Learning Online

by francine Hardaway on January 16, 2003


Learning Online
This week I participated in an online dialogue with a gentleman who wanted to know if he should go back to school for an A.A. degree, and if so, if he should do it online. He has a wife, kids, and a job. Of course he should do it online, if he does it at all. But should he do it at all? Is a degree what employers are looking for these days?

I have a Ph.D. I’m still not sure why I got it, probably because I hated every job I took when I got out of school: after Cornell, a publishing job; after Columbia, an advertising job; after Syracuse, a professorship at Phoenix College. But there I was, a Ph.D., no school to go back to, and I hated that job, too. It took me years to figure it out: I hated working for anyone else. So I started my own compan(ies).

In the intervening years, I have also amassed a real estate license, a securities license, an MCSE, and a certification to teach yoga. I am a lifelong learner. Everyone should be, and everyone needs to be. But I haven’t ever considered another “degree” or going to school purely for money.

Good thing. Some of the jobs we used to think paid very well are being challenged by the New Economy. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (2001) physicians, for example, start at $40,000 a year, only $5000 more than veterinarians. And animals pay out of pocket for their health care, which makes the cash flow better. Amazing that managed care has 1)put physicians on a salary schedule and 2)lowered the economic outlook for one of the former highest-paying professions.

Check out the average starting salaries for various occupations. This is pretty depressing on the whole. I started in communications many years ago at $25,000 a year, and the salaries have not changed at all. Yet people say communications is one of the most important skills for jobs, marriage, raising children, etc. And look at teaching.
Position Starting Salary Education Required
Accounting $34,500 4-Year College Degree
Advertising $26,600 4-Year College Degree
Biologist $29,000 4-Year College Degree or more
Chemical Engineer $46,900 4-Year College Degree or more
Communications $25,224 4-Year College Degree
Computer Science $45,700 4-Year College Degree
Dentist $110,600 Graduate Degree
Electrical Engineer $45,200 4-Year College Degree
FBI Agent $34,400 4-Year College Degree
Flight Attendant $13,700 High School Diploma
Hospital Administrator $40,000 4-Year College Degree or more
Human Resources $29,800 4-Year College Degree
Industrial Engineer $43,100 4-Year College Degree or more
Interpreters $13,000 High School Diploma/Fluent in Foreign Language
Journalist $24,000 4-Year College Degree
Marketing/Sales $31,900 4-Year College Degree
Nursing $32,927 4-Year College Degree or more
Optometrist $55,000 Graduate Degree
Paralegal $30,700 High School Diploma
Pharmacists $42,500 4-Year College Degree or more
Physical Therapy $35,700 4-Year College Degree or more
Physician $39,000 Medical Degree
Psychologists $37,800 4-Year College Degree or more
Teacher $25,700 4-Year College Degree or more
Travel Agent $13,770 High School Diploma
Social Worker $24,000 4-Year College Degree or more
Veterinarians $35,900 Graduate Degree

The jobs above are mainly professional. They’re not the ones you apply for in big corporations. And they’re not the ones that give you the big stock options.

Some jobs (large corporations with online recruiting software and professions that require licenses) may eliminate you from consideration if you are missing a piece of paper (degree), but even they concentrate on asking for skills and experience. I’d still vote to learn because you want to, not because you think the piece of paper will bring you more money. When “they” tell kids not to drop out of school because college degrees bring more money than high school diplomas, “they” mean you need to get good skills that the marketplace wants. And those include judgment, decision-making, research, and problem-solving, teamwork, creativity, etc as much as they include scripting, coding, yada.

That being said, I’m a big proponent of online schooling. If you want to have the “learning experience” in general, which consists of all those soft skills I mentioned above, go full time to a school. If you want to learn something specific, do it online. Even Harvard and MIT are putting their courses online. There’s no reason for me to update my real estate license in a classroom.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Nurse Staff October 16, 2009 at 1:12 am

Oh, I really don't even think that studying on college in US was really expensive..I think I can't afford it even.

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