Author Topic: Is going back to college worth it?  (Read 4517 times)

CaptJacks

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Is going back to college worth it?
« on: October 15, 2017, 11:24:11 AM »
Hey Mustashians.  I am a very new to this whole thing so forgive me if this is either a taboo subject or if it's already been covered.
Going back to school as an Adult.  I have found by watching these boards that a sizable portion of the people here are a bit younger and hold degrees/jobs in engineering (or some type of STEM).
So when I see people posting some of these income levels I am just floored.  I am 39, married, with 2 kids and I've only ever graduated from HS.  I've basically worked retail sales for 20+ years and over the last 3 years the floor has fallen out of the industry.  Jobs that used to pay me $60k a year are now paying less than $30k.  That said I do have the advantage of being virtually debt free right now (half of a car payment left and that's it).
So here is my basic question....given that it's unlikely for me to make more than $30k in my field currently I am considering that going back to school may be a good option provided I can get a degree in something that doubles my income (all of which would be going to savings at this point).  Thoughts?
Feel free to ask me for more details I would love to talk it out.

Linea_Norway

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #1 on: October 15, 2017, 12:57:13 PM »
Some higher education in the US is very expensive. There might not be any guarantee that you will be able to earn back the high lian you might need to take up. So look carefully to find a cheap type of education that you know is attractive to employers. Maybe do it part time online and keep working beside it, so that you can finance your study?

CaptJacks

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #2 on: October 15, 2017, 01:47:10 PM »
you're telling me.  The schools soliciting my Daughter right now are in the $50-70k a year range....$200-300k for a degree....absolutely insane.
The flip side of the coin however is I am increasingly finding myself passed over because I don't have a degree....not just for promotions either.
Even the people flipping burgers here have bachelors degrees so while I have been looking for better work for quite some time I keep getting my resume tossed out due to a lack of a degree.  I fear the situation may make me completely unemployable soon.
 
I do plan on working Part Time while going yes.  In fact PT may be a forced option soon anyway.
« Last Edit: October 15, 2017, 01:51:05 PM by CaptJacks »

Frankies Girl

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #3 on: October 15, 2017, 01:50:21 PM »
As long as you have the ability to do so cheaply while still maintaining a current job, I wouldn't think it's a terrible idea. I also would caution about going into debt over it tho.

I would also be looking at technical type training as an option. I have a friend that got certified as a HVAC tech in roughly a year and now has a wonderful job that he very much enjoys with great pay and benefits.

Working in things like electrical, plumbing, HVAC, mechanical (auto/factory motor repair)... if you have even a tiny bit of interest, these are fields that you'll always find well-paying employment in, and the training/certifications are likely going to be cheaper and faster to pursue.


CaptJacks

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2017, 01:54:07 PM »
I would also be looking at technical type training as an option. I have a friend that got certified as a HVAC tech in roughly a year and now has a wonderful job that he very much enjoys with great pay and benefits.

Working in things like electrical, plumbing, HVAC, mechanical (auto/factory motor repair)... if you have even a tiny bit of interest, these are fields that you'll always find well-paying employment in, and the training/certifications are likely going to be cheaper and faster to pursue.

Yes I think this gets more to the root of my question.  Seems to me like going back to study History or something would be a waste of time and money.  I don't really have enough time left in my working career to be playing around with things that aren't going to pay off in the end.  I was looking more into trade schools like HVAC or Electrician.

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #5 on: October 15, 2017, 03:01:39 PM »
The (slightly overly optimistic) 50 jobs over $50k without a degree: http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/07/25/50-jobs-over-50000-without-a-degree-part-1/ and part 2: https://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/08/05/50-jobs-over-50000-without-a-degree-part-2/

Some of them are highly location dependent, some are unrealistic for various people, but there should be inspiration on that list anyway.

tralfamadorian

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #6 on: October 15, 2017, 04:07:18 PM »
Yes I think this gets more to the root of my question.  Seems to me like going back to study History or something would be a waste of time and money.  I don't really have enough time left in my working career to be playing around with things that aren't going to pay off in the end.  I was looking more into trade schools like HVAC or Electrician.

MMM blog posts that might give some ideas-
http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/07/25/50-jobs-over-50000-without-a-degree-part-1/
http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/08/05/50-jobs-over-50000-without-a-degree-part-2/

maizeman

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #7 on: October 15, 2017, 04:09:09 PM »
Seems to me like going back to study History or something would be a waste of time and money.  I don't really have enough time left in my working career to be playing around with things that aren't going to pay off in the end.  I was looking more into trade schools like HVAC or Electrician.

