I’ll Never Go Back to School

…Yep, there, I said it – I have no desire to ever go back to school – no need for higher education – and see no value in putting myself into thousands and thousands of dollars in debt to walk away with piece of paper that says I’m smarter and more qualified than you. No thanks.

Nicole Crimaldi over at Ms. Career Girl – a good friend and someone I’ve had the pleasure of working with – wrote an outstanding post recently about the value of self education. I share in her initial disclaimer – if you’re seeking a career as a doctor, attorney, professor, or some other high level profession – this “screw the degree” post isn’t for you. I fully understand and appreciate the need for higher education when it comes to those specific career paths.

Take a look at your life and how you got here

To the rest of you – I encourage you to take a look at where you stand today – what you’re doing and how you got here. Odds are, your schooling had very little to do it (except for maybe impressing a few folks with your resume) – rather – it’s what you’ve done for yourself – and what you’ve taught yourself over time.

I’m living in Chicago, working as an Internet Marketing Developer and developing a name for myself as a freelance web developer and consultant – but one year ago, I had absolutely 0% experience in this field. Funny what you can do when you actually set out to do it, right?

You see, a lot of us think that extra school is the pathway to success – maybe you’re lost, wandering and confused, wondering what you want to do with your life, and in your search for fulfillment and happiness you consider going back to school because your title and credentials will guarantee you success, right? Wrong.

Experience matters most

In this day and age – its much less about the amount of school you take on and much more about what you’re willing to take on yourself. EXPERIENCE trumps formal education, hands down. Self education is, without a doubt, the highest form of learning (and yes, higher ed graduates, I’m talking to you to, and you know I’m right). School can teach you a lot, it can give you the technical know-how, but you’ll never be as successful as you can be and want to be until you take initiative to go the extra mile and start teaching yourself.

The beauty of the world that we live in today is that everything…EVERYTHING you want, all of the information you need, is out there for the taking. If you want to start a cupcake delivery company, do it! If you want to risk it all and move to another country, you can! Location independence is real, becoming an entrepreneur by age 25 is a legitimate possibility. Why? Not because of school, not because of a degree, but because people are willing to take flying leaps out of their comfort zones, ask a “shit-ton” of questions, and stay up until 2am reading marketing literature, all while saving money, surviving on Ramen noodles, and wearing that sweater their mom gave them in 9th grade.

The question is: Are you the master of your domain?

Self education is the best form of education because at the end of the day, you are the master of your own destiny, you hold the reigns, you write the papers and give the tests – and ultimately – you are responsible for yourself – the possibilities are endless.

As Nicole so aptly puts – going back to school won’t save you from the recession, it won’t help you “figure it all out”, and it should NEVER be an excuse to delay entering into the “real world”.

Maybe higher education IS for you – if that’s your passion, then who am I or anyone else to tell you that you shouldn’t go do it? But before you do – think about everything you can and should be doing RIGHT NOW to set yourself up for success…

All things considered, when the chips fall – maybe more school IS the right thing for you, but then again, maybe it isn’t.

Everything I’ve learned this past year has been because I’ve put myself out there, made mistakes, and learned something from every single one of them. I still have a long way to go – but I’m excited about the life-long learning process, and I know that I don’t need a piece of paper in a fancy plaque to point me in the right direction.

Higher-education versus self-education. What value do you place on either/both?


315 Responses
  • Sheema Reply

    Matt, I agree with you in that it’s not necessarily the education that gets you where you are, but what you do with that knowledge is up to you. Education can teach you how to study & learn, how to work with others, and manage your time. What you choose to make of that is completely up to you. I feel like the current job climate reflects that, because you could have a 4.0 GPA and a few degrees under you belt, but if you don’t have any internships or work experience, not many people will hire you.

    I do think higher education could help people specializing in certain fields, especially if your undergraduate degree was a broad one. I also think higher education can help you discover a passion or career path you might not have previously considered- but that may be down to the people you surround yourself with.

    As the job market becomes more competitive, getting a Master’s degree seems to be becoming the norm. What do you think about that?

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      I don’t have the statistics or physical data with me to back up this claim – but I’m seeing a few things right now:

      1) People going back to school because the job market is so bad right now – sort of “delaying” their entrance into the working world. Hoping that school will lead them in the right direction, not neccesarily knowing what direction that is and spending a ton of money to figure it out.

      2) People who DO have master’s degree having a real problem finding a job – why? Because the “credentials” actually make them “over-qualified” – and a company would rather pay someone less who may only have a Bachelors degree to bring them in and nurture them into that role.

      3) Experience matters more and more – once you get a couple of jobs under your belt it seems like that degree you worked so hard for is almost obsolete – it becomes a line at the bottom of your resume and nothing more.

      Maybe that’s just my slighted view – I’m not sure – but at least in the field I’m in of marketing and development, I don’t see a ton of value to go back to class.

      Do you think a Masters or other high-level degree really has an impact on finding a job?

      • Sheema Reply

        1) I’ll agree with you on that point. However, I have friends that weren’t even able to get decent internships (and it wasn’t for lack of trying) , so they chose a Master’s program that offered great internships within the courses as a way to gain experience.

        2) That’s a valid point!

        3) I completely agree that experience matters the most. Actually, the job I have now didn’t even ask what type of degree I got- they just asked me about the internships I had done.

        I think it depends on the field in which you are work in as well as the economic climate. For example, if you were going into corporate communications, wouldn’t it be beneficial to have someone who has a BA in PR and a MA in Finance or Business? Individuals are going to grad school because the economic climate is bad, but a lot of them have been looking for jobs for months and would rather work proactively than sit around. I also think it depends on personality- some people can’t “self-educate” for whatever reason and need the structure of school in order to learn. That’s not to say that they couldn’t self-educate, but they just know their study habits and don’t want to change them. I also know people that are getting Master’s in order to break into management positions (after having worked for a number of years). Do you think its valid to pursue higher education in order to move up?

        • Matt Cheuvront Reply

          @Sheema – to your point – I think that higher education is a neccesary step in some fields, without a doubt. But as someone who isn’t entirely interested in working his way up the corporate ladder – as an entrepreneur, I’d rather throw myself in the field, study my ass off on my own terms – than go back to school and have someone else lecture to me about Business Ethics. I know that’s somewhat of an extreme example, but I think you know what I mean.

          There are clearly multiple paths here – but that’s not the point of this – the point is the path that I’m taking and to give a lot of other people who are considering going back for more education because they’re “supposed to” something to consider before they take the plunge.

      • Tim Jahn Reply

        Side note on the masters thing – my wife is a teacher and she’s always said that as a teacher, you can’t go back to get your Master’s (which results in higher pay) until you’ve been at the school awhile and they’ll pay for the classes. Because if you already have your Masters, the school won’t want to higher you because they’ll have to pay you too much.

        • Tim Jahn Reply

          I can’t believe I spelled “hire” wrong in the last sentence.

        • Sheema Reply

          That’s really interesting! I have heard of other industries doing the same, although I’m sure it differs from company to company

  • Sheema Reply

    Matt, I agree with you in that it’s not necessarily the education that gets you where you are, but what you do with that knowledge is up to you. Education can teach you how to study & learn, how to work with others, and manage your time. What you choose to make of that is completely up to you. I feel like the current job climate reflects that, because you could have a 4.0 GPA and a few degrees under you belt, but if you don’t have any internships or work experience, not many people will hire you.

    I do think higher education could help people specializing in certain fields, especially if your undergraduate degree was a broad one. I also think higher education can help you discover a passion or career path you might not have previously considered- but that may be down to the people you surround yourself with.

    As the job market becomes more competitive, getting a Master’s degree seems to be becoming the norm. What do you think about that?

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      I don’t have the statistics or physical data with me to back up this claim – but I’m seeing a few things right now:

      1) People going back to school because the job market is so bad right now – sort of “delaying” their entrance into the working world. Hoping that school will lead them in the right direction, not neccesarily knowing what direction that is and spending a ton of money to figure it out.

      2) People who DO have master’s degree having a real problem finding a job – why? Because the “credentials” actually make them “over-qualified” – and a company would rather pay someone less who may only have a Bachelors degree to bring them in and nurture them into that role.

      3) Experience matters more and more – once you get a couple of jobs under your belt it seems like that degree you worked so hard for is almost obsolete – it becomes a line at the bottom of your resume and nothing more.

      Maybe that’s just my slighted view – I’m not sure – but at least in the field I’m in of marketing and development, I don’t see a ton of value to go back to class.

      Do you think a Masters or other high-level degree really has an impact on finding a job?

      • Sheema Reply

        1) I’ll agree with you on that point. However, I have friends that weren’t even able to get decent internships (and it wasn’t for lack of trying) , so they chose a Master’s program that offered great internships within the courses as a way to gain experience.

        2) That’s a valid point!

        3) I completely agree that experience matters the most. Actually, the job I have now didn’t even ask what type of degree I got- they just asked me about the internships I had done.

        I think it depends on the field in which you are work in as well as the economic climate. For example, if you were going into corporate communications, wouldn’t it be beneficial to have someone who has a BA in PR and a MA in Finance or Business? Individuals are going to grad school because the economic climate is bad, but a lot of them have been looking for jobs for months and would rather work proactively than sit around. I also think it depends on personality- some people can’t “self-educate” for whatever reason and need the structure of school in order to learn. That’s not to say that they couldn’t self-educate, but they just know their study habits and don’t want to change them. I also know people that are getting Master’s in order to break into management positions (after having worked for a number of years). Do you think its valid to pursue higher education in order to move up?

        • Matt Cheuvront Reply

          @Sheema – to your point – I think that higher education is a neccesary step in some fields, without a doubt. But as someone who isn’t entirely interested in working his way up the corporate ladder – as an entrepreneur, I’d rather throw myself in the field, study my ass off on my own terms – than go back to school and have someone else lecture to me about Business Ethics. I know that’s somewhat of an extreme example, but I think you know what I mean.

          There are clearly multiple paths here – but that’s not the point of this – the point is the path that I’m taking and to give a lot of other people who are considering going back for more education because they’re “supposed to” something to consider before they take the plunge.

      • Tim Jahn Reply

        Side note on the masters thing – my wife is a teacher and she’s always said that as a teacher, you can’t go back to get your Master’s (which results in higher pay) until you’ve been at the school awhile and they’ll pay for the classes. Because if you already have your Masters, the school won’t want to higher you because they’ll have to pay you too much.

        • Tim Jahn Reply

          I can’t believe I spelled “hire” wrong in the last sentence.

        • Sheema Reply

          That’s really interesting! I have heard of other industries doing the same, although I’m sure it differs from company to company

  • Lindsey Reply

    Having gotten my master’s in Global Communications, I think that I wasn’t ready for the working world beforehand. Well, I had completed a really great internship, but it also depends on the environment in which you’re trying to get a job. In France, the education system is very elitist – their equivalent of ivy league schools still trump a quality education at a lesser known school. And to get a job, even the one you have Matt? You need a master’s. So because this was where I wanted to be, back to school I went!

    All university students in France do at least a 6month internship during their studies, it’s a requirement, at both the undergraduate and graduate level. So with my master’s, I did a 6 month paid internship at Landor, one of the leading global branding agencies, which expanded my network immensely. So yes, the experience was, in this sense, more beneficial than some of my coursework and research because it was hands-on. But I will say this – my knowledge, understanding and application of communications and social media practices has evolved at least initially because of my master’s program. Perhaps that’s because I wasn’t at the point where teaching myself would have worked for me. But it gave me the base I needed.

    Now here’s the problem, and where I agree with you that experience trumps education. When I was looking for a job after graduating, all I heard was “we’re looking for someone with more experience, not just internships”, yet in French internships you’re not grabbing coffee or photocopying, you have the same responsibilities as everyone else. But how do I get said experience unless someone gives me a chance? Voila the catch 22. In this situation, experience should, in theory, be more important than a degree. But what if it isn’t? Companies will always find a reason to choose someone else – well this person had the degree AND the experience.

    In the end, it’s about who you know. And while that can be good, it’s also disheartening because not everyone is wonderful at reaching out and making connections.

    Concerning what Sheema said – this is the norm, you’re right. And pretty soon the MBA will be the norm (that’s already starting, in fact) – and then what? PhD is too research driven, and too much of a commitment. After that, experience really will make all the difference.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Thanks for your perspective Lindsey – it’s interesting to hear the circumstances and environment in another country. It is becoming more and more the norm to get (at least) an MBA – which begs to the question, if everyone has one, does it really mean that much? Is someone with an MBA seen in a much higher regard than someone with a BA – or even someone with an Associates? Is it more about the skills and talent you bring to the table rather than the degree you carry with you?

      I don’t have the answer to that – but I’m wondering if, a couple years after you graduate, with some real life work experience under your belt, does anyone even LOOK at your degree? I’m not so sure…

  • Lindsey Reply

    Having gotten my master’s in Global Communications, I think that I wasn’t ready for the working world beforehand. Well, I had completed a really great internship, but it also depends on the environment in which you’re trying to get a job. In France, the education system is very elitist – their equivalent of ivy league schools still trump a quality education at a lesser known school. And to get a job, even the one you have Matt? You need a master’s. So because this was where I wanted to be, back to school I went!

    All university students in France do at least a 6month internship during their studies, it’s a requirement, at both the undergraduate and graduate level. So with my master’s, I did a 6 month paid internship at Landor, one of the leading global branding agencies, which expanded my network immensely. So yes, the experience was, in this sense, more beneficial than some of my coursework and research because it was hands-on. But I will say this – my knowledge, understanding and application of communications and social media practices has evolved at least initially because of my master’s program. Perhaps that’s because I wasn’t at the point where teaching myself would have worked for me. But it gave me the base I needed.

    Now here’s the problem, and where I agree with you that experience trumps education. When I was looking for a job after graduating, all I heard was “we’re looking for someone with more experience, not just internships”, yet in French internships you’re not grabbing coffee or photocopying, you have the same responsibilities as everyone else. But how do I get said experience unless someone gives me a chance? Voila the catch 22. In this situation, experience should, in theory, be more important than a degree. But what if it isn’t? Companies will always find a reason to choose someone else – well this person had the degree AND the experience.

    In the end, it’s about who you know. And while that can be good, it’s also disheartening because not everyone is wonderful at reaching out and making connections.

    Concerning what Sheema said – this is the norm, you’re right. And pretty soon the MBA will be the norm (that’s already starting, in fact) – and then what? PhD is too research driven, and too much of a commitment. After that, experience really will make all the difference.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Thanks for your perspective Lindsey – it’s interesting to hear the circumstances and environment in another country. It is becoming more and more the norm to get (at least) an MBA – which begs to the question, if everyone has one, does it really mean that much? Is someone with an MBA seen in a much higher regard than someone with a BA – or even someone with an Associates? Is it more about the skills and talent you bring to the table rather than the degree you carry with you?

      I don’t have the answer to that – but I’m wondering if, a couple years after you graduate, with some real life work experience under your belt, does anyone even LOOK at your degree? I’m not so sure…

  • Josh Reply

    I was an accounting major in my undergrad and going into my internship I realized most of that curriculum did not teach practical things. Sure, the theories taught still applied but the program did not set me up for how to actually leverage the degree. It all comes from a burning desire from within. Right now, I am studying for my GMATs to go to get an MBA because the job market (especially for financial analysts) is tough right now. I am looking to take time off and find what I really want to do for work and then shift my career. Barriers of entry to change careers are difficult in this market- especially without experience, so I look as the MBA as leverage for the career shift.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Interesting that you are using the MBA to leverage a shift in your career. Do you believe that having that extra education experience will improve your chances of finding a job? Are you finding that your lack of education is currently holding you back? Are hiring reps turning your down because you DON’T have the MBA? Just curious what the market is like out their in your field…

      • Josh Reply

        Dont think the extra educational experience will improve me finding a chance at a job, but do think it will give me a stronger background and exposure towards what I am aiming towards. As far as lack of education, I do not believe that is the key right now… I believe it is the lack of relevant experience that is holding me back. There are analysts, accountants, etc. with so many certifications under their belt (CPA, CFP, CFA, Series 7, Six Sigma Certified, etc.) that it is tough to compete in the competitive pool. Like the housing market, I think the financial industry has a ton of “quality inventory” now on the open market. They are very very picky about who they want to hire. The MBA is preferred, but more so I am seeing many corporations looking for specific skill sets with experience of +5 years which is tough for this GenY class graduated and just graduating.

        Also, if this has any relevance, any job interview I have had in the last few months, heavy emphasis was placed on their inquiries on what my long term goals were personally and where I saw myself “growing” with the firm… that indicates to me they might be looking to cultivate young talent right now and strongly weave them in their corporate culture over the years- not for me. But that is just my opinion.

        • Matt Cheuvront Reply

          This is the exact same situation I was in – I recently moved to Chicago from Nashville – and throughout the interview process, HEAVY emphasis was placed on “long term goals” – it was very clear to me that companies are not looking for someone who will come and go, but someone they can, as you say, cultivate and integrate into the overall company culture.

          My fiance is an accounting, so I know what you mean about all of the certifications – she too is considering going back to school – something that almost seems like a requirement in her field.

  • Josh Reply

    I was an accounting major in my undergrad and going into my internship I realized most of that curriculum did not teach practical things. Sure, the theories taught still applied but the program did not set me up for how to actually leverage the degree. It all comes from a burning desire from within. Right now, I am studying for my GMATs to go to get an MBA because the job market (especially for financial analysts) is tough right now. I am looking to take time off and find what I really want to do for work and then shift my career. Barriers of entry to change careers are difficult in this market- especially without experience, so I look as the MBA as leverage for the career shift.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Interesting that you are using the MBA to leverage a shift in your career. Do you believe that having that extra education experience will improve your chances of finding a job? Are you finding that your lack of education is currently holding you back? Are hiring reps turning your down because you DON’T have the MBA? Just curious what the market is like out their in your field…

      • Josh Reply

        Dont think the extra educational experience will improve me finding a chance at a job, but do think it will give me a stronger background and exposure towards what I am aiming towards. As far as lack of education, I do not believe that is the key right now… I believe it is the lack of relevant experience that is holding me back. There are analysts, accountants, etc. with so many certifications under their belt (CPA, CFP, CFA, Series 7, Six Sigma Certified, etc.) that it is tough to compete in the competitive pool. Like the housing market, I think the financial industry has a ton of “quality inventory” now on the open market. They are very very picky about who they want to hire. The MBA is preferred, but more so I am seeing many corporations looking for specific skill sets with experience of +5 years which is tough for this GenY class graduated and just graduating.

        Also, if this has any relevance, any job interview I have had in the last few months, heavy emphasis was placed on their inquiries on what my long term goals were personally and where I saw myself “growing” with the firm… that indicates to me they might be looking to cultivate young talent right now and strongly weave them in their corporate culture over the years- not for me. But that is just my opinion.

        • Matt Cheuvront Reply

          This is the exact same situation I was in – I recently moved to Chicago from Nashville – and throughout the interview process, HEAVY emphasis was placed on “long term goals” – it was very clear to me that companies are not looking for someone who will come and go, but someone they can, as you say, cultivate and integrate into the overall company culture.

          My fiance is an accounting, so I know what you mean about all of the certifications – she too is considering going back to school – something that almost seems like a requirement in her field.

  • Miguel de Luis Reply

    Well Matt, I used to think about you until I studied Theology. Perhaps because I live in Spain it was pretty cheap (like €600 per year) and perhaps the kind of subjects there was a very small number of very enthusiastic students, I loved every single day of class for two years.

    Will I return? Probably not, because I feel the need to create and do other stuff, but given the right circumstances, who knows? :)

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      I think given the right circumstances, I could make my way back to school. I’ve always been interested in teaching, at least at a university adjunct level – and if that’s the case, I’m going to need more schooling as I have no formal education in that field. But for now, and in the foreseeable future, I’m content with continuing to push myself to learn and try new things every day…

  • Miguel de Luis Reply

    Well Matt, I used to think about you until I studied Theology. Perhaps because I live in Spain it was pretty cheap (like €600 per year) and perhaps the kind of subjects there was a very small number of very enthusiastic students, I loved every single day of class for two years.

