Is your degree working for you?

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Raise your hand if you wish you went to school for  health care, engineering or information technology.

If you put a hand up, or thought about it, you’re not alone.

With so few industries in growth mode these days, many workers — 36 percent, to be exact — are wishing they’d gone to school for something other than their chosen major, according to a recent CareerBuilder survey.

This change of heart is principally felt by the large number of workers who are having a hard time finding employment in their chosen field. More than 25 percent of workers with a college degree said the job market in their field had worsened since they’d entered college, and nearly 20 percent reported that they’d yet to find a job in their chosen field.

So what can you do if you’re one of those workers who just can’t seem to make their major work?

Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder, says it’s never too late to go back to school or spruce up your skills. “The job market has been challenging for all workers, regardless of degree level, and has prompted many to think about learning skills for high-demand and emerging jobs,” she says.

Haefner cites health care, engineering, IT and communications as areas that are considered emerging. “College students and workers considering going back to school should take note of areas with growth opportunities and more abundant hiring,” she says.

Apparently, some workers have already picked up on the back-to-school trend. More than 10 percent have plans to further their education in the next year.

For those considering a return to the classroom, Haefner offers the following tips:

  • Talk to human resources – If you’re looking to go back to school while holding down a job, be sure to talk to your HR department before enrolling. Not only will transparency help, say, should you have to leave a little early on Fridays to get to class, but your HR department will know the details of any tuition assistance or reimbursement programs that your company offers. Some companies also have on-site learning programs or courses for employees that can boost your skills for free.
  • Try online learning – With online programs gaining popularity and credibility, earning a degree online can be a great option for those who are time-crunched. Some sites, like CBInstitute.com, also provide single courses for those who may be looking to brush up on a particular skill, but don’t necessarily want to complete an entire degree program.
  • Take advantage of local resources – Many local libraries, community centers, community colleges and unemployment offices offer courses or training programs that are helpful to job seekers and those looking to advance their career. Check out the training page of the Labor Department website or ServiceLocator.org to find out more about the resources in your area.

Have you thought about going back to school since the recession hit? Are you still looking for employment in your field? Let us know in the comments section.

More from “The Work Buzz” on going back to school:

Is Going Back to School the Right Move?

7 Courses That Will Help You in the Real World

18 Comments
  1. The way the world seems to change overnight isn’t it difficult and a little risky to just jump into a field, that you may not like just because there are more job opportunities. 10 years from now who is to say what the hottest fields will be then.

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  3. I have ab IT background – would I do it over again? NO!

    I went as far as getting an MBA in InfoSec but my current employer is ignorant. We lost two people with Masters degrees and looks like we are going to lose what others we have left (myself included). Instead, my employer would rather play politics.

    If it wasn’t for the current employment environment, many of us would be gone!

  4. Some people may THINK that the “The IT field” is growing but it has been a very hard field to be involved with for years. Any degree in this field, that no one truely understands and is so vast and vague, is never really ready to work after school.
    I have a It degree for a top 10 school and have had it since 2002, (Yes that means I worked my butt off for a 5 year degree in 4 years). I had to attend each class and not ruin everyone elses good degree by trying to go to school online and there by wasting money on a crappy degree and devaluing all good degrees. AND the only thing it has gotten me is to start out in the Army as a E-4. It wasn’t even good enough to ensure that if I went officer that I would be commo, you have to gamble and just sign up to be officer and don’t get to pick what type of officer you will be.
    There a two big problems with this: colleges don’t care about getting you a job after school so they don’t teach for it, even though the only reason you are at the damn school is because are hopping to get a good job later and be able to pay your bills. The second is that almost all jobs can be said to be IT like since almost all of them use computers. HR people usually do the interviews and write how the job is supposed to be like and they are always so far off since they are usually the worst at understanding a IT job. So you show up and don’t have any idea what you can do since the school didn’t prepare you work AND they have no clue if you CAN do the job since they can’t do it themselves and really don’t know what the hell they are looking for. SO, have years of trying to get a good job IN your field you go into the Army because its the only way to take care of your kids!
    Good luck!

  5. I graduated from high school in 1959, enrolled in a pre-law program at a well respected university and proceeded to flunk out in my first year. After 12 years in the work force I decided to improve my situation and as a married man with a small family I enrolled in a 2 year general arts program which I completed successfully and then applied to the same university’s law school and after three years walked out with an LLB., entered private practice and spent 30+ years in my own practice experiencing the respect of my clients and the satisfaction of having been able to accomplish all of this entirely as a result of my own wishes and desires, and making a decent living in the process.

    Because I was classified as a “mature student” the university elected to forego the prerequisite undergraduate degree and as a result I cannot lay claim to having a B.A., but I did acquire an LLB., which gave me the opportunity to practice law and which they can never take away from me. These same opportunities still exist for you, if you pursue them. Although my experience was less rewarding than I had envisioned or anticipated I nonetheless found the experience to be extremely rewarding and gratifying and would not trade it for the world.

    Health care, information technology and communications may be emerging fields but suffer from an abundance of individuals desirous of entering the fields with everyone chasing the same dream.

    I strongly encourage all high school graduates to aspire to a higher degree of learning, not for the certificate or the degree, but for the opportunities and the sense of satisfaction that accompany the degree. By all means consider the technical fields, but do not ignore the academic nor the business perspectives. I was a petro-chemical lab technician before I applied to law school. Analize your abilities and capabilities, sort out you preferences and then dedicate yourselves to accomplish the desired result

    Ken

  6. I have a technical engineering, 2 BA’s, 2 MA’s and a PhD and these degrees have not done anything for me or my future. I believe the sell job these schools do is just that, a sell job to bring in income and they cannot produce the outcome, so its all a smoke screen just like the government making jobs. If you are going for a degree, get your bachelors, because companies don’t respect an education.

