Monday, November 3, 2008

Choosing the Right School - the 2008 Edition


Before continuing with this article, please read the following two posts that I've made in the past regarding this subject:
Choosing the Right School
Choosing the Right School - Revisited

There is a reason why I'm revisiting this subject. Right now, we are in shaky economic times, and many people are looking to school for training in a career that can (at least) get them a job and pay the bills. One of the trends that I'm seeing right now is students who are just choosing a certain major because they believe that it will get them a job that will allow them to support their family. A number of these students are choosing Information Technology majors. Many of these students don't really care for the field of study, nor is it something that they really want to do for the rest of their lives. They're choosing this field because they believe that it's the field that can get them a job that will pay them a living wage.

I'm about to post an opinion that will probably be controversial - those students are wasting their time and money.

Let me explain.

I do understand that the market is tight, and many people are losing their jobs. Many people are also underemployed (either working a part-time job as the primary employment or they are working a low paying job like a discount department store or a fast food restaurant because they can't find a job in their field that pays a living wage).

I do support their decision to go to school to better their career. However, if the only reason that someone chooses an Information Technology major is to better their career, then I don't support their decision, and here's why:

  • School is a major investment in time and money. Depending on the school, a two-year degree costs between $8,000 - $40,000. That's a lot of money to spend on something that doesn't appeal to you, especially during these lean times. If you are getting federal loans for your education, you still have to pay them back regardless of whether you liked your educational experience or not.

  • Part of success in school is choosing a field that interests you. I'm going to use myself as an example. I like to read historical biographies, but analyzing fictional literature bores the Hades out of me. I really don't give a whoo-ha about the symbolism that the author of the story is using and the messages that s/he's conveying in the story. Since I think that analyzing literature is boring, I never really put in the effort in those classes; I only did enough work that would get me a B-. Now, imagine if I decided to go back to school and study literature because it's a field that could get me a job. It would pain me to go to class. In fact, I'd probably go enough times and do enough work to get a passing grade. The problem is, in leaner economic times, the job market is much more competitive. My lower QPA/GPA will hold me back from interships that will get me the experience that employers want. Just say I'm lucky enough to find a job in the field. I wouldn't be happy at that job because it's not what I want to do.
    Now let's go back to the student - if it's a field that s/he's remotely interested in, then that's good. As s/he takes classes, s/he may grow to like the field more. However, if it's a field that doesn't interest him/her, the chance of the student dropping out is high, and if the student stays the course, the chance of the student doing well academically is low.

  • Another part of success in school is choosing a field in which you can excel. I will use myself as an example again. Maths and sciences were my forte. Fine art is not. I always say that I'm lucky that I can draw a straight line. If I decide to go back to school for multimedia, which requires a number of art classes, I wouldn't do very well because I don't have the artistic talent that many others have. Instructors will give me low grades for my work. If the instructor just passes me along, I won't have a good chance at finding a job because there are numerous people out there that are more talented than I am. Let's get back to the student - if the person doesn't have the talent for that field, it's not for that person. If the person is not very good at mathematics, then computer programming is not for them.

So what is a person to do? Again, school is a major investment in time and money. While going back to school is a good thing for your career, don't let "getting a better job" be your only reason to go back to school.

No comments: