Thursday, October 31, 2013

College Degrees - Do You Need One?

The consistent rise of overall college tuition has given me reason to think about my own degree and what mine has meant to me and for me. Here are my thoughts on the matter.I received a bachelor of arts degree in mass communications back in 1995. I've gone back and forth with myself over what purpose the degree has in my life. My initial impression was the degree is job related. I studied television and radio journalism in college, so my degree means I've had enough training to work in the radio or tv field. I was in fact able to get work in the radio business for 10 years. However, the work I was doing was totally unrelated to my degree. I have never worked in tv or radio journalism. None of the radio jobs I held for the 10 years I was in the business necessitated a degree. Several of my coworkers did not have degrees and held similar positions to myself.After my radio stint, I decided to make a career switch to the IT field. I took some night classes, obtained a certification as an Oracle Database Administrator and began my job hunt. At this time, I began to focus more on my past work experience on my resume. I have always indicated I have a degree on the resume but it has been getting a lower priority the more time I have worked. My first employer in IT did not overtly require me to have a degree, but I believe they gave me more money that they would have if I did not have a degree.My current employer did take notice of the subject of my degree (mass communications), which is the first time in my career that was focused on. My pay was somewhat more than my previous employer, which gives me the impression that my degree still has something to do with the extra salary.I've had discussions with my parents in the past about "why did I get this degree?" While I initially thought the degree was directly correlated to your employment choice, I'm now under the belief that is not always the case. If you are getting a degree in accounting, pre-med, pre-law, then of course you're getting a degree predisposed to a certain line of work. However, there are numerous other degrees (liberal arts degrees like my mass communications for one) that often do not directly apply to a line of work.So, the following two questions remain:1) If you get a degree that is directly suited to a career, will that benefit you?It seems to go without saying that a degree directly related to a career will suit you if you choose to pursue that career, and in some cases if you pursue a similar career (ex: my current job involves some writing, a skill I began developing while working on my degree).2) If my degree doesn't have a direct correlation to a specific job, do I really need it?I have asked myself this question pretty much since graduating college and I continue to ask myself this today. The selfish person in me would say "Don't waste your time - focus on what will provide you a career." However, the more philosophical side of me argues "Get the degree - life is an adventure and you are not obligated to be so short sighted to believe that everything you do should advance your career."I make homebrew beer. Do you think that has anything to do with my degree or the work I do currently? Um...NO. I play trumpet. It hasn't come up at all at any job I've worked (except for maybe in a job interview here and there.) My point here is the experiences you get in life on the whole add up to make you who you are. You will pick up skills along the way that help you with work. You will also learn what you like to do, which is ultimately what you spend all that time working to make enough money (hopefully) to do.So I say get the degree. Get financial aid if you need to - I've been paying off my loan ever since a few months after I graduated. Guess what? In a little over 3 years, the loan will be paid off and I'll still have the degree.