Author Topic: Trying to decide if finishing school is worth it for me.  (Read 4721 times)

Dersgold

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 12
Trying to decide if finishing school is worth it for me.
« on: November 18, 2013, 10:23:33 AM »
Hello fellow Mustachians!

I appreciate any insight and advice on my situation - thanks for reading!

Quick background on me:

28 years old, married (8 years), 3 children (5, 4, 1.5). 

I work for a large freight company as a pricing analyst - started w/ the company 5 years ago and have worked up from driving a forklift, truck, operations; to now in pricing working for our corporate office.  Salary right now, low 60's.

I have about 1/3 of a bachelors degree completed; if I pick it up again I want to graduate with a BS in Econ.  It is something I love learning about, and I can build off of my current work experience as an analyst to hopefully move up higher at my company, or have options to find a different job altogether.

My internal debate is this: I already have a "decently" paying job.  Where I work, in the trucking industry, there isn't really a super high emphasis put on post secondary schooling and I could probably move up through the ranks over the next 5-10 years into a 90-100k per year job pretty realistically.  That is a common thing there -- a lot of our terminal managers and even well paid corporate employees don't have much in the way of bachelors or graduate degrees. 

HOWEVER - that is a best case scenario -- what if I lose this job, or I don't like it there anymore, and need an out with some better or at least comparable options in pay and opportunity.  I am limiting myself to this one company or at least this one industry (which I didn't really seek out in the first place -- just fell into it) w/out finishing my degree.

I want to be smart about it though -- is going 15-20k in debt with student loans when I am approaching 30 and have a small family really a good idea?  I can grind out the years where I'm at and progressively get paid better without taking on the time and money investment of finishing school.  If I didn't have to think like a responsible parent....I would finish no question.  I've always loved learning and knew that I would go to college, or even beyond that with further education.  I know this is a result of my own choices, I'm not trying to sound like a victim here.  Instead of going to college right after high school, I went overseas and spent 6 months in Africa working with the poor -- which is where I happened to meet my wife (I was from Canada, she from the US).  We got married, I immigrated to the US, we had a few kids along the way, I started school here but we've had some medical issues with our kids - principally with our middle one.  He's doing great now, but it took some time with the extra hospital/doctor/therapy responsibilities.  My 20's are blowing by and it is scary that I now feel too old to finish my studies.

I know that's a long ramble -- but honestly that's a direct representation of my thought process these days.  Back and forth - can't decide.  If you hadn't notice yet, I have trouble making decisions :)  Also on my mind is that I would love to be able to do some more non-profit/economic development work at some point too.  That is my real passion - but unfortunately right now my first priority is supporting my awesome little family and stashing cash for us and (someday) a semi-retirement. 

Thanks so much.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2013, 10:27:41 AM by cgarrett6 »

Bruised_Pepper

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 190
  • Age: 30
Re: Trying to decide if finishing school is worth it for me.
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2013, 10:35:23 AM »
I won't say much else on the topic of education since I'll just get off track on my views, but if you have to take on student loans, now is a pretty good time.  Congress slashed the interest rates on federal student loans recently down to something like 3%(?)  With your income and three children, you might qualify for some subsidized funding. 

nsarwark

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 19
  • Age: 39
  • Location: Littleton, CO
    • X
Re: Trying to decide if finishing school is worth it for me.
« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2013, 10:36:22 AM »
A BS in Economics is not like a BS in Computer Science or some other field where it's a qualification for a job.  It's a college degree, so it'll open doors for employers who want to see a college degree as some sort of sign that you can follow through or something, but you're unlikely to ever see a job opening that specifically requires a BS in Economics.  That's not to discourage you from getting the degree if you just want to learn about economics, but understand that it's not likely to pay off in higher salary, at least not directly.

I assume that you would be finishing the degree part-time while keeping your current job.  If so, can you spread the classes out enough that you don't incur student loan debt?  Paying as you go is the best option, especially for education that has a low probability of increasing your salary enough to pay for itself.

-Nick

Bruised_Pepper

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 190
  • Age: 30
Re: Trying to decide if finishing school is worth it for me.
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2013, 10:42:01 AM »
A BS in Economics is not like a BS in Computer Science or some other field where it's a qualification for a job.  It's a college degree, so it'll open doors for employers who want to see a college degree as some sort of sign that you can follow through or something, but you're unlikely to ever see a job opening that specifically requires a BS in Economics.  That's not to discourage you from getting the degree if you just want to learn about economics, but understand that it's not likely to pay off in higher salary, at least not directly.