    Will I return? Probably not, because I feel the need to create and do other stuff, but given the right circumstances, who knows? :)

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      I think given the right circumstances, I could make my way back to school. I’ve always been interested in teaching, at least at a university adjunct level – and if that’s the case, I’m going to need more schooling as I have no formal education in that field. But for now, and in the foreseeable future, I’m content with continuing to push myself to learn and try new things every day…

  • Karol Gajda Reply

    Great post Matt. It’s unfortunate our educational system brainwashes us into believing a degree is necessary. How many times has someone told you “oh, that’s gonna look great on your college application”? Or when you’re in college: “that’s gonna look great on your resume.”

    Because of all that, for most of the world to work, it seems “higher” education is necessary. Many employers (and employees, for that matter) don’t care about ability as much as the degree (where it came from, and the numbers it contains).

    That’s OK though, with people like you and Nicole showing everybody what’s up, we can change the world. :)

    Karol

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Up until this point (and mind you – I’m still very young and haven’t been searching for a job that long) – the degree hasn’t seemed to really mattered – I’ve either been turned down from not having enough experience, or brought on because I’ve had the relevant and applicable experience.

      Us self-educators will just start our own college! HAHA…that might defeat the purpose…

      • Shane Mac Reply

        You are on to something Matt. Something I have been thinking about… Creating a certificate program/college that is focused on Self-Education but has mentors and guidance. If the program is valuable and you can gain respect from companies and attract the studentpreneurers looking to walk their own path, with a little direction then it would be a win-win on both fronts. Recruiting and Job Seekers…. #thinking

        • Matt Cheuvront Reply

          I like the way you think Shane – and I would be totally on board if something like that could be made into a reality. I’m actually surprised nothing like that has come about already….something we should definitely brainstorm about.

  • Karol Gajda Reply

    Great post Matt. It’s unfortunate our educational system brainwashes us into believing a degree is necessary. How many times has someone told you “oh, that’s gonna look great on your college application”? Or when you’re in college: “that’s gonna look great on your resume.”

    Because of all that, for most of the world to work, it seems “higher” education is necessary. Many employers (and employees, for that matter) don’t care about ability as much as the degree (where it came from, and the numbers it contains).

    That’s OK though, with people like you and Nicole showing everybody what’s up, we can change the world. :)

    Karol

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Up until this point (and mind you – I’m still very young and haven’t been searching for a job that long) – the degree hasn’t seemed to really mattered – I’ve either been turned down from not having enough experience, or brought on because I’ve had the relevant and applicable experience.

      Us self-educators will just start our own college! HAHA…that might defeat the purpose…

      • Shane Mac Reply

        You are on to something Matt. Something I have been thinking about… Creating a certificate program/college that is focused on Self-Education but has mentors and guidance. If the program is valuable and you can gain respect from companies and attract the studentpreneurers looking to walk their own path, with a little direction then it would be a win-win on both fronts. Recruiting and Job Seekers…. #thinking

        • Matt Cheuvront Reply

          I like the way you think Shane – and I would be totally on board if something like that could be made into a reality. I’m actually surprised nothing like that has come about already….something we should definitely brainstorm about.

  • Patrice Reply

    I reviewed a book last year on my blog (http://leadthewayout.com/success-vs-significance/) called Good is Not Enough – And Other Unwritten Rules for Minority Professionals by Keith Wyche. He speaks on the steps and certain actions minorities must take to have a fraction of what the majority is so easily to obtain. Which reminds me of Chris Rock’s standup in his special “Kill the Messenger” where he talked about how he lives in a neighborhood full of rich African American people (Mary J. Blige, JayZ, etc) who had to be great and be the best at what they do to buy such a house, whereas his Caucasian neighbor was simply a dentist.

    I agree with Matt in a sense that there are a lot of people out there who have experienced success without a degree. Many of the people I’ve mentioned in this response are not formally educated. In fact, some are even drop outs. However, when you’re a quadruple minority such as myself, you have to work 4x harder than the next man, which may include higher education. As Keith Wyche states, “Good is simply not enough”. To succeed, there are a lot of factors involved. My point in stating all of this is that it depends on the person, their background, personality, skills, and what they’re trying to accomplish. In conclusion, my goal is to utilize my MBA AND gain experience. For some, those few letters after your name shows credibility and perseverance that you were able to finish what you had started and meet deadlines. But it doesn’t mean a thing unless you have experience and can actually walk the talk.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Great point – the two obviously can go hand in hand – I won’t argue that a combination of formal education and real life experience is going to pave the way for great success.

  • Patrice Reply

    I reviewed a book last year on my blog (http://leadthewayout.com/success-vs-significance/) called Good is Not Enough – And Other Unwritten Rules for Minority Professionals by Keith Wyche. He speaks on the steps and certain actions minorities must take to have a fraction of what the majority is so easily to obtain. Which reminds me of Chris Rock’s standup in his special “Kill the Messenger” where he talked about how he lives in a neighborhood full of rich African American people (Mary J. Blige, JayZ, etc) who had to be great and be the best at what they do to buy such a house, whereas his Caucasian neighbor was simply a dentist.

    I agree with Matt in a sense that there are a lot of people out there who have experienced success without a degree. Many of the people I’ve mentioned in this response are not formally educated. In fact, some are even drop outs. However, when you’re a quadruple minority such as myself, you have to work 4x harder than the next man, which may include higher education. As Keith Wyche states, “Good is simply not enough”. To succeed, there are a lot of factors involved. My point in stating all of this is that it depends on the person, their background, personality, skills, and what they’re trying to accomplish. In conclusion, my goal is to utilize my MBA AND gain experience. For some, those few letters after your name shows credibility and perseverance that you were able to finish what you had started and meet deadlines. But it doesn’t mean a thing unless you have experience and can actually walk the talk.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Great point – the two obviously can go hand in hand – I won’t argue that a combination of formal education and real life experience is going to pave the way for great success.

  • Emily Jane Reply

    Another fabulous post! I’m one of those people who’s always been FOR school – not because of the degree at the end of it (I never finished mine), but simply because I have a passion for learning. I ‘dropped out’ because I’d moved out early, and didn’t have the money to afford to continue AND not be working, as well as having a breakup around the same time so I just knew I had to get out there and start working and getting on my feet. I kind of resented the fact that I wasn’t able to go to school at the time, but looking back, while my friends were all finishing their degrees, I was living LIFE. In the 5-6 years I’ve been out of school I’ve had the biggest life lessons, I’ve gone through incredible ups and devastating downs, been forced into “adult life” where I’ve had to learn on my own, both from research, from networking, and from experience. Now my friends are just starting out in the ‘real world’ with their degrees, but I no longer feel bad I never finished – I feel like I’ve got way more life experience that I never would’ve had the opportunity to have had I been in school.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Right on Emily – life sure can teach you a lot, no? I thought my college education was going to lead me in the exact direction I needed to go – but it didn’t – I switched majors half way through and by the time I was done, I was more confused than ever. It’s taken these past couple years since graduating – getting my feet wet in the real “career” world – to really provide me with a solid sense of direction of who I want to be, where I want to be, and what I want to be doing.

  • Emily Jane Reply

    Another fabulous post! I’m one of those people who’s always been FOR school – not because of the degree at the end of it (I never finished mine), but simply because I have a passion for learning. I ‘dropped out’ because I’d moved out early, and didn’t have the money to afford to continue AND not be working, as well as having a breakup around the same time so I just knew I had to get out there and start working and getting on my feet. I kind of resented the fact that I wasn’t able to go to school at the time, but looking back, while my friends were all finishing their degrees, I was living LIFE. In the 5-6 years I’ve been out of school I’ve had the biggest life lessons, I’ve gone through incredible ups and devastating downs, been forced into “adult life” where I’ve had to learn on my own, both from research, from networking, and from experience. Now my friends are just starting out in the ‘real world’ with their degrees, but I no longer feel bad I never finished – I feel like I’ve got way more life experience that I never would’ve had the opportunity to have had I been in school.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Right on Emily – life sure can teach you a lot, no? I thought my college education was going to lead me in the exact direction I needed to go – but it didn’t – I switched majors half way through and by the time I was done, I was more confused than ever. It’s taken these past couple years since graduating – getting my feet wet in the real “career” world – to really provide me with a solid sense of direction of who I want to be, where I want to be, and what I want to be doing.

  • Jason Mollica Reply

    Matt,

    I like the caveat you place with saying I’ll never go back. My wife just wrapped up her master’s degree and she nabbed a great gig because of her field of study. She needed the degree to move up. However, I have battled for years with going back to school for a higher degree.
    In the last few months, I decided that it was not beneficial for me to do so. The reason? All of my life experiences and career experiences have prepared me BETTER than any class could ever do.
    I mentioned blogged this week about success and helping folks realize that we are a success and may not know it. Of all the points you mention, “stumble, fall, make mistakes, TRY” and “never, ever be afraid of new life experiences.” I subscribe to those principles and hope others do the same.
    Best,
    Jason

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Two of the most important principles in my mind Jason – fear of failure and not wanting to screw up dramatically hold us back. At the end of the day, you have to put yourself out there and try – it’s the only way to learn and get ahead. Cheers!

  • Jason Mollica Reply

    Matt,

    I like the caveat you place with saying I’ll never go back. My wife just wrapped up her master’s degree and she nabbed a great gig because of her field of study. She needed the degree to move up. However, I have battled for years with going back to school for a higher degree.
    In the last few months, I decided that it was not beneficial for me to do so. The reason? All of my life experiences and career experiences have prepared me BETTER than any class could ever do.
    I mentioned blogged this week about success and helping folks realize that we are a success and may not know it. Of all the points you mention, “stumble, fall, make mistakes, TRY” and “never, ever be afraid of new life experiences.” I subscribe to those principles and hope others do the same.
    Best,
    Jason

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Two of the most important principles in my mind Jason – fear of failure and not wanting to screw up dramatically hold us back. At the end of the day, you have to put yourself out there and try – it’s the only way to learn and get ahead. Cheers!

  • Vicki Reply

    This is a tough call. On one hand, you’re right. Most of what we do in the workforce has nothing to do with what we learn in school. However, for technical fields, and I’m specifically thinking of engineering or economics (the field I’m currently working in) or public policy, it’s impossible to get to a certain level without at least a Master’s degree. I’m biased because I live in the Washington, D.C. area, where everyone has a Master’s degree and it’s nearly impossible to work at most thinktanks without one, but I would say that a Master’s degree in very specific, technical topics gives you more of a set of focused skills that you can leverage for very specific positions. But you shouldn’t go in to get a Master’s in topics like English or History, for example, without a specific career path in mind.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      100% agree – higher education not only makes sense, but is REQUIRED for some career paths – and this post was not targeted in any way toward those folks – but rather the people hoping that the Masters will be the answer to all of their problems or help them figure everything out.

  • Vicki Reply

    This is a tough call. On one hand, you’re right. Most of what we do in the workforce has nothing to do with what we learn in school. However, for technical fields, and I’m specifically thinking of engineering or economics (the field I’m currently working in) or public policy, it’s impossible to get to a certain level without at least a Master’s degree. I’m biased because I live in the Washington, D.C. area, where everyone has a Master’s degree and it’s nearly impossible to work at most thinktanks without one, but I would say that a Master’s degree in very specific, technical topics gives you more of a set of focused skills that you can leverage for very specific positions. But you shouldn’t go in to get a Master’s in topics like English or History, for example, without a specific career path in mind.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      100% agree – higher education not only makes sense, but is REQUIRED for some career paths – and this post was not targeted in any way toward those folks – but rather the people hoping that the Masters will be the answer to all of their problems or help them figure everything out.

  • E.P. Reply

    Matt,

    Just stumbled over here from your Twitter account, and I completely agree with you. It probably has something to do with my journalism school roots, but seriously? What I’ve learned is that employers want experience. Any kind of experience. Granted, this has been an interesting challenge for me applying for jobs in a new town outside of journalism because these jobs are so different than what I’m used to. But that’s not to say I can’t or don’t want to make one of these jobs work out. And that’s not to say that I cannot draw comparisons from my previous work to what they do at their business, etc.

    And as someone who wants to eventually be completely full-time freelance photo, this post inspired me to make a list of the things I want to accomplish and chase after them. Nobody is holding me back but myself.

    Thanks for such an inspiring post this morning!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Glad to hear this post inspired you to do a little career soul searching – that’s ultimately what I hope to do with anything I write – inspire you to think in new ways. And good luck in your pursuit to become a full-time freelancer – no doubt a difficult path (I’m treading down slowly myself).

      I feel like you and I have connected at some point (was already following you on Twitter) but regardless, we’ve met now! Where in the South are you? I just moved from Nashville – to Chicago last year.

      • E.P. Reply

        Yes. That inspiration is a big thing for me whenever I’m writing, too. And reading, for that matter. Thank you. It’s scary and exciting, and I’m figuring it out day by day.

        Hooray for officially meeting! I’m actually in Nashville now. After spending more than a year and a half in a small, small Mississippi town, I made the move up here to be with my fiance. Are you originally from Nashville? And how is Chicago? I’ve heard wonderful things!

        • Matt Cheuvront Reply

          Nice! You’re in Nashville now eh? What part of town are you in? I graduated from Belmont University in 08 – moved here to Chicago to be with MY fiance in July. Small world. I’m Nashville born and raised – never lived anywhere else (until now). Chicago is great though, VERY different – a lot to get used to, that’s for sure! Glad we’ve “met” and I look forward to chatting more in the future!

  • E.P. Reply

    Matt,

    Just stumbled over here from your Twitter account, and I completely agree with you. It probably has something to do with my journalism school roots, but seriously? What I’ve learned is that employers want experience. Any kind of experience. Granted, this has been an interesting challenge for me applying for jobs in a new town outside of journalism because these jobs are so different than what I’m used to. But that’s not to say I can’t or don’t want to make one of these jobs work out. And that’s not to say that I cannot draw comparisons from my previous work to what they do at their business, etc.

    And as someone who wants to eventually be completely full-time freelance photo, this post inspired me to make a list of the things I want to accomplish and chase after them. Nobody is holding me back but myself.

    Thanks for such an inspiring post this morning!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Glad to hear this post inspired you to do a little career soul searching – that’s ultimately what I hope to do with anything I write – inspire you to think in new ways. And good luck in your pursuit to become a full-time freelancer – no doubt a difficult path (I’m treading down slowly myself).

      I feel like you and I have connected at some point (was already following you on Twitter) but regardless, we’ve met now! Where in the South are you? I just moved from Nashville – to Chicago last year.

      • E.P. Reply

        Yes. That inspiration is a big thing for me whenever I’m writing, too. And reading, for that matter. Thank you. It’s scary and exciting, and I’m figuring it out day by day.

        Hooray for officially meeting! I’m actually in Nashville now. After spending more than a year and a half in a small, small Mississippi town, I made the move up here to be with my fiance. Are you originally from Nashville? And how is Chicago? I’ve heard wonderful things!

        • Matt Cheuvront Reply

          Nice! You’re in Nashville now eh? What part of town are you in? I graduated from Belmont University in 08 – moved here to Chicago to be with MY fiance in July. Small world. I’m Nashville born and raised – never lived anywhere else (until now). Chicago is great though, VERY different – a lot to get used to, that’s for sure! Glad we’ve “met” and I look forward to chatting more in the future!

  • Erica Reply

    I’m know that everyone’s situation is different and that even if this is true for the majority, there will always be an exception….For me though, it’s absolutely true.

    After graduating with a major in Spanish and International Business, I moved into the marketing field following college. I’ve had 3 jobs since college, each better than the last. The skills and experience I have taught myself have been the most important aspect in furthering my marketing career. I’m sure they looked at my degrees, including the awards and recognition I earned while working towards them, but ultimately, those degrees did not prove that I could put what I learned in books and classes to practical implementation.

    About two years ago, I considered going back to school to earn an MBA and a Master of Marketing. After weeks of soul searching, I decided against it. My goal is to eventually own my own marketing consulting agency. I decided to begin freelancing. I told myself that if the freelance did not work out, I would go grad school (everyone needs a back up plan).

    In order to get my freelance work off the ground, I had to do an enormous amount of self teaching. I read every marketing resource I could find and then put that knowledge to practical use. As I read about an aspect of marketing, particularly online marketing, I began implementing them into the marketing of my freelance business. After mastering them for my own use, I volunteered my time with a small non-profit to gain even more experience. I then had some tangible results to show other prospects in order to prove that I did in fact know what I was talking about!

    Since then, I am always doing webinars, continuing to read marketing resources, networking with other marketing professionals to share ideas, and putting all this knowledge to practical use.

    The best part is, I will not be enrolling in a grad program. My success is not hindered by not having an MBA degree.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Great story Erica. I think this is a clear example of “what can be done, thy will be done”. The resources are out there – it’s just up to you (or me, or anyone else) to get out there and tap into them. Thanks for the comment!

  • Erica Reply

    I’m know that everyone’s situation is different and that even if this is true for the majority, there will always be an exception….For me though, it’s absolutely true.

    After graduating with a major in Spanish and International Business, I moved into the marketing field following college. I’ve had 3 jobs since college, each better than the last. The skills and experience I have taught myself have been the most important aspect in furthering my marketing career. I’m sure they looked at my degrees, including the awards and recognition I earned while working towards them, but ultimately, those degrees did not prove that I could put what I learned in books and classes to practical implementation.

    About two years ago, I considered going back to school to earn an MBA and a Master of Marketing. After weeks of soul searching, I decided against it. My goal is to eventually own my own marketing consulting agency. I decided to begin freelancing. I told myself that if the freelance did not work out, I would go grad school (everyone needs a back up plan).

    In order to get my freelance work off the ground, I had to do an enormous amount of self teaching. I read every marketing resource I could find and then put that knowledge to practical use. As I read about an aspect of marketing, particularly online marketing, I began implementing them into the marketing of my freelance business. After mastering them for my own use, I volunteered my time with a small non-profit to gain even more experience. I then had some tangible results to show other prospects in order to prove that I did in fact know what I was talking about!

    Since then, I am always doing webinars, continuing to read marketing resources, networking with other marketing professionals to share ideas, and putting all this knowledge to practical use.

    The best part is, I will not be enrolling in a grad program. My success is not hindered by not having an MBA degree.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Great story Erica. I think this is a clear example of “what can be done, thy will be done”. The resources are out there – it’s just up to you (or me, or anyone else) to get out there and tap into them. Thanks for the comment!

  • Tim Jahn Reply

    I think there’s something be said for those fields that require higher education or for people who simply love learning and find higher education an effective way of doing so. While neither of those ideas applies to me, I respect those that choose those routes.

    As I mentioned on Nicole’s blog, I’m a huge proponent of self education and learning by doing. That’s mostly because that’s just how I am – when I need to learn something, I figure it out by doing.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Figure it out by doing, even if you mess up a million times – forces you to learn and grow in exciting ways. To say that I knew how to do none of what you see around you here a year ago, and now, I have actual clients who are willing to pay me for services, is extremely rewarding. I’m sure any aspiring or current entrepreneur can say the same. But, as you said, there are those who are passionate about receiving that more formal education and I have nothing but respect for people who travel down that path – it’s just not for me.

  • Jen Reply

    Great post Matt! I agree with you 100%. This subject has bothered me for a long time. I don’t have even and undergrad degree yet and I’m almost 30 (I’m working on a degree that I want, just because I like the curriculum, not because I care about the degree itself). I’ve always felt inferior to people because I don’t even have a bachelors degree. I’m slowly starting to think otherwise, the older I get, but I still struggle with it. I think it is natural to compare ourselves to our peers.

    I’ve worked full-time since I was 17 years old (when I moved out and was still in high school- you could do that back in the day). I started at the bottom as a receptionist and just kept working my way to where I am now. I had a seven year career in purchasing and people were amazed by the fact that I was a buyer (a beauty buyer at that because that industry is pretty cut throat- just watch Ugly Better and you get the idea), yet I had no degree and they had gone to school forever and done numerous internships and couldn’t even become a junior buyer. All I did was walk into a place, tell them how much they needed me, got hired making a very low wage (which most new grads won’t accept and I can’t figure out why) and worked my butt off for 2 years until I was promoted. The rest is history. Those seven years of experience landed me the job I have now. My current boss interviewed me because of my purchasing background. He hired me at the rate of pay I demanded because he knew that I already had the experience he was looking for and he wouldn’t have to put much into training me, even though this is a completely different field from purchasing.

    I have a theory, I think there are some people who need the book smarts and need the education to make it and there are some people who don’t necessarily need that to succeed in life.

    • Tim Jahn Reply

      Many successful people in the film/TV industry didn’t go to traditional film school but instead worked their asses off and worked their way up from getting everybody coffee.

