No More Degrees

This is not another hit piece about the value of a degree and whether pursuing one is worth the money. Nor is this a piece about which degrees to avoid if you want to get a decent-paying job, “decent-paying” being completely subjective. I am a proud Liberal Arts degree holder, and I do not regret my major of choice (History with a concentration in African American Studies), especially when I read articles that dispel myths about Liberal Arts degrees being useless or rendering graduates unemployable. I could have just as easily majored in Business, but once my college professors helped me with expressing thoughts through research and writing, I found my sweet spot!

Instead, I am going to shed some light on what happens when you (me) believe you have found your calling and invest money into advanced degrees to better prepare yourself for future career opportunities. I started teaching Special Education in 2002, after working as a Paraprofessional. I enjoyed the work so much that I took the initial certification test (and passed), moved to Georgia, and started teaching. Call me naive, but I just knew that I would be a teacher until I retired. Well, I am in my 40s now, and I am not teaching, although I am in a position where I work with kids in Special Education. After taking a sabbatical (that’s what I call it) to homeschool my kids, I found it extremely hard to get back into teaching and any kind of paying work for that matter. During the time that I was gone, the certification rules in Georgia changed drastically. Long story short: In order to become a certified teacher again, I would need to earn a Master’s degree. Here are three reasons why it is unlikely I will pursue a public school teaching career:

  1. I do not see the value in earning a second Master’s degree (for me);
  2. Certification-only programs are as long as a Master’s degree program, so that option makes even less sense;
  3. Currently, I do not earn enough money to even return to school and loans are not an option.

“Well, what are you gonna do now?” I ask myself almost daily..sometimes more than once a day. I also have two advanced degrees in Education, but very few job prospects. Despite acquiring additional skills that are transferable to any career (training, leadership, curriculum evaluation and design, amongst others), transitioning from teaching to a meaningful,professionally challenging corporate career has proven to be…well, challenging. What’s really odd is the fact that it seems to be easier to transition from corporate into the classroom, but that’s a topic for another day or someone else altogether. In essence:

I AM AT A PROFESSIONAL CROSSROADS

Image Credit: Plotline Leadership

Returning to school for the purpose of obtaining another degree, in hopes of landing an ideal job, is not an option, unless of course it comes at the expense of my next employer, or I am paid so well that the cost of tuition will not cause a financial strain. My resume has been critiqued and rewritten by three separate professional resume writers, who all have a history of clients successfully landing new and better positions. I have realistic career goals: I am not trying to apply for Chief of Medicine or Secretary of Education (although, I am confident I have more knowledge and experience in K-12 than the person who currently holds the former position). Quite simply: I desire a career with actual growth and learning opportunities, not the dangling-the-carrot-in-front-of-the-rabbit kind. A workplace environment that encourages creativity and new ideas, not one that uses those words as catchphrases to lure people to work for them. Also important: The ability to stay challenged and motivated to show-up 5 days a week. If I am required to devote 40 hours a week, I expect to work 40 hours a week. If my “work” is finished by noon or 1, then the work you assigned is not challenging enough for me to stay. Those requirements sound simple enough, but finding a position that offers them has proven quite elusive.

Since graduate school is out of the question, I decided to invest a few dollars and hours into learning some new software and professional skills. Last year, Groupon promoted a Project Management training deal from Career Academy, a PMI-approved education provider. This means any classes taken through Career Academy count towards the number of PLUs required to sit for either the CAPM or PMP exams. My goal is to be ready for the exam by late June, that will give me some time to seek a summer internship and add ‘verifiable’ project management skills to my resume. At this stage in my still-developing-career (and age), this is the most sensible path for me. For anyone seeking ways to move-up the corporate ladder or gain a new and more challenging position, I strongly urge you to consider adding a professional certificate to your resume before investing money in a second or third degree.