If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always had.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

I beg to differ

From my earliest days, it was assumed that I would go to college when I finished high school, and that I would graduate from college before getting married. It wasn't something we discussed; it was understood. I threw a big monkey wrench in the works when I started my six months of delayed enlistment before graduation. I did take a couple of college classes before I married, but not many. It took me ten years to finish my BAS in Business Management. According to Bureau of Labor statistics, I should be making in the neighborhood of 50k a year. Uh huh.

Here's the thing. Statistics can say anything you want them to say. I learned that in college. A college degree can increase earning power, but it's not a guarantee. A lot of it depends on what degree is earned. A Bachelors in Engineering is going to net more than a Bachelors in Underwater Basket Weaving. I chose Business Management because it seemed to have more potential than my original major (Psychology). It also allowed me to graduate a full year sooner because I was able to use all of my credits. I even got college credits from Basic Training and Tech School, which allowed me to get my AAS in Aerospace Ground Equipment Technology. (Sounds fancy, huh?) Getting an education is only half the battle; doing something with it is the other half.

There have been times when my degrees hindered me. I almost didn't get a job because I was over-qualified. The only reason I got it was because I told the interviewer that I didn't expect to be compensated according to my education. It was a short-term contract job and I needed the income; I certainly wasn't going to turn down $8.00 an hour when I should have been getting more. His pay scale was a bird in the hand, and I was a good fit for the job, but not directly because of my education. The skills I used in that job were learned in a previous job.

I can't regret the time and money spent to get my degrees. If nothing else, my education proves that I'm trainable. Even though I've only had one 'business sector' job, I have never wanted for work. Much of it has not been glamorous. Because I spent my years following Eric around the world, I was pretty limited to retail and receptionist jobs. Such is the life of a military spouse. I haven't made a lot of money. In fact, according to my recent Social Security statement, I've only just now made enough money to qualify for Social Security disability if I need it. My degree did allow us to start homeschooling when we did. (Virginia law states that homeschooling parents must have either a Bachelor degree or a teaching certificate.) Honestly, though, if I hadn't been for the GI Bill I might have regrets. I paid very little, monetarily, for my education. The last year was free; I didn't even pay for child care while I was in classes. I had to put in the time with the Air Force, but that was an education in itself. The certification I've just started working on is the first time I've paid for education for myself completely out of pocket.

The bottom line is that not everything in print is believable. The type of degree, the area in which one chooses to live, the job obtained with said degree--they're all factors that are not mentioned in the Bureau of Labor statistics. The median income level for my education is $50,000 a year. If I stay in my current job and keep my hours up, I'll hit that mark in about seven more years.

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Blogger Jean said...

That's just the median income for people with your degree. Plenty of people make more than that, and plenty of people make less. As you know, to get a feel for whether most people make more or less, the mode would be helpful.

I also know that wasn't your point of the post. You're absolutely right that simply earning a degree in a particular field does not guarantee a particular income. So many more factors come into play in determining that.

I know what you mean about changing the degree to ensure completion. I started going for electrical engineering (because that was not only where the money was, but the AF liked that idea). I quickly learned I'd never be able to get the labs needed for that degree and still stay on active duty (and I couldn't afford to get out). I adjusted to account for another love I had and got my degree in professional writing.

11:53 AM  
Anonymous Danny Ing said...

You are right on getting degree is the beginning of your journey and not end to itself.

9:38 AM  

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