel you like you thought it would, or it isn't capable of creating a buffer that protects you from mistreatment or inequalities like you thought it would. You may get lucky, and it may do all of this for you, but there is a greater chance that it won't.

Underappreciated people who feel a sense of marginalization, can have a tendency to self-medicate by over educating themselves! After all, we've all been drilled that an education is the most important thing you can get, and that education will "level the playing field". Unfortunately, that usually isn't the case. On a subconscious level, some peope sincerely believe that the more letters behind their name means that they will be perceived to be more professional and distinguished, and they do it at any costs. So they do things like go into $100K in debt for that Master's Degree in social work. Not that a Master's Degree in social work is bad, but is going into $100K in debt for it really going to be worth it? These are the same people that believe that the price to pay for the multiple advanced degrees or that doctorate degree, is insignificant and irrelevant in comparison to the letters behind their name and the feeling of self worth and accomplishment that it will bring. I mean after all, you can no longer undervalue a person with so much education, or can you? And you can’t really discriminate against a person with my type of advanced degree, or can they? I mean they wouldn't really withhold promotions from me after I get this degree, would they?

Newsflash: They can.

I don't want to sound like a pessimist, but the reality is this: You can't educate yourself to match the worth that others will attach to you. You will find yourself spinning in circles, searching for acceptance, and getting degree after degree after degree, just to appease what you think people (i.e. industries, career paths, etc.) want. The self development that most of us need, in most jobs or industries, can be gotten with cash, or for a whole lot less money then what these advanced degree costs. We have to be be wise and concientous about the decisions we make when deciding on whether or not we really need that advanced degree, and what are we really getting it for.

Another very important thing to remember is this feeling of tying your self-worth to the level of education you are able to obtain. No one does this purposely, but it happens. Don't tie your self-esteem to your degrees and your level of education. Advanced degrees are good if they provide a return on the investment. If they don’t, then re-think it. You can’t educate yourself so much that people respect you. You can’t educate yourself so much that you won’t be discriminated against in some for or fashion. You can’t educate yourself to a level of acceptability in the mind of someone that wouldn't accept your with or without a degree in the first place.

So don't chase titles, don't chase letters behind your name, and don't chase advanced degrees. Instead, chase your purpose, your gifts, and your natural born talents. Chase becoming valuable and becoming a "go to" person who can be trusted and counted on to get the job done. Chase quality and the ability to solve problems for the benefit of people! Again if you need an advanced degree to move up to a signicantly higher salary, then go for it. But be realistic and honest with yourself.

Things like acceptability, respect, honor, prestige, motivation, self-esteem, and professionalism, are things that MUST come from within and are intrinsic. The most important thing is that you believe in yourself regardless of your level of education and don’t lean on letters behind your name for your self-confidence.

Ask yourself, do you really need that additional college degree?

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