This sounds like it could pay off financially. I'm happy to see you weren't planning to go back and get a degree in art history or something (which was my first reaction on seeing the subject line for this thread).

Have you gone as far as looking at the specific numbers? For these specific careers at local trade schools, what is the cost (in both years and dollars), and what do both the average income and the employment rates look like for graduates?

Cranky

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2017, 04:15:55 PM »
What do you do in retail, and what would you like to do? I know that there are some companies that only promote to manager if you have a degree, but it doesn't matter terribly what it's in?

You must have a local state university. If you think it will pay off, start one class at a time and don't borrow money.

AnnaGrowsAMustache

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2017, 04:39:48 PM »
Being an adult student is very hard. It's not the same experience as the typical young student at all. For a start, there's usually a large financial change that you have to manage. It's also much harder to learn. I've taught many, many adult students alongside the usual cohort of school leavers, and they struggle. Having said that, they usually end up getting high marks, because they work hard. They're very hard on themselves. They expect a great deal from themselves, they feel old, slow and behind on the technology, and they have a large emotional investment in their study. Failure is not an option. Those are just some of the reasons why adult students have the highest rate of attrition of any group. As long as you're prepared for all of that, no reason why you can't succeed.

meghan88

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2017, 05:31:56 PM »
For me, it was worth it.  But I had savings and I also worked part time, AND I was living in Quebec, where tuition was low.  I was earning 25K/year pre-degree, and now earn more than 6 x times that 20 years post-graduation.  YMMV.

kayvent

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2017, 06:29:41 PM »
I would discourage STEM for the same reason Iíd discourage history: many people donít graduate with a degree and an alarming percent of grads donít get jobs. Young people can take risks like that because they have time to recover from a mishap.

Some type of vocational school as listed above or perhaps something like a managerial course would be both safer and more inline with your interests. Some schools have say weekend or evening courses; that would be gravy. Speaking from pure ignorant, a program with a paid co-op opportunity would be attractive as well.

nickinak

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2017, 06:52:42 PM »
If you decide to do it, consider going with a 100% on-line program.  As an adult student returning to school, that format might be more successful for you.  I went back in my early 40s to finish a degree while still working full time.  Not having to manage the schedule adjustment for a traditional model made me more able to stay committed.  You still have to block out the time to do the class work, but you have far more flexibility about when you do it.  If you are managing work and/or a family that mean the difference between success and failure.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #13 on: October 15, 2017, 08:51:03 PM »
I generally encourage more education, but I think you need to go into this with your eyes open. Youíre 39, by the time you finish, youíll be 41-42? Depending on what you go for. Youíll be starting out at ground level against people 20 years younger than yourself and the young ones now are pretty accomplished. Youíll have to have something they donít. So, youíll invest a lot of money and time to compete and it might not get you where you want and youíll be in a financial hole. The alternative is to look at those $50k careers without degrees, or get yourself several side hustles or self-educate with free courses. There are online courses you can do at top schools for virtually nothing. If youíre determined though, then by all means go for it, but be strategic, find mentors to guide you and be prepared to work twice as hard as everyone else.

CaptJacks

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #14 on: October 15, 2017, 09:20:35 PM »
I generally encourage more education, but I think you need to go into this with your eyes open. Youíre 39, by the time you finish, youíll be 41-42? Depending on what you go for. Youíll be starting out at ground level against people 20 years younger than yourself and the young ones now are pretty accomplished. Youíll have to have something they donít. So, youíll invest a lot of money and time to compete and it might not get you where you want and youíll be in a financial hole. The alternative is to look at those $50k careers without degrees, or get yourself several side hustles or self-educate with free courses. There are online courses you can do at top schools for virtually nothing. If youíre determined though, then by all means go for it, but be strategic, find mentors to guide you and be prepared to work twice as hard as everyone else.

I like where you are going with this.  I have a side hustle that has forced me to self study things like social media management, digital marketing, UX, web design, and other topics.  I could look into it deeper and make that into something.  Good Idea.

CaptJacks

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #15 on: October 15, 2017, 09:21:59 PM »
If you decide to do it, consider going with a 100% on-line program.  As an adult student returning to school, that format might be more successful for you.  I went back in my early 40s to finish a degree while still working full time.  Not having to manage the schedule adjustment for a traditional model made me more able to stay committed.  You still have to block out the time to do the class work, but you have far more flexibility about when you do it.  If you are managing work and/or a family that mean the difference between success and failure.

I was considering this.  Even my local community college offers online degrees now.

