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I Need To Go Back To School If I Expect To Earn More - At What Cost?

Dec 17, 2007
As an adult, earning a degree requires enormous sacrifices to your financial, social, and emotional well-being. Sometimes, additional training or education is just what we need. Other times, our reasons for going back to school are not valid. Learn to examine your reasons for returning to school, just at you examine your reasons for acting and reacting in other ways. Maybe you are interested in returning to college for one of these reasons:

* You believe a certain education will bring you opportunities that you don't have now.
* You think a degree will help you gain a level of confidence or competence that you don't have currently.
* You don't know what to do, and you want to go to college to find out.
* Someone recommended that you go to college.
* You want to be in college.

A degree means opportunity

As an adult who wants to change the direction of your career and earn more for your efforts, this may seem like a logical first step. It may even be true. However, there are many, many positions which have no specific educational requirements. Most positions in business are filled by people with a variety of educational backgrounds. It may be much easier to change companies than to get a degree. In this way, business differs from the fields of education and healthcare, where many women come from to business, and where specific educational requirements are a prerequisite to specific jobs (principal, registered nurse, neurosurgeon.)

A few courses in computer programming could mean much more to your paycheck than a bachelor's degree in liberal arts. If you ask people what training meant the most to their careers, it is often not college, but the training provided by their current or previous employers, or a smattering of courses taken at various places. If you insist on going to college, make sure you earn a degree which will, in fact, enhance your career. If you don't have a degree now, don't earn one unless it is in a specific field which in fact holds opportunities. If you are going to take the time, effort, and money to go back to college, make sure it will pay off. Higher education is a top priority for so many women, and yet the great majority of us remain in lower-paying careers. What's going on?

A degree means confidence and competence

Earning a degree might seem like a simple, if not easy, solution. The lack of an education is one of those concrete, well-defined reasons for not being where we want to be. We like to think there is a sure-fire way to get where we want to go, a straight path that no one will question. Life in the business world is not like that.

You may feel insecure about not having much education. Not surprisingly, the people without a college degree often make it more of an issue than those who have one. Don't get a college education just because you think it will make you feel better. If it does not help your chances for advancement, you certainly won't feel better. Don't allow a lack of education to pull your confidence level down. Don't be the one who makes your lack of education an issue.

College will help me define my goals

Women are too seldom in positions which expose us to the total workings of a corporation. We often decide to make choices later than the men around us, because we have spent time waiting for others to tell us what to do. We don't even know what there is to choose from when we get around to choosing. College seems to be the only place to figure it out. If only we had a higher education, or more education, or a different degree, we would be able to clarify what we want out of life.

Many people in academia have never worked outside a university, and their experience in business may be more limited than yours. Course material will teach you something about the opportunities that exist, but not nearly as efficiently as you can learn on your own. Instead of going to college, do some investigative work on where the jobs are. If you don't want to, do it anyway. The entire process may take a few months, but completing a formal education can take years.

They told me to

Maybe you are considering college because someone recommended that you do so. Perhaps this was someone you admire or someone who does the job you would like to do. Perhaps it was your boss. When we already feel insecure, half-convinced that we need more education, an offhand comment from almost anyone can cause us to run to the nearest college and enroll. Whatever the source, carefully examine your need to attend college before enrolling. What applies to one person may have nothing to do with you at this point in your life.

Perhaps you were turned down from a job because you did not have the right formal education. This may have been just a handy excuse to give you. Maybe you did not impress the interviewer for some other reason. It's possible the person they hired had no more education than you have. It is easy to let others convince us that a degree will put us on the path to success. Meanwhile, we are losing out on opportunities in the job path of our choice, because our time and attention is on our studies.

I like school

Sometimes we go back to school because we want to be there. College or graduate school is a safe haven, where success is easily defined (grades.) College is as fair as almost any place we can find. If you want to go to school for its own sake, do it. Work hard and enjoy it, but don't fool yourself into believing you have another motive. Certainly, there is nothing inherently wrong with education, or earning a degree. Something else might be better for you right now. Carefully examine your reasons and your situation before enrolling.
About the Author
Patricia Smith is a businesswoman, speaker, and the Author of Each of Us: How Every Woman Can Earn More Money in Corporate America. http://www.eachofus.com
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