Something interesting came up the other day. It was suggested that I get an advanced degree. My first thought was, “ack, more school”. My second thought was, “What degree could I get that I don’t already know enough about?”
I have some 39 hours towards an MBA, I just never finished. I’ve taken graduate level education courses. I’ve taken graduate level science courses. By now, I can learn more on my own and learn it faster, with less wasted effort than I could in a classroom.
That got me to thinking about what a degree really is and why so much effort is placed on them.
A degree is a measure of really only one thing. The ability to persevere. That’s it. It doesn’t matter what job you eventually go into (and many students do not go into fields in which they have a degree) every job has to train you on what you need to know.
Sure, there are fundamental basics that everyone needs to know. How to read, do math, etc. And I freely admit that some degrees provide a lot of directly relevant training. Of course, most of those are technical degrees (like auto mechanics or nursing) that have little relevance beyond that field.
Consider something like Psychology. I know many, many people who have degrees in Psychology and none of them work in psychology. There are store managers, business executives, IT people, etc. But no psychologists or even counselors.
Unfortunately, industry puts so much emphasis on college degrees and so many businesses are involved in generating college degrees that they are just about useless as a measure of the person with the degree.
When I got my bachelor’s degree, MBA schools were actually uncommon. You had to want to go deep into business for an MBA. Now, with every college having an MBA program and every Unibiz* promoting specialist MBAs, you can’t get a job as a junior level manager without an MBA.
But is it really helping? Honestly ask yourself who would you rather have running your business? A brand new MBA with no work experience or a guy with a Bachelor’s degree and a few years of experience in the area?
Which brings me back to my conundrum.
To me, an advanced degree is a waste of money. I know as much as an MBA, I just don’t have the piece of paper. I know more science than most science graduates. I’m certainly more well-rounded than most people in a specialized program. I actually have more college hours than most Master’s degree graduates (and probably a few Ph.D. students).
Yet, I will be passed on for promotion and lose opportunities because I don’t get an advanced degree.
OTOH, If I get an advanced degree, then I will also lose opportunities because an advanced degree with my experience and knowledge means that I have to be paid a premium and no business wants to do that.
Either way, I’m screwed. I might as well do the things that make me happy and learning is one of those things. Just not learning in a formal classroom setting.
* For-profit universities and colleges.