Master’s Degree

ribs at work

I distinctly remember being in the first couple months of my college career and thinking about how I couldn’t possibly earn a master’s degree because I  could barely imagine being in college for four years. By the time I was applying for graduation in 2011, I didn’t want it to end. I didn’t want to start working and figuring things out for myself, but life moved on. Once I did graduate my older brother started Pharmacy School and my parents began pressuring me to further my education. I didn’t appreciate that because I had managed all decisions regarding undergrad on my own, thank you very much, and I wanted to see where life took me first instead of earning another degree I didn’t really want.

Fast forward to 2017 when I feel I have exhausted my options. I have talked myself in and out of going to school several times. In the past the issue was finding something I could guarantee I would be happy with in 10 years. Growing up I wanted to be a psychologist or counselor, but I felt like it was presumptuous of me to think I could help people fix their lives. However, after college I began considering Psychology. I actually had a meeting with a black dude with dreads and a doctorate in Psychology that I had met on the street when I was 22 and dated a couple times. I went to see him when he was done with his program at University of Missouri St. Louis to gained some insight, but still wasn’t moved to sign up for the GRE. I thought my lack of action meant this pursuit was not something I should do.

After the Life Insurance sales agent debacle in 2015, I was talking to my counselor about my career woes. When my counselor and I start talking about school, I know I don’t have any real problems anymore and need to take a break until my next existential crisis. Anyway, without knowing anything about my childhood aspirations, she suggested I become a counselor. That was validating coming from her, my counselor. She is also a military spouse and felt like it would be a good option based on that experience and what I have indicated I want in a career.

I didn’t immediately pursue her suggestion because I was under the impression counselors didn’t make anything. She said she actually earned a livable wage, but she could have been the unicorn. I have since learned that Licensed Social Workers are more billable (insurance-wise) than Licensed Practicing Counselors and have less regulations.

As my unemployment reached a fever pitch- which was when I was home alone for a month like “what is life???” when Spencer was at Ranger School- I started looking into it. Being November, it was close to the application deadline for the school here and I had too many questions, so I let it pass. Finally obtaining in March a job put it out of my mind further, but here I am one year later and back at square one.

I am back here seeing another degree as my only option for a few reasons. For one, my counselor keeps telling me to “get my life” vocationally. She doesn’t use those words, but that’s what she is saying. Second, one of my other college-educated coworkers got another job in town, which woke me up to the idea there could still be other options. Third, I work in customer service for a health insurance company. I think my company is outstanding in so many ways, however, if one more person condescends to me when I inform them that I cannot tell them how much they paid to their healthcare provider, I just don’t know. I did apply for a Health Promotion Specialist position within my company but shortly learned that I was “no longer [read ‘never’] in consideration.” If I can’t get a job with the name of my degree in it the title, I’m skunked.

I have spoken to five different schools about their online programs for Master’s of Social Work. I can start soon if I want, but then there’s that whole money thing. Spencer and I have committed to a debt-free lifestyle. Taking a loan for $50,000 feels like going in the opposite direction. Do you think I have an extra $15,000 for each of the next 3 years? I’m going to go ahead and tell you ‘no.’ I could borrow part of the cost. I could quit my job and get it done quickly so I can move on to a higher salary, but exactly how long until I get there, and then how long until I’m back in the black after losing my income for 2 years? There are a lot of movable parts when considering a compromise. To make it more complicated, let’s not forget about that baby I’m supposed to have in the next year. I could wait until after the degree, but y’all, I’m already in my “About to be Thirties.” If now isn’t a good time, neither will be the first few years of my new career.

looking collegiate

The other option I have is to wait until I can use Spencer’s GI Bill to pay for the whole thing. These funds for education can be transferred to the spouse after the serviceperson has served for six years, and they must sign up for at least four more. We are still three years from that. We could wait and do that, but I don’t know how much more discontentment I can take.

Before you say it, I am looking at scholarship options but generally believe I won’t find any at the masters level. I will consider working part time to finish faster, or paying as we go and finishing it sometime within the millennium, or waiting until my kids go to Kindergarten and use the GI Bill. I think there are a lot of scenarios and strategies to consider, but it seems that it will require math, so who knows when I’ll start school. Whatever the decision, I just have to daily find ways to keep moving forward.

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