      Whether you’re pursuing a Masters degree or simply working your butt off to move up in the music industry, you need to have dedication and a real drive to do it. You also have to remember that the hard work doesn’t end after you’re handed your new degree – you need to go out and apply everything and still work your ass off.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      I have this same “make-your-own-way” attitude. I started working as a grocery store bagger when I was 15 and have been working ever since, saving money, paying my own way, etc. Through it all – through all of the crummy jobs and a few good ones here and there, I’ve learned more about myself and what I’m capable of (and what I’m interested in) than any of my formal education has taught me.

  • Tim Jahn Reply

    I think there’s something be said for those fields that require higher education or for people who simply love learning and find higher education an effective way of doing so. While neither of those ideas applies to me, I respect those that choose those routes.

    As I mentioned on Nicole’s blog, I’m a huge proponent of self education and learning by doing. That’s mostly because that’s just how I am – when I need to learn something, I figure it out by doing.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Figure it out by doing, even if you mess up a million times – forces you to learn and grow in exciting ways. To say that I knew how to do none of what you see around you here a year ago, and now, I have actual clients who are willing to pay me for services, is extremely rewarding. I’m sure any aspiring or current entrepreneur can say the same. But, as you said, there are those who are passionate about receiving that more formal education and I have nothing but respect for people who travel down that path – it’s just not for me.

  • Jen Reply

    Great post Matt! I agree with you 100%. This subject has bothered me for a long time. I don’t have even and undergrad degree yet and I’m almost 30 (I’m working on a degree that I want, just because I like the curriculum, not because I care about the degree itself). I’ve always felt inferior to people because I don’t even have a bachelors degree. I’m slowly starting to think otherwise, the older I get, but I still struggle with it. I think it is natural to compare ourselves to our peers.

    I’ve worked full-time since I was 17 years old (when I moved out and was still in high school- you could do that back in the day). I started at the bottom as a receptionist and just kept working my way to where I am now. I had a seven year career in purchasing and people were amazed by the fact that I was a buyer (a beauty buyer at that because that industry is pretty cut throat- just watch Ugly Better and you get the idea), yet I had no degree and they had gone to school forever and done numerous internships and couldn’t even become a junior buyer. All I did was walk into a place, tell them how much they needed me, got hired making a very low wage (which most new grads won’t accept and I can’t figure out why) and worked my butt off for 2 years until I was promoted. The rest is history. Those seven years of experience landed me the job I have now. My current boss interviewed me because of my purchasing background. He hired me at the rate of pay I demanded because he knew that I already had the experience he was looking for and he wouldn’t have to put much into training me, even though this is a completely different field from purchasing.

    I have a theory, I think there are some people who need the book smarts and need the education to make it and there are some people who don’t necessarily need that to succeed in life.

    • Tim Jahn Reply

      Many successful people in the film/TV industry didn’t go to traditional film school but instead worked their asses off and worked their way up from getting everybody coffee.

      Whether you’re pursuing a Masters degree or simply working your butt off to move up in the music industry, you need to have dedication and a real drive to do it. You also have to remember that the hard work doesn’t end after you’re handed your new degree – you need to go out and apply everything and still work your ass off.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      I have this same “make-your-own-way” attitude. I started working as a grocery store bagger when I was 15 and have been working ever since, saving money, paying my own way, etc. Through it all – through all of the crummy jobs and a few good ones here and there, I’ve learned more about myself and what I’m capable of (and what I’m interested in) than any of my formal education has taught me.

  • Tim Reply

    Matt:

    Great post…you’ve hit on something that’s been whirling in my head for a long time. As someone who graduated with a Communications Degree back in the early 90′s…I’ve thought about jumping back to school to get an MBA for a while. I’m also someone who loves to learn. But the prospect of going into huge debt at a time when I’m “still trying to figure things out” is not logical. I have no doubt that I would learn a great deal if I got an advanced degree, but as you detailed very nicely it is possible to gain a tremendous amount of knowledge on your own. I’m totally with you on this and I know there are now sites out there with a DIY education theme such as Personal MBA.

    For me, the big positive about going back to school (in a physical sense) is connection with like minded people and expanding your network. I think that as long as we don’t totally lock ourselves in our room to learn, this DIY education is awesome. I really enjoyed this post.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Thanks for coming by Tim – a lot of people DO go back to school in hopes that they’ll “figure things out” – and I think that’s the wrong approach. This post, more or less, is imploring all the people out there who are wondering what to do – that they should really consider their options and not doubt themselves – when you put your mind to it, the resources are out there to learn virtually anything without spending a dime on higher education.

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  • Tim Reply

    Matt:

    Great post…you’ve hit on something that’s been whirling in my head for a long time. As someone who graduated with a Communications Degree back in the early 90′s…I’ve thought about jumping back to school to get an MBA for a while. I’m also someone who loves to learn. But the prospect of going into huge debt at a time when I’m “still trying to figure things out” is not logical. I have no doubt that I would learn a great deal if I got an advanced degree, but as you detailed very nicely it is possible to gain a tremendous amount of knowledge on your own. I’m totally with you on this and I know there are now sites out there with a DIY education theme such as Personal MBA.

    For me, the big positive about going back to school (in a physical sense) is connection with like minded people and expanding your network. I think that as long as we don’t totally lock ourselves in our room to learn, this DIY education is awesome. I really enjoyed this post.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Thanks for coming by Tim – a lot of people DO go back to school in hopes that they’ll “figure things out” – and I think that’s the wrong approach. This post, more or less, is imploring all the people out there who are wondering what to do – that they should really consider their options and not doubt themselves – when you put your mind to it, the resources are out there to learn virtually anything without spending a dime on higher education.

  • Raven Reply

    At the end of the day, people just want to prove they are capable. If it means a degree or experience, so be it.

    Advanced formal education is not a guarantee off success – but we already know that Your post should be applied to anyone who is pursuing advanced education or not. It promotes qualities and actions that any dedicated life learner (and the professionally curious) should cultivate if success is part of their life’s road map.

    I think what always works best is the practice of supplementing your formal education with self-education while making good plans, forming attainable goals and being honest about whatever the hell you want to do.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      I hear what you are saying Raven – but I don’t think going back to school just to “prove” you can do it is a great reason – not to mention an awfully expensive way to prove a point.

      I love your point though, about being honest with yourself. This is what it really all comes down to – you have to be honest with yourself and OWN what you want to do – then set out to do whatever it takes to make that happen – go back to school, get a job, quit your job, whatever. Just do it!

  • Raven Reply

    At the end of the day, people just want to prove they are capable. If it means a degree or experience, so be it.

    Advanced formal education is not a guarantee off success – but we already know that Your post should be applied to anyone who is pursuing advanced education or not. It promotes qualities and actions that any dedicated life learner (and the professionally curious) should cultivate if success is part of their life’s road map.

    I think what always works best is the practice of supplementing your formal education with self-education while making good plans, forming attainable goals and being honest about whatever the hell you want to do.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      I hear what you are saying Raven – but I don’t think going back to school just to “prove” you can do it is a great reason – not to mention an awfully expensive way to prove a point.

      I love your point though, about being honest with yourself. This is what it really all comes down to – you have to be honest with yourself and OWN what you want to do – then set out to do whatever it takes to make that happen – go back to school, get a job, quit your job, whatever. Just do it!

  • Teresa Reply

    Matt-

    This is a great post and something I often grapple with. Do I want to go back to school? Not so much, but I do feel like there is so much more I want to learn. After almost three years in the work force, I am being laid off due to re-location. One of the first questions that popped into my head was “should I go back to school?”. So as I hunt for jobs I am seriously contemplating spending thousands to get my masters in….who knows what subject.

    Another unfortunate point is that people feel like they need college to better their careers and education. I think higher education is important for your career but not what is going to make or break you. It is the passion, drive and dedication that is going to put you ahead. Most people don’t recognize this and spend so much time and money taking someone else’s lead. People also don’t realize the all the training and education they have at their at their disposal. Today, you can better your education and career everywhere without a masters.

    At the end of the day, I think I would go back to get a masters degree or just another BA in a completely different field. Will it be tomorrow or anytime soon? Absolutely not.

    Thanks for the great post.

    -T

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Interesting Teresa – if you’re not sure what you want to go back to school for, why go back? I guess I would be very reluctant to make that kind of commitment if I didn’t have any sense of what I wanted to do or how the extra degree was going to benefit me. The job market is tough, but I’m confident you can find something with the degree you have that will pay dividends in defining “who you are” over both the short and long term.

      Passion, drive, dedication, loyalty, ethics – these are all things that will make or break you, not how many years you went to school.

      • Teresa Reply

        Completely agree. Who says you have to go back to school to complete a degree? I think I am looking for training in different areas, for personal education rather than an extra title on my resume. A class here and there.

        I don’t think going back to school should necessarily be to find who you are either. It should be an exploration on who you could be. Testing waters, exploring new territory. Unfortunately, it isn’t free my any means. This is why Self education is the way to do it. If you have the means, I would recommend going back, if not use all the resources around you.

  • Teresa Reply

    Matt-

    This is a great post and something I often grapple with. Do I want to go back to school? Not so much, but I do feel like there is so much more I want to learn. After almost three years in the work force, I am being laid off due to re-location. One of the first questions that popped into my head was “should I go back to school?”. So as I hunt for jobs I am seriously contemplating spending thousands to get my masters in….who knows what subject.

    Another unfortunate point is that people feel like they need college to better their careers and education. I think higher education is important for your career but not what is going to make or break you. It is the passion, drive and dedication that is going to put you ahead. Most people don’t recognize this and spend so much time and money taking someone else’s lead. People also don’t realize the all the training and education they have at their at their disposal. Today, you can better your education and career everywhere without a masters.

    At the end of the day, I think I would go back to get a masters degree or just another BA in a completely different field. Will it be tomorrow or anytime soon? Absolutely not.

    Thanks for the great post.

    -T

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Interesting Teresa – if you’re not sure what you want to go back to school for, why go back? I guess I would be very reluctant to make that kind of commitment if I didn’t have any sense of what I wanted to do or how the extra degree was going to benefit me. The job market is tough, but I’m confident you can find something with the degree you have that will pay dividends in defining “who you are” over both the short and long term.

      Passion, drive, dedication, loyalty, ethics – these are all things that will make or break you, not how many years you went to school.

      • Teresa Reply

        Completely agree. Who says you have to go back to school to complete a degree? I think I am looking for training in different areas, for personal education rather than an extra title on my resume. A class here and there.

        I don’t think going back to school should necessarily be to find who you are either. It should be an exploration on who you could be. Testing waters, exploring new territory. Unfortunately, it isn’t free my any means. This is why Self education is the way to do it. If you have the means, I would recommend going back, if not use all the resources around you.

  • Nicole Crimaldi Reply

    Well, obviously ya’ll know that I agree with this post! But honestly, I’m SHOCKED that most of you do too! I anticipated many more grievances on this topic…

    I think some people feel corporate america will “save them” and accomplish all of their dreams. I disagree. In an age of Enron and mass-layoffs, the only person (and thing) you can rely on is yourself- not a degree or a huge company.

    Thanks for cultivating this awesome discussion Matt!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      I’m actually a little surprised by the overwhelming agreement here as well – not that I really positioned it as something you agree or disagree with – but I think what both you and I are saying is that there are pros and cons to both – and higher education is obviously a good direction for some people – but what more and more people are doing is using it as an outlet to “figure things out” – thinking that more school will give them the answers to all their questions and provide them with meaning in their career path – usually, that’s not the case – and there can be much more “figured” out by throwing yourself out there and learning from experience. “Trial by fire” so to speak – can go a long, long way.

      Thanks for inspiring these thoughts I’ve been mulling over for a while now.

    • Tim Jahn Reply

      I think part of the reason for the mass agreement is the people responding. We’re generally a younger group who has grown up during an age of a lot more opportunity. Thanks to increasingly technology, we can learn a lot more without traditional education and become just as (or more) successful than our peers with years of schooling.

      30 years ago, we’d all be writing letters to each other right now instead of commenting on an online article. The speed at which opportunity could grow was a lot slower, for the most part. Heck, there’s entire schools online now. Stay at home moms can get degrees by taking online classes.

      • Matt Cheuvront Reply

        Agreed – the age demographic does have something to do with the response – but I think we are getting a pretty wide spectrum of ages and backgrounds based on the comments. No doubt that the web is the single biggest contributing factor for this “self education revolution”.

  • Nicole Crimaldi Reply

    Well, obviously ya’ll know that I agree with this post! But honestly, I’m SHOCKED that most of you do too! I anticipated many more grievances on this topic…

    I think some people feel corporate america will “save them” and accomplish all of their dreams. I disagree. In an age of Enron and mass-layoffs, the only person (and thing) you can rely on is yourself- not a degree or a huge company.

    Thanks for cultivating this awesome discussion Matt!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      I’m actually a little surprised by the overwhelming agreement here as well – not that I really positioned it as something you agree or disagree with – but I think what both you and I are saying is that there are pros and cons to both – and higher education is obviously a good direction for some people – but what more and more people are doing is using it as an outlet to “figure things out” – thinking that more school will give them the answers to all their questions and provide them with meaning in their career path – usually, that’s not the case – and there can be much more “figured” out by throwing yourself out there and learning from experience. “Trial by fire” so to speak – can go a long, long way.

      Thanks for inspiring these thoughts I’ve been mulling over for a while now.

    • Tim Jahn Reply

      I think part of the reason for the mass agreement is the people responding. We’re generally a younger group who has grown up during an age of a lot more opportunity. Thanks to increasingly technology, we can learn a lot more without traditional education and become just as (or more) successful than our peers with years of schooling.

      30 years ago, we’d all be writing letters to each other right now instead of commenting on an online article. The speed at which opportunity could grow was a lot slower, for the most part. Heck, there’s entire schools online now. Stay at home moms can get degrees by taking online classes.

      • Matt Cheuvront Reply

        Agreed – the age demographic does have something to do with the response – but I think we are getting a pretty wide spectrum of ages and backgrounds based on the comments. No doubt that the web is the single biggest contributing factor for this “self education revolution”.

  • Carlee Mallard Reply

    Just to add to add a little humor to the discussion — and some real data. I work for a government contractor for the National Science Foundation tracking graduate student enrollment over the years (back to like the 1960′s!). The well-known PhD comics website took data from our survey and plotted graduate student enrollment against the unemployment rate. We all in the office got a kick out of it: http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1078

    It shows how obvious it is that students aren’t just going back to grad school because they really want to — they’re going more likely because they don’t have a job and can’t think of anything better to do.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Point made Carlee – and I’ve never really understood the “go back to school because there’s nothing better to do” mentality. Far too expensive of a way to figure things out in my mind…

      • Carlee Mallard Reply

        Don’t forget also that a ton of graduate programs have significant funding. If you’re studying the right topics, you can actually make a job or a career out of going to school. Most of the funding these days go to research programs in science, engineering, social science, and health fields (but not professional programs). They will PAY YOU (albeit not a 6-figure salary) to go to school when there are no other jobs to be had.

        Personally I don’t want to be told what to study just to get paid to study it, but if you’re smart, like school, and are a little bit desperate, why not? One of my close friends who was laid off applied to a graduate program in hopes they would give her funding — they’re paying all of her tuition plus a $2k/month stipend. Hey, it’s better than unemployment!

  • Carlee Mallard Reply

    Just to add to add a little humor to the discussion — and some real data. I work for a government contractor for the National Science Foundation tracking graduate student enrollment over the years (back to like the 1960′s!). The well-known PhD comics website took data from our survey and plotted graduate student enrollment against the unemployment rate. We all in the office got a kick out of it: http://www.phdcomics.com/comics/archive.php?comicid=1078

    It shows how obvious it is that students aren’t just going back to grad school because they really want to — they’re going more likely because they don’t have a job and can’t think of anything better to do.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Point made Carlee – and I’ve never really understood the “go back to school because there’s nothing better to do” mentality. Far too expensive of a way to figure things out in my mind…

      • Carlee Mallard Reply

        Don’t forget also that a ton of graduate programs have significant funding. If you’re studying the right topics, you can actually make a job or a career out of going to school. Most of the funding these days go to research programs in science, engineering, social science, and health fields (but not professional programs). They will PAY YOU (albeit not a 6-figure salary) to go to school when there are no other jobs to be had.

        Personally I don’t want to be told what to study just to get paid to study it, but if you’re smart, like school, and are a little bit desperate, why not? One of my close friends who was laid off applied to a graduate program in hopes they would give her funding — they’re paying all of her tuition plus a $2k/month stipend. Hey, it’s better than unemployment!

  • Laura Cococcia Reply

    I used to be a huge believer in higher education – and can’t fault people who want to go that route. But I’ve recently started down the path of creating my own “life education” program. I’ve tried to outline what I don’t know and want to know as well as what I do know and want to be more of an expert in. It’s fun, creative and helps me figure out interesting ways to get this knowledge!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Exactly – I think if you can map out what you don’t know and then figure out a way to educate yourself and learn how to do it – it’s extremely rewarding – there’s nothing better than “making your own way” at least in my opinion. But like you, I’ll never fault someone for going back to school if that’s the road that is best for them.

  • Laura Cococcia Reply

    I used to be a huge believer in higher education – and can’t fault people who want to go that route. But I’ve recently started down the path of creating my own “life education” program. I’ve tried to outline what I don’t know and want to know as well as what I do know and want to be more of an expert in. It’s fun, creative and helps me figure out interesting ways to get this knowledge!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Exactly – I think if you can map out what you don’t know and then figure out a way to educate yourself and learn how to do it – it’s extremely rewarding – there’s nothing better than “making your own way” at least in my opinion. But like you, I’ll never fault someone for going back to school if that’s the road that is best for them.

  • Jackie Adkins Reply

    Personally, I’m one that definitely hasn’t ruled out the option of getting my MBA at some point. You’re right in that learning from experience is probably the best way to learn, but with an MBA you’re able to learn from the experiences of others. The professors, the case studies, etc. And I’m also one that would love being a professor one day, so this would probably be the first logical step in that process.

    As you said, it’s not that an MBA isn’t for anyone, it’s just not for everyone. Depending on your personal goals and other factors in your life (financial situation, families, etc), everyone has to make that decision on their own.

    • Tim Jahn Reply

      I’ve always been a fan of the “figure it out” mindset, especially in the age of Google. If you don’t know how to use a circular router, Google it or actively pursue the help of somebody who does know how to use it. That’s in large part due to my personality – I’m somebody who simply figures it out. If I don’t know something, I figure out how to acquire the knowledge.

      That being said, there’s some people who don’t have this kind of personality. They prefer to be in a classroom being taught by somebody and taking notes.

      • Matt Cheuvront Reply

        Right – to both of you – there’s more than one way to skin a cat. I, like Tim, have always been much more of a learn-by-doing type of personality – but I know that isn’t for everyone, and others learn better in that classroom-type setting. To each his own, I’m just going off of my life experience versus what I took away from my undergrad.

  • Jackie Adkins Reply

    Personally, I’m one that definitely hasn’t ruled out the option of getting my MBA at some point. You’re right in that learning from experience is probably the best way to learn, but with an MBA you’re able to learn from the experiences of others. The professors, the case studies, etc. And I’m also one that would love being a professor one day, so this would probably be the first logical step in that process.

    As you said, it’s not that an MBA isn’t for anyone, it’s just not for everyone. Depending on your personal goals and other factors in your life (financial situation, families, etc), everyone has to make that decision on their own.

    • Tim Jahn Reply

      I’ve always been a fan of the “figure it out” mindset, especially in the age of Google. If you don’t know how to use a circular router, Google it or actively pursue the help of somebody who does know how to use it. That’s in large part due to my personality – I’m somebody who simply figures it out. If I don’t know something, I figure out how to acquire the knowledge.

      That being said, there’s some people who don’t have this kind of personality. They prefer to be in a classroom being taught by somebody and taking notes.

      • Matt Cheuvront Reply

        Right – to both of you – there’s more than one way to skin a cat. I, like Tim, have always been much more of a learn-by-doing type of personality – but I know that isn’t for everyone, and others learn better in that classroom-type setting. To each his own, I’m just going off of my life experience versus what I took away from my undergrad.

