I don’t respect my managers’ college degrees from 20 years ago

A reader writes:

I work in the business/finance office for a large health care system that has hospitals in 5 different states.

It is driving me insane that my regional director of finance does not have any sort of finance education. She started out as a call center rep and has been around for 20+ years. Even the VP of finance has a “computer science” bachelors degree. My newly appointed “supervisor” has a bachelor’s in motion science ( he wanted to be a physical trainer but that didn’t pan out, so he too started as a call center rep and worked his way up).

I’m a few terms away from graduating with an accounting degree and a CPA certificate on top of my masters in Psychology.

The fact that my direct managers and upper level VP of finance are less educated but have “been around” for 20+ years makes no sense to me.

How can a huge organization with a complex financial and billing system be run by people with no education, or education that doesn’t pertain to the job? Does this happen at other large corporations?

It’s becoming a sticking point, so much that I don’t respect or look up to my managers.

Being promoted just because you haven’t left yet isn’t admirable to me.

Oh my goodness.

Are the quotation marks meant to imply you think their degrees are somehow crap? And that your “supervisor” doesn’t deserve the title?

And why are you assuming they were only promoted because they haven’t left? I’d assume that they were promoted because they were, you know, good at what they do.

You have a fundamental misunderstanding of how the work world works, what it values, and what qualifies you to hold a senior position. Some of the people who are best at their jobs started at the bottom and worked their way up. And tons of widely respected, high performing senior folks have degrees in subjects that have nothing to do with the work they’re doing now (or even no degree at all).

Once you have a track record of success at work, what you did or didn’t do in college years before really isn’t a highly relevant qualification anymore. What are their accomplishments? What results do they get? How do they operate? The answers to those questions are what matter.

You asked, “How can a huge organization with a complex financial and billing system be run by people with no education, or education that doesn’t pertain to the job?” The answer is that they have plenty of education; it comes from that 20 years of work experience. If you think that the only education — hell, if you think that the most valuable education — comes from school, you are still very much in need of an education yourself.

You have a deep misunderstanding of who to respect and how people earn their positions.

But do your managers a favor: If this is how you look at them, by all means go work for someone whose college coursework 20 years ago meets with your approval.

{ 1,197 comments… read them below }

    1. Windchime*

      Yeah, wow indeed. OP, come and check back in with us after you’ve got a few years of work under your belt.

      1. Liane*

        Yes, like about 20 years. Then you can see if AAM has any advice for someone with 20+ years experience and a “respectable” 20 year old degree on how to get the young, just-graduated fools your company inexplicably hired to respect you and your vintage degree.

    2. GigglyPuff*

      I’d like to add if they’ve been around for that long, it’s also possible they actually built the billing system or at least went through every single software change. And FYI the system is probably operating in five different states because of people like them, who know the ins and outs of various depts from having worked in them over the years, more so than you ever will.

    3. Sans*

      Plus, a lot of people have been in a company for 20 years – how many of them worked their way up to the head of the finance dept.? That takes initiative and hard work and flexibility. I’ll take that over a piece of paper from a university.

    4. Phideaux*

      Being one of those 25+ year non-degreed managers, I wish I had a dollar for every newly scrubbed grad who thought he/she held the gold key to the crapper just because they managed to stay in one place for 4 years. While I believe that a college education can be valuable, it is only one piece of the big picture. One of the most important things they should teach in college is that when you graduate and land your first job, you shut up, listen, and assume you know nothing about how to do the job, because most likely you don’t.

      1. mialoubug*

        I once gave this advice to a woman I managed. She was straight out of college, first job and thought she knew everything. I pulled her aside after one eye rolling meeting and basically said that she was not longer in school, didn’t have to prove she was smart, and that she was better off listening more and talking less. And she took it to heart. (I wasn’t harsh about it) Two jobs and four years later, she called me to say that this advice was the best she ever received and thanked me for it. She was still doing it and trying to help her new charge learn the same thing.

        College does NOT really prepare you for real life; only experience does that. And inexperience can be limiting, particularly if you think everything you need to know you learned in class. Not by a long shot.

        1. catsAreCool*

          I went to a community college and then to a college. I think the teachers at the community college were (in general) more focused on what we would need to know in real life than the college teachers.

      2. Ted Mosby*

        I’m 26 and really amazed at how some of my 21 year old interns seem to think 1)that they know things 2)that it’s ok to tell other people what they think they should be doing.

        I was overly terrified and differential at that age.

        I just want to take them aside and kindly explain to them that they don’t know anything, like a new born baby, so please don’t talk for a few months and just do what people tell you.

      3. Brooke*

        ” I wish I had a dollar for every newly scrubbed grad who thought he/she held the gold key to the crapper just because they managed to stay in one place for 4 years.”

        I read this a few days ago and I keep thinking about it, probably because I have family members who see my years in college as just that – staying in one place for 4 years.

        It was a lot more than that.

    5. JenGray*

      My thoughts exactly. The OP has obviously never hear of an equivalent. You could have no degree or an AA plus experience and get hired over someone who has a masters degree. School education does not mean that you are smarter than others.

    6. pinky*

      that is all I can say too. Wow. just wow.
      I have lots of fancy degrees, none NONE of those said degrees taught me about the real work world! Degrees only take you so far….

  1. Former Diet Coke Addict*

    I must confess I enjoy it when Alison takes a strip off someone.

    And why the quotes around computer science? It’s a real thing, it isn’t like they majored in ghost hunting or flower arranging or all their postsecondary education took place at charm school!

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Because apparently that degree isn’t up to the OP’s standards. O.o [<– Monacle stinkeye]

      1. I threw up in my mouth a little...*

        I think because it’s 20+ years ago, from the tone of the letter… Yes, a lot has changed in the CS field since then but a degree is all about proof that you can think practically. Getting a CS degree 20 years ago is just as hard as it is today, and all of the on-the-job learning (whether you’re in the CS field or not) would account for more than 4 years of theoretical learning…

        1. Kelly O*

          Heck, getting a computer science degree five years ago may not be “worth much” if you want to get really technical about it; applied knowledge is priceless in many fields.

          1. the gold digger*

            The software analytics product manager where I work is brilliant and designs fabulous products that make customers drool.

            He dropped out of college after one semester to work. He has been working in comp sci for 20 years. He has never had a problem getting a job because he is very good at what he does and it does not matter that he does not have a degree.

            1. manybellsdown*

              My husband left college before he finished his degree too. He’s been programming for 20 years now and has no problem getting work. In fact, he just got promoted.

              1. little Cindy Lou who*

                And the age old example: Bill Gates is a drop out. Yet look how successful Microsoft has been and how it made computing accessible for the average user.

            2. Windchime*

              The most brilliant programmer I know has an AA in Film and TV production from about 15 years ago. I would put his skills up against anyone with a fancy advanced degree.

              1. AnonaMoose*

                My father is a programmer. Worked 20 years for a higher educational system and then retired – to his own software company. He’s a high school drop out. And that’s what I love about the industry – it really doesn’t matter if you have a degree or not. Your portfolio of work speaks for itself. This OP….I couldn’t even finish Alison’s response because I was too livid from the letter.

                Ungrateful, entitled little shit.

                (phew, I feel loads better getting that out of my system.)

          2. Ezri*

            Let’s be fair, CS degrees aren’t really about learning specific programs either. The languages and software you learn depends on your school. I graduated a year ago and nothing I do at my job relates to any of the classes I took in college. Basically, I learned on Chocolate Kettles and now I work on Strawberry Teapots. It’s more about the high-level concepts if anything.

            Then again, I’m pretty sure my supervisor at my last job (who is brilliant) was a CS dropout.

            1. Kelly O*

              When I got my A.S. it was originally in Management Information Systems, and I had to take programming classes. Let’s just say I’m not qualified at all to do COBOL programming, and I’m not sure if anyone even uses that anymore. I didn’t even learn C++, I think it was just C+. And that’s been not quite 20 years ago.

              1. Anne*

                You’d be surprised at how useful COBOL is. There’s a lot of ‘older’ companies whose database infrastructure is based on it…and they have little intention of spending the money to upgrade. My father is relatively specialised in the older languages that way. Just think of how many companies stuck with Windows XP for so long, despite it being horrendously out of date. It was a practically unbreakable OS. Sadly, the programming gene seems to have skipped me.

        2. Just Another Techie*

          But 20 years ago was. . . 1995? Sure web 2.0 didn’t exist yet, but I assure you CS was A Thing. Mainframes, C, C++, the very early days of Java, the early days of consumer internet. Someone had to build the first usenet servers and bbs’s and Prodigy and Juno and AOL. (Am I dating myself? Sigh.)

          1. Kyrielle*

            Um, Usenet was more established than that in 1995. :) But yes, 20 years ago a computer science degree was quite common – it was a *very* popular field of study in the 90s, actually, because there were so many job openings. You need to go back 30-40 before it was uncommon.

            1. Just Another Techie*

              Yes, and Dennis Ritchie wrote the first spec for C in the 60s if I recall my history of CS correctly :) My point was that by 1995, CS was a very well established field, both professionally and academically.