I'd disagree there.  Economics programs are generally (in my experience) run through business schools.  While Economics is more theoretical and not exactly as marketable as Management or Accounting, it's still a business school degree--and despite the fact that a business BS is very common, it's still highly valued in the workforce.

Dersgold

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 12
Re: Trying to decide if finishing school is worth it for me.
« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2013, 10:46:45 AM »
I would absolutely continue working where I am now.  I realize that econ can't be compared to a CS degree as far as a direct qualification for a well paying job -- and I've even considered going the CS route but I would suck at it, plain and simple.  Plus I have some experience to build off of in the area that an econ degree would be useful in.

A bachelors will at least give me more options that I currently have and I'm pretty sure over the long term have an increasing effect on my lifetime earnings. 

Thanks for the response. 
« Last Edit: November 18, 2013, 11:01:22 AM by cgarrett6 »

Dersgold

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 12
Re: Trying to decide if finishing school is worth it for me.
« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2013, 10:47:42 AM »
I won't say much else on the topic of education since I'll just get off track on my views, but if you have to take on student loans, now is a pretty good time.  Congress slashed the interest rates on federal student loans recently down to something like 3%(?)  With your income and three children, you might qualify for some subsidized funding.


I would actually be interested in hearing your views on education if you would care to share?

Dersgold

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 12
Re: Trying to decide if finishing school is worth it for me.
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2013, 10:51:08 AM »
A BS in Economics is not like a BS in Computer Science or some other field where it's a qualification for a job.  It's a college degree, so it'll open doors for employers who want to see a college degree as some sort of sign that you can follow through or something, but you're unlikely to ever see a job opening that specifically requires a BS in Economics.  That's not to discourage you from getting the degree if you just want to learn about economics, but understand that it's not likely to pay off in higher salary, at least not directly.

I'd disagree there.  Economics programs are generally (in my experience) run through business schools.  While Economics is more theoretical and not exactly as marketable as Management or Accounting, it's still a business school degree--and despite the fact that a business BS is very common, it's still highly valued in the workforce.

This was my thought -- if I was 19 with no work experience I'd go something more practical like accounting.  With econ (especially the BS route) I'll have plenty of material on analyzing data, math, ect.  I also already do that in my day job -- so hopefully that will help me down the road. 

Chris86

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 27
Re: Trying to decide if finishing school is worth it for me.
« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2013, 11:07:59 AM »
I'm somewhat in the same boat. I'm an analyst in operations and while a degree is not required, it is typically held by most people in the role. BS in Business Administration / Finance

While I was never told that I needed to finish school to retain the position, some reasons for going include
1)The amount of time and effort I had already committed, 2) New opportunities, and 3) It interested me.
It sounds like we both share the same reasons.

I always considered this statement: It's better to be 27 (or insert age) and have a degree, than to be 27 and not have a degree.

It sounds like your biggest consideration at this point is the financing. While I worked and took classes both full-time, I did not have a wife / children. I think the answer has been mentioned - do you need to finance a full load? If realistically you are only taking 1-2 classes a semester in the evenings, it shouldn't be as expensive as a full course load. This might be an option.

It might also be worth seeing if your employer has tuition reimbursement or would be willing to consider it, given that the courses you take would benefit your employer. Employers can sometime use tuition assistance as an overhead cost deduction as well. This might be another option.

Hope that helps!

Dersgold

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 12
Re: Trying to decide if finishing school is worth it for me.
« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2013, 11:17:09 AM »
It sounds like your biggest consideration at this point is the financing. While I worked and took classes both full-time, I did not have a wife / children. I think the answer has been mentioned - do you need to finance a full load? If realistically you are only taking 1-2 classes a semester in the evenings, it shouldn't be as expensive as a full course load. This might be an option.

It might also be worth seeing if your employer has tuition reimbursement or would be willing to consider it, given that the courses you take would benefit your employer. Employers can sometime use tuition assistance as an overhead cost deduction as well. This might be another option.

Hope that helps!

Thanks for your thoughts!  If my employer had tuition assistance this would be an easier decision - but they do not.  It unfortunately isn't too common in the industry that I work in.

Yes, the financing is my biggest concern -- since I'm paying off a mortgage as well I want to keep my debt down and wipe it out all together well before I'm old and gray!


goodlife

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 188
Re: Trying to decide if finishing school is worth it for me.
« Reply #9 on: November 18, 2013, 11:31:49 AM »
I would definitely finish your degree. You are very young and with a family, having a degree will provide you with a safety net in terms of other job opportunities that may come up or if you lose your job one day or if you want to do something else one day. Yes, the degree itself may not impart any "actual" skill in you, so to speak, but the reality is that a lot of jobs require you to have a degree of some sort to even be considered. I think economics is a good degree to study, I did it myself. It's quite marketable, but I would also encourage you take 2 semesters of accounting and 2 semesters of corporate finance, even if it is not required.