  • Steph Auteri Reply

    After getting my B.A., I figured I was done. While many of my friends were preparing for graduate school, I figured that I didn’t need a degree (and a ton more school-related debt) to be a writer. As the years passed, more and more of my friends went back for their Masters, some because they were changing to a field that legitimately required a degree, but others because they felt lost. I still didn’t see the value in a degree program vs. good, old-fashioned experience. At this point, I’m of the mind that a little schooling can be a good thing, but it’s even better when paired with self-education.

    For example, I *did* end up taking some post-college classes at various points in the past few years. A class on QuarkXPress got me up to speed on the technology of the times. And several (non-credit, therefore cheaper) writing classes at New School made me a thousand times better at writing pitch letters, and also put me into contact with people who were able to provide me with advice and moral support, share contacts, and even pass along freelance job leads (one of which led to my being able to go full-time freelance). I handpicked the classes I felt would really benefit me, not seeing the point in actually working toward a degree. I then paired these classes with networking, post-college internships, a shit-ton of reading, and a lot of elbow grease. It’s how I got ahead when many others were floundering.

    Now, I’m in a career coaching certification program, a leap I took after doing a ton of research and conducting multiple informational interviews. One can be a coach without the certification, but I feel as if the things I’m learning will sharpen my skills, and legitimize me in a largely unregulated field. Then again, it’s my experiences that will make me stand out the most from my fellow coaches.

    So many people think they deserve the best because they have the degree. But they don’t know the first thing about working for it. The best path, in my opinion? A mix of schooling and self-education.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Good point Steph – and I have considered taking some technical “classes” to hone some of my skills – I think that more formal education can be extremely valuable at giving you the technical know how to get out there and try it yourself. There can be a happy mix of both.

  • Steph Auteri Reply

    After getting my B.A., I figured I was done. While many of my friends were preparing for graduate school, I figured that I didn’t need a degree (and a ton more school-related debt) to be a writer. As the years passed, more and more of my friends went back for their Masters, some because they were changing to a field that legitimately required a degree, but others because they felt lost. I still didn’t see the value in a degree program vs. good, old-fashioned experience. At this point, I’m of the mind that a little schooling can be a good thing, but it’s even better when paired with self-education.

    For example, I *did* end up taking some post-college classes at various points in the past few years. A class on QuarkXPress got me up to speed on the technology of the times. And several (non-credit, therefore cheaper) writing classes at New School made me a thousand times better at writing pitch letters, and also put me into contact with people who were able to provide me with advice and moral support, share contacts, and even pass along freelance job leads (one of which led to my being able to go full-time freelance). I handpicked the classes I felt would really benefit me, not seeing the point in actually working toward a degree. I then paired these classes with networking, post-college internships, a shit-ton of reading, and a lot of elbow grease. It’s how I got ahead when many others were floundering.

    Now, I’m in a career coaching certification program, a leap I took after doing a ton of research and conducting multiple informational interviews. One can be a coach without the certification, but I feel as if the things I’m learning will sharpen my skills, and legitimize me in a largely unregulated field. Then again, it’s my experiences that will make me stand out the most from my fellow coaches.

    So many people think they deserve the best because they have the degree. But they don’t know the first thing about working for it. The best path, in my opinion? A mix of schooling and self-education.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Good point Steph – and I have considered taking some technical “classes” to hone some of my skills – I think that more formal education can be extremely valuable at giving you the technical know how to get out there and try it yourself. There can be a happy mix of both.

  • Abby Reply

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I wrote a post about why grad school isn’t a must last year when I first started blogging. In the time since I’ve graduated with my B.A., I have constantly been asked why I don’t just go back to school.

    Well, first, I don’t want to. And second, I don’t think it will help my career. Over the past year of looking for a job, I have never been turned down because I didn’t have additional formal education. On the other hand, I can’t count how many times I’ve been told they’re looking for someone with a little more EXPERIENCE!

    I think too many people choose grad school to either ride out the recession, delay finding a job or to please other people. I agree that in certain fields, additional education is necessary, but in communication/PR/SM? Experience trumps it. I haven’t ruled out the possibility of EVER going back. Maybe one day, when I have more experience and know exactly what kind of advanced degree I’d like to work towards, I’ll go back. But I won’t do it because someone else wants me to or because I’m avoiding the real world — I’ll do it because I legitimately believe it will be the best thing for myself or my career.

    Great post, Matt!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Haha, I’m sitting here thinking now, maybe NEVER was a strong word. At 24 years old at this point in my life, I’ll say NEVER, but who the heck knows where life will take me in the future. I’ve always been interested in teaching – so that would require me to go back to school – BUT, I do agree that experience wins, hands down, especially in “our” field.

      I have no doubt a Masters would look good on a resume, give you additional business know-how, and probably bump your pay a bit, but I’d rather continue down this path of self-teaching. Thanks for the comment Abby!

  • Abby Reply

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I wrote a post about why grad school isn’t a must last year when I first started blogging. In the time since I’ve graduated with my B.A., I have constantly been asked why I don’t just go back to school.

    Well, first, I don’t want to. And second, I don’t think it will help my career. Over the past year of looking for a job, I have never been turned down because I didn’t have additional formal education. On the other hand, I can’t count how many times I’ve been told they’re looking for someone with a little more EXPERIENCE!

    I think too many people choose grad school to either ride out the recession, delay finding a job or to please other people. I agree that in certain fields, additional education is necessary, but in communication/PR/SM? Experience trumps it. I haven’t ruled out the possibility of EVER going back. Maybe one day, when I have more experience and know exactly what kind of advanced degree I’d like to work towards, I’ll go back. But I won’t do it because someone else wants me to or because I’m avoiding the real world — I’ll do it because I legitimately believe it will be the best thing for myself or my career.

    Great post, Matt!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Haha, I’m sitting here thinking now, maybe NEVER was a strong word. At 24 years old at this point in my life, I’ll say NEVER, but who the heck knows where life will take me in the future. I’ve always been interested in teaching – so that would require me to go back to school – BUT, I do agree that experience wins, hands down, especially in “our” field.

      I have no doubt a Masters would look good on a resume, give you additional business know-how, and probably bump your pay a bit, but I’d rather continue down this path of self-teaching. Thanks for the comment Abby!

  • Jenny Reply

    I have been going back and forth on this for about a year now. I thought I needed it for connections for a journalism career. But then, I discussed with my brother and he said, “For $40k, can’t you just go out and meet people?”

    I started an MBA program right after undergrad only to switch to a Technical Writing program and eventually abandon 12 credits for the real world.

    I’m now considering a Creative Writing M.A. so that I can eventually teach Creative Writing at a college. I do agree that self-education is the most important education you can ever, ever receive – because it’s endless and a constant source of new ideas and thoughts. I think in order to reach my teaching goal though, I will have to get at least a Masters. More research is required.. but those are my initial thoughts on further education.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      You bring up an interesting point about networking. A few years ago, I would say that yes, going back to school, getting your Masters, surrounding yourself in that environment would be THE best way to network an advance your career. But in this day and age, you can find the “right” people, go grab coffee with an influential person at a company, whatever – through a quick search on Google, Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn (I’ve found LinkedIn especially useful for honing in on the “right” people). The days of old school networking are fading fast and today, regardless of background, career, or education, it’s all the more easy to be in “the right place at the right time”…

  • Jenny Reply

    I have been going back and forth on this for about a year now. I thought I needed it for connections for a journalism career. But then, I discussed with my brother and he said, “For $40k, can’t you just go out and meet people?”

    I started an MBA program right after undergrad only to switch to a Technical Writing program and eventually abandon 12 credits for the real world.

    I’m now considering a Creative Writing M.A. so that I can eventually teach Creative Writing at a college. I do agree that self-education is the most important education you can ever, ever receive – because it’s endless and a constant source of new ideas and thoughts. I think in order to reach my teaching goal though, I will have to get at least a Masters. More research is required.. but those are my initial thoughts on further education.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      You bring up an interesting point about networking. A few years ago, I would say that yes, going back to school, getting your Masters, surrounding yourself in that environment would be THE best way to network an advance your career. But in this day and age, you can find the “right” people, go grab coffee with an influential person at a company, whatever – through a quick search on Google, Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn (I’ve found LinkedIn especially useful for honing in on the “right” people). The days of old school networking are fading fast and today, regardless of background, career, or education, it’s all the more easy to be in “the right place at the right time”…

  • Christa Reply

    Great post, Matt!

    As a recent college graduate (May 2009), I was constantly asked why I wasn’t going right to grad school after graduating in a recession. Personally, I was little offended by that. Grad school shouldn’t be an escape just because you can’t find a job. If you’re not ready, don’t go back! And I certainly wasn’t ready for another x-amount of years in school…experience is just as good (sometimes, even better) than classroom learning.

    That being said, I love love LOVE your points on educating yourself. I think that’s something a lot of people don’t think of and instead, depend on formal education. I plan on going back to school for an MBA, but that’s just a plan. Who knows? Maybe I’ll change my mind. I don’t think depending on grad school is the way to go. If it’s for you, then that’s great. But it’s not for everyone, and shouldn’t be assumed that it’s for everyone.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Exactly – you should never DEPEND on grad school – it can, of course, help you and motivate you to new opportunities, but it doesn’t need to be a crutch and should (never) be an escape when you can’t find a job. Couldn’t agree more on everything you said here.

    • Alex Reply

      I totally agree! Higher ed is mostly the key to specialized fields, especially in science, when you can’t exactly teach yourself the necessary skills and knowledge! I think each person is different.

  • Christa Reply

    Great post, Matt!

    As a recent college graduate (May 2009), I was constantly asked why I wasn’t going right to grad school after graduating in a recession. Personally, I was little offended by that. Grad school shouldn’t be an escape just because you can’t find a job. If you’re not ready, don’t go back! And I certainly wasn’t ready for another x-amount of years in school…experience is just as good (sometimes, even better) than classroom learning.

    That being said, I love love LOVE your points on educating yourself. I think that’s something a lot of people don’t think of and instead, depend on formal education. I plan on going back to school for an MBA, but that’s just a plan. Who knows? Maybe I’ll change my mind. I don’t think depending on grad school is the way to go. If it’s for you, then that’s great. But it’s not for everyone, and shouldn’t be assumed that it’s for everyone.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Exactly – you should never DEPEND on grad school – it can, of course, help you and motivate you to new opportunities, but it doesn’t need to be a crutch and should (never) be an escape when you can’t find a job. Couldn’t agree more on everything you said here.

    • Alex Reply

      I totally agree! Higher ed is mostly the key to specialized fields, especially in science, when you can’t exactly teach yourself the necessary skills and knowledge! I think each person is different.

  • Melissa Gorzelanczyk Reply

    Hi Matt – This post resonates with me because – I never went to college. I have two things to share from my perspective:
    1. I strongly feel that college is too expensive and not worth it unless you are going into a specialized field.
    2. I strongly feel I would make more money having a college degree for my current job as an editor.

    Overall, the good news is, I’m an editor and columnist and never went to college. And I’m learning everyday for free. Can’t beat it.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Learning for free – or actually learning and getting PAID to learn – now that’s when you know you’ve got it made, and honestly, that’s the situation most of us are in.

      I think college is almost necessarily to get into most jobs, but honestly, looking back, I could have seriously cut down the case load – SO many unnecessary classes that I will never use….thanks for the comment!

  • Melissa Gorzelanczyk Reply

    Hi Matt – This post resonates with me because – I never went to college. I have two things to share from my perspective:
    1. I strongly feel that college is too expensive and not worth it unless you are going into a specialized field.
    2. I strongly feel I would make more money having a college degree for my current job as an editor.

    Overall, the good news is, I’m an editor and columnist and never went to college. And I’m learning everyday for free. Can’t beat it.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Learning for free – or actually learning and getting PAID to learn – now that’s when you know you’ve got it made, and honestly, that’s the situation most of us are in.

      I think college is almost necessarily to get into most jobs, but honestly, looking back, I could have seriously cut down the case load – SO many unnecessary classes that I will never use….thanks for the comment!

  • Jess @OpenlyBalanced Reply

    Great post, Matt!

    Personally, I hope to go back to school someday and get at least a master’s degree, maybe a doctorate. But I’ll be doing it because I LOVE school, not as a career move or something I think will help me weather the uncertain future. It will be a purely selfish act of spending a ton of money to be a nerd.

    That being said, I already have my undergraduate degrees (Political Science, Spanish, minor Econ). Right now I am watching my three cousins struggle to find work. They are in the same age range as I am and are highly intelligent people. We grew up across the street from each other – same community and comparable income levels, although different schools. They went to private school while I went to public school. Theoretically they shouldn’t be struggling but… none of them have college degrees. Time and time again they have been passed over for people who have similar experience in their various fields, but who also have degrees. Based on their experience I would say that, at least right now, having an undergraduate degree or some level of professional skills training really counts.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Haha – there is NEVER anything wrong with spending some money to nerd-out. You have no objection here Jess. And I do agree with your point – an undergraduate degree is pretty much a requirement in this day and age.

  • Jess @OpenlyBalanced Reply

    Great post, Matt!

    Personally, I hope to go back to school someday and get at least a master’s degree, maybe a doctorate. But I’ll be doing it because I LOVE school, not as a career move or something I think will help me weather the uncertain future. It will be a purely selfish act of spending a ton of money to be a nerd.

    That being said, I already have my undergraduate degrees (Political Science, Spanish, minor Econ). Right now I am watching my three cousins struggle to find work. They are in the same age range as I am and are highly intelligent people. We grew up across the street from each other – same community and comparable income levels, although different schools. They went to private school while I went to public school. Theoretically they shouldn’t be struggling but… none of them have college degrees. Time and time again they have been passed over for people who have similar experience in their various fields, but who also have degrees. Based on their experience I would say that, at least right now, having an undergraduate degree or some level of professional skills training really counts.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Haha – there is NEVER anything wrong with spending some money to nerd-out. You have no objection here Jess. And I do agree with your point – an undergraduate degree is pretty much a requirement in this day and age.

  • Kory Mathewson Reply

    Fantastic post Matt, but I must say that I disagree. School is not only about shelling out thousands of dollars to learn something that you could have read in a book. It is about learning how to best learn, about surrounding yourself in a positive, supportive, creative environment which allows you to be create and develop.
    I am biased on this topic as I am in Electrical Biomedical Engineering, which is a field that I am particularly interested in. This is NOT a field where Sunday afternoon hobbyists can do just as much as those with Masters degrees. This is a field where education is valued, and academia is supported.
    Do not lose your dreams just because expectations may exist on you, but don’t be afraid to jump in and start doing it, that I agree on.

    Thanks, Kory

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      I actually think we DO agree – and I know there is value in formal education, especially for certain fields – but in my case, my dreams aren’t hindered by my education (or lack there of). My undergrad and real life experience suit me well – and I expect that to only continue as I get more and more experience under my belt.

      Thanks for the comment sir!

  • Kory Mathewson Reply

    Fantastic post Matt, but I must say that I disagree. School is not only about shelling out thousands of dollars to learn something that you could have read in a book. It is about learning how to best learn, about surrounding yourself in a positive, supportive, creative environment which allows you to be create and develop.
    I am biased on this topic as I am in Electrical Biomedical Engineering, which is a field that I am particularly interested in. This is NOT a field where Sunday afternoon hobbyists can do just as much as those with Masters degrees. This is a field where education is valued, and academia is supported.
    Do not lose your dreams just because expectations may exist on you, but don’t be afraid to jump in and start doing it, that I agree on.

    Thanks, Kory

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      I actually think we DO agree – and I know there is value in formal education, especially for certain fields – but in my case, my dreams aren’t hindered by my education (or lack there of). My undergrad and real life experience suit me well – and I expect that to only continue as I get more and more experience under my belt.

      Thanks for the comment sir!

  • Srinivas Rao Reply

    Hey Matt,

    I’m a fairly recent graduate of an MBA program. Surprisingly I actually agree with you. While the MBA may have taught me to think differently, the amount of money I spent could have been poured into self education at a fraction of the cost. I think in today’s world we have the ability to learn everything we want to learn for free, with the exception of specialized professions you mentioned.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Exactly – that’s the real argument here Srinivas, that virtually everything – especially in this day and age of information overload – can be learned on your own. It’s interesting to hear that perspective from you, as someone who has gone through the MBA program.

  • Srinivas Rao Reply

    Hey Matt,

    I’m a fairly recent graduate of an MBA program. Surprisingly I actually agree with you. While the MBA may have taught me to think differently, the amount of money I spent could have been poured into self education at a fraction of the cost. I think in today’s world we have the ability to learn everything we want to learn for free, with the exception of specialized professions you mentioned.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Exactly – that’s the real argument here Srinivas, that virtually everything – especially in this day and age of information overload – can be learned on your own. It’s interesting to hear that perspective from you, as someone who has gone through the MBA program.

  • Jocelyn Rimbey Reply

    I didn’t even have to read through your entire post to agree with you (although I did read through the entire post).

    In my (very short lived) experience with the real world, I have learned that college was good for a few things (like learning about ourselves or our drinking limits, how to take notes, how to memorize facts, etc.), but it didn’t really prepare me for the real world in the way I expected or thought it would.

    I am an advocate for more apprenticeship learning. I am also an advocate for continual self improvement and self education. And more than anything, I think the will to succeed (both in life and in the professional arena) is having the passion and drive to make things happen for yourself.

    Great post, I’ll check back for more.

    - Jocelyn Rimbey

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Thanks for coming by Jocelyn. I think that’s sort of how I walked away from college – not having a clue what I wanted to do and feeling totally unprepared for the real world – looking back and saying, “Why did I put myself in debt to come out the other end feeling like this”?

      Now, two years later, after “real life” experience – I have a much better sense of direction, purpose, and know where I want to be and what I want to be doing. A little bit of “real” experience can go a long way…

  • Jocelyn Rimbey Reply

    I didn’t even have to read through your entire post to agree with you (although I did read through the entire post).

    In my (very short lived) experience with the real world, I have learned that college was good for a few things (like learning about ourselves or our drinking limits, how to take notes, how to memorize facts, etc.), but it didn’t really prepare me for the real world in the way I expected or thought it would.

    I am an advocate for more apprenticeship learning. I am also an advocate for continual self improvement and self education. And more than anything, I think the will to succeed (both in life and in the professional arena) is having the passion and drive to make things happen for yourself.

    Great post, I’ll check back for more.

    - Jocelyn Rimbey

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Thanks for coming by Jocelyn. I think that’s sort of how I walked away from college – not having a clue what I wanted to do and feeling totally unprepared for the real world – looking back and saying, “Why did I put myself in debt to come out the other end feeling like this”?

      Now, two years later, after “real life” experience – I have a much better sense of direction, purpose, and know where I want to be and what I want to be doing. A little bit of “real” experience can go a long way…

  • Alexia Harris Reply

    I graduated a few years ago with my B.S. in public relations. I debated whether I should stay in school and get a graduate degree or enter the workforce. Thankfully, I had a three potential job offers, so I was presented with a great dilemma.

    I agree that experience is the best teacher – it supports what you’ve learned in school. But my educational experience was different. In my classes, we were required to find real clients and create PR plans, marketing materials and campaigns for them. It was hands-on rather than testing us over information we crammed in our heads the previous night. Of course we had courses like Law of Advertising and PR and Ethics, but in the core PR courses, we got knee deep into the dynamics of the PR industry. It was this awesome experience that made me want to keep going with my education. I loved going to class and interacting with my peers.

    But since each person has different goals and experiences, whether he wants to stay in school or enter the workforce will vary. I’d advise him to sit down and really think about what he wants to do. Make a list of pros and cons for both options. Use this information to make an educated decision instead of rushing into something and later regretting it.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Great point Alexia – I think a lot of people rush into it, or think it’s the logical next step, or think that they NEED that degree to get ahead, when it just might not be the case. I think some of my “bitterness” (for lack of a better word) may be due to NOT having that hands-on experience you mention here – our course work was much more textbook – which generally left a bad taste in my mouth…

  • Alexia Harris Reply

    I graduated a few years ago with my B.S. in public relations. I debated whether I should stay in school and get a graduate degree or enter the workforce. Thankfully, I had a three potential job offers, so I was presented with a great dilemma.

    I agree that experience is the best teacher – it supports what you’ve learned in school. But my educational experience was different. In my classes, we were required to find real clients and create PR plans, marketing materials and campaigns for them. It was hands-on rather than testing us over information we crammed in our heads the previous night. Of course we had courses like Law of Advertising and PR and Ethics, but in the core PR courses, we got knee deep into the dynamics of the PR industry. It was this awesome experience that made me want to keep going with my education. I loved going to class and interacting with my peers.

