To Degree or not to Degree – That is the question you need to ask yourself


A good friend of mine mentioned that she was thinking of getting another degree in a field that she is more passionate about. And I said “Whoa Back! Lets talk this over some more”

You see getting a degree is typically a 4 year commitment or 6 years if you are thinking of doing it part-time. But here’s the rub, when you finish that degree, there are no guarantees of getting a job, sure your chances have increased several fold but there are no guarantees.

The real question you should take time understanding is why you want to change your career?

Normally the story goes like this – “I’m so unhappy right now working in this job that I need to do something I’m more passionate about, Life is Short, right.”

Correct, Life is Short so why spend the next 4-6 years of your life to eventually try out something new. Wouldn’t it be better to see if you like this new discipline first. Perhaps try to gain some work experience or immerse yourself learning about the career, before you commit to the long slog of Degreedom.  In marketing terms it’s called the Minimum Viable Product (MVP), which is the least work you can do, to test if the product (or your career change) has potential.

As previously mentioned, Life is Short, so let me propose this scenario.

Person A, lets call him Joe, is working full time in IT and wants to help people get fit and healthy, so decides getting a degree as a nutritionist might be the best way to switch careers into something he is more passionate about.

Person B, lets call her Jane, is also working full time in IT and wants to help people to live a healthier lifestyle, but chooses online education as a first step.

Person A

Now, Joe is very committed to getting this degree, but has a family to support so he decides to take the part-time route so he can continue to do the work we know he hates. He commits to a couple of subjects per semester.

On average with lectures and assignments, Joe is putting in at least 10 hours a week and has committed to this over the next 6 years. Some simple math tells us that (10 hrs x 50 weeks = 500 hrs) x 6 years  is approximately 3000 hours of effort he’ll spend on this career change. Plus as an added bonus hell be lumped with another education debt and could be $50-100K worse off financially. He is already worried about finding a job in this new career.

Person B

Now Jane is not so keen on University, because she realises that one degree is enough and she just can’t wait that long to escape the job she hates. Jane discovers the Internet and finds that education is freely available online, as the people in her industry are happy to share their knowledge with others about the things they are passionate about. Jane starts spending time absorbing youTube videos, online training courses and contributing to community discussions. Before long she is hooked and knows this is the right path for her.

Jane decides to start a blog to share her learnings with others that are also interested in the topic and are perhaps just starting out on their life’s journey. People start to follow her and soon she creates a Facebook group to bring the community together.  Then soon after realises that she want’s to coach physical training. Jane then takes time off from work and does a short course to become a physical trainer. With the authority she has gained through her blogging, she soon gets a few people interested in one-on-one coaching and does this on the weekends. As a result Jane now has a MVP and might have achieved this in less than a year, even if she just spent and extra 10 hours a week. More importantly Jane is happy doing something she loves.

Now Jane knows that physical exercise and healthy eating compliment each other and decides to learn more about nutrition. She try a few different eating lifestyles and decides that a switch to a Paleo diet complements her fitness goals. She begins to absorb the information freely available online and starts to make up a few Paleo recipes that she loves. Her friends love them too, and encourage Jane to turn them into an ebook. She learns that she can self publish through a company called CreateSpace and starts to sell these books on Amazon and by direct selling on her blog. Jane also applies this same technique to some Juice Recipes she has developed over time.

By this time Jane has spent no more than a few years, committing to just 10 extra hours a week on top of her day job, and is already doing the things she loves, plus making extra money. If Jane continues down this path she might even decide to go full-time and quit that unfulfilling job. More importantly for Jane, she is already helping people to lead healthier lifestyles, which has been her goal all along.

Joe on the other hand still has 4 years of part-time study to go, and then faces the prospect of finding a junior role in the career he believes is just right for him. Sadly he is so committed to study he doesn’t have the time to help anyone yet, but is still determined to finish that second degree.

I know who shoes I’d rather be in, don’t you?

You see although the initial goal was very similar, the path can be very different in today’s connected world. As little as 15 years ago Joe’s model was probably the safest one, but times have changed and now the tools are freely available for you to change career at will until you find something you are more passionate about.

Try some online learning places like Khan AcademyLynda.comUdemy or perhaps something more specific to your passion like Creative Live for a little more inspiration

Ok, there are a few professions that require you to have a degree by law, before you can legally practice, but hopefully you majored in one of them as your first degree and not your second. However, you don’t need a science degree to learn science or even teach it in a basic way. It does however require you to have a passion to learn it first. The books and people you have access to are no different than the ones available in a degree.

So the point I am trying to get across here is, there are many other ways that you can go about changing a career than trying to get another piece of paper that reminds you are a good learner and follow instruction well.

Life is already passing you by, so make sure you grab hold of your time and use in the best possible way. Another degree isn’t the change you are looking for, it’s just another distraction to satisfy your yearning to do something about your current situation.

Wouldn’t it be better to be like Jane and actually spend the time doing those things you love from the get go?

I’d love to hear if you’ve recently, had thoughts of changing careers and decided against the Degreedom path, if so please post in the comments below or connect with me on social media.







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