Before considering an advanced degree or professional designation, one often calculates the directional math, factoring the sunk costs, opportunity costs, and time commitment in going down that particular professional development path. The return on investment (ROI) calculation is what usually drives the core decision-making process. In simple terms, money matters.
Advanced degrees and certifications definitely do open doors to jobs in a higher salary range and seniority; however, they do not guarantee occupational happiness or enrichment. As I always tell my high school and undergraduate students when thinking about college majors, “The money will come. Do what ultimately makes you happy.” As corny as this cliché sounds, it is 100% accurate. One should also consider the following factors when pursuing an advanced degree or certification, in addition to the almighty dollar.
Oftentimes, professionals are caught in roles where the trajectory for career advancement has plateaued. Professional development opportunities or attainment of professional certifications can provide a person with numerous options that transcend a mere short-term salary bump, including options for leaving an unfavorable work situation. This benefit should not be discounted, as one may now possess the option to interview, both internally or externally, for roles 1-2 salary grades and levels above his/her current role. Ultimately, you should be able to find out that due to professional development, a company may need you more than you need them.
During my morning commute into downtown Chicago, I would often come across people who took the same train into work every day, stood on the same spot on the platform, sat in the same train seat and adopted the same routine on the way back home in the late afternoon. I will be the first to say that I respect, unconditionally, any individual who puts on their work boots the same way every morning and grinds through the work week to provide for their family. However, I would often wonder what proportion of those individuals were happy doing what they were doing everyday versus those individuals who just went through the motions working hard enough only to not get fired or get caught online shopping during their workday. Advanced degrees and certifications provide you with the option to press the figurative reset button and do what makes you happy and motivated every day. Remember, the money will come; you can’t put a price-tag on being passionate doing what you WANT to be doing for work each day.
Working professionals sometimes reach a point in their career when they want a change from the corporate game. Advanced degrees and certifications provide individuals with the necessary skillset to potentially function as a standalone entity, separate from the bureaucracy of corporations or unprofessional bosses.
At the end of the day, advanced degrees and certifications can be used as a means to obtain the autonomy to carve your own career path, and reignite the excitement of doing a job you love.
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