            2. Jen in Austin*

              Heh – way more established in 1995. The Eternal September was 1993 when AOL flooded Usenet.

          2. Meg Murry*

            CS was definitely A Thing. And in fact, if it was a little less than 20 years ago as in late 90s, computer science was a VERY BIG THING, because there were a lot of computer systems that needed to be updated to fix the Y2K bugs – such as heathcare billing systems.

            Also, my husband studied computer systems in college in the late 90s, but it was under the business/accounting department, not Arts and Sciences, so his degree actually says “Bachelors of Business Administration, Accounting and Business Computer Systems.” They actually learned to build the accounting software and business systems, so they had to learn accounting principles as well and computer science skills. The main hires from his department went to banks that needed major updates to their billing systems for Y2K.

            And for anyone that says “what, Y2K was overblown hype, nothing bad happened” – yes, nothing bad happened because there were lots of people trained to go in and patch the systems so that nothing bad could happen, – without that it could have been really, really bad. But I suspect OP might be too young to even know much about Y2k .

            It is also possible the higher-ups have taken plenty of business courses along the way, either as minors when getting their original degrees, or as continuing education. Just because they don’t have another piece of paper with a degree on it doesn’t mean they don’t have the knowledge to run the department. Or they could be really good people managers and know enough to hire people with specialized education (like the OP) to do the detail work.

            1. ali*

              Yes! those of us who worked around the clock to fix the Y2K bug definitely learned how fickle computer systems can be and how to come up with creative solutions to fix them. None of that is applicable today, I’m sure.

              (I have a BA in Anthropology from 20 years ago and a Master’s on Nonprofit management from 6 years ago. But I have 25 years of programming experience, which is the entire reason I can do my job and do it better than the majority of my (young) coworkers.)

            2. Kelly O*

              I was our designated Y2K person, and I remember being at the office at midnight, sick as a dog, just waiting to make sure everything worked right. It was a LOT of work to make sure we didn’t miss anything.

        3. Cari*

          Tbh a CS degree from 20 years ago is more “proper” than one from now, imo. Me, my mum and my dad all have CS or computing. Mine was a cakewalk compared to the ones my parents did…

          1. Brett*

            In 1995 CS wouldn’t have been THAT different from now. I have CS degrees from the mid 2000s and I’d say the core concepts that have been essential for me are:
            Data structures
            Number systems and representations and basic logic (binary, hex, etc plus and/or/xor/etc)
            Operating Systems principals (memory management, threads, interrupts)

            That’s all basically exactly the same whether you learned it in 1990 or 2015. Everything else is just a language or framework and those go in an out of fashion every couple of years.

            1. The Beautiful Poem by Richard Brautigan*

              I beg to disagree.

              I taught myself how to program in 1973, first encountered the Internet in 1980, obtained my BS and MS in CS in the early 80s. Some of the items you list are correct (although “Big O” is more strictly speaking on relatively small aspect of Theory of Computation).

              If your list is accurate, then it is leaving a lot of stuff out. Numerical Methods, for instance. Logic Design and Architecture (where we’d get these choice little assignments like “implement 2’s complement division for imaginary numbers, where the numerator is composed of a 32 bit real integer part and a 32 bit imaginary integer part. Prove your solution”. And all of the math: calculus, linear algebra, linear programming (ie, the math that _Good Will Hunting_ is very loosely based on), etc. At least one class each on databases, computer graphics, networks, and fundamentals of programming languages (or perhaps a compiler construction class). And at my school, at least, you had at least one class in elementary circuit design followed by something in VLSI chip design.

              We didn’t get much on “frameworks” – perhaps in part because they were something of a new thing at the time, but also because they were ephemeral and the focus at my school was teaching a solid foundation of stuff that wasn’t going to change.

              All that said, I’m not trying to impress you with my schooling. But if schools are handing out CS degrees without covering the topics I mention, but are instead focusing on frameworks et al, then it’s like they’re not colleges anymore, but trade schools.

        4. Engineer Girl*

          CS from twenty years ago was way, way different than now. It was a lot closer to a computer engineering degree. There was less focus on programming and more focus on system architecture, interfaces, op codes, data flow. Many of today’s software people don’t know about the internals of the machine which make the snobbishness sillier. Someone from 20 years ago can tell you everything about the guts of the machine – newer people can only tell you how to use it. You also learned lots of languages and learned about computer language structure. Compilers were less efficient, so how you coded was important. For example, you could actually get faster code by having a loop count down to zero rather than count up to X iterations – it had to do with what op codes were available.

