Today’s blog is more a jumble of thoughts than anything. I know this blog is supposed to be about writing, and for 2021, it’s shaping up to be exclusively not that. On the bright side, today’s blog isn’t going to cover how I’m feeling. I will say that, if nothing else, I feel like I’m pointing in the right direction.
A couple of days ago, I posted a Twitter poll that asked:
Should I get a masters degree?
- -Yes (32.7%)
- -With what time, Dave? (24.5%)
- -But why tho? (32.7%)
- -No. (10.2%)
As the past two blogs have whined about how over-worked and overwhelmed I am, you might be wondering what the hell I’m on about. After all, I clearly have too much going on. Yeah, that is, without a doubt, true, but the question, “do I go back to school?” is a part of that problem. The idea is far from a new one for me, but the real consideration started about a month and a half ago.
Sometime in early December, my workload suddenly became too much to cope with, and I realized that I might not be able to keep on. Naturally, when these things happen, you start looking for an out. I found several promising jobs, nearly 100% of which required an MS with some years of practical applied experience. It turns out, all I have is the experience. Without the education, I don’t qualify for jobs I’d be the most suited to. As you do, I filed that away and tried to focus on the here and now.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago. I offered an opportunity to review a set of proposed job class specifications for the Research Analyst series. The core of the revision focused on the ‘minimum qualifications.’ Typically, you see these as a bachelor’s degree in (some discipline or related) and some years of experience according to the job class level and experience necessary to succeed in the position. In this revised set of qualifications, the State of Alaska effectively jettisoned ALL experience and education requirements in favor of some incredibly squishy ‘behavioral competencies.’ As much as I think it’s a profoundly unhinged concept, I still spent an entire evening developing competencies that align with reality. Today I learned that my recommendations were largely adopted, though without any requirement for the applicant to actually demonstrate how those behavioral characteristics are shown through work history and education. So, partial win, at best, I suppose.
I know some people will think this sounds great because it opens up opportunities. Speaking from experience, it does not. It’s one HUGE bait and switch that devalues higher education. Just imagine getting in on the ground floor as a Research Analyst I and working your up to running a research and analysis group as a Research Analyst IV. Then, you lose your job because of budget cuts… Guess what? You’re now not qualified at the level and pay-grade you are accustomed to, and you WILL BE starting over as a junior analyst. I know because I’m in that position now. My position, before today, allowed candidates to substitute graduate work with job experience. Now it doesn’t even require experience.
Setting aside the devaluing of education and the fact that my group lives and dies by grants that rely on those higher education qualifications, it’s got me realizing if I’m laid-off because of budget cuts, I’m not qualified for the job that I’m the most suited to do. What’s more, I am easily the least educated among my coworkers. Most of the people I work with are PhD, or have some form of master’s degree. It makes me feel awkward and pretty uncomfortable when we’re submitting grant proposals, and I suspect folks reviewing those documents absolutely notice that the lead data analyst doesn’t even have his MS. I used to feel like it was something of an accomplishment that I managed what I have without going through grad school. Now I realize it has been a pretty big liability all along.
Anyhow, that’s where I’m at—trying to find an online program that doesn’t suck balls and costs less than an arm, a leg, and the first-born child. I don’t know if I’ll end up following through in the end. After all, it’s fabulously expensive, and I’ve got kids now looking to their college careers.