Recently I followed a thread on a LinkedIn forum for professionals. “Ann” wrote with great frustration. She had spent large sums of money to get a degree to prepare for a career that required a license. Now she had large loans – and she discovered her degree would not meet the rigid requirements for a license in her state.
This story is more common than you might realize. A few other people added similar comments to the discussion.
The school’s answer will be, “It’s your responsibility to read the fine print.” That is true.
However, when you return to school at mid-career, you need to be aware of 2 realities that can cost you thousands of dollars and leave you in worse shape than when you started.
Reality #1: You can’t count on anyone employed by a university to be your advisor or advocate.
Academic advises – whether they’re faculty or “enrollment managers” – typically feel a conflict of interest when students ask, “Should I enter this program?” When you apply to a highly competitive program, such as a doctoral program with limited places, you may be screened. Otherwise anyone who is employed by a university will be unlikely to say, “I think you would be better served by going elsewhere.”
Anyway, even with the best intentions, faculty and administration often don’t understand the value of specific degrees. I once talked to a professor from a university that offered one of the top 10 programs in his field. I expressed concern that students wanted to earn a certain type of masters degree – one that wouldn’t qualify them for anything or make them more marketable. He just shrugged and admitted he directed students into those programs because “they would have a good learning experience.”
Reality #2: As a new entrant into the field, you may not appreciate the significance of disclaimers.
In one case, the fine print says that a certain psychology program is not suited to a “clinical degree.” When you’re new you may not understand which degrees are accepted by licensing agencies and which are not. You may be even less aware of finer distinctions. When I lived in the southwest I considered taking a certain kind of degree at a local university.
In doing my research, I found out that this university did offer degrees that were considered appropriate for my new career goal. If I had asked the school, they would have said, “Yes, our degree will gain you admittance into the new career.” What they might not have said – and they were not required to say – was, “However, with our degree you will have to jump through some expensive, time-consuming hoops to reach your goal. If you choose a different school, your path will be easier.”
The bottom line is that you have to do your own research – something that may midlife career changers are not equipped to do. It’s very different from applying to a company for a job.
I’ve written a Report where I outline very specific steps you can take to assess whether a particular program is right for you. You can draw on my experience as a professor, business owner, and student. Visit http://www.midlifecareerstrategy.com/schoolbk.html
You can also hire me for a consultation. See