          The OP is very clearly demonstrating Dunning Kruger – and with all the confidence that someone with Dunning Kruger can demonstrate.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I really wish I didn’t have this math LD because I might have totally gotten into that. I didn’t learn how to use a computer until 199-something or other (Windows 3.1 if that helps), and I would love to know programming and code. It’s beyond my capabilities, however. *sigh* I also might have been a scientist. Probably an archaeologist.

        5. LQ*

          The CSiest people I know were all English majors over 20 years ago. I wonder if that would meet with more approval?

          1. Nashira*

            Oooh, I bet they comment their code coherently and write good documentation. The writing skills of some of my programming classmates are… Painful.

        6. JenGray*

          I think as long as you have kept up on the latest technology or processes in your field than no matter when you got your degree matters. It would be an issue if you were trying to keep doing things the same way but I don’t think that people would be promoted if you were applying 20 year old concepts that are not used any more. In some fields, 20 years old concepts (accounting, & BTW I have a Masters in Accounting) are still used but unless it is the norm its out of date.

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        I really wish ghost hunting were a real degree. Sure, it would be ridiculous, but how fun would those classes be?

        1. Lucky*

          A lot of night classes, so it would be a great program to take while you’re working a full-time job.

        2. Lizzy*

          I met a ghost hunter who was a well-known name on those cable reenactment shows about hauntings plaguing families. He had a degree in parapsychology (like the Ghostbusters).

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            Wait, so that really is a degree? From where, Grant College?*

            *that joke is going to really date me

          1. Melissa*

            From what I can tell from some poking, it looks like a lot of the more legitimate “parapsychology” research is really on human consciousness.

    2. The IT Manager*

      I am super offended by the quotes around computer science since the LW didn’t put quotes around her own areas of study, but computer science is a real scientifically rigorous degree that is likely considered a Bachelor’s of Science rather than a Bachelor’s of Arts – lots of math and computer programming classes which will come in handy when managing a large financial IT system.

      1. LBK*

        And correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t computer science actually a pretty lucrative degree? Programming, web development and IT tend to be on the higher end of the pay scale, even for entry level positions.

        1. The IT Manager*

          Yes! Although I think a wise hiring manager should prefer someone with proven experience over a degree, that degree isn’t so much designed to teach a programming language (you can learn that on your own) but how to program and problem solve.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        I got my BS in Comp Sci (30 years ago!) and they keep putting me to work on our business accounting systems! I don’t know accounting at all, have never had even one class, and yet someone (in multiple companies) must think this is the appropriate place for me.

      3. stellanor*

        The BS versus BA distinction is really a weird administrative holdover everywhere I’ve been to school (which is actually a lot of places). I know of one tech school that ONLY gives out BS degrees so you can get a BS in history. I went to a liberal arts college with a pretty broad curriculum that ONLY gave BAs so you could get a BA in biology, physics, or computer science. Where I went to grad school CS is in the college of engineering, which gives a BS, but most of the sciences are in the College of Arts and Sciences, which gives BAs, so you can get a BS in compsci and a BA in chemistry.

    3. abankyteller*

      I love it, too. She’s so tactful about telling people they are way off base. I wish I had her way with words!

    4. AthenaC*

      Ooo! Could I major in ghost-hunting? That’s it – I’m walking out of my (accounting) job today and going back to school.

      1. Lindsay the Temp*

        Just make sure you finish your degree or the other Ghost Hunters won’t take you seriously…

      2. Charlotte Collins*

        I prefer the outdoors. Can I major in Bigfoot Studies? Perhaps minor in Cupacabra Arts?

    5. Ray*

      I mean, it’s nowhere near as relevant to a finance billing system as a … masters in psychology? What? Is there anything LESS relevant to a finance billing system than a masters in psychology?

      After all that, the OP doesn’t even have a remotely relevant degree themselves. Being a few terms away from graduating is not graduated.

      I realize that’s sort of feeding into the OP’s flawed logic to even point that out, since one could be highly successful — or unsuccessful — with an unrelated degree like Psychology, as Alison rightly stated. But I mean… REALLY.

      1. Karowen*

        I totally missed that the degree was in psychology! That makes this whole deal even better.

      2. Green*

        YES. That is my favorite part about this letter. She is indignant about her managers not having something that she also doesn’t have.

      3. ScottySmalls*

        I think this is the problem. OP might have got a Masters in Psych, but couldn’t get where she wanted so she went back to school. So now she has this idea that she needs to have the right degree to get where she wants. Honestly, if I’ve learned anything from the job market now it’s that experience counts more than the degree.

