What's in a Degree?

Today, I'm thinking a lot about my degree. BA English 20th Century Narrative, (That means I'm good at bulls.. um, storytelling.)

I was a non-traditional student, graduating in 2001. I was proud of my accomplishment. Being a Dad, working full time, and going to school all at the same time was challenging to say the least.

I am more proud of my wife. Netter was pretty much a single parent, ran a household, and worked full time for the better part of 6 years. THAT was an accomplishment.

No, we can't do it alone. That's for sure...

Today though I'm not thinking about the accomplishment as much as I'm wondering why in the heck I ever got that degree in the first place.

It seemed like the thing to do at the time. Encouraged by several relatives, and my branch manager, (the legendary EP whom I dearly love) I enrolled at The Ohio State University in 1995 with great plans for the future. There were riches to be garnered. The greatest of these, of course was the degree.

Fast forward 14 years. (Dayum, that seems like a long time.) I've had my degree, and the accomplishment, (and the debt) for 8 years. I have the same job I had when I graduated. I have many riches, but of course none of them are monetary.

This is okay. I don't have any regrets.

I stayed in this job because it allowed me the luxury of being a Dad, and a coach. Watching one's children grow up is a treasure you can't measure in dollar amounts and I'm glad I had that opportunity.

My kids are older now so I'm at a turning point of sorts...

I often wonder what I want to be when I grow up, and if I'll ever use this degree. Usually when I think I have an answer something changes or life takes some turn I hadn't anticipated and I get derailed.

I'm working on being more focused. I'm good at this if I have a deadline. Not so much if I don't.

I know I'm not alone in not "using" my degree. A lot of people don't use their degree. It's not at all out of the ordinary. And...

I think that's odd...

From the time we entered school our parents told us how important it was to go to college. Is that really true?

More and more it seems I look around and find successful people who either don't have a degree or don't use their degree at all. And...

I wonder how they got to that point, how they got there, how they found success?

How do I get there? Maybe I'm there already and I just don't know it.

How did you get there? Or, are you wondering like me?


Cammie said...

Im no help.
I have a degree in psychology
and I work for an insurance company

Jim Brochowski said...

Case study Cammie. ;-)

largesse said...

I'm not using my math degree. But, it helped me get the MLS, which I am using. So, I can't regard it as a waste of time. :-)

Jim Brochowski said...

largesse - I don't mean to imply that the degree is a waste of time, just wondering if it was completely necessary, or more "what's the end result supposed to be?"

Your degree lead you to your end result. That's the way it's supposed to work. :-)

LynneF said...

When I graduated college with a degree in elem. ed. but no certification I felt that I had wasted time (mine) and money (my parents'). My mom told me that no education is wasted, that it has value in itself and contributes to the sum total of who we are.

I couldn't have said it better myself, and I have to say that although I am not actively using either of my degrees at the present time they are a part of who I am and have brought me to where I am, so I can't complain :)

Jim Brochowski said...


Thank you for the perspective. I really appreciate it.

I'm so glad I put this out there. I'm really getting some great validation, as well as some solid insights from folks who are reading.

Your Mom's wisdom, (and your's) is appreciated!

Cat said...

I've got to chime in with what Lynne said. I believe that higher education - the process of getting the degree - is what is most important. Learning how to multitask to get everything done, learning to prioritize (for me that was thinking "I can get by with doing the minimum on that paper, because I really need to get an A on this project"), and proving to yourself that you have the tenacity to hang in there and finish something important.

I bet there are myriad little lessons you learned while getting your degree that you use every day. Here are some of the things I learned in my college and graduate degree programs that I use often:
How to research even when it feels like there is no answer.
The importance of finishing a thought.
The value of making an outline (or a to-do list) before starting to write
How to get along with people who have vastly different upbringings and values than I do
The fact that you can learn at least a little something from anyone
The humbling experience of knowing that I will never know everything

The list goes on and on.

You are a grown-up - this uncertainty is part of it. I think this is just what it's like to be a grown-up. Weird.

Jim Brochowski said...


I think your insights are spot on, and I particularly agree with the part about being grown up. Although in some ways I'm not sure I'll ever be grown up.

It's a process right?

I know the mistakes I've made along the way, and the planning I've lacked are making this a bigger issue for me than it really should be.

Still I appreciate everyone's patience and consistent feedback as I've processed via the blog, twitter, fb, and such.

Using the degree isn't as important to me as finding a career.

Not a perfect time to do this, but it is my time to do this. That career may be with the library. It may not. I just have to stop getting stuck, and keep moving forward to find that answer.

I am hopeful. :-)