    But since each person has different goals and experiences, whether he wants to stay in school or enter the workforce will vary. I’d advise him to sit down and really think about what he wants to do. Make a list of pros and cons for both options. Use this information to make an educated decision instead of rushing into something and later regretting it.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Great point Alexia – I think a lot of people rush into it, or think it’s the logical next step, or think that they NEED that degree to get ahead, when it just might not be the case. I think some of my “bitterness” (for lack of a better word) may be due to NOT having that hands-on experience you mention here – our course work was much more textbook – which generally left a bad taste in my mouth…

  • Norcross Reply

    It’s not an either / or situation. While it’s easy to say “go get the experience, surround yourself with people, etc. the fact remains that often times, a degree is NEEDED to do those things, or being in school is where you find those people to begin with. The founders of Google? Microsoft? They met in school. And as someone who has worked as a manager and been involved in hiring decisions for people that reported under me, I wouldn’t have hired someone without a degree. Period.

    I myself recently left a ‘career’ position to return to school on a full-time basis and freelance. One wouldn’t have happened without the 0ther. But to immediately discount the value of a ‘paper’ education is being short-sighted. And while freelancing seems quite glamorous and ‘free’, there are just as many pitfalls and difficulties involved there as well.

    • Carlee Mallard Reply

      Are we talking about “going back to graduate school” or getting any higher education degree? We could all argue that a high school degree is necessary. And would argue that an undergraduate degree is almost necessary to get any job these days where there is a Hiring Manager. I think the debate here is really going back to school for a graduate degree. Once we’ve gone through an undergraduate program and been taught how to learn and think, do we need to go back to school to learn more or can we teach ourselves?

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Andrew – First, we are talking about upper-level degrees, not just “graduating from college”. I don’t think my perspective here is short sighted in any way – in fact, at the beginning of the post I recognize that higher education is absolutely needed for some fields of study – this post is not directed at those professionals who NEED the extra degree to advance in the career path they have chosen.

      Also, I am well aware that the path of an entrepreneur is just as, if not more difficult than the corporate lifestyle. I don’t in any way think that is the easy way out.

      • Norcross Reply

        Then I guess the question is what professional track DOESN’T need the higher degree. Maybe not right after graduation (frankly, an MBA directly after a bachelor’s seems like a waste, since there still isn’t any tangible experience behind it). But show me a career path that doesn’t at some point require (or at least encourage) a higher-level degree, and I’ll show you a field that’s probably dying out.

        • Matt Cheuvront Reply

          Most paths don’t NEED a higher degree – There is a BIG difference between REQUIRING and ENCOURAGING. Can I name a field that doesn’t encourage more education, nope. But there are a lot that don’t require it – marketing, the field I’m in, is a prime example. There are a ton of people in this industry that are without their masters – but I’m sure if I wan’t to work my way up the corporate hierarchy, going back to school would be encouraged.

          • Norcross Reply

            While they may not be able to come out and say it, there’s a good chance that in that situation, without the higher ed, you’d be passed over for someone who did have it. Obviously superstars can overcome that, but how often do we all see / complain that management doesn’t know who the superstars are to begin with?

            Case in point: at my previous position (as a manager) my assistant has his MBA, while all I had was an associate’s degree. I had clearly shown that my work, dedication, and intelligence was more valuable than his MBA. But had I not had a good relationship with my manager and been at the right place at the right time (I replaced someone who resigned unexpectedly) there’s no way I would have been given the job to begin with.

            Obviously a higher ed degree isn’t for everyone, and certainly isn’t required. But to say at 25 that ‘I’m never going back to school again because it’s worthless to me’ comes across as more arrogant than experienced.

            • Matt Cheuvront Reply

              Interesting that you would label me as arrogant – I’m not sitting here saying higher education has no value – I just know, for what I ultimately want to be doing later in life, I don’t NEED to go back to school – and would prefer to learn from real life experience than in a classroom. I’m extremely humble and always admit that I have a “long way to go” (see the last paragraph of this post). We can all be educated in very different ways and still achieve our goals.

              • Norcross Reply

                Interesting that you would immediately see that as me calling you arrogant, and not the statement (which is what I directly referenced). I can easily say that what I had planned and expected at 25 has in no way whatsoever come to be. And I’m thankful for that. My point is that drawing lines in the sand such as what you’ve done is a dangerous place to be in.

                And for what it’s worth, formal education IS experience at the graduate level. There aren’t any more bullshit classes that have nothing to do with your major, but rather courses taught by people in your exact career field with the ‘real’ experience you mention. After the undergrad level, education and experience are no longer exclusive.

                On a side note, how can you have an opinion on something that you’ve never done? While I doubt I will ever go to grad school for reasons relevant to me, I can’t say a single word about what it would or wouldn’t do for me: I haven’t ever been.

                • Matt Cheuvront Reply

                  I’m not drawing any lines in the sand and I’m sorry if I misunderstood your reply here. But I think you’ve understood me as well.

                  I don’t say anywhere here that a Masters is a waste of time, I don’t think that at all – my “opinion” is that it’s not for me – and that I see a lot of people going back to school right after undergrad studies in order to avoid entering into the “real world”. It’s not that it wouldn’t DO anything for me (I re-read my post to make sure I didn’t say that), it’s just not the path I plan to take myself down for what I want to do with my life.

                  Truthfully, I think we are more in agreement than this conversation shows.

                  • Norcross Reply

                    From what I gather, a lot of folks are going to grad school right now not to ‘avoid’ the real world, but mainly due to the fact that there aren’t any jobs to be had and going to school = student loan deferment. Being that I’ve got over $170,000 in student loans (not me, but rather my wife’s law school) I can see the mentality behind it. My personal opinion on grad school is wait for 5 years after you graduate. Figure out if you actually want to do what you got your degree in, and get the benefit of the advanced course load once you have tangible experience behind it.

                    • Matt Cheuvront

                      WOW! At least lawyers make good money – they need to to pay off those loans….crazy.

                      To your point, I 100% agree – if you’re going to do the grad school thing, go get some real life experience that you can bring back and apply to learning in the classroom. Right after undergrad, you’re sort of walking in blind.

    • Tim Jahn Reply

      You bring up an important aspect of school (and therefore, education) – the social aspect. I’ve still friends with some my buddies from grammar school. And I’m friends with some great people I met in college.

      After college, I realized that part of college was advanced learning and an even bigger part was the social learning. Not only who you are, but how you fit into other worlds and the lives of others.

      College especially (and I imagine graduate school too), gives you an opportunity to learn with other students who are interested in the same things you are. What better way to foster friendships and further what you want to do in life?

      • Matt Cheuvront Reply

        I used to think it would be impossible to make friends after college until Social Media came along. Haha – that sounds completely ridiculous but it’s sort of true. Before we were all facebooking, tweeting, and blogging, how did we meet and network with people outside of school and work? The Internet has made our communities a much smaller space – allowing us to geek out with our fellow online compadres (offline) easier than ever.

  • Norcross Reply

    It’s not an either / or situation. While it’s easy to say “go get the experience, surround yourself with people, etc. the fact remains that often times, a degree is NEEDED to do those things, or being in school is where you find those people to begin with. The founders of Google? Microsoft? They met in school. And as someone who has worked as a manager and been involved in hiring decisions for people that reported under me, I wouldn’t have hired someone without a degree. Period.

    I myself recently left a ‘career’ position to return to school on a full-time basis and freelance. One wouldn’t have happened without the 0ther. But to immediately discount the value of a ‘paper’ education is being short-sighted. And while freelancing seems quite glamorous and ‘free’, there are just as many pitfalls and difficulties involved there as well.

    • Carlee Mallard Reply

      Are we talking about “going back to graduate school” or getting any higher education degree? We could all argue that a high school degree is necessary. And would argue that an undergraduate degree is almost necessary to get any job these days where there is a Hiring Manager. I think the debate here is really going back to school for a graduate degree. Once we’ve gone through an undergraduate program and been taught how to learn and think, do we need to go back to school to learn more or can we teach ourselves?

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Andrew – First, we are talking about upper-level degrees, not just “graduating from college”. I don’t think my perspective here is short sighted in any way – in fact, at the beginning of the post I recognize that higher education is absolutely needed for some fields of study – this post is not directed at those professionals who NEED the extra degree to advance in the career path they have chosen.

      Also, I am well aware that the path of an entrepreneur is just as, if not more difficult than the corporate lifestyle. I don’t in any way think that is the easy way out.

      • Norcross Reply

        Then I guess the question is what professional track DOESN’T need the higher degree. Maybe not right after graduation (frankly, an MBA directly after a bachelor’s seems like a waste, since there still isn’t any tangible experience behind it). But show me a career path that doesn’t at some point require (or at least encourage) a higher-level degree, and I’ll show you a field that’s probably dying out.

        • Matt Cheuvront Reply

          Most paths don’t NEED a higher degree – There is a BIG difference between REQUIRING and ENCOURAGING. Can I name a field that doesn’t encourage more education, nope. But there are a lot that don’t require it – marketing, the field I’m in, is a prime example. There are a ton of people in this industry that are without their masters – but I’m sure if I wan’t to work my way up the corporate hierarchy, going back to school would be encouraged.

          • Norcross Reply

            While they may not be able to come out and say it, there’s a good chance that in that situation, without the higher ed, you’d be passed over for someone who did have it. Obviously superstars can overcome that, but how often do we all see / complain that management doesn’t know who the superstars are to begin with?

            Case in point: at my previous position (as a manager) my assistant has his MBA, while all I had was an associate’s degree. I had clearly shown that my work, dedication, and intelligence was more valuable than his MBA. But had I not had a good relationship with my manager and been at the right place at the right time (I replaced someone who resigned unexpectedly) there’s no way I would have been given the job to begin with.

            Obviously a higher ed degree isn’t for everyone, and certainly isn’t required. But to say at 25 that ‘I’m never going back to school again because it’s worthless to me’ comes across as more arrogant than experienced.

            • Matt Cheuvront Reply

              Interesting that you would label me as arrogant – I’m not sitting here saying higher education has no value – I just know, for what I ultimately want to be doing later in life, I don’t NEED to go back to school – and would prefer to learn from real life experience than in a classroom. I’m extremely humble and always admit that I have a “long way to go” (see the last paragraph of this post). We can all be educated in very different ways and still achieve our goals.

              • Norcross Reply

                Interesting that you would immediately see that as me calling you arrogant, and not the statement (which is what I directly referenced). I can easily say that what I had planned and expected at 25 has in no way whatsoever come to be. And I’m thankful for that. My point is that drawing lines in the sand such as what you’ve done is a dangerous place to be in.

                And for what it’s worth, formal education IS experience at the graduate level. There aren’t any more bullshit classes that have nothing to do with your major, but rather courses taught by people in your exact career field with the ‘real’ experience you mention. After the undergrad level, education and experience are no longer exclusive.

                On a side note, how can you have an opinion on something that you’ve never done? While I doubt I will ever go to grad school for reasons relevant to me, I can’t say a single word about what it would or wouldn’t do for me: I haven’t ever been.

                • Matt Cheuvront Reply

                  I’m not drawing any lines in the sand and I’m sorry if I misunderstood your reply here. But I think you’ve understood me as well.

                  I don’t say anywhere here that a Masters is a waste of time, I don’t think that at all – my “opinion” is that it’s not for me – and that I see a lot of people going back to school right after undergrad studies in order to avoid entering into the “real world”. It’s not that it wouldn’t DO anything for me (I re-read my post to make sure I didn’t say that), it’s just not the path I plan to take myself down for what I want to do with my life.

                  Truthfully, I think we are more in agreement than this conversation shows.

                  • Norcross Reply

                    From what I gather, a lot of folks are going to grad school right now not to ‘avoid’ the real world, but mainly due to the fact that there aren’t any jobs to be had and going to school = student loan deferment. Being that I’ve got over $170,000 in student loans (not me, but rather my wife’s law school) I can see the mentality behind it. My personal opinion on grad school is wait for 5 years after you graduate. Figure out if you actually want to do what you got your degree in, and get the benefit of the advanced course load once you have tangible experience behind it.

                    • Matt Cheuvront

                      WOW! At least lawyers make good money – they need to to pay off those loans….crazy.

                      To your point, I 100% agree – if you’re going to do the grad school thing, go get some real life experience that you can bring back and apply to learning in the classroom. Right after undergrad, you’re sort of walking in blind.

    • Tim Jahn Reply

      You bring up an important aspect of school (and therefore, education) – the social aspect. I’ve still friends with some my buddies from grammar school. And I’m friends with some great people I met in college.

      After college, I realized that part of college was advanced learning and an even bigger part was the social learning. Not only who you are, but how you fit into other worlds and the lives of others.

      College especially (and I imagine graduate school too), gives you an opportunity to learn with other students who are interested in the same things you are. What better way to foster friendships and further what you want to do in life?

      • Matt Cheuvront Reply

        I used to think it would be impossible to make friends after college until Social Media came along. Haha – that sounds completely ridiculous but it’s sort of true. Before we were all facebooking, tweeting, and blogging, how did we meet and network with people outside of school and work? The Internet has made our communities a much smaller space – allowing us to geek out with our fellow online compadres (offline) easier than ever.

  • Jenn Reply

    I really enjoyed school. With that said, I agree that experience is what really matters. I do have plans to go back to school because for me, that degree means a lot. I have yet to get mine and it’s on my to-do list.

    Of course I plan to constantly be educating myself on my own, through books, people, and even crossword puzzles! Ha :)

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Haha crossword puzzles – there’s something I’ve never been good at! Was there a reason in particular that you opted to leave school and pursue a career? Just curious…

      • Jenn Reply

        I have a science background. I was studying to become a medical examiner when I got a job as a freelance writer, and soon after I landed a job with a startup as their Social Media Know-It-All. Juggling those and school was difficult. I discovered that I was good at something other than naming bones and muscles. That program needs to be completed when I can be 100% focused on it. I’m having too much fun exploring other options right now, but a career in the medical field is still my dream – I’ll settle for an anatomy teacher :)

        • Tim Jahn Reply

          I think that’s awesome how you acknowledge you have one dream that you will pursue one day, but in the mean time another dream popped its head in. I think you’re an important example of how education should be on the path to our dreams, rather than just going to school because you “have” to.

          • Jenn Reply

            It’s okay to have more than one dream and it took me a while to feel comfortable putting one on hold. It’s easy to feel like a failure if you don’t finish school or follow through with a major. It’s important that people realize that’s not true at all. I was telling a friend last night that I wish I started college at this point in my life because I feel like I would get a lot more out of it now. At 18, it’s just another burden.

            • Matt Cheuvront Reply

              You can always have more than one dreams – In fact I think life is all about balancing and prioritizing your dreams – you may not be able to purse everything at once, but each dream you pursue is a step to the overall journey.

  • Jenn Reply

    I really enjoyed school. With that said, I agree that experience is what really matters. I do have plans to go back to school because for me, that degree means a lot. I have yet to get mine and it’s on my to-do list.

    Of course I plan to constantly be educating myself on my own, through books, people, and even crossword puzzles! Ha :)

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Haha crossword puzzles – there’s something I’ve never been good at! Was there a reason in particular that you opted to leave school and pursue a career? Just curious…

      • Jenn Reply

        I have a science background. I was studying to become a medical examiner when I got a job as a freelance writer, and soon after I landed a job with a startup as their Social Media Know-It-All. Juggling those and school was difficult. I discovered that I was good at something other than naming bones and muscles. That program needs to be completed when I can be 100% focused on it. I’m having too much fun exploring other options right now, but a career in the medical field is still my dream – I’ll settle for an anatomy teacher :)

        • Tim Jahn Reply

          I think that’s awesome how you acknowledge you have one dream that you will pursue one day, but in the mean time another dream popped its head in. I think you’re an important example of how education should be on the path to our dreams, rather than just going to school because you “have” to.

          • Jenn Reply

            It’s okay to have more than one dream and it took me a while to feel comfortable putting one on hold. It’s easy to feel like a failure if you don’t finish school or follow through with a major. It’s important that people realize that’s not true at all. I was telling a friend last night that I wish I started college at this point in my life because I feel like I would get a lot more out of it now. At 18, it’s just another burden.

            • Matt Cheuvront Reply

              You can always have more than one dreams – In fact I think life is all about balancing and prioritizing your dreams – you may not be able to purse everything at once, but each dream you pursue is a step to the overall journey.

  • Bloominglater Reply

    matt -

    i think the key here is saying that you’ll never “go BACK to school,” which implies that you have an undergraduate degree. as a hiring manager in corporate america by day, i know that it is imperative to have that piece of paper – whether you’re qualified or not. our HR department will screen alot of people out who DON’T have a degree.

    that said, i agree with you. if you suddenly find yourself in love with writing, or music, or traveling or entrepreneurship, experience is the best teacher. you can’t learn everything within the four walls of a classroom or the safe confines of a college campus. i think we often target “going back to school FIRST,” because we’re afraid. we just have to learn to go out there, get the information we need and make it happen.

    great post. thanks for it.

    ~bloom

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Yes, I have the undergrad – that’s pretty much a must it seems like these days (unfortunately). I do think you CAN learn a lot within the classroom setting, but it’s not not for me. I’ve always been much more of a hands-on, learn from experience type of person, so putting myself into the workforce and learning on the job is what works best for me and has helped me grow to where I am today. Thanks for coming by!

  • Bloominglater Reply

    matt -

    i think the key here is saying that you’ll never “go BACK to school,” which implies that you have an undergraduate degree. as a hiring manager in corporate america by day, i know that it is imperative to have that piece of paper – whether you’re qualified or not. our HR department will screen alot of people out who DON’T have a degree.

    that said, i agree with you. if you suddenly find yourself in love with writing, or music, or traveling or entrepreneurship, experience is the best teacher. you can’t learn everything within the four walls of a classroom or the safe confines of a college campus. i think we often target “going back to school FIRST,” because we’re afraid. we just have to learn to go out there, get the information we need and make it happen.

    great post. thanks for it.

    ~bloom

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Yes, I have the undergrad – that’s pretty much a must it seems like these days (unfortunately). I do think you CAN learn a lot within the classroom setting, but it’s not not for me. I’ve always been much more of a hands-on, learn from experience type of person, so putting myself into the workforce and learning on the job is what works best for me and has helped me grow to where I am today. Thanks for coming by!

  • torbjorn Reply

    BUT: don’t underestimate the power of a directed, technical diploma.

    If you’re an entrepreneur and you want to break into the field of community planning (for example) what really matters is your background in project management and community consulting – but you’d do much better with skills learned in school. Even just a series of courses.

    Quite generally I agree with you, though. No masters for me here. Don’t need it, and too expensive. There are though great, quick, technical options that will increase your knowledge and confidence in finding work.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Right – technical expertise usually requires the formal education – no argument there, but for where I am and where I want to be, going back to school isn’t for me.

  • torbjorn Reply

    BUT: don’t underestimate the power of a directed, technical diploma.

    If you’re an entrepreneur and you want to break into the field of community planning (for example) what really matters is your background in project management and community consulting – but you’d do much better with skills learned in school. Even just a series of courses.

    Quite generally I agree with you, though. No masters for me here. Don’t need it, and too expensive. There are though great, quick, technical options that will increase your knowledge and confidence in finding work.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Right – technical expertise usually requires the formal education – no argument there, but for where I am and where I want to be, going back to school isn’t for me.

  • Grace Boyle Reply

    Great debates going on!

    My own internal debate comes down to debt/money and then the qualifications, network and potential salary increase that comes with an MBA or Grad School diploma. However, right now, I don’t plan on going back to school. I’m only two years out of Undergrad (which I do feel like I learned a lot from) but my year and a half of working has taught me so much and the experience is worth it.

    My boss has his MBA, that he did much later in his life (30′s) that his company paid for while he continued to work. I like the idea of that. I ask him what he thinks about grad school and usually, there’s a strong emphasis on practicum, working with clients directly and also being amongst a highly intelligent group of experienced workers. You’re saturated with intelligence and learning. This isn’t to say you can’t do that by working, but it’s an interesting debate to circle around.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      I like that idea as well Grace – higher education seems a little bit sweeter when the company you work for encourages it and is willing to pay for it – that makes a HUGE difference…

  • Grace Boyle Reply

    Great debates going on!

    My own internal debate comes down to debt/money and then the qualifications, network and potential salary increase that comes with an MBA or Grad School diploma. However, right now, I don’t plan on going back to school. I’m only two years out of Undergrad (which I do feel like I learned a lot from) but my year and a half of working has taught me so much and the experience is worth it.

    My boss has his MBA, that he did much later in his life (30′s) that his company paid for while he continued to work. I like the idea of that. I ask him what he thinks about grad school and usually, there’s a strong emphasis on practicum, working with clients directly and also being amongst a highly intelligent group of experienced workers. You’re saturated with intelligence and learning. This isn’t to say you can’t do that by working, but it’s an interesting debate to circle around.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      I like that idea as well Grace – higher education seems a little bit sweeter when the company you work for encourages it and is willing to pay for it – that makes a HUGE difference…

  • Alex Reply

    I am going into Human Factors psychology (you can read about that here if you have no idea what that is: http://pixie658.wordpress.com/human-factors). I want to go into this field of psychology because I know it is the best way I can help improve human’s quality of life. The only way I can even understand Human Factors, psychology, statistics, to do research, or to get a job teaching or in Industry, is the go to school and earn a PhD. I also have an Internship so I can get the best of both worlds. I get the applied experience on the job (which has shown me the major pitfalls of not having a more advanced education in Engineering, for example, and only make assumptions based on experience, not science) and I get the academic and research background. I love school and love surrounding myself with people who do research and apply scientific methods to solving problems. So, in my case, school is essential to my career advancement. Sure, I could find a job doing something else, but this is what I really WANT to do, what I NEED to do, and it is the most rewarding, fulfilling path for me.
    I also, frankly, get pretty tired of hearing people tell me I don’t have to go back to school to be successful. I love that so many of my friends will never have to set foor in a classroom after college and already make 5 times what I do at my age. But I like school, I value learning, and I have to have a degree. It also depends on what you call success. I want to help people and will be dealing with people’s lives, so I have to have a more advanced degree and know my shit. I have to be an expert in my field. Some people think that is just ridiculous, but I am willing to spend 5 more years in school so I can make the right decisions in my field of study.
    Also… if I tried to get a job without an advanced degree, people would literally laugh in my face.

    • Alex Reply

      also should proofread before submitting things publicly. ;)
      and I did read the disclaimer, I just thought it would be good to have someone’s perspective who is going into a specialized field. :)

      • Matt Cheuvront Reply

        Wow, what a bitchy comment!

        Kidding kidding – not at all Alex – your apology on Twitter was not at all necessary – and you make a great case for why you are pursuing a higher ed degree. Really, you could have stopped at “it is the most rewarding, fulfilling path for me” – At the end of the day, that is the ONLY thing that matters – you might want a degree, not want one, drop out of college, whatever – as long as it’s rewarding and “right” for you personally – then you go purse the hell out of whatever you want to do. We can all learn a lot from your attitude.

  • Alex Reply

    I am going into Human Factors psychology (you can read about that here if you have no idea what that is: http://pixie658.wordpress.com/human-factors). I want to go into this field of psychology because I know it is the best way I can help improve human’s quality of life. The only way I can even understand Human Factors, psychology, statistics, to do research, or to get a job teaching or in Industry, is the go to school and earn a PhD. I also have an Internship so I can get the best of both worlds. I get the applied experience on the job (which has shown me the major pitfalls of not having a more advanced education in Engineering, for example, and only make assumptions based on experience, not science) and I get the academic and research background. I love school and love surrounding myself with people who do research and apply scientific methods to solving problems. So, in my case, school is essential to my career advancement. Sure, I could find a job doing something else, but this is what I really WANT to do, what I NEED to do, and it is the most rewarding, fulfilling path for me.
    I also, frankly, get pretty tired of hearing people tell me I don’t have to go back to school to be successful. I love that so many of my friends will never have to set foor in a classroom after college and already make 5 times what I do at my age. But I like school, I value learning, and I have to have a degree. It also depends on what you call success. I want to help people and will be dealing with people’s lives, so I have to have a more advanced degree and know my shit. I have to be an expert in my field. Some people think that is just ridiculous, but I am willing to spend 5 more years in school so I can make the right decisions in my field of study.
    Also… if I tried to get a job without an advanced degree, people would literally laugh in my face.

    • Alex Reply

      also should proofread before submitting things publicly. ;)
      and I did read the disclaimer, I just thought it would be good to have someone’s perspective who is going into a specialized field. :)

      • Matt Cheuvront Reply

        Wow, what a bitchy comment!

        Kidding kidding – not at all Alex – your apology on Twitter was not at all necessary – and you make a great case for why you are pursuing a higher ed degree. Really, you could have stopped at “it is the most rewarding, fulfilling path for me” – At the end of the day, that is the ONLY thing that matters – you might want a degree, not want one, drop out of college, whatever – as long as it’s rewarding and “right” for you personally – then you go purse the hell out of whatever you want to do. We can all learn a lot from your attitude.

  • Justin Reply

    (I haven’t read ALL of the comments so this may have already been said – I apologize.)

    This post cultivates some interesting perspectives. I think that, if we’re talking about going BACK to school we can safely assume or at least agree that some college education is more or less mandatory these days (for a decent entry level position). With that said, I also believe that they (self educating and higher education) can and should co-exists. Why? Self educating will happen no matter if you’re in school or out of school and working. It all lies in your curiosity and determination to learn.

    It is indeed invaluable the material you can learn from the textbook version of things..it lays a foundation to which you can apply your own technique or viewpoint. But, I also agree that hands-on experience is invaluable. That’s why they both need to happen (through internships, shadowing, apprenticeships, etc. during college).

    I also think that going back to achieve your masters (let’s say after you’ve been in the working world for several years before doing so) is more than just for ‘learning more’. It fills one with a sense of accomplishment, that you did something, and of course, you DO learn things. And arguably, more doors will open (with higher paying positions) if you do so. There is more value in showing the piece of paper with your master’s designation on it vs. saying that you were taught everything through Google. ;)

    I myself am still working on getting my BA in business and marketing. After that no, I’m not going to get my MBA right away. I plan on getting a position that will eventually give me the freedom to gain my MBA down the road…for my own sake (sense of gained self worth, accomplishment, etc.).

    Not sure I proposed any new arguments here. :/ Great post as always, Matt!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Thanks Justin – I think you reiterated very well that going back to school should have a direct purpose – whether it be a NEED or a want in pursuit of self-fulfillment. Thanks for the comment!

  • Justin Reply

    (I haven’t read ALL of the comments so this may have already been said – I apologize.)

    This post cultivates some interesting perspectives. I think that, if we’re talking about going BACK to school we can safely assume or at least agree that some college education is more or less mandatory these days (for a decent entry level position). With that said, I also believe that they (self educating and higher education) can and should co-exists. Why? Self educating will happen no matter if you’re in school or out of school and working. It all lies in your curiosity and determination to learn.

    It is indeed invaluable the material you can learn from the textbook version of things..it lays a foundation to which you can apply your own technique or viewpoint. But, I also agree that hands-on experience is invaluable. That’s why they both need to happen (through internships, shadowing, apprenticeships, etc. during college).

    I also think that going back to achieve your masters (let’s say after you’ve been in the working world for several years before doing so) is more than just for ‘learning more’. It fills one with a sense of accomplishment, that you did something, and of course, you DO learn things. And arguably, more doors will open (with higher paying positions) if you do so. There is more value in showing the piece of paper with your master’s designation on it vs. saying that you were taught everything through Google. ;)

    I myself am still working on getting my BA in business and marketing. After that no, I’m not going to get my MBA right away. I plan on getting a position that will eventually give me the freedom to gain my MBA down the road…for my own sake (sense of gained self worth, accomplishment, etc.).

    Not sure I proposed any new arguments here. :/ Great post as always, Matt!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Thanks Justin – I think you reiterated very well that going back to school should have a direct purpose – whether it be a NEED or a want in pursuit of self-fulfillment. Thanks for the comment!

  • Akhila Reply

    I think it depends on how “specialized” your undergraduate education is, and what skills you gain from that experience. My undergrad degree is in Economics and Political Science, and I didn’t pursue something more…”practical” like PR/Marketing, Business, or Computer Science and so on (my university is liberal arts, and we don’t have those practical majors — I chose this over a BBA degree…). I think for students who pursue a very practical undergrad degree which gives them the specific skills needed to fully jump into a career path and progress in that without needing to pick up additional skills, an additional degree is not needed. For instance if you are an engineer or a computer scientist, you will have learned so many useful skills as an undergrad that a Masters might help but may not be necessary. Same if you’re in the financial field.

    However what about those who didn’t know at the outset what exactly they wanted to do? I went into undergrad not sure and honestly I’m still not 100% sure! I did subjects I loved in college but didn’t gain any “practical” skills or technical expertise through my majors, and all along I was still attempting to figure out what I want to do. No matter what I decide on in the long run, whether it is law or marketing/communications/PR or nonprofits (things I’m still debating between to some extent) I will have to pursue some advanced degree to add on to my expertise. Sure I could add on some certifications or take individual classes or study on my own, but that won’t help me become an industry leader or grow in a company/organization. I think my next degree, whatever it is, will have a VERY practical focus. I want to gain a specific skill set which I don’t necessarily have through undergrad and I think there are certain things I can pick up but also certain skills I can ONLY gain through a grad degree.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Yeah Akhila – you make a lot of great points. To be honest – I don’t know where my career path is going to take me in the future either. I started as a Mass Comm major which is about as general as they come – and then switched to Marketing to be a little “safer” (I thought the BA would help me out a little more in getting me a job). Was it the right decision? Who knows? It forced me to take more math classes and think more analytically, so in a way – it did help.

      But you know, the classes I got the most of were history, philosophy, theology – things that were extremely interesting to me, that I became very passionate about, but may not really be my ticket to career success. So with those passions, I turn to outlets like this – a blog is an amazing creative outlet to share and posterize ideas amongst other amazing people such as yourself.

      Formal education and self education can certainly go hand in hand.

  • Akhila Reply

    I think it depends on how “specialized” your undergraduate education is, and what skills you gain from that experience. My undergrad degree is in Economics and Political Science, and I didn’t pursue something more…”practical” like PR/Marketing, Business, or Computer Science and so on (my university is liberal arts, and we don’t have those practical majors — I chose this over a BBA degree…). I think for students who pursue a very practical undergrad degree which gives them the specific skills needed to fully jump into a career path and progress in that without needing to pick up additional skills, an additional degree is not needed. For instance if you are an engineer or a computer scientist, you will have learned so many useful skills as an undergrad that a Masters might help but may not be necessary. Same if you’re in the financial field.

    However what about those who didn’t know at the outset what exactly they wanted to do? I went into undergrad not sure and honestly I’m still not 100% sure! I did subjects I loved in college but didn’t gain any “practical” skills or technical expertise through my majors, and all along I was still attempting to figure out what I want to do. No matter what I decide on in the long run, whether it is law or marketing/communications/PR or nonprofits (things I’m still debating between to some extent) I will have to pursue some advanced degree to add on to my expertise. Sure I could add on some certifications or take individual classes or study on my own, but that won’t help me become an industry leader or grow in a company/organization. I think my next degree, whatever it is, will have a VERY practical focus. I want to gain a specific skill set which I don’t necessarily have through undergrad and I think there are certain things I can pick up but also certain skills I can ONLY gain through a grad degree.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Yeah Akhila – you make a lot of great points. To be honest – I don’t know where my career path is going to take me in the future either. I started as a Mass Comm major which is about as general as they come – and then switched to Marketing to be a little “safer” (I thought the BA would help me out a little more in getting me a job). Was it the right decision? Who knows? It forced me to take more math classes and think more analytically, so in a way – it did help.

      But you know, the classes I got the most of were history, philosophy, theology – things that were extremely interesting to me, that I became very passionate about, but may not really be my ticket to career success. So with those passions, I turn to outlets like this – a blog is an amazing creative outlet to share and posterize ideas amongst other amazing people such as yourself.

      Formal education and self education can certainly go hand in hand.

  • Nicole Reply

    I have always wanted to go back to school. I love learning. I love studying. I love being part of the academic environment. I want to go back and earn a master’s degree.

    The thing is, none of my career goals require or would necessarily even be achieved by going back to school. I would be much better served spending that money on trainings, certifications, workshops, etc. Pretty much everything I need to know to do the things I want to do would involve self-teaching.

    I hope that someday I’ll have the income to justify going back to school and getting a degree just for the gratification of it, because I’ve struggled to let go of that dream of earning a Master’s Degree. But I’ve been thinking about it for 5 years and still haven’t come up with a good reason to go back, except that I want to.

    • Tim Jahn Reply

      Isn’t in interesting that our entire educational system basically revolves around careers? Not many people go to school for fun or to learn more about a specific topic. I think they often go to school to advance their career or gain more career-related skills.

      Weird, isn’t it?

      • Matt Cheuvront Reply

        It is interesting Tim – and Nicole, I hear what you are saying loud and clear. It’s hard for us to justify doing something when the only reason we have is “because I want to”. It’s THE most important reason, but the most difficult to justify, especially financially.

        I have no doubt that if obtaining your Masters is something that you want to do – you WILL do it. You’ll land a sweet job where you’ll make a ton of money and can afford it, or land somewhere that will help out with some Financial aid and contribute in your pursuit of higher education. If there’s a will, there’s a way. No doubt you’ll find the way.

  • Nicole Reply

    I have always wanted to go back to school. I love learning. I love studying. I love being part of the academic environment. I want to go back and earn a master’s degree.

    The thing is, none of my career goals require or would necessarily even be achieved by going back to school. I would be much better served spending that money on trainings, certifications, workshops, etc. Pretty much everything I need to know to do the things I want to do would involve self-teaching.

    I hope that someday I’ll have the income to justify going back to school and getting a degree just for the gratification of it, because I’ve struggled to let go of that dream of earning a Master’s Degree. But I’ve been thinking about it for 5 years and still haven’t come up with a good reason to go back, except that I want to.

    • Tim Jahn Reply

      Isn’t in interesting that our entire educational system basically revolves around careers? Not many people go to school for fun or to learn more about a specific topic. I think they often go to school to advance their career or gain more career-related skills.

      Weird, isn’t it?

      • Matt Cheuvront Reply

        It is interesting Tim – and Nicole, I hear what you are saying loud and clear. It’s hard for us to justify doing something when the only reason we have is “because I want to”. It’s THE most important reason, but the most difficult to justify, especially financially.

        I have no doubt that if obtaining your Masters is something that you want to do – you WILL do it. You’ll land a sweet job where you’ll make a ton of money and can afford it, or land somewhere that will help out with some Financial aid and contribute in your pursuit of higher education. If there’s a will, there’s a way. No doubt you’ll find the way.

  • Anonymous Reply

    Matt – well done, you seem to have blogged about a topic that has struck a chord and sparked some good debate. This is a good thing – good debate means fresh perspectives.

    My opinion: If you have the experience to get the job you want, and you are happy doing it, then no school necessary (that goes for undergrad and grad). Decisions about attending school are about striving to hit that sweet spot of career satisfaction and money. If you aren’t there yet, then evaluate if going back to school will help you get there. BUT, really think about it critically – don’t just go because you think it is what you should do.

    Personally, I am a Behavioral Science undergrad with an MBA. My advice to most (nearly all) students considering an MBA is the following: Don’t do it until there is an employer telling you one of two things:
    1. They will pay for it (If this is the case, I say do it… life long learning is a good thing)
    2. They will increase your pay/responsibility upon graduation that gets you that much closer to your sweet spot of career satisfaction & desired $$.

    That’s my take.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Agreed. I see three reasons to do an MBA:

      1) It’s free or cheap (company helps pay)
      2) You’ll make more money
      3) You simply WANT to learn more

      Anything outside of that seems a little crazy to me.

  • Jason Davis Reply

    Matt – well done, you seem to have blogged about a topic that has struck a chord and sparked some good debate. This is a good thing – good debate means fresh perspectives.

    My opinion: If you have the experience to get the job you want, and you are happy doing it, then no school necessary (that goes for undergrad and grad). Decisions about attending school are about striving to hit that sweet spot of career satisfaction and money. If you aren’t there yet, then evaluate if going back to school will help you get there. BUT, really think about it critically – don’t just go because you think it is what you should do.

    Personally, I am a Behavioral Science undergrad with an MBA. My advice to most (nearly all) students considering an MBA is the following: Don’t do it until there is an employer telling you one of two things:
    1. They will pay for it (If this is the case, I say do it… life long learning is a good thing)
    2. They will increase your pay/responsibility upon graduation that gets you that much closer to your sweet spot of career satisfaction & desired $$.

    That’s my take.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Agreed. I see three reasons to do an MBA:

      1) It’s free or cheap (company helps pay)
      2) You’ll make more money
      3) You simply WANT to learn more

      Anything outside of that seems a little crazy to me.

  • Catherine Reply

    I love the intense discussion this post has created. Kudos to you, Matt, for bringing another great topic to the dinner table.

    I can only speak from my own perspective on this, and I have pretty strong feelings on this subject. It’s actually quite timely, as I just started graduate school this week and I’ve had a lot of people ask me why I made the decision to get a graduate degree. The answer is pretty simple– it’s a personal goal. And if you told me, back in May 2007 when I wore my cap and gown and walked across the stage at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich., that just a few years down the road I’d be starting a master’s program, I’d have thought you were crazy. At that point in time, I had no desire to go back to school. I’d just wrapped up four years, and I was sick of it. I didn’t see the value, which is totally legit– I’m in public relations, and experience, not diplomas, is key in this industry. But like I said, it’s totally personal. I love school. I love learning. And you’re right, self-teaching is a good thing, and we’re lucky to live in an age when a world information is literally at our fingertips.

    The thing is, I don’t know where I’ll be 15 years from now. Just as my goals and aspirations have developed and changed over the last two and a half years, I expect them to develop even more in the future. Maybe someday I’ll want to be a professor. Maybe someday I’ll open my own business. Heck, maybe someday I’ll run for office! Who knows. The possibilities are endless, and yes, I could do all of those things without a master’s degree (except the professor bit), but the fact is, I like knowing that I will have that extra “piece of paper” to carry along with me, and those extra few lines in my resume. As wonderful as it is that we can self-teach and become entrepreneurs at age 25, the reality is, there are still a lot of people out there who won’t give you a second glance unless you have that higher level degree.

    I found a passion, and now I’m cultivating what I’ve learned on the job, as well as augmenting what I do day-to-day, by working my way to a master’s degree. And trust me, I’m still learning outside of the classroom. I can still self-teach. So why wouldn’t I want to take this opportunity? Why wouldn’t I want something else to put on my resume, to frame and to hang on my wall, that might give me an advantage over someone else that day down the road when I’m interviewing for a new position? Why wouldn’t I want to make and maintain connections with professors and students who have a passion for the same thing? Why wouldn’t I want to utilize the stellar reputation of a university and its alumni relations? Plus, it’s that total sense of accomplishment– look at what I did. Look at what I can achieve. It’s official. It’s like, yeah I can run 36 miles, but if I’m not registered for the marathon, nobody will know.

    I totally get not wanting to go back to school. It’s not for everyone, and it’s definitely not necessary (depending on your industry). I can say that I’ve never met anyone with a master’s degree who has regretted earning it, yet I can also say that I’ve met people without master’s degrees who regret NOT earning one.

    So long story short… it’s not for everyone. But it’s definitely for me! :)

    • Catherine Reply

      [Editor's note: 26 miles in a marathon... not 36. Ha!]

      • Matt Cheuvront Reply

        Way to put me in my place Catherine :) You make an extremely strong case to the value of a Masters – and like you, I don’t know of anyone who has regretted getting a Masters, but I also don’t know a lot of folks who HAVE regretted it. To people who “regret” not having their Masters – they should really evaluate their options for going back. If it’s a goal you want to achieve – you should totally go for it – no sense in holding yourself back from accomplishing everything (school, career, whatever) you want to accomplish in life. Kudos to you for sticking with the path you have created for yourself. With cousins and other family members who have gotten their PHD’s – I have absolutely nothing but admiration for people who are dedicated enough to stay in school that long and accomplish that much.

    • Tim Jahn Reply

      “It’s like, yeah I can run 36 miles, but if I’m not registered for the marathon, nobody will know.”

      Hm. But is that what is important to you? That people KNOW you went to get your Masters, that people SEE that extra piece of paper?

      When I was first looking for web development jobs my last semester of college, I had a lot of skills listed on my resume. Only I really had those skills – I didn’t just list stuff to sound fancy. I only listed stuff I was REALLY good at.