        1. Ad Astra*

          Yeah, I think you’re on to something. OP sees formal schooling as the way to get ahead, so it doesn’t make sense to her that someone could switch fields without going back to school.

        2. Anx*

          I think that might be part of the problem.

          I can’t stand the attitude displayed by the OP, but I wonder if it comes from a place of trying to get started in a career, going to school, and finding out that you’re still in the inexperience trap. Maybe some of this comes from resentment over the inability to begin to similarly amass 20 years of experience in a field.

      4. Older but not yet wiser*

        And how does one graduate with a CPA Certificate? You have to pass a bunch of exams and work for a CPA (and pass an ethics review) to become a CPA. I’m not a CPA so I could be missing something but I know you don’t just get a CPA certificate when you graduate from college no matter what your degree is.

        1. Natalie*

          OP may be referring to the type of program I’m in. It’s a continuing ed certificate in accounting, and assuming the student has an existing bachelors degree, it qualifies you to sit for the CPA exam.

          1. Don*

            The degree in accounting that the OP mentioned will qualify her to sit for the CPA exams, but by no means is it a CPA license in and of itself. In most states, including WA where I currently live, a CPA requires a Bachelor’s degree, 150 semester hours which includes a certain number of general business courses and upper level accounting courses, 2,000 hours of qualifying work experience, 12 months minimum of experience, a 75 or higher on each of the 4 exams (all within an 18 month rolling window), a 90% on a state ethics exam and an AICPA ethics exam, and the experience must be signed off on by a CPA with at least 5 years of experience. And calling oneself a CPA when your state board has not awarded you the designation is a sanctionable offense which carries a steep fine. Source: I’m a CPA.

            I can understand the OP’s frustration with a Director of Finance not having a finance-related degree. It is not one of those jobs where you can learn everything on the job; it can get very complicated ith larger organizations. I prepare tax returns for corporations and part of my job includes adjusting the books so the correct figures for B/S and P/L accounts are used in the return. That is the part of the job that takes up the most time, and it is usually because the small corporation in question has a lay bookkeeper or CFO without a degree who picked up what they could on the job (and much of it was incorrect). Sure, a company may be able to survive by having someone like that as a Director of Finance, but I guarantee you they will not be operating or tracking costs and revenues as efficiently as they would if they had someone who was properly trained and educated in that discipline.

            I do respect the value that the school of hard knocks brings, but there are certain fields where a relevant degree is paramount. You wouldnt want a nurse or doctor treating you if they didnt have formal degrees and simply learned what they could on the job over a period of years, nor would you want a self-taught engineer to be the person designing the car you drive or the plane you fly in. If that company has a Finance Director without a finance or business related degree, then it is likely that the people they learned from at that company didnt either, in which case the instruction/training he/she received is flawed.

    6. Excel Slayer*

      Ooo, can I major in Ghost Hunting? Please? I’ve watched all the Ghost Buster films, so I’m sure I know everything about it.

      1. 2horseygirls*

        Oooh, yes! Like all the people who watch Animal Planet, then think they know how be an animal control officer. Here’s the gloves and the bucket – have a good time cleaning the kennels ;)

    7. catsAreCool*

      I got a BS in computer science about 20 years or so ago. It required a fair bit of science and math as well as being plenty of work in a very useful skill, programming.

  2. Lilly*

    I just don’t even know what to say about someone this out of touch with how the world works. Other than I’m happy they are someone else’s problem.

    1. SG*

      I’m just honestly so concerned that someone could think that their degrees tell them anything about the working world? Like, I majored at a school that is consistently in the top 10 liberal arts in the USA. I can very confidently tell you that my degree means literally nothing when it comes to my job. Every technical thing I do at work I learned through internships or actually working. Someone somewhere along the way really failed in OP with their world view.

    2. Melissa*

      Wait until the OP discovers how “useful” all those college degrees are in the real world. I hope he or she didn’t go deeply into debt to get them, like many others have.

      1. BalticFog*

        My guess she already had the taste of her psychology degree usefulness – hence the accounting and CPA on top of it.

    3. Sarah*

      I’m actually hoping this is someone writing in using arguments a friend makes, to vent, and demonstrate to the friend what other people think they sound like…

    4. Megan*

      I reccomend applying cold water to the burn, but other than that I’m as speechless as you are.

  3. NickelandDime*


    You know what else 20 years of work experience gives you? Spidey Senses to pick up on people like the OP. And the power to get rid of them if they need to.

    OP needs to worry about their own career trajectory at this company. Because I have a feeling they don’t have long for this world.

