My university degrees haven’t earned me one penny

You may find it surprising, if you know me, that I have an education. Both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Simon Fraser University. Plus various and sundry education courses, diplomas and certificates.

I’ve costed out my tuition in 2017 dollars. Roughly $8200 for the Masters and $5100 for the Bachelors. This doesn’t take into account books, student society costs, parking, living expenses and opportunity costs. I either worked full or part-time while going to school and had no loans.

I also did my final graduate semester at Exeter College, Oxford University. This was one of the best experiences of my life. In today’s dollars, it cost about $5800 for tuition. That doesn’t take into account airfare, transfers, a few days in London, school excursions, four days in Paris and the stupid purchase of a purse.

I’ve also done one-off courses in Dreamweaver, Photoshop, communications design, fitness instruction, plus a graduate certificate in communications management at Royal Roads University (cost for this certification, tuition only, $5600).

The rough total is $25,000, plus all the other stuff I couldn’t account for.

Over the years, I made a wee bit of money as a fitness instructor and a running coach. Maybe $3000.

Nothing else has earned me one penny, it would appear. I don’t regret earning my degrees, but methinks they have zero value in today’s job market. (I wrote my Masters final project about the adaptation of Jane Austen novels, with an emphasis on Colin Firth’s performance in Pride & Prejudice!)

Here’s the thing. Employers want people skills-trained when they arrive. Gone are the days of english, sociology and history majors walking out of university into good jobs where training is offered.

Just about every penny I’ve made in the decades I’ve been in the workforce is from my BCIT Diploma of Technology in Broadcast Communications. A two-year skills training program and a lot less prestigious a credential than a university degree. It got me my first job in radio, which got me the subsequent jobs. It got me a part-time teaching job at BCIT. This year, I celebrated 20 years there. My experience in communications and journalism got me into the communications work I now do. I’ve not had more than a couple of months unemployment in three decades.

The BCIT tuition cost in 2017 dollars: $3688. Now, that’s a great return on an education investment.

Was my time at university of waste of money — a foolish purchase? Not at all. But, I’d have second thoughts about completing a Bachelor of Arts nowadays. Knowing an undergraduate arts degree doesn’t open many or any doors. Folks have got to tack on a skill-oriented graduate degree or vocational training. I’d do the skills-training first and the arts stuff at university later.

Times have changed, but education money is never wasted. Still, some education purchases may be wiser than others.

One thought on “My university degrees haven’t earned me one penny

  1. It’s interesting that you claim B.A.’s are worth much in terms of getting a job. I had lunch with Harry Mertin a few years back. He owned (now retired) a very large, very successful GM dealership in Chilliwack. His take on History or Sociology degrees? He would hire an Arts Major well before a BComm. Mr. Mertin’s experience was he could train someone with a B.A., but the Business Major’s all thought they knew everything.
    Ditto for Silicon Valley. I.T. firms go through waves where suddenly they don’t have enough people with M.B.A.’s. So they hire a ton, then quickly go back to Philosophy and Lit Majors because they are broader thinkers and more creative.

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