      Almost every interview I went to, the person asked if I really had those skills. I was stunned the first few times – in my mind, if I didn’t know how to do something, why the hell would I list it on my resume?

      Turns out people do that all the time. They list skills that sound good, whether they’re really that good at them or not.

      Going back to school to get your Masters because YOU want to learn more is great. But going back because you want to make sure people KNOW you did? I’m not sure about that.

      • Catherine Reply

        I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care if people knew I earned a master’s degree. I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t care if people knew I earned a bachelor’s degree. Or if they know that I participate in PRSA, or that I studied abroad in college, etc.

        Yes, grad school is a personal goal and it’s for myself. But at the same time, it is so other people can know about it. Why wouldn’t I want to include it on my resume for other people to see? I’m going to read tons of textbooks and write tons of papers while I’m in grad school. I can do all of that without being in my master’s program. Does it makes sense for me to list each one of those textbooks and papers on my resume with no degree to show for it, or does it make sense for me to list my master’s degree that I earned on my resume, and then be able to talk about each of those textbooks and papers? If other people knowing what we have accomplished is not part of the big picture, then why do CVs exist? Why do we fill out our profiles on LinkedIn? I have no plans to list stuff on my resume just to sound fancy. I do have plans to list the fact, and the fact is, I’m in grad school, in a program I love, and I’m proud of it. Of course I want people to know about it.

        • Tim Jahn Reply

          “Does it makes sense for me to list each one of those textbooks and papers on my resume with no degree to show for it, or does it make sense for me to list my master’s degree that I earned on my resume, and then be able to talk about each of those textbooks and papers?”.

          To me, reading a ton of textbooks and papers and doing the associated work means JUST as much without a degree as it does with one. The degree isn’t what gives you the knowledge; the texts and work do. If two people standing in a room did the exact same amount of reading and work, one with a degree, one without, the first person isn’t any smarter. They just have an extra piece of paper in their hands.

          • Matt Cheuvront Reply

            But the one with the paper in their hands is still “recognized” but a company or even just by another person to be “more qualified”. It may not be right – but that’s the way it is. I can be smarter than someone with a Masters, but that person with the degree would probably have a better chance at getting the job, all other things neutral. That’s just the way society works.

            As for letting other people know, I don’t think I would “flaunt” the fact that I have a better degree than you (and I don’t think Catherine is or does at all) but there’s no denying that “credential” does look nice on a resume – that being said, relevant and compelling work experience looks pretty nice as well.

  • Catherine Reply

    I love the intense discussion this post has created. Kudos to you, Matt, for bringing another great topic to the dinner table.

    I can only speak from my own perspective on this, and I have pretty strong feelings on this subject. It’s actually quite timely, as I just started graduate school this week and I’ve had a lot of people ask me why I made the decision to get a graduate degree. The answer is pretty simple– it’s a personal goal. And if you told me, back in May 2007 when I wore my cap and gown and walked across the stage at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Mich., that just a few years down the road I’d be starting a master’s program, I’d have thought you were crazy. At that point in time, I had no desire to go back to school. I’d just wrapped up four years, and I was sick of it. I didn’t see the value, which is totally legit– I’m in public relations, and experience, not diplomas, is key in this industry. But like I said, it’s totally personal. I love school. I love learning. And you’re right, self-teaching is a good thing, and we’re lucky to live in an age when a world information is literally at our fingertips.

    The thing is, I don’t know where I’ll be 15 years from now. Just as my goals and aspirations have developed and changed over the last two and a half years, I expect them to develop even more in the future. Maybe someday I’ll want to be a professor. Maybe someday I’ll open my own business. Heck, maybe someday I’ll run for office! Who knows. The possibilities are endless, and yes, I could do all of those things without a master’s degree (except the professor bit), but the fact is, I like knowing that I will have that extra “piece of paper” to carry along with me, and those extra few lines in my resume. As wonderful as it is that we can self-teach and become entrepreneurs at age 25, the reality is, there are still a lot of people out there who won’t give you a second glance unless you have that higher level degree.

    I found a passion, and now I’m cultivating what I’ve learned on the job, as well as augmenting what I do day-to-day, by working my way to a master’s degree. And trust me, I’m still learning outside of the classroom. I can still self-teach. So why wouldn’t I want to take this opportunity? Why wouldn’t I want something else to put on my resume, to frame and to hang on my wall, that might give me an advantage over someone else that day down the road when I’m interviewing for a new position? Why wouldn’t I want to make and maintain connections with professors and students who have a passion for the same thing? Why wouldn’t I want to utilize the stellar reputation of a university and its alumni relations? Plus, it’s that total sense of accomplishment– look at what I did. Look at what I can achieve. It’s official. It’s like, yeah I can run 36 miles, but if I’m not registered for the marathon, nobody will know.

    I totally get not wanting to go back to school. It’s not for everyone, and it’s definitely not necessary (depending on your industry). I can say that I’ve never met anyone with a master’s degree who has regretted earning it, yet I can also say that I’ve met people without master’s degrees who regret NOT earning one.

    So long story short… it’s not for everyone. But it’s definitely for me! :)

    • Catherine Reply

      [Editor's note: 26 miles in a marathon... not 36. Ha!]

      • Matt Cheuvront Reply

        Way to put me in my place Catherine :) You make an extremely strong case to the value of a Masters – and like you, I don’t know of anyone who has regretted getting a Masters, but I also don’t know a lot of folks who HAVE regretted it. To people who “regret” not having their Masters – they should really evaluate their options for going back. If it’s a goal you want to achieve – you should totally go for it – no sense in holding yourself back from accomplishing everything (school, career, whatever) you want to accomplish in life. Kudos to you for sticking with the path you have created for yourself. With cousins and other family members who have gotten their PHD’s – I have absolutely nothing but admiration for people who are dedicated enough to stay in school that long and accomplish that much.

    • Tim Jahn Reply

      “It’s like, yeah I can run 36 miles, but if I’m not registered for the marathon, nobody will know.”

      Hm. But is that what is important to you? That people KNOW you went to get your Masters, that people SEE that extra piece of paper?

      When I was first looking for web development jobs my last semester of college, I had a lot of skills listed on my resume. Only I really had those skills – I didn’t just list stuff to sound fancy. I only listed stuff I was REALLY good at.

      Almost every interview I went to, the person asked if I really had those skills. I was stunned the first few times – in my mind, if I didn’t know how to do something, why the hell would I list it on my resume?

      Turns out people do that all the time. They list skills that sound good, whether they’re really that good at them or not.

      Going back to school to get your Masters because YOU want to learn more is great. But going back because you want to make sure people KNOW you did? I’m not sure about that.

      • Catherine Reply

        I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care if people knew I earned a master’s degree. I’d also be lying if I said I didn’t care if people knew I earned a bachelor’s degree. Or if they know that I participate in PRSA, or that I studied abroad in college, etc.

        Yes, grad school is a personal goal and it’s for myself. But at the same time, it is so other people can know about it. Why wouldn’t I want to include it on my resume for other people to see? I’m going to read tons of textbooks and write tons of papers while I’m in grad school. I can do all of that without being in my master’s program. Does it makes sense for me to list each one of those textbooks and papers on my resume with no degree to show for it, or does it make sense for me to list my master’s degree that I earned on my resume, and then be able to talk about each of those textbooks and papers? If other people knowing what we have accomplished is not part of the big picture, then why do CVs exist? Why do we fill out our profiles on LinkedIn? I have no plans to list stuff on my resume just to sound fancy. I do have plans to list the fact, and the fact is, I’m in grad school, in a program I love, and I’m proud of it. Of course I want people to know about it.

        • Tim Jahn Reply

          “Does it makes sense for me to list each one of those textbooks and papers on my resume with no degree to show for it, or does it make sense for me to list my master’s degree that I earned on my resume, and then be able to talk about each of those textbooks and papers?”.

          To me, reading a ton of textbooks and papers and doing the associated work means JUST as much without a degree as it does with one. The degree isn’t what gives you the knowledge; the texts and work do. If two people standing in a room did the exact same amount of reading and work, one with a degree, one without, the first person isn’t any smarter. They just have an extra piece of paper in their hands.

          • Matt Cheuvront Reply

            But the one with the paper in their hands is still “recognized” but a company or even just by another person to be “more qualified”. It may not be right – but that’s the way it is. I can be smarter than someone with a Masters, but that person with the degree would probably have a better chance at getting the job, all other things neutral. That’s just the way society works.

            As for letting other people know, I don’t think I would “flaunt” the fact that I have a better degree than you (and I don’t think Catherine is or does at all) but there’s no denying that “credential” does look nice on a resume – that being said, relevant and compelling work experience looks pretty nice as well.

  • Jaxie Reply

    Hey I just wanted to let you know you have a new follower! I found your blog on 20sb and noticed that a lot of people were voting for you for Blogger of the Month, so I thought I should check it out. Love your blog, will definitely be coming back!

    ~Jaxie

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Glad to have you hear Jaxie – I’ve been noticing some buzz over at 20sb myself – total surprise to me, but I really appreciate the recognition and love meeting new people. Thanks for stopping by – don’t be a stranger!

  • Jaxie Reply

    Hey I just wanted to let you know you have a new follower! I found your blog on 20sb and noticed that a lot of people were voting for you for Blogger of the Month, so I thought I should check it out. Love your blog, will definitely be coming back!

    ~Jaxie

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Glad to have you hear Jaxie – I’ve been noticing some buzz over at 20sb myself – total surprise to me, but I really appreciate the recognition and love meeting new people. Thanks for stopping by – don’t be a stranger!

  • Brett Reply

    But what if you’re in the sciences and want to get into a research field? Yes, real world experience trumps all, but you NEED to have a master’s or above in a specialized science field if you’re going to pursue a job requiring any amount of research.

    Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been a self-learner my entire life and maintain I’ve learned a lot more on my own than in my formal education. But a ton of science work is done in labs, and the best (and most accessible labs – if you go to the school) are found on university campuses. It’s a shame it has to be that way, but that’s just how science is.

    Otherwise, for the vast majority of other, nonspecialized fields, self-education and experience (coupled with the mindset you brought up in this post) – self-education will do. And, plus, when you’re being the master of your domain, as you so aptly called it, you can be networking while all the higher-ed guys are working – which will bring you better returns.

    Nice post that sparked an intense discussion, Matt. I think this one resonated with a lot of people.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Agreed that Masters or above is, in certain career situations a must. But a LOT can be learned by simply throwing yourself out there into the fire, surrounding yourself with great people, and learning through experience.

  • Brett - DareToExpress.com Reply

    But what if you’re in the sciences and want to get into a research field? Yes, real world experience trumps all, but you NEED to have a master’s or above in a specialized science field if you’re going to pursue a job requiring any amount of research.

    Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been a self-learner my entire life and maintain I’ve learned a lot more on my own than in my formal education. But a ton of science work is done in labs, and the best (and most accessible labs – if you go to the school) are found on university campuses. It’s a shame it has to be that way, but that’s just how science is.

    Otherwise, for the vast majority of other, nonspecialized fields, self-education and experience (coupled with the mindset you brought up in this post) – self-education will do. And, plus, when you’re being the master of your domain, as you so aptly called it, you can be networking while all the higher-ed guys are working – which will bring you better returns.

    Nice post that sparked an intense discussion, Matt. I think this one resonated with a lot of people.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Agreed that Masters or above is, in certain career situations a must. But a LOT can be learned by simply throwing yourself out there into the fire, surrounding yourself with great people, and learning through experience.

  • Jen Reply

    This is a good one… and I read Ms. CareerGirl’s post as well. I definitely place infinite value on higher education; I think everyone should go to college, if they can. Not necessarily for job preparation, but for life preparation. College enables you an opportunity like no other for social situations, to soak up knowledge about whatever you find interesting, to develop critical thinking and debate skills, to learn about yourself away from the comfort of home and to become moderately independent before hitting “the real world.”

    That said, I don’t think higher education should be a hiding place from the real world or work or pursuing what scares you the most.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Jen – the emphasis here was really on “higher education” in a sense of Masters and beyond level. I do think college (undergrad) is essentially a must to get on with any company these days – but I also question the value of anything beyond that – which is what my main focus was here. I think people go BACK to school and think that a Masters will be their ticket to success…which usually isn’t the case.

      Thanks for the comment! Nicole (Ms. Career Girl) and I have really hit on a topic that a lot of folks have very strong opinions on. Great discussion both there and here!

  • Jen Reply

    This is a good one… and I read Ms. CareerGirl’s post as well. I definitely place infinite value on higher education; I think everyone should go to college, if they can. Not necessarily for job preparation, but for life preparation. College enables you an opportunity like no other for social situations, to soak up knowledge about whatever you find interesting, to develop critical thinking and debate skills, to learn about yourself away from the comfort of home and to become moderately independent before hitting “the real world.”

    That said, I don’t think higher education should be a hiding place from the real world or work or pursuing what scares you the most.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Jen – the emphasis here was really on “higher education” in a sense of Masters and beyond level. I do think college (undergrad) is essentially a must to get on with any company these days – but I also question the value of anything beyond that – which is what my main focus was here. I think people go BACK to school and think that a Masters will be their ticket to success…which usually isn’t the case.

      Thanks for the comment! Nicole (Ms. Career Girl) and I have really hit on a topic that a lot of folks have very strong opinions on. Great discussion both there and here!

  • Steven Ponec Reply

    I love this article! Oh my gosh. Haha I say I love a lot of things, but this came at a PERFECT time! I believe in life-long education and learning from my experiences. For me, that has been true. All my photography and photoshop knowledge I have learned myself – no formal teaching. Just books and the internet. Thanks for your perspective! :)

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      No problem Steven – it’s OK to love a lot of things, haha! And kudos to you for the self education – photoshop is a big obstacle I want to tackle this year – I’ve never used it but really want to learn. Any good resources you would recommend to point me in the right direction?

  • Steven Ponec Reply

    I love this article! Oh my gosh. Haha I say I love a lot of things, but this came at a PERFECT time! I believe in life-long education and learning from my experiences. For me, that has been true. All my photography and photoshop knowledge I have learned myself – no formal teaching. Just books and the internet. Thanks for your perspective! :)

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      No problem Steven – it’s OK to love a lot of things, haha! And kudos to you for the self education – photoshop is a big obstacle I want to tackle this year – I’ve never used it but really want to learn. Any good resources you would recommend to point me in the right direction?

  • Cameron Plommer Reply

    Looks like I got to the party a little late. 93 comments: must have struck a nerve with a lot of people.

    I was thinking about doing a similar blog post and still might just more personalized to my experience. With that said I totally agree with you. I tweeted today that I have learned so much since I graduated December 11th. I work with a great nonprofit where I’m getting EXPERIENCE, working with people and meeting great contacts. Basically participating in the world in general, which is not always easy while in school.

    Like you, I’ve decided to put myself through my own curriculum and learn what I want for a change. And I’m freaking loving it!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      I think what sparked this is thinking back to the past year, and that I’ve learned more about myself, what I can do, and what I want to do than I did throughout my entire tenure in college. I’m sure the formal education helped paved the way and set me straight, but I’m much more of a hands on, learn as you go type of person.

      • Tim Jahn Reply

        Formal education often lends itself to certain industries better than others. For example, I taught myself web development and programming for the most part, as well as video editing.

        But could I have taught myself to be a doctor or an electrical engineer? Probably not. Formal education would be extremely beneficial in these instances.

        I think the key is to understand and respect that.

  • Cameron Plommer Reply

    Looks like I got to the party a little late. 93 comments: must have struck a nerve with a lot of people.

    I was thinking about doing a similar blog post and still might just more personalized to my experience. With that said I totally agree with you. I tweeted today that I have learned so much since I graduated December 11th. I work with a great nonprofit where I’m getting EXPERIENCE, working with people and meeting great contacts. Basically participating in the world in general, which is not always easy while in school.

    Like you, I’ve decided to put myself through my own curriculum and learn what I want for a change. And I’m freaking loving it!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      I think what sparked this is thinking back to the past year, and that I’ve learned more about myself, what I can do, and what I want to do than I did throughout my entire tenure in college. I’m sure the formal education helped paved the way and set me straight, but I’m much more of a hands on, learn as you go type of person.

      • Tim Jahn Reply

        Formal education often lends itself to certain industries better than others. For example, I taught myself web development and programming for the most part, as well as video editing.

        But could I have taught myself to be a doctor or an electrical engineer? Probably not. Formal education would be extremely beneficial in these instances.

        I think the key is to understand and respect that.

  • La La Reply

    NERD ALERT!

    I love the academy. I do. I just love it. I’ll definitely always be a teacher and eventually hope to have the experience at least of being a professor off and on through out my life.

    But I also totally agree with you and career girl blogger.

    No doubt!

    My hopes of course in terms of internet networking is to find a loyal group of readers (like all bloggers of course) and at some point my writing will turn into some semblance of a career.

    But I love teaching writing and would also hope that one day would turn into something as well that would be lucrative, demanding and challenging and satisfying, etc.

    I want my cake and I want to eat it too! And I’m really hopeful about it. I’ve heard for so long to do that a person should do what they love and the money will follow.

    So I finally started listening to that voice inside me and it’s led me to all these wonderful synchronicties.

    I’ve learned a ton about internet networking in the last 3 months of my blog! SO MUCH!

    I have the word “widget” firmly planted in my vocabularly. I don’t think there’s very many people who do and it suprises me, it does, but whatever.

    In my case I write everyday and I just started my blog three months ago and it has 92 entries so I am keeping up daily with it on average.

    I want my two dreams to converge and I want to be a working, paid writer, but also stay very connected to the University as a professor.

    It’s not having a shiny plaque on the wall that does it for me.

    Personally, for me, it’s the choice that I want to make to stay connected to the academy as an insider. I like being on the inside. It’s very cushy in the academy.

    But not only that! I work with college level writers all day and it never feels like work.

    I like going to a place where people talk about the changes in MLA, Ref works, or 300 word annotated bibliographies.

    I warned you! NERD!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Haha. NERD ALERT! is a phrase I use all the time, you are in good company here. I started this blog last February and, well, look around you, the community here continues to amaze me and it’s been an extremely helpful platform in my own self education. There’s nothing better than having a place to vent, bounce ideas around, share war stories, etc – Life Without Pants is a reflection of myself and what I go through – it’s nice to have so many other people along for the ride both here, and in their own online communities. Thanks for the comment!

  • La La Reply

    NERD ALERT!

    I love the academy. I do. I just love it. I’ll definitely always be a teacher and eventually hope to have the experience at least of being a professor off and on through out my life.

    But I also totally agree with you and career girl blogger.

    No doubt!

    My hopes of course in terms of internet networking is to find a loyal group of readers (like all bloggers of course) and at some point my writing will turn into some semblance of a career.

    But I love teaching writing and would also hope that one day would turn into something as well that would be lucrative, demanding and challenging and satisfying, etc.

    I want my cake and I want to eat it too! And I’m really hopeful about it. I’ve heard for so long to do that a person should do what they love and the money will follow.

    So I finally started listening to that voice inside me and it’s led me to all these wonderful synchronicties.

    I’ve learned a ton about internet networking in the last 3 months of my blog! SO MUCH!

    I have the word “widget” firmly planted in my vocabularly. I don’t think there’s very many people who do and it suprises me, it does, but whatever.

    In my case I write everyday and I just started my blog three months ago and it has 92 entries so I am keeping up daily with it on average.

    I want my two dreams to converge and I want to be a working, paid writer, but also stay very connected to the University as a professor.

    It’s not having a shiny plaque on the wall that does it for me.

    Personally, for me, it’s the choice that I want to make to stay connected to the academy as an insider. I like being on the inside. It’s very cushy in the academy.

    But not only that! I work with college level writers all day and it never feels like work.

    I like going to a place where people talk about the changes in MLA, Ref works, or 300 word annotated bibliographies.

    I warned you! NERD!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Haha. NERD ALERT! is a phrase I use all the time, you are in good company here. I started this blog last February and, well, look around you, the community here continues to amaze me and it’s been an extremely helpful platform in my own self education. There’s nothing better than having a place to vent, bounce ideas around, share war stories, etc – Life Without Pants is a reflection of myself and what I go through – it’s nice to have so many other people along for the ride both here, and in their own online communities. Thanks for the comment!

  • floreta Reply

    great post! i have thought back and forth whether or not i should get a masters degree. but when it comes down to it, all it is is a piece of paper right? plus, i think it’s MORE impressive when someone has that self-motivated, self-starter attitude enough to teach themselves anything they’re willing to strive for. although, i am wondering how you go from ZERO experience to where you are at now (in a year). you say experience matters most but how does that come to fruition with NO experience? i struggle with that even in just the different subgenres of design i can get into (logo/branding/packaging/publication… i feel like i don’t have enough experience in anything!). anyway, i am taking that leap to move to another country AND (attempt to) start my own business. it’ll be an exciting year!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      I’m pretty serious when it comes to the past year. I mean, I knew how to write, I knew how to start a blog – but I had no idea how to do any of this design, or how the heck to build a community who will come out and interact with each other like they are here and do often with almost every post I write. It’s been all a learn-as-I-go experience, and yes, a lot of it is common sense, but you still experience and learn a lot as you get into the thick of this online world. Also, I attribute my blog to helping me obtain the job I am currently in as an Internet Marketing Developer. I firmly believe a blog can be MUCH more than a blog.

      • Tim Jahn Reply

        I think this is where people get crazy. A blog is just a tool, same as Facebook, Twitter, an email newsletter, a website, a video. They’re tools used to work toward your goals, and you’ve become quite good at utilizing your blog to work toward achieving your goals.

  • floreta Reply

    great post! i have thought back and forth whether or not i should get a masters degree. but when it comes down to it, all it is is a piece of paper right? plus, i think it’s MORE impressive when someone has that self-motivated, self-starter attitude enough to teach themselves anything they’re willing to strive for. although, i am wondering how you go from ZERO experience to where you are at now (in a year). you say experience matters most but how does that come to fruition with NO experience? i struggle with that even in just the different subgenres of design i can get into (logo/branding/packaging/publication… i feel like i don’t have enough experience in anything!). anyway, i am taking that leap to move to another country AND (attempt to) start my own business. it’ll be an exciting year!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      I’m pretty serious when it comes to the past year. I mean, I knew how to write, I knew how to start a blog – but I had no idea how to do any of this design, or how the heck to build a community who will come out and interact with each other like they are here and do often with almost every post I write. It’s been all a learn-as-I-go experience, and yes, a lot of it is common sense, but you still experience and learn a lot as you get into the thick of this online world. Also, I attribute my blog to helping me obtain the job I am currently in as an Internet Marketing Developer. I firmly believe a blog can be MUCH more than a blog.

      • Tim Jahn Reply

        I think this is where people get crazy. A blog is just a tool, same as Facebook, Twitter, an email newsletter, a website, a video. They’re tools used to work toward your goals, and you’ve become quite good at utilizing your blog to work toward achieving your goals.

  • melissa Reply

    Matt: This is a really interesting post. Just a few days ago Newsweek had an article about how people often criticize a liberal arts education as not preparing you for anything in particular. Yet . . . those with the liberal arts education (historically) turn out to be the more forward-thinking individuals. I love learning new things. Do I want to go back to school and sit and listen to an instructor? Not sure about that!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Well look who it is! I thought I recognized that picture. Welcome aboard this crazy train – been quite a party here the past few days, glad to have you here Melissa.

      It’s interesting – because this sort of describes the situation I was in back in school – started as a Mass Comm major and switched to Marketing to go the “safe” route. In hindsight, I almost wish I would have stuck with it, not because I don’t love Marketing, but I think there is just as much value in the science and liberal art degrees as there are in your more “formal” business degrees.

      Learning new things is great, but for now, I’d rather learn them on my own and from other people in my field through experience than sit in a classroom.

  • melissa Reply

    Matt: This is a really interesting post. Just a few days ago Newsweek had an article about how people often criticize a liberal arts education as not preparing you for anything in particular. Yet . . . those with the liberal arts education (historically) turn out to be the more forward-thinking individuals. I love learning new things. Do I want to go back to school and sit and listen to an instructor? Not sure about that!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Well look who it is! I thought I recognized that picture. Welcome aboard this crazy train – been quite a party here the past few days, glad to have you here Melissa.

      It’s interesting – because this sort of describes the situation I was in back in school – started as a Mass Comm major and switched to Marketing to go the “safe” route. In hindsight, I almost wish I would have stuck with it, not because I don’t love Marketing, but I think there is just as much value in the science and liberal art degrees as there are in your more “formal” business degrees.

      Learning new things is great, but for now, I’d rather learn them on my own and from other people in my field through experience than sit in a classroom.

  • Rebecca Denison Reply

    I am so glad to see this post because just last night I was having this discussion with my boyfriend. He’s in particle physics and has just finished applying for multiple PhD programs for next fall. Recently I’ve become more and more focused on social media measurement in my professional life, and I really want to explore influence in social media. It’s not something that’s happening at work just yet, so I thought to myself, “Should I go back to school for this?” Of course my boyfriend insists that I should, but I’m not so sure. I would like to have resources with which to study this topic more in depth, but my graduate experience would be far different than his (obviously).

    You bring up really good points, and those are all of the reasons I decided to forgo graduate school this fall and take an internship in Chicago with a PR agency. Lucky for me, it turned into a full-time gig. When I first graduated, I think I had the plan to eventually head back to school when the time was right, but now I’m starting to doubt whether the time will ever be right.

    On the one hand, I know I am learning far more at my current job than any graduate program could ever teach me. On the other hand, I don’t have access to resources that would allow me to fully jump into researching a topic about which I’m extremely passionate. So what do I do? Jury is still out on that one, but at least for the near future, I’m staying put. :)

    Thanks for your great post, and I’m so happy to see all these comments, they are definitely helping better understand my own situation and options.

  • Rebecca Denison Reply

    I am so glad to see this post because just last night I was having this discussion with my boyfriend. He’s in particle physics and has just finished applying for multiple PhD programs for next fall. Recently I’ve become more and more focused on social media measurement in my professional life, and I really want to explore influence in social media. It’s not something that’s happening at work just yet, so I thought to myself, “Should I go back to school for this?” Of course my boyfriend insists that I should, but I’m not so sure. I would like to have resources with which to study this topic more in depth, but my graduate experience would be far different than his (obviously).

    You bring up really good points, and those are all of the reasons I decided to forgo graduate school this fall and take an internship in Chicago with a PR agency. Lucky for me, it turned into a full-time gig. When I first graduated, I think I had the plan to eventually head back to school when the time was right, but now I’m starting to doubt whether the time will ever be right.

    On the one hand, I know I am learning far more at my current job than any graduate program could ever teach me. On the other hand, I don’t have access to resources that would allow me to fully jump into researching a topic about which I’m extremely passionate. So what do I do? Jury is still out on that one, but at least for the near future, I’m staying put. :)

    Thanks for your great post, and I’m so happy to see all these comments, they are definitely helping better understand my own situation and options.

  • CouchSurfingOri Reply

    Outstanding post.
    I never finished my higher ed. I was teaching at every school I went to, so why pay them? I’m a self learner. In fact, the school would never have been able to teach me all the things that I”ve learned thus far. They were learned by doing the things you said– surrounding myself with people that demanded more, finding role models, looking for inspiration (work that others have dne that “I wish I could do that!”).
    I recently (today) finished a project… I was able to handle everything the client threw at me, and even find 3 different ways to approach the making of this design — Photoshop, 3d, and compositing — and was able to make changes faster/better for the client because of my diverse experience.
    I’m actually very much opposed to higher ed. I recently realized that a passion of mine is to help teens become entrepreneurs and learn for themselves. Schools teach you how to become an employee, not run a business and live the life you want.
    I work from a laptop from where ever I feel like being at the moment (currently, it’s Austin) on my http://CouchSurfingOri.com travels.
    With the internet being as vast and powerful as it is now… there is nothing you can not learn on your own these days.

    When I couchsurfed with Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos.com) I asked him if his first company sold for $300,000,000.00 because he went to Harvard, or if it was something else. He said that he never went to classes… he learned more by having a pizza business on campus. I asked him what he thought of higher education, and he said that for the cost of it, you can start a business or 4, and you can learn a lot more by starting a business and having it fail (or succeed), than you will by going to those classes.

    On top of that, flourescent lamps make me sleepy… so I don’t learn well in the classroom anyways.

  • CouchSurfingOri Reply

    Outstanding post.
    I never finished my higher ed. I was teaching at every school I went to, so why pay them? I’m a self learner. In fact, the school would never have been able to teach me all the things that I”ve learned thus far. They were learned by doing the things you said– surrounding myself with people that demanded more, finding role models, looking for inspiration (work that others have dne that “I wish I could do that!”).
    I recently (today) finished a project… I was able to handle everything the client threw at me, and even find 3 different ways to approach the making of this design — Photoshop, 3d, and compositing — and was able to make changes faster/better for the client because of my diverse experience.
    I’m actually very much opposed to higher ed. I recently realized that a passion of mine is to help teens become entrepreneurs and learn for themselves. Schools teach you how to become an employee, not run a business and live the life you want.
    I work from a laptop from where ever I feel like being at the moment (currently, it’s Austin) on my http://CouchSurfingOri.com travels.
    With the internet being as vast and powerful as it is now… there is nothing you can not learn on your own these days.

    When I couchsurfed with Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos.com) I asked him if his first company sold for $300,000,000.00 because he went to Harvard, or if it was something else. He said that he never went to classes… he learned more by having a pizza business on campus. I asked him what he thought of higher education, and he said that for the cost of it, you can start a business or 4, and you can learn a lot more by starting a business and having it fail (or succeed), than you will by going to those classes.

    On top of that, flourescent lamps make me sleepy… so I don’t learn well in the classroom anyways.

  • Andi Reply

    Visiting from Lost in Cheeseland and I have to say bravo! I understand the value of higher education, but have/had always known it was not for me. I have had a very successful career based on experience, and every time a question whether I should go and finish my degree, etc. I think to myself, “why?” I have done fantastic without, is it really a barrier to getting to the next level? And I think more and more, it is not a barrier, that experience does trump a piece of paper. Thanks for reaffirming these thoughts running through my mind, and I thank Lindsey for having you as a guest poster because I think I will be visiting again and again!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Thanks for coming by Andi – glad my guest post over in Lindsey’s neck of the woods enticed you to stop by my humble abode. I think what we’ve affirmed here is that there is no “right or wrong” – but that your decision has to be based on what you WANT to be doing – you don’t need to go back to school because you think you “should” – seeking higher education (masters level and above) degree is, for the most part, a want, not a need – it’s important to keep in mind that experience can also go a long, long way. Cheers!

  • Andi Reply

    Visiting from Lost in Cheeseland and I have to say bravo! I understand the value of higher education, but have/had always known it was not for me. I have had a very successful career based on experience, and every time a question whether I should go and finish my degree, etc. I think to myself, “why?” I have done fantastic without, is it really a barrier to getting to the next level? And I think more and more, it is not a barrier, that experience does trump a piece of paper. Thanks for reaffirming these thoughts running through my mind, and I thank Lindsey for having you as a guest poster because I think I will be visiting again and again!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Thanks for coming by Andi – glad my guest post over in Lindsey’s neck of the woods enticed you to stop by my humble abode. I think what we’ve affirmed here is that there is no “right or wrong” – but that your decision has to be based on what you WANT to be doing – you don’t need to go back to school because you think you “should” – seeking higher education (masters level and above) degree is, for the most part, a want, not a need – it’s important to keep in mind that experience can also go a long, long way. Cheers!

  • Patrick Reply

    I completely agree with this post. I don’t want to be in school and I’m only a junior in my undergrad. I think it’s the biggest waste of time ever. However, it seems like school gets your foot in the door. I’m at NYU this semester. Believe me for the cost I better get something awesome out of it. It will actually pay off, I think. I can be in the city to further my personal goals of making it in NYC and getting a job here sooner, rather than later.

    But me and you are on the same page. After my BA, I’m done. No more school, unless someone else is paying the bill.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      I know what you’re feeling man but I gotta say – attitude will go a long way. School can feel like a total waste of time – but you’ll get more out of it if you put more in. And you’re right, undergrad is pretty much a must in this day and age, like it or not.

      You’ll be out soon – into the real world…but enjoy your time at NYU my friend, live it up and learn a lot!

  • Patrick Reply

    I completely agree with this post. I don’t want to be in school and I’m only a junior in my undergrad. I think it’s the biggest waste of time ever. However, it seems like school gets your foot in the door. I’m at NYU this semester. Believe me for the cost I better get something awesome out of it. It will actually pay off, I think. I can be in the city to further my personal goals of making it in NYC and getting a job here sooner, rather than later.

    But me and you are on the same page. After my BA, I’m done. No more school, unless someone else is paying the bill.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      I know what you’re feeling man but I gotta say – attitude will go a long way. School can feel like a total waste of time – but you’ll get more out of it if you put more in. And you’re right, undergrad is pretty much a must in this day and age, like it or not.

      You’ll be out soon – into the real world…but enjoy your time at NYU my friend, live it up and learn a lot!

  • Sarah Reply

    I studied entrepreneurship in college (or rather, I minored in it, but I consider that a more important part of my education). The general theme, particularly from the entrepreneurs that I admired most, classroom education is a wonderful thing, but the things you learn outside of the classroom are more valuable.

    I also find that now that I’ve been out of the classroom for going on 7 months and still job hunting, I’ve read more books than I ever did in college and I’m retaining a lot more information. I’m still trying to figure out how to communicate this additional learning on my resume.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Yeah it’s tough to transcribe all of that onto a piece of paper (resume) but I cannot tell you how valuable all of that self-learning will be for your future. It sounds like you are doing everything you can to keep your mind sharp, and I’m sure you will come across a great opportunity soon – what kind of work are you looking to get into?

      • Sarah Reply

        I think I answered my comment when I sat down and did some thinking last night-I can demonstrate these skills that I’ve honed outside the classroom when (the stars align and) I’m sitting in an interview. I occasionally allude to it in my cover letters when it’s relevant to the position.

        As for a career, I never really settled on a specific job-I’m hunting for a position in a company that values employee development (training, rotations…), I’ve set my sites on more entrepreneurial firms, or large companies with a focus in shaking things up. Basically, I’m looking for a position that will let me continue this life-long learning thing. We’ll see how that goes.

  • Sarah Reply

    I studied entrepreneurship in college (or rather, I minored in it, but I consider that a more important part of my education). The general theme, particularly from the entrepreneurs that I admired most, classroom education is a wonderful thing, but the things you learn outside of the classroom are more valuable.

    I also find that now that I’ve been out of the classroom for going on 7 months and still job hunting, I’ve read more books than I ever did in college and I’m retaining a lot more information. I’m still trying to figure out how to communicate this additional learning on my resume.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Yeah it’s tough to transcribe all of that onto a piece of paper (resume) but I cannot tell you how valuable all of that self-learning will be for your future. It sounds like you are doing everything you can to keep your mind sharp, and I’m sure you will come across a great opportunity soon – what kind of work are you looking to get into?

      • Sarah Reply

        I think I answered my comment when I sat down and did some thinking last night-I can demonstrate these skills that I’ve honed outside the classroom when (the stars align and) I’m sitting in an interview. I occasionally allude to it in my cover letters when it’s relevant to the position.

        As for a career, I never really settled on a specific job-I’m hunting for a position in a company that values employee development (training, rotations…), I’ve set my sites on more entrepreneurial firms, or large companies with a focus in shaking things up. Basically, I’m looking for a position that will let me continue this life-long learning thing. We’ll see how that goes.

  • Mr. Cantrell Reply

    Great thoughts Matt. I was referred to your post by http://www.drewmanic.com after he read one of my recent posts regarding a much needed paradigm shift in education. I’m a 6th grade social studies teacher, working more at shaping young minds than jading them with whats inevitably ahead in high school and college (if they choose).

    Your point about experience mattering most is spot on. I teach by having gained personal observation, inner conscience, and knowledge of my subject. Working out quite well so far.

  • Mr. Cantrell Reply

    Great thoughts Matt. I was referred to your post by http://www.drewmanic.com after he read one of my recent posts regarding a much needed paradigm shift in education. I’m a 6th grade social studies teacher, working more at shaping young minds than jading them with whats inevitably ahead in high school and college (if they choose).

    Your point about experience mattering most is spot on. I teach by having gained personal observation, inner conscience, and knowledge of my subject. Working out quite well so far.

  • Brant Choate Reply

    I wouldn’t be where I am today without my education, however it has nothing to do with teachers or classrooms. Instead school has been a great networking opportunity as well as a great place to develop a personal brand. Lastly, it’s been a great place for me to promote my company.

    I’ve had a few classes that have changed my perspective or added value to my life, but no more than a blog or reading a book would or has.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Good point – like you, there were a few classes that REALLY had an impact on where I am today, but none of them were directly related to my major, my marketing & journalism coursework wasn’t life-changing, which goes to show that there’s much more to be said (in my case) for those “life experiences” that really help define who you are and where you’re going. Thanks for the comment!

  • Brant Choate Reply

    I wouldn’t be where I am today without my education, however it has nothing to do with teachers or classrooms. Instead school has been a great networking opportunity as well as a great place to develop a personal brand. Lastly, it’s been a great place for me to promote my company.

    I’ve had a few classes that have changed my perspective or added value to my life, but no more than a blog or reading a book would or has.

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Good point – like you, there were a few classes that REALLY had an impact on where I am today, but none of them were directly related to my major, my marketing & journalism coursework wasn’t life-changing, which goes to show that there’s much more to be said (in my case) for those “life experiences” that really help define who you are and where you’re going. Thanks for the comment!

  • Babe In Sugarland Reply

    I'm so glad I found this post. As of last night my online college closed down. I was only a week in and now nothing. All of my classmates have been caught off guard with this. After the devastation wore off I decided to study on my own. You are right all the info I need for whatever it is I want to do is out there. I just need to find it. Great blog!

    Ms. Babe

  • Vibram Reply

    There are clearly multiple paths here – but that’s not the point of this – the point is the path that I’m taking and to give a lot of other people who are considering going back for more education because they’re “supposed to” something to consider before they take the plunge.

  • Abbiepegan Reply

    Matt, just wanted to say I love this post and couldn’t agree more. The best thing you can do these days is be self-made and collaborate alongside other self-made people. I like this new way of thinking, it’s a throwback to old America where ingenuity and hard work actually got you somewhere. No higher institution of learning will get any more money from me either, and I have a feeling we’ll be just fine!

    Good luck to you and your wife in Nashville:)

  • Marking Reply

    Somehow, this is the first time I came accross your blog. Awesome, you got a new subscriber.

    I agree these are indeed actions that are critical to success:

    Surround yourself with brilliant, forward-thinking people
    Become close with those who will constantly challenge you
    Stumble, fall, make mistakes, TRY
    READ A LOT OF BOOKS
    See everything as an opportunity
    Develop an affinity for optimism
    And never, ever be afraid of new life experiences

    However, it is often difficult to self-motivate yourself to do all this, especially if get yourself stuck in a job irrelevant to your passions because that’s all you could land with your BA and don’t have the connections or capitol for many other options. School, on the other hand, surrounds you by brilliant (professors), and forward thinking (students and guest speakers) people; requires you to become close with your classmates and professors at a graduate level in order to succeed, urges you to try with incentives of grades, graduation, and return on investment; makes you do A LOT of reading, opens opportunities, increases optimism with a competitive edge over peers, and it IS a meaningful life experience.

    So it’s true that school isn’t nessesary but it won’t necessarily be a waste of time, especially if you need a slight push in motivation.

    This blog is just straight up amazing btw. Great example for young leader, Mahalo!

    • Matt Cheuvront Reply

      Agreed – school is not a waste of time, and that’s not at all what I was trying to say with this post – but, it should not replace experience – it shouldn’t be something you do when you’re not sure what else to do – The only reason I WOULD go back to school, at this point, is if I knew exactly WHY I was going back (if I needed a technical degree, etc).

      All that being said – I believe nothing will ever replace the value of good old fashioned hard work and experience.

      Thanks for the comment – glad you stumbled over into my neck of the woods.

  • anonymous Reply

    “If you want to risk it all and move to another country, you can!”

    Many countries require foreigners to have at least a BA in order to grant them a work visa.

  • Rodenial White Reply

    Great post! I was just thinking of all the courses I’ve taken: graphic design, web development, art, culinary, yet here I sit in a mind numbing soul sucking clerical position. Yes, learning is nice but the important factor is always missing: how to put it to use once you have it. Having proof of using what you know seems to trump proof of what you know when seeking employment. It’s a very frustrating situation.

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