    1. AdAgencyChick*


      How many of us make regular use of the coursework we did in school in the course of our jobs? I’d say it’s a pretty small percentage. 20 years of experience trumps the hell out of a degree in the “right” field — or, I’d say, any degree at all.

      1. NickelandDime*

        Very few of us. In fact, I would say we have degrees to check off a box to say we have one so we can apply to professional positions. Even receptionist and administrative positions require a degree these days. But I had to “unlearn” a lot of what I learned in school, as it was taught by professors with absolutely no professional work experience. It’s a totally different ball game!

        1. AtWill*

          Not you checking off a box, HR checking off a box. No degree, in the trash you go. No questions asked, no further scrutiny warranted. Nevermind that you just tossed out a resume from someone who’s been doing the exact same job as what you’re trying to fill for 6 years, if they don’t have a degree, then they can go flip burgers.

      2. Mike C.*

        I fully agree with the thrust of your argument, but I’d also say that I think you use much more of the material than you might give yourself credit for. For me at least, I find myself using those skills in really odd applications – statistical tests originally used to look at plant populations in a field are useful for determining patterns in tool mark locations for instance.

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          I find I use the skills (writing, editing, logic/reasoning) a lot more than the actual coursework.

          But I think for those of us with Arts & Letters-type degrees, that’s really what a Bachelors is all about.

        2. Aunt Vixen*

          My personal favorite example in my own experience was when I was working in a law firm and happened to be in a database of documents related to some case or other and noticed that the metadata on a whole box of folders was wrong. Not that only someone with a linguistics degree would have noticed that they were coded as being in Dutch but were in fact in Norwegian – but my background and training certainly didn’t hurt.

        3. Chinook*

          “argument, but I’d also say that I think you use much more of the material than you might give yourself credit for.”

          It has taken me 10 years but I finally have an office support job where my colleagues are pleasantly surprised I have a B.Ed. plus teaching credentials and can’t wait until I help them create good questions for their various documentation tutorial reviews, coherent PowerPoint presentations, useful cheat sheets for various programs and an intuitive interface for a new program I helped design with a computer programmer. Any engineer who dared mock my “irrelevant degree” (like a few accountants did before they learned about my proof-reading prowess as well as the ability to read anyone’s handwriting) would quickly be shot down by my coworkers.

          1. The Strand*

            You sound like someone who would make a great usability (UX) designer, or do well as a technical writer.

            1. Chinook*

              Thanks, the Strand. I always wondered what you would call someone who designs interfaces. I have been working with our fabulous programmer and have been lucky enough not only to have similar esthetics but he doesn’t mind discussing why he does certain things. I have been known to “creep” sideways into odd jobs and this is one I have my eye on and seem to have been training for all my life. Now I just need to figure out how to get to do it full-time.

      3. the gold digger*

        Hey! Don’t be disrespecting my BA English! I talk about Dickens and Dunne ALL THE TIME in my job as the marketing person for the R&D group of a manufacturing company.

        1. Last Name here*

          Or my Geology degree that I use as I contemplate the best type of rock to throw through the window of the person I’m reporting as involved in an internet child safety case!

        2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*


          /BA and MA in English with an emphasis on editing and publication. ;)

          1. the gold digger*

            Ooops! :)

            In the manuscript for my book, I used my husband’s name – Chris – and other real names because I could not keep track of things otherwise. (If I ever publish, I will change the names.)

            I typed “Christ” by mistake several times and spellcheck did not catch it. A friend reading the draft did see it. I thought it was quite appropriate for how Doris views her son.

            1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

              I’ve found myself typing “Christ” a lot too, although much more when I was in college and taking religion classes every semester. :P

              My most recent similar typo was on a timesheet. Instead of “Date” I kept typing “Data.” Sometimes I caught it, sometimes I didn’t. :P

              And this, my friends, is why we need proofreaders, and why even proofreaders need proofreaders. ;)

              1. Alicia*

                Oh man, I do that all the time (swapping data and date), and “electron” instead of “election”. Can you spot the scientist?

            2. Elizabeth West*

              Hahaha, my ghost book’s protag is also named Chris and I made that same error. Now that I think about it, I better go back and check again because I have four queries out!

        3. Elizabeth*

          I used a quote from John Donne in a presentation about integration in health information technology. “No man is an island unto himself … Ask not for whom the bell tolls, as it tolls for thee.”

          1. Chinook*

            I regularly reference various learning styles when discussing why my boss insists on printing out everything and filing it ON her desk in neat piles (she is a visual learner).

        4. Kat*

          My History and Public History degrees actually come in handy all the time at my marketing job at a FI! People are really into nostalgia right now and I looked like a genius when I brought up the 1974 Equal Credit Opportunity Act in a meeting last week.

