Dear Life Matters,
Can you give me your opinion? I’m 28 years old and I was an athlete. However, it did not work out. Do you think I should pursue my bachelor’s degree and finish school? I am working on getting my certification to work as an X-ray technician because it pays well. Let me know.
Dear Former Athlete,
Academic training can be a great way to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to launch yourself into a new career. However, before deciding whether or not to pursue a bachelor’s degree you should carefully consider how this degree relates to your overall career goals. While I cannot tell you which option will be best for you, let me share some information that might help answer the questions you have posed.
A bachelor’s degree can open up many possibilities. According to the 2009 American Community Survey, college graduates make 84 percent more over a lifetime than those with only a high school diploma. In addition, for a number of professional openings, a bachelor’s degree is required in order to be considered for the position.
Deciding whether or not to continue your education really depends on what your goals are. I would encourage you to start by sitting down and really thinking about what you want out of your professional life and career. If you have a clear sense of your career goals, start by reviewing current openings in that field. You can try job search sites like simplyhired.com or us.jobs to find current job openings. As you review the positions, pay particular notice to the educational requirements and the desired skills for the opening. Some positions may require specific academic degrees, so pay particular attention to whether or not the position asks for a specific degree, for example a bachelor’s degree in communications or business.
Another strategy you might apply is to review the LinkedIn profiles of professionals in your field of interest. For instance, if your goal is to work at a particular company, start by looking for professionals who work for that firm. Using LinkedIn you can review the professional’s resume to get a sense of their academic and professional background. If most of the people working in your dream job have a particular degree, it might be a sign that a degree is needed or valued by that industry or employer.
If you are unsure of what type of position you’d like to secure, I would encourage you to explore the career resources available at your current school. If they do not provide career counseling services, you might consider working with a career counselor to take a few career assessments. Assessments can provide additional information about your personality, interests, skills or values to assist you in your career planning. Knowing more about yourself and your goals will help you to make an effective career decision. Further, the training you have gained as a former athlete is transferable to a number of different arenas and industries and a career counselor can help you identify how this experience might translate into another field.
A bachelor’s degree is just one way to gain the academic training necessary to secure your next position. Technical training in a specific area, such as X-ray technician, can be a great way to get the practical skills needed to secure a new position. However, I would encourage you to consider your overall interest in this area beyond the salary associated with this field. Enjoying the work you do will help you to succeed in your career. From the long hours to the stressful days, having a passion for your work will help you to make it through the difficult days and still feel energized to return to work for the next shift.
Keep in mind that making one decision does not prevent you from exploring other opportunities down the road. Completing your training as an X-ray technician may help you secure work and save up the funds needed to continue your education. Gaining work experience will also allow you to test out an occupation before spending time and money on additional schooling.
KATRINA DAVY, M.A., Ed.M, is a Santa Monica-based professional career counselor who has worked in university and private settings. She holds degrees from Columbia and Cornell universities. Visit her online at www.kdcareer.com. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions are kept anonymous; let us help you with your life matters!