I am an advocate for advanced education. However, let’s keep it real, we all know someone whose name looks like this, “Keyshia Cholera, BS, MBA, LOL,PhD, SMH, WTF?” As a person with an advanced degree that I am proud of I will never knock formal education. Unfortunately, many people go to (or go back to) school for the WRONG reasons. I am one of those people. For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a lawyer. As a child and teen I was told “you speak so well, you’d make a great lawyer.” Unfortunately, going to law school only showed me that the idea and not the actuality of being a lawyer was what intrigued me. About a year ago I dropped out of law school for the SECOND time (long story, but I convinced myself that I made a mistake the first time I quit). Both times I was accepted into the law school of my choice and both times I was granted a partial scholarship. It was never that I could not do the work involved in law school, it was more so that I was not interested in it at all. The good news is I already had a great degree. A degree that I downplayed and took for granted thinking that a JD (Juris Doctorate) would somehow magnify my existing degree or validate my career aspirations in some way. I was like many of you who may be reading this and got caught up in the decorative tone of being “educated.”
Here are 5 things you should consider before going back to school:
1) What is your “why” and is that “why” strong enough?
With anything you do, you should ALWAYS evaluate your “why.” Your “why” is simply your REASON for doing whatever it is you set out to do. Your “why” could be to secure your financial future, to be able to spend more time at home or to be able to pay for your child’s college education. Why did I go back to lawschool after completing a Doctorate in Pharmacy? The question that once seemed to answer itself puzzles me now. Initially, I thought I wanted to be a bulldog medical malpractice attorney or teach pharmacy law at my alma mater. One of my favorite tv show characters is “Joan Clayton” from the show “Girlfriends” and I often envisioned myself with an office like hers. Maybe being able to say “I’m a lawyer” was the reason or maybe I just wanted to prove to myself that I could get in. All things considered, my WHY for attending law school was never clear enough or strong enough.
2) Do you need a degree to answer your calling or be educated in your respective field?
Reading one book per week adds up to about 50 books each year. In order to earn a Ph.D. from a major university one is required to write a dissertation based on the reading and synthesis of about 50 books.If you were to read one book per week, 50 books per year, you would be getting the equivalent of a practical PhD in your field each year. My point is, some of the best knowledge is free and self taught. You do not have to sit in a classroom to learn. You do not have to be a lawyer to know the law. I am an entrepreneur, I have no intent to enter business school. What I know about building my businesses is based on books that I read, mentors that I study and by DOING. There was even a time when I entered a Masters in Pharmacy Regulation and Policy degree program in order to “be among the best in the pharmacy field.” I ended up quitting the program before it began, realizing that I could read about pharmacy regulation and policy on my own and I could even attend conferences and CE programs to obtain a vast amount of knowledge. I was in lawschool (for the first time) at the time that I started the Masters program so I also realized that doing both programs and working would simply be unfair to my daughter who was four years old at the time.
3) Will the degree add to your bottomline?
If you’re going to spend more money on a degree, you better KNOW that it will pay for itself later. The truth is, there are MANY unemployed lawschool grads and lawyers. There are MANY unemployed people with fancy degrees. The average salary of a law school graduate is about $30,000. Shocking right? As a pharmacist I make close to five times that amount. Therefore money was not a strong enough reason for me to stay.
4) Will the degree lead to career advancement?
When I initially entered lawschool, my mission was to be a lobbyist for a pharmaceutical company, practice some sort of healthcare law or to teach pharmacy law. Here I was a newly practicing pharmacist and 1L who wanted a law degree to advance within the field of pharmacy. As my mission and goals for my pharmacy career changed, the idea of needing a law degree dwindled. If I no longer wanted to be a Director of Pharmacy or practice pharmacy law, then what would I need the degree for? It is important to know WHAT the degree you are thinking about can do for your career. There are indeed instances where getting a degree can lead to career advancement opportunities however, you should research those instances prior to seeking the degree.
5) How much time, money and energy will you have to invest in it?
As a part-time evening law student, it would have taken me 4 years and $60,000 to complete my JD. In the meantime, I was missing out on AT LEAST $110,000 per year because I was unable to find a schedule as a pharmacist that allowed me to go to lawschool and work full-time. It did not make much sense to me to pay $60k for something that probably was not going to net me much more than I already made.
Having an advanced degree has added to my quality of life tremendously. I am blessed to have been called into a rewarding field where the degree commands six figures immediately upon licensure. I don’t need a JD or other fancy degree to pursue my passion and make more money. You do not NEED a degree to validate you or to make you GREAT at whatever you already do. If a degree is necessary to enter your field of interest, by all means, GET THE DEGREE. But if a degree just means a few more letters at the end of your name, or it’s just something you think will earn you “bragging rights,” you may want to RECONSIDER. I did, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
What is your WHY? Is it strong enough?
Can you excel in your field without formal education?
Will the degree add to your bottomline? Can you guarantee that the degree will pay for itself?
Will the degree lead to career advancement?
How much time, money and energy will you have to invest in the degree?