Whoa whoa, I gotta go…. Back to School…. Again! (Maybe)

Last week, I was organizing my external hard drive as I was finalizing my PC to Mac file transfers.  In the process, I rediscovered all the old research and term papers I wrote when I was in college. It was a perfectly timed discovery, as I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about going back to school. A. Lot. Like, enough that I may or may not have spent several hours on a Wednesday evening a few weeks ago trying to determine how much of my B.A. in History from The University of Maryland would transfer and meet requirements for a second bachelor’s degree…

When I graduated in December 2008, I had a job lined up and was done with school. Done hauling ass across College Park’s campus with 10 minutes in between lectures (UMCP is HUGE), done writing research papers, and done reading boring textbooks. DONE. However, I did, and still do, miss going to Terps athletic events. But I also knew I just wasn’t ready to pursue an advanced degree. I had no idea what type of degree I would want to work towards, as I had negative interest in researching, writing, and defending a Master’s thesis in anything (still do, kinda). I didn’t have the money to go after a higher-level degree, or the time. But most importantly, I knew I didn’t have the self-discipline. Undergrad was pretty easy for the most part. Go to class a few times a week, complete assignments and homework with minimal effort in between partying and sporting events, and then study just a little bit harder right before exams. If I’m being honest, that hardest part of Undergrad was applying! Now, as a grown-ass bawse, I have the self-discipline, and an aversion to partying (unless it involves napping), that would allow me to pursue a degree in a responsible fashion. And while I don’t have the money figured out yet, I definitely have the time (#homebody). But I’m still trying to figure out what type of continuing education plan I want to pursue.

So far, I’ve kept my search pretty narrow. As in, I’ve really only looked at the University of Maryland – University College programs and admissions requirements. They offer a tuition discount to Federal employees, which is more than in-state tuition, but still $15k less per year (based on full-time status) than out-of-state tuition. I am technically not a resident of a State and the public universities within the District don’t have programs I would be A) eligible for or B) interested in. Also, my admissions application would be FREEEEEE at UMUC. And my entire degree could be completed online if I so desired (I do).  So let’s take a look at my options.

Second Bachelor’s Degree

I could pursue a second Bachelor’s degree. As I have successfully completed a B.A. program already, I am automatically qualified for admission to the Undergraduate program at UMUC. I’ve reached out to an academic advisor, in an unofficial capacity, about taking a look at my UM – College Park transcript to see how many credits from my B.A. in History can transfer and apply to another B.A. If a majority of those credits can apply towards a second B.A., and I only need to take 30-35 credits (UMUC requires that at least 30 credits be completed at UMUC), this may be the route I take, even though any of the following options would be paid for solely by me. But WHAT sort of B.A. would I want to do?

A B.A. in Humanities really appeals to me, as I missed out on taking some common but really interesting, in theory, classes as a result of studying abroad for a year and graduating a semester early. I didn’t take an English class that required reading classic works of literature, I didn’t take any classes on art history, and my only Philosophy course was Introduction to Logic, which was the WORST class ever, and my friends and I basically taught ourselves the entire course the night before the final exam. We aced it, FYI. I have no clue what I would do with that degree, other than knock off a few items from my 101 in 1,001 list, but I would greatly enjoy completing it. I just need to find out if, as a person that completed a B.A. in History, a field that required a lot of research papers, I would need to take LIBS101 – Introduction to Research and Writing. That would definitely be a GPA booster, but it would also be a waste of money.

A B.A. in B.S., also known as Political Science, would probably have some sort of application to my career as a Federal Government employee, whether it would be in my current position, or any potential future positions within the Government. There are some really interesting courses within this degree, including terrorism, anti-terrorism, American Foreign Relations, America at War, and other courses that could definitely come in handy if I ever pursued a job that would require international travel and/or U.S. Government representation. It would also be a really good foundational basis of knowledge about American government and the political system, and be helpful in understanding what the hell is going on the world these days.

