I am returning to school after just about a two year layoff. The general reaction to the prospect was fairly positive and overwhelmingly supportive, just as it was the last several times.
Previously, I earned a professional certificate in US Law and Methodology and another Intellectual Property Law (which was Continuing Legal Education level coursework for existing Bar Certified lawyers) from New York University SCPS. After that, I earned my Masters in Business Administration with a Concentration in Marketing from Pace University. Now, I am back to NYU for a professional certificate in Project Management to prepare for a certification in Project Management from the Project Management Institute.
“Why are you doing this?” is usually the first question.
Well, for starters, I am insatiable when it comes to knowledge. I want to learn. I crave the intellectual stimulation. I desire continuous self-improvement. I enjoy the challenge of understanding certain things on a deeper level. This can only come from continued education.
“But why not just read a book then?” they counter before.
For some people, learning on their own is enough. The author of a book presents their point of view in the way they see bast. If you are able to grasp the concepts immediately, compare and contrast them effectively to competing ones from different offers, practice applying them effectively in context and synthesize the entire experience you have a special gift in learning.
For me, I cannot do that. I need the curriculum to provide me with the texts that make up a particular knowledge base and an instructor to help focus those texts especially when I am unable to comprehend their complexities on my own. With the classroom also comes from the collaboration of my fellow students and their unique backgrounds participating in a dynamic of involved discussions and multiple points of view. It is derived from the structure of not only reading, but working through case studies and projects and other assignments meant to re-enforce the lessons overall.
“Why do you need yet another degree?” is usually the next inquiry.
Taking a single class is fine. And, that was all I actually intended to do when I began researching Project Management. Similar to when I began researching the Law Certificates the process became entrancing. The more I learned about what was available the more I began to understand a single class might not be enough to provide me with what I really wanted. As it so happens, there is a certificate program and separate professional certification I can obtain and because it represents both a challenge in obtaining and an end-point to work toward it became that much more desirable.
“What good does that do you, will you make more money? they ponder.
Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t. Only half the reason I pursue continuing education is to earn more money. The other half is what I mentioned before, the self-fulfillment part. The payoff there was in career fulfillment alone, education at least let me redefine myself as I moved from industry to industry and responsibility to responsibility. Every bit of knowledge that you can verify, which a degree will provide a level of verification, in theory will assist you in your career by making you more marketable when looking for work, provide you with more information to do better work while you’re doing it and offer a level of authority from which to have a better title and therefore a larger paycheck. It does not always work out that way. In the current market there are lots of un-and-under employed MBAs, especially because in the last downturn when the tech bubble bust that was the hot advanced degree to get in order to set yourself apart.
“Isn’t it a waste of money then?” is the quizical retort
No moreso than a far flung vacation is a waste of money or indulging in your favorite foods and drinks would be or buying a fancy car. If those are ways you find gratifying to spend your money, if you derive pleasure out of them, would you consider them a waste? You could just as easily hang out in your back yard, ride a used bike and eat TV dinners, but you probably chose not to because of the gratification the opposites of those provide you. For me, education is much the same way. I enjoy spending my money on it because of the experience I get out of it.
“So you like school? See, I never did.” they lament
Yep. I do. It isn’t for everyone. I don’t like amusement parks. That’s why I don’t go to them. To be, they’re mostly dumb. But not everyone feels that way. Some people love them and have a good time. Me? I had mediocre experiences as a kid at them and because I am afraid of heights, not the biggest fan of being upside down, hate large throngs of people and generally don’t find anything about them to be the way I’d want to spend the time and money associated with them I avoid them. Some people had the same thing with school being nervous about tests and anxious about participating in class and disappointed because of their grades and generally didn’t find anything redeeming despite learning to read and write and do math. To each his own.