Regarding the student loans, I don't know where you go to school, but make sure you check out how much transfer credits your school allows. Then you could take the maximum they allow online (at any other university that they accept), as online credits are often much cheaper and you can get done faster because you can take them whenever you want in your own time.

Dersgold

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 12
Re: Trying to decide if finishing school is worth it for me.
« Reply #10 on: November 18, 2013, 11:46:43 AM »
I would definitely finish your degree. You are very young and with a family, having a degree will provide you with a safety net in terms of other job opportunities that may come up or if you lose your job one day or if you want to do something else one day. Yes, the degree itself may not impart any "actual" skill in you, so to speak, but the reality is that a lot of jobs require you to have a degree of some sort to even be considered. I think economics is a good degree to study, I did it myself. It's quite marketable, but I would also encourage you take 2 semesters of accounting and 2 semesters of corporate finance, even if it is not required.

Regarding the student loans, I don't know where you go to school, but make sure you check out how much transfer credits your school allows. Then you could take the maximum they allow online (at any other university that they accept), as online credits are often much cheaper and you can get done faster because you can take them whenever you want in your own time.

Thanks goodlife.  And thanks for calling me young also!  I feel as though I skipped my 20's and just jumped straight into my 30's...minus the completed college part of course.

You are right about it being a basic qualification for just about anything now.  I have done so much self learning, reading, plus working in business already - but that doesn't change the fact that most hiring managers still want to see a BA/BS on my resume.

Not sure of your age, but how has your career turned out after studying econ?

goodlife

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 188
Re: Trying to decide if finishing school is worth it for me.
« Reply #11 on: November 18, 2013, 01:29:34 PM »
I would definitely finish your degree. You are very young and with a family, having a degree will provide you with a safety net in terms of other job opportunities that may come up or if you lose your job one day or if you want to do something else one day. Yes, the degree itself may not impart any "actual" skill in you, so to speak, but the reality is that a lot of jobs require you to have a degree of some sort to even be considered. I think economics is a good degree to study, I did it myself. It's quite marketable, but I would also encourage you take 2 semesters of accounting and 2 semesters of corporate finance, even if it is not required.

Regarding the student loans, I don't know where you go to school, but make sure you check out how much transfer credits your school allows. Then you could take the maximum they allow online (at any other university that they accept), as online credits are often much cheaper and you can get done faster because you can take them whenever you want in your own time.

Thanks goodlife.  And thanks for calling me young also!  I feel as though I skipped my 20's and just jumped straight into my 30's...minus the completed college part of course.

You are right about it being a basic qualification for just about anything now.  I have done so much self learning, reading, plus working in business already - but that doesn't change the fact that most hiring managers still want to see a BA/BS on my resume.

Not sure of your age, but how has your career turned out after studying econ?

I am actually the same age as you (but no family yet). My career turned out very well after studying econ. I ended up going into finance....it wasn't really planned, I just kind of fell into it, but financially speaking it has been very lucrative, I am 2 years from FI. Not that this is a representative sample, but all the econ majors that graduated with me have done very well for themselves in whatever fields they went into. Some went into finance, some went to corporates and some went into consulting and government and some did something else entirely, but regardless, it seems that their degree paid off. I also went to a small liberal arts school that nobody has ever heard of, so it definitely wasn't the name of our school that got us the jobs. I think econ can be used to access a lot of fields, from finance to corporates to non-profits to government. From my experience, it was always regarded as the "tougher" degree to get compared to business admin. But on top of all the econ classes, I also made sure to take some more finance related classes that may be more marketable in certain situations, hence my advice about taking some accounting and corporate finance classes. I have also done my CFA since then, and it definitely helped to have taken those accounting and finance classes.

And you are very right about hiring managers wanting to have a BA/BS on your resume. I have a friend who is highly qualified in his field, but he doesn't have a degree and it does hurt him. Never mind he has over 10 years of work experience and is highly qualified, but not having a degree as made him miss out on pay raises and promotions and he also can't get certain jobs that other less qualified people get just because they have a degree. I don't think this is fair, I find it a very stupid aspect of the system and there is way too much emphasis placed on some letters on your resume rather than on what you can actually do, but it is what it is and it will probably only get worse. So if you can't beat them, join them! Regardless of how your career turns out, I don't think you would ever regret having gotten your degree.