      4. Not Today Satan*

        I basically never use the “content” of my studies (like facts, etc.) but I definitely use skills I learned in school: writing, communications, analysis, critical thinking, etc.

        At least this is what I tell myself when I pay my student loan debt each month…..

      5. Kyrielle*

        I’m working in the same field I majored in. And yet…okay, I did learn how to think about it and some framework, but other than that? Yeah, my years of experience are a lot more useful than my degree.

        1. Ezri*

          I think my bachelors degree gave me the foundation I needed to start working, but I’ve definitely learned more marketable, provable skills in one year on the job than I did in four years of classes.

        2. YawningDodo*

          I’m in this camp as well. My master’s gave me the context for why I do things the way I do them, but it was hands-on experience that got me to the point where I’m actually good at it. Traditionally people in my field would do ALL their learning on the job; it’s only been in the past decade or two that training became more formalized. I think most people still could do their learning otj, there’d just be a steeper learning curve and less uniformity.

          My first job is where I got the skills I needed to perform my second job, and in my first job none of the experienced staff members who mentored me had the fancy degrees or certifications I do. They just knew what they were doing because they’d been doing it for decades, and I trusted (still trust) their judgment a heck of a lot more than the other young worker who kept bragging about how he got his job thanks to a certification that “no one else at the Teapot Society has.”

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            And uniformity is one of the main advantages to a comp sci degree. People can learn how to think without it (and often do), and certainly learn how to program. But at least when starting out, it’s good to have a similar baseline of knowledge.

            Software can be all over the place, and figuring out how to read and maintain someone else’s code is a big part of many software jobs. The less all over the place it is, the easier it is to maintain.

            Teaching someone how to think, and giving them about the same starting point — that’s the main advantage I’ve seen in my degree. All the rest, how to actually do the job — that is learned on the job. Every business is different, so every new job requires learning. What is learned at previous jobs is of more value than what was learned in school.

        3. cuppa*

          I’m in a field where a specific degree is required, and even then, the programs vary wildly, and many people still don’t feel like the degree gave them the skills they actually needed in this field. Sure, a lot of that is dependent on your actually day-to-day duties, but still, a degree isn’t everything.

      6. Ad Astra*

        My degree is from one of the “professional schools”* at my state university, so the program is designed to prepare you for roles in a somewhat specific field, and I do use my college coursework daily in my field. But I still developed most of my skills on the job, and I frequently have to learn about new technology or ways of doing things that didn’t exist when I was in school.

        Heck, even people who attend vocational school have to learn on the job and get promoted based on performance. It’s not possible to learn everything you’ll need for career success in a classroom.

        *At my university, professional schools included architecture, journalism, business, engineering, education, pharmacy, medicine (so bachelor-level nursing and stuff in addition to MD programs), and I guess sometimes fine arts was considered a professional school in the sense that it’s not part of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

      7. BananaPants*

        I do, but my undergrad and graduate degrees are in mechanical engineering, which is the area that I work in. Even so, I don’t regularly use a lot of my undergrad education in the workplace. I use a good amount of the material covered in statics, dynamics, measurement systems, machine design, materials engineering, stats, but not so much in combustion, heat transfer, fluids, control systems, multivariable calculus, etc. If I worked in a different specialization it would be different but there are very few generalists once someone has some work experience.

        I suspect people like me are the exception rather than the norm.

      8. Anon for this?*

        I have a Masters in Biology. And work as a software developer in the automotive industry.


        (Granted, I did Bioinformatics, but still… I rarely use anything I learned at college)

        1. Windchime*

          I have no degree at all. Zero. I have a couple of years of community college where I was working for a certificate in software development, but I got a job offer before I finished so I never went back. My title is now Data Solutions Architect on a BI team, and I’m one of the senior people on a team of 11. About half of us have degrees; the rest are self taught.

          We actually have a person at our workplace who has an advanced degree and she likes to remind people of it constantly. She is arrogant and people make fun of her behind her back because she somehow thinks that her degree makes her smarter than people who have been in the trenches for 20 years. It’s something to think about, OP.

        2. kara*

          I have a degree in History and I currently work as a Program Manager for a major telecom company, dealing with budgets in the hundreds of millions and in technology that didn’t exist 30 years ago when I left college.

          Yeah, OP is a piece of work for sure.

      9. SG*

        Nonsense! Martin Buber helps me everyday with graphic design…OH WAIT. No. Not even a little bit.

        1. Loops*

          Well, when you draw a tree, are you just drawing it or are you CONFRONTING it as its own entity?