    • I kinda in the same boat, however going back to school for advanced degrees taught me to love life and what I do. I’ll never make a significant amount of money (teaching), however I will enjoy it no matter what. I spend my days learning and helping others and that’s good enough. I have bills, responsibilities and whopping debt like every other American and rarely do I see a significant solution to solve my problems along with the worlds, but I do see me enjoying life with whatever it gives me. It’s fragile and rare, so enjoy it while you can…

      • I have only a High School education. Had the old GI bill but was not interested in going to school. Spent 10 years in A.F. then 25 more in job i just retired from. I did not have a spend a dime on formal education. My wife spent 50,000 on education has no job and a 16,000 debt. Is it really that smart to spend more for something that may or may not happen. Like getting a JOB.

  7. Suggesting that a frustrated job-seeker or someone currently employed seek additional education just to improve their lot-in-life, is a seriously flawed rationale. It is estimated that 80 percent of all professional jobs are filled through personal contacts and networking. That number varies depending on the source, but the point being: it is not what you know but who you know. Haven’t we heard that before?
    A job seeker/career changer may be better off investing the time in developing a network of job contacts instead of spending their time and money at a college. I have seen little evidence that colleges care if a graduate finds employment (or can even help for that matter), they just want your money.

  8. When I graduate in the spring I will have an B.A. in I.T. with 3 concentrations and 5 years of exp, which I should be making generally 60k+ but the reality is that those jobs aren’t growing. The ROI on my degree will pay off for itself in time but the degree only opens the doors so that I can go on the playing field w/ other I.T. people. I would not recommend people to switch into the health, I.T. and Engineering field unless you’re truely gifted in these fields, otherwise you will hate your job. I do not see myself doing I.T. for any longer than 20 years because it’s such a stressful environment to work in. The reason why I say this is because human’s aren’t made to stare into boxes with a light in it, they’re made to interact and talk to other humans.

    With a degree or not, find your niche and find a way to make money off of it. You can’t always depend on your employers to keep you employed.

  9. I’ve been in the I.T field since 2000, same year I graduated from college with a B.S in Computer Science. I have worked in the healthcare industry most of my I.T career. I have been laid off 2 twice but got picked up by other HealthCare companies within weeks. Never really missed a paycheck. I agree with some of you this is a very stressfull career, and you must love it and be very talented or it will wash you out quick. Talent is praise in the I.T filed. I always stay on top of new technology in my field, even if I have to spend my own money to stay current in the filed. take home message gotta love what you do.

  10. I graduated in 2008 with a B.A in Criminal Justice. That same year the recession stareted. After I graduated, I couldn’t find a job in my field, since I was looking for a Government job. I found a job through a college friend, we both are NOT using our degrees. I keep on deferring my loans, since I can barely make it to survive with my current job. I am like many others other there really disappointed that I can not land a decent job, where I can apply my hard earn degree in. To make matters worse, I’m in so much debt with my students loan Its ridicoulous. I just wish I knew this before I sign on the dotted line and took out those student loans. It’s very frustarating , I just keep on hoping it will get better for all of us.

  11. I have a BA in Human Services…one of the first places job cuts are done…just put more on the ones that are already in the position. Then they wonder why they burn out. Funding for these positions depend on the county, state and federal dollars and if there is none how do you expect to get a job. I have been looking for a job since July 2010. I have had no luck, since they say not enough experience (5 years with supervisory skills included), or over qualified (what does that mean when they say that, do they want an immigrant so they don’t have to pay big wages.) What happened to taking care of the American people before we go out and help other countries. Sorry, rantiing. Do not get into the Human Services area!

  12. The point of the truth My education living and arrangement started out as scattered. as I grew deeper I realized I have more to achieve while offering not only beign in school of management and achieve . it were a long journey . the wared part about achieving I never admit I know the square root of 144 is 12 and what makes object sink to the water bottom ? gravety my chance is to demonstrate the possibility not what I know.. . in those begin time people realized that I can support my active career it turns out some people asking me what I realy want to do. it was hard to explain . I think they would not understand. today the journey worth the support and I can make it regardless of the power struggle that attack. in todays I can make business worth. life goes a long way . I never think having a short term goal .

  13. I have a BA in Spanish Literature and my plan was to get a teaching job after graduation but that never happen. Right before graduation I was offer a job in management with Walgreens and took it. I’ve been with Walgreens now for 6 years and who knew that a language degree could get me into a great job with a good company. Never underestimate the value of your degree no matter what you choose to study; whats important is that you enjoy what you study and work hard for what you want in life.

  14. I have a BS in Mathematics. I had to have it (a degree) in order to teach high school four years.By the end of each day I was completely exhausted. Even though it was very demanding, I really enjoyed my career, the students, the faculty, etc. What I was not expecting was the EXTRA 20 HOURS A WEEK that I spent at home doing paperwork!! I found out too late that other teachers stayed at school sometimes until 11 pm! Others have their husband, wife and kids helping out with all the record keeping! Yes, whatever field you pursue, be prepared to love it right into your personal life! I have now changed careers completely and we are all much happier. My “people skills” and attention to detail are what is useful, NOT my worthless BA. If I had a chance to do it all over, I would never have gone to college to get a job.

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