The other option I am considering is a B.A. in Legal Studies. Even though I have zero intention of going to law school or working for a legal practice, there are some course that would be extremely useful for Real Life, such as real estate law (something we do a lot of in my office), legal writing (also something we read a lot of in my office, and I should probably know something about), and contract law.  I also think that law is one of the more fascinating parts of society. This could possibly be due to my obsession with Law and Order (SVU 4 eva!!) and The Good Wife. Or because I just had jury duty a couple of weeks ago.

Master’s Degree

BeFunky Collage

Another option is to pursue a Master’s degree. I would either pursue a Master’s in History, as that is what my B.A. is in, or in Human Resources, as that applies to my job. I still love history as much as when I graduated, and one of the great struggles of my life right now is that by cutting cable, I do not have consistent “legal” access to the History Channel.  A Master’s in History would be more enjoyable to pursue from a personal perspective, pesky thesis aside, but a Master’s in Human Resources would be a solid professional move, and would possibly be financially assisted by my employer. However, if I were to pursue a Master’s in History, I would have to go outside of the UMD system, as it’s not available at UMUC, and UMCP requires GREs (do not want) as well as a Statement of Purpose (no idea), and cannot be completed online (or at least with very minimal in person attendance). This would obviously be the greatest financial output of all the degree plans I’m considering, and paid for completely out-of-pocket. Also, I’d have to write a thesis, or take a very big, scary test at the end of my coursework encompassing everything I’d learn. American University has a cool looking online M.A. in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, which would certainly open up opportunities for traveling and teaching abroad at some point in my future life.

I have also just discovered, in the process of writing this post, American Public University, which could be right up my street. It’s affordable ($12k TOTAL for a fully accredited Master’s degree), conducted completely online, and has numerous options in concentration’s for a Master’s degree, or a graduate certificate program (see below), and there are no admissions requirement (remember, GRE, do. not. want.). I would have to write a thesis though, so it’s not totally perfect.

Certificate Program

My final option is to enroll in a Certificate program. These are 12-18 credit programs, can be pursued at both the Undergraduate and Graduate levels, and can be completed in 8-12 months. This shorter time commitment is definitely a check in the pro column. An online certificate program would also be significantly less expensive than a traditional degree, but it’s also less “prestigious” than a traditional degree. As UMUC has a certificate program in Human Resources, it’s possible that my employer would fully reimburse for completion of that certificate, while I personally pursue a B.A./M.A. (not concurrently, obviously). This seems like it would be the most financially prudent option, but no one ever accused me of being financially prudent. As mentioned above, American Public University has several desirable graduate certificate programs. Even better, I could take a certificate program as a means to test the graduate school waters. I can take the 18 credits to complete a certificate program, and then roll it into a Master’s Degree if I decide to further pursue a degree.

DECISIONS DECISIONS. I am all over the place, as I have so much information to process. Luckily, I have some time to seriously think about this plan, as I probably will not even begin to apply until next year. Besides, I never know what’s going to happen in my life. By this time next year, I could be happily married to Daniel Sturridge, living in Liverpool, and can afford to take classes at the University of Liverpool for funsies. But probably not.

What are Your Thoughts on Continuing Education? Do you think this is a waste of time and/or money?

Featured Image Credit: Wikipedia

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  1. April 21, 2015 / 5:30 am

    Hi! Interesting piece. Coming from Ireland our system is different (and less expensive) but it’s definitely always a big step to a post grad. Not a waste of time and money in my opinion, but worth a good bit of research and I feel like, for me anyway, I’d go for a more concrete, career-focused choice. And TEFL is a great option to expand your horizons while you’re deciding in the meantime!

    • April 21, 2015 / 1:58 pm

      Thank you, Cathy! I have so many interests, and trying to narrow them down is difficult. I’m somewhat familiar with the UK system of higher education, as I did a year at University of Liverpool. If I had the means, I would totally just up and move back and do an advanced degree there!

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