CaptJacks

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #16 on: October 15, 2017, 09:31:48 PM »
Thanks for the feedback everyone.

I think the goal (if I did go back) would be to work part time while attending classes.  I was looking over trade schools and there are a lot that I think would fit with my current skill set.  Things like Home Inspector, Real Estate Agent, and a few others.  I think I will look more down that route.
I don't have 4 years and $200k to put into an Econ degree and I am not confident it would help me that much in the long run.

Something like Real Estate Agent I can finish in a year for about a grand and build up clientele on the side before I quit my day job....that's real.

Linea_Norway

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #17 on: October 16, 2017, 12:55:52 AM »
Thanks for the feedback everyone.

I think the goal (if I did go back) would be to work part time while attending classes.  I was looking over trade schools and there are a lot that I think would fit with my current skill set.  Things like Home Inspector, Real Estate Agent, and a few others.  I think I will look more down that route.
I don't have 4 years and $200k to put into an Econ degree and I am not confident it would help me that much in the long run.

Something like Real Estate Agent I can finish in a year for about a grand and build up clientele on the side before I quit my day job....that's real.

Good luck, that sounds like a good plan.
As you see from MMM's blog, having a real estate license can also help you privately if you want to go into the business of flipping houses or buying rentals for yourself.

MrThatsDifferent

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #18 on: October 16, 2017, 03:03:43 AM »
Thanks for the feedback everyone.

I think the goal (if I did go back) would be to work part time while attending classes.  I was looking over trade schools and there are a lot that I think would fit with my current skill set.  Things like Home Inspector, Real Estate Agent, and a few others.  I think I will look more down that route.
I don't have 4 years and $200k to put into an Econ degree and I am not confident it would help me that much in the long run.

Something like Real Estate Agent I can finish in a year for about a grand and build up clientele on the side before I quit my day job....that's real.

Thatís a good, sensible plan. Best of luck!

pbkmaine

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #19 on: October 16, 2017, 03:23:47 AM »
You might also want to try an accounting course.

CaptJacks

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #20 on: October 16, 2017, 06:08:51 AM »
You might also want to try an accounting course.

Accounting was the one "traditional" degree I was seriously considering.  Most of my existing credits would apply so I could knock it out in two years plus I feel it could be valuable both personally and professionally.  You can make a really good paycheck as a CPA here in Austin Tx.
I could probably even just start by getting an associates at the local community college and work at an H&R Block for a bit
« Last Edit: October 16, 2017, 06:11:00 AM by CaptJacks »

Kl285528

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #21 on: October 16, 2017, 06:55:30 AM »
Make sure you are not asking yourself the wrong question here...
It looks like really what you are after is a career change, or some improvement in your earnings.
Google "8 steps to getting what you want -without formal credentials" written by a guest poster on Tim Ferriss' blog. This might inspire your thinking.
Also, check out The Five O'clock club, a mid career job and career changing coaching service. Just pick up their series of books used or from the library. It will help you on these kinds of transitions and changes. Accounting, HVAC tech and real estate broker are three different skill sets, you may want to do a little more soul searching so that you can better commit to a path.
When I think of retail, I think of customer service, which leads me to becoming a waiter. If you like that kind of interaction, you can make good money, with flexible hours. Just a thought.
 Best of success to you.

CaptJacks

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #22 on: October 16, 2017, 08:18:38 AM »
Make sure you are not asking yourself the wrong question here...
It looks like really what you are after is a career change, or some improvement in your earnings.
Google "8 steps to getting what you want -without formal credentials" written by a guest poster on Tim Ferriss' blog. This might inspire your thinking.
Also, check out The Five O'clock club, a mid career job and career changing coaching service. Just pick up their series of books used or from the library. It will help you on these kinds of transitions and changes. Accounting, HVAC tech and real estate broker are three different skill sets, you may want to do a little more soul searching so that you can better commit to a path.
When I think of retail, I think of customer service, which leads me to becoming a waiter. If you like that kind of interaction, you can make good money, with flexible hours. Just a thought.
 Best of success to you.

This is a good point.  I am definitely looking to move away from front line sales and into something both more specialized and with a higher base salary.  I enjoy the customer service aspect, I have some experience in the back end paperwork side of the business as well as management and training experience.  I think that's part of why you see a wider range of options but you are correct I am looking at a career change and salary bump in the process

trollwithamustache

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #23 on: October 16, 2017, 08:27:50 AM »
what do you want to get out of college? If college is a required gateway to the first/next rung of management, whether or not it makes sense, those are the rules of the game. How many years at that next job will it take to pay back the cost of college? If the goal is career switching that's something entirely different and hard to evaluate.

