Is Investing in Your Education Worth It?

Came across this article a couple of days ago. The TL;DR of it is outlining which undergraduate qualifications give you the worst return on investment. Basically, with the money spent on your degree, does the job you get from it make it worth the money spent.

The bit I enjoyed is that all of my qualifications sit in or around at least one of these qualifications (this being education, fine arts and communications – I’m not exactly these, but pretty close). This made me think, as all good articles should …

have I got a good return on my investment in my own education?

It can be a confronting question to answer. What if all of my thousands of dollars spent on a certificate, diploma, bachelors (w/ honours), a grad cert and now a masters has all been for nothing? I probably have more qualifications than I need. I’m passionate about education, both as a teacher and as a student so I enjoy being a student and learning new things. Its also why I quite enjoy being a teacher.

I’m also a bit of an autodidact so one would ask, why bother with the qualifications if you can learn everything yourself. In fact, this is a problem for many teachers that I know. What value are they adding to their students if they can just jump on YouTube and learn everything themselves?  Admittedly, this is a question I have asked in the past of my own practice. What worth are we providing to our students? Did professors ask this same question of libraries in years past? But I digress …

I use most of my qualifications everyday as I teach in the discipline of my undergraduate degree and most of my other qualifications are in education. So from a knowledge standpoint, the investment has been worth it. Also, I have to have certain qualifications to do my job. So, to remain employed I have had to invest in the status of the qualification. Many of the qualifications in the list in the article require that a person be qualified to a certain level to perform that job because they need to have that experience and knowledge before they begin that job (i.e. the field of psychology).

But what about fine arts? Many great artists haven’t formally studied in that discipline. But they would’ve all have been “students” in their discipline in some form and many of them would’ve had mentors and idols. But none of this necessitates a need to enrol in a formal course of study. But I also don’t think it matters. Learning to be a master painter, musician, filmmaker, actor, designer, etc. necessitates an investment in time to develop the necessary skills to be that type of artist. And you continue to make this investment in time well into the future as you pursue your discipline.

A question that relates to the return on your investment is the question of; is your degree worthless if you then don’t make a career in that discipline? On the face of it, this sounds like its a poor return on investment. But it actually raises questions more about what is the point of a degree. Is it to learn specific, discipline focused skills for a specific job, or is it about having the cognitive skills of a certain level to be able to by employable. The first option makes you better trained for a specific role and the second gives you more options for a variety of work. A bachelor’s degree should give you both. A focus for a specific area and general higher order cognitive skills.

Anyone who completes a bachelors degree should have certain levels of communication, team work, problem solving and critical thinking skills. These are valuable tools that are worthwhile skills in any job and makes you more employable overall.

I hope this post at least raised some ideas about looking at the investment from a time, status and broader skills perspective as money is only part of what you need to invest in order to achieve a degree. Many people look at a degree from only a money perspective and I believe there is more to it than that (on a different note, we shouldn’t have degrees that are prohibitively expensive, but thats a post for another time). The actual piece of paper that states your qualification is really just the receipt. The product you have worked toward for many years is the growth in your own learning of a variety of skills, and not just within the discipline.

From my point of view, its definitely worth it. Yes.


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