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Get a Degree in What Interests You

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deciding-on-education-pathAround 2007, I went to interview with a large health insurance company. The position was for a business analyst manager in their technology division, something I already had experience in doing. The interview was going well until the VP looked at my application.

“I noticed you only had high school listed for education. Where did you go to college?”

I used the same line I had used in other interviews, “I didn’t go to college. Instead, I traveled the world–China, Nepal, Malaysia, Thailand…” Other interviewers were always so impressed with that much traveling.

“Those sound like interesting places, but do you have plans to go to school?” We then spent the rest of the interview discussing education options, as he would not let the topic go. Worse, he introduced me to the next interviewer as “the guy who didn’t go to college.” I then spent 30 minutes talking to the second interviewer about college options. He even told me how he was able to get his degree at University of Phoenix.

By 2013, I would have a bachelor’s in military history, a story in and of itself. However, the focus here is the concentration–history, a topic that interests me. Some people find it an odd choice when my career is in software. Frankly, it was my career and my conflicting interests that initially prevented me from pursuing a degree.

How do you justify a history degree when you work in software? Of course, you could ask that question of most degrees and most fields. Yet, I began to notice that those with college degrees rarely had something that matched their field, at least in software.

For example, I have six people reporting to me at my current job. Together, our degrees include:

  • B.A. Sociology Administrative Studies from University of California
  • B.S. Computer Science from Temple University
  • B.A. Psychology from West Chester University, Ed.M Psycho-Educational Group Processes from Temple University
  • B.S. Information Systems from Drexel University
  • B.A. Communications from Temple University
  • B.S. Management Information Systems Finance from Salisbury State University
  • B.A. Military History from American Military University

Computer science and information systems obviously relate to software. The sociology, psychology, and communications degrees do not, at least not explicitly. What each of these employees would argue is that the process of acquiring the degree equipped each of them with a set of skills that they will use for the rest of their lives, and they would each be right.

Here is the big secret for companies seeking new employees–They list a four-year degree as a requirement for jobs and some software companies even state the degree should be in information technology, but the reality is most of these companies just want to see that you went through the process of acquiring a degree. Thus, unless you’re in a specialized field such as medicine or law, you can pursue just about any topic that interests you for a foundational education. What will count in the end is how you perform once you are in the door.

Thinking about going back to school? Get a degree that interests you.

By Scott Manning
Online Learning Tips, Student Contributor

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