Others have reposted the MMM most on trades/tech school jobs that pay over 50k and labeled it as optimistic.  At least in my area, any of the semiskilled industrial jobs are really 60k plus jobs before Overtime. And if you are willing to work OT, you get more skilled and  both your rate and offers of OT go up.




Acastus

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #24 on: October 16, 2017, 10:01:15 AM »
Getting a degree opens up jobs that are off limits now. Companies now screen out candidates during the application process, so you can get rejected by computer if you don't have the minimum degree. Each degree, starting at associates, pays better than the one below it. Even a HS diploma is better than a GED. Especially if your current job will pay for college, taking 2 classes at night is very doable. I did not have kids when I did it, and my friends that did said it was a lot harder, but it can be done.

Jobs that require a degree can be more interesting than those without. I got a masters primarily because I wanted research or product development jobs that were out of reach with only a BS. My bias is that more education is better, both for more money and for self fulfillment. I got my MS mostly at night, part time.

There is a good thread on jobs that pay 50k without a degree. Some of these require a 3-6 month certificate, but it is well worth reading the discussion.

formerlydivorcedmom

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #25 on: October 17, 2017, 01:49:58 PM »
My dad graduated from college at 48 (a few years after I did).  He never used his degree, but, to him, it was worth it to have one.  Both his daughters graduated from college, and he wanted to show that he could do it too.  Financially, not a great decision, but the level of personal satisfaction was priceless to him.

My husband was in your shoes - late 30s, making $30k a year.  He had been an auto mechanic for 15 years, and it was starting to take a physical toll. 

We ran a lot of numbers for various scenarios, to see how our retirement date would change depending on what kind of job he was able to get, and with the decrease in savings while he was in school.  Using my most conservative estimates, we'd retire 8 months earlier if he had a degree.  Plus he wouldn't be further killing his body.  He also looked at jobs like home inspector or insurance appraiser.  He chose to go back to school for a technical IT degree - think networking, database administrator, etc.  He loves tinkering with computers and had already built his own Linux server, so this made sense.

He first got an associate's degree from the community college.  It was CHEAP.  When he graduated with that, we ran the numbers again to see the financial impact of getting a new IT job at that point versus continuing on.  He wanted to finish what he started, so he transferred to a university (NOT cheap).

We made the decision for him to quit work and go to school full time so that he could finish faster.  He didn't work for 3 years, but he is working part time right now, in an internship that pays almost the same hourly salary he had before (and still going to school full time).  For us, him not working hasn't been too big a financial hit - we were already living on less than my salary, and it eliminated day care expenses (he structured his schedule to be home when the younger kids got out of school), moved us into a lower tax bracket, and decreased some of our other spending (work lunches out, tolls, gas).  The good news for him is that he'll be done with school at 40...and we fully intend to be retired by 49.

You live in Austin, so if you get a degree you'll be competing with young UT and A&M grads.  Look for a school that has a decent career services group and can help you find either an internship or a full-time position.  I know too many people who went back to school later in life and couldn't find a job in their new field - it IS harder for nontraditional students.  Alternatively, be really good at networking (my husband's internship is at my company).

Good luck!

CaptJacks

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #26 on: March 08, 2018, 06:44:48 AM »
Hey everyone.  I know it's been a few months since I asked this question but I wanted to update it.  So I took alot of the advice in here and made an action plan out of it and sure as shit it worked.  I opted to go to a trade school for an IT degree (plus certs), I was able to transfer/test out enough credits to finish in about a year, Plus apparently there is such a lack of people willing to do IT here in Austin (lots of people with MBAs no actually networking techs) that my job is paying for the entire thing, the city is kicking in some $$ as well and the starting pay is double what I make now....so far so good.  So far this has cost me $0 and should double my salary in 18 months....

wordnerd

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #27 on: March 08, 2018, 06:51:06 AM »
Awesome update! Way to go!

Bracken_Joy

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #28 on: March 08, 2018, 08:01:00 AM »
Wow! Thank you for the update, and WAY TO GO! That rocks =)

CaptJacks

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #29 on: March 08, 2018, 08:05:59 AM »
Started on Jan 1st and I'm already halfway through my first semester.  At this rate I will graduate at the same time as my Daughter graduates HS LOL

2Birds1Stone

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Re: Is going back to college worth it?
« Reply #30 on: March 08, 2018, 08:16:46 AM »
Sweet update!!