Was My Education Worth It?

When I graduated from High School, I really didn’t care that much about where I went to college. I thought I might like to be an engineer, but as for what school would prepare me best for that career? That thought never crossed my mind. Naturally, since I only looked at a few colleges, I settled on one of the local universities, Grand Valley State. Luckily, they were actually a very good college, and the education I received there was top-notch.

Just like many other students, I didn’t stick with my original major. Three years in, I decided to switch to Finance, which turned out to be a great fit. However, since I graduated in 2008 when all the banks were closing, I didn’t exactly have the easiest time finding a job in my field.

The Job Search vs. My MBA

I started looking for a job immediately after graduation. It was rough. Not a lot of companies were hiring, and while I had a great GPA, I had little experience in Finance since I had switched my major so late in my college career. Many of my friends were also without jobs and made the decision to head back to school for their MBA. They figured that the economy might be a little better when they get their new advanced degree. I honestly didn’t think too long about getting my MBA. I was sick of school and was ready to make some money. So, I continued my search.

Humble Beginnings

I dreamed of managing sizeable investment portfolios for a bank or a large company, but sometimes life just doesn’t work out how you dreamed it up. Instead, I began working for an office supply company as a catalog price proofer. I made sure that the prices on the page were accurate before the catalogs were produced. It was a pretty basic job, but without my degree I wouldn’t have had a chance. With hard work and some good fortune, I was able to move up into a full-time position as a Merchandising Analyst. I had benefits and 401(k) matching. Plus, I was gaining experience, one of the most important factors in finding a great job.

The Benefits of College

When I look back on my experiences and accomplishments, I often wonder if my college education was worth it. While there is never a direct comparison (since we all have our own skills), I take a look at my friends that decided not to finish college and compare their current life and future opportunities to mine. My best friend never received his degree, and while he does have a decent job, his chance for advancement is incredibly slim. More than likely, he will be working that same job for the rest of his life with nothing more than cost-of-living raises.

For me, getting started was tough (since I had no experience), but with my degree I was able to secure that first job, move up in the company, and then I was able to find an even better job with a well-known company in my hometown. And, I have limitless advancement opportunities. Within the next couple years, I’ll almost certainly receive a promotion, maybe even two! The combination of a degree with experience is worth its weight in gold. Getting the college degree was worth every penny.

Undergrad Degree vs. the MBA

Let’s not forget about my MBA friends. They just recently graduated and guess what? They are still having a hard time finding a job. In fact, I think they are having a harder time than I did because many employers are saying that they are overqualified for many of the positions, while other higher-paying jobs won’t even interview them because they still don’t have any experience. Their MBA degree was a double-edged sword because they didn’t accompany their degree with any additional work under their belt.

I, on the other hand, now have 4 years of experience in Corporate America and my MBA is getting paid for by my employer! Based on my own experience, this leads me to believe that it’s best to work as an intern while getting your undergrad degree, then get out into the work world and rack up your experience. From there, you can decide to get more schooling or just find your way into a company that will likely offer you advancement after a short period of time. Once you have your undergrad and over three years-worth of experience though, you should have no problem finding work.

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