6 Degrees of Education

At work my department is split pretty evenly between older veterans and young newcomers. A couple years ago they did a huge overhaul of the job description which caused a couple retirements and layoffs. (The old job description still included type writers) I benefited from from the overhaul because it opened the position I was later hired for. As a group we work together extremely well despite being at opposite ends of the spectrum. Recently someone was promoted and so a job posting went up. A veteran coworker and I were chatting and she said her older friend who would be perfect for the job but they would never hire her because she lacked a college degree. She went on to say that when she was young, no one went to college especially for clerical positions. She is correct, one of the minimum standards for my job and company is college experience.

Let me give you some background information: I work in the claim operations department for a large insurance company. It’s a lot of behind the scenes claim work. For example, I spend all day requesting medical bills and records from hospitals. My department is also designed to be a feeder for the rest of the claim organization. Meaning, management like to promote ops folks into higher positions and therefore they want to hire people who want a future in insurance claims. That’s why they feel a college degree is needed.

What my coworker said really stuck with me. One day I’ll be the older veteran. I have a bachelors degree but will that always be enough? In 10 or 20 years will a masters degree be the new baseline? I am not looking to advance or get promoted but should I think about an advanced degree simply to maintain my position down the road? I don’t really have an answer nor have I formed a firm opinion on a masters degree. It’s simply an idea that is rattling around in my head. I don’t want to world to evolve past me and one day be left behind. There are also many other factors involved such as budget, motivation, future career path, and debt. Did I mention money? Future decision makers could also surprise me and look less to education. I’ve toyed with the idea of taking classes little by little toward a master’s degree. (When I say little by little, I mean over the next 10 years or so) It’s not going to happen any time soon, but something to consider as society evolves.

Post Script: I can hear people having passionate rebuttals from both sides. For you let me say this:

Education can be a touchy subject depending on what side of the coin you’re on. I think being a generally well rounded educated person in important. However, good education doesn’t always need to come from a college or university. When it comes to advanced degrees, I would say they are very necessary depending on the field you’re in. For example, my sister is a teacher. It is a requirement for her job that she have a masters degree. Not surprisingly, those working in education value education. On the flip side, a masters is not required for a career as a fire fighter. There is no right or wrong way to achieve success. I have a friend who has several advanced degrees and is successful in the pharmaceutical industry while another friend was an entrepreneur at an early age and skipped college to opened his own very successful business. (I’d also guess that both are in the same income bracket) I always laugh when I think about all the interviews I’ve ever had and only 1% of the interviewers have ever asked about my education. I also must concede that my education has probably silently opened doors that I didn’t realize where closed for other people.

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