      10. Elizabeth*

        One of the classes I took in college was in political science, regarding how government regulations are promulgated in the U.S. Our instructor photocopied an out-of-date regulation from the Bureau of Indian Affairs and gave us each a 3-page section to analyze for style & content.

        Fast forward about 20 years, and a big chunk of my job is to read & analyze government regulations as they affect healthcare, information security & business operations. I didn’t think about or even remember the class until about a year ago, when I was talking with my interim boss, trying to figure out when I’d picked up the skill, and there it was.

      11. Nervous Accountant*

        I’m an accountant (Enrolled Agent) and I don’t have an Accounting degree. Ironically, I was an English major. I fell into this field (did struggle at first) but I’m happy where I am and hopefully in a few years, my major/degree won’t matter.

      12. Shannon*

        Signed. Even as an Emergency Medical Technician, which I did waaaaaaay back in the day, where the coursework paired fairly well with what was expected of an EMT, there was still a wide gulf of knowledge that I lacked and could only be attained in a working environment. I really wish that field had a longer apprenticeship aspect (as opposed to the 70 hours in 3 months the course gave us). There were many skills, both technical and soft, that you just don’t pick up until you are actually working. It’s pretty impossible to learn to interact with a patient from just reading books and going through role playing exercises.

  4. Sans*


    I would say more but I’m trying to stop my chin from hitting the floor.

    This person is going to have life smack him/her in the face, and real soon.

  5. Sans*

    Ok, it looks like we all posted at the same time. And we all said WOW.

    That should tell the OP everything he needs to know.

  6. I threw up in my mouth a little...*

    Allison I am so glad you didn’t tip-toe around this response.
    I was a political science major in college. I now work in Automotive Project Management…
    Our senior VP in our office was also a political science major, 30+ years ago. He’s now the senior executive in our region and has been working in Automotive for 37 years.
    Honestly, when hiring people I value their work experience much more than their college degree. SO MANY (and you’re proof of this) people graduated from the academic world and have absolutely no idea how the business world works.

    1. the gold digger*

      My dad was a Russian history major. He was a maintenance control office in the air force and after he retired, taught aircraft mechanics and then junior high math.


      1. Rehabilitating Mr Wiggles*

        > My dad was a Russian history major

        The Russians have long been known for their rather more ‘rigorous’ stance on education. My understanding is that it hasn’t changed a lot since cold-war days. Not that all Russians are smart. But the ones who went to school? I’d love to see 10 or 20 of them come in and take over AAM some weekend. It would be epic.

        1. Marcela*

          At least in physics/chemistry, if you have a problem with high mathematics, go to find a Russian. They have an amazing command of maths, it’s unbelievable. No, no really unbelievable but kind of embarrassing, because we do not have the same knowledge and preparation. And the ones I’ve met are great people. One of them used to give me chocolate when I fixed his webserver, so whenever he had an issue, he was immediately my top priority =^.^= (not really because of the chocolate but because he appreciate and respected what I did, and I would stop at nothing for an appreciative and respectful user).

          1. Charlotte Collins*

            Funny – I read it to mean that the dad majored in Russian history. Not that he was a Russian who majored in history…

            1. the gold digger*

              Oh! My dad is (was) an American who majored in history, the Russian kind. :)

              I will put anyone at the head of the line for chocolate, but I am a cheap date.

              1. simonthegrey*

                My mom majored in Political Science and minored in Russian History. She’s had several jobs in varying manufacturing and inventory control positions, managing shipping (not warehouse work, not that there’s a problem with warehouse work but she did the other side of it).

            2. Marcela*

              Hehe, I wasn’t replying to the gold digger, but to Rehabilitating Mr Wiggles, who was actually talking about Russians :D

            3. Aunt Vixen*

              That’s what linguists call a bracketing ambiguity.

              (That’s about the extent to which I use my Lx degrees in everyday life, by the way. Alerting people to the fact that there’s a name for that particular kind of confusion.)

      2. Chinook*

        “My dad was a Russian history major.”

        My grandfather did the opposite. He was a retired Seargant Major who went on to become a respected curator of a trilingual museum (English, French and Polish) and actively repatriated objects back to the natives long before it was politically correct to do so. He only had grade 9 (from an Alberta francophone school) and only spoke French and English. To do that same job now, I would require a Masters in History and pass language proficiency tests. Heck, he wouldn’t even hire me as a summer student with a grade 12 education because my French wasn’t good enough.

    2. Ad Astra*

      Because I have a degree that was designed for a specific career path, I do wonder how people with degrees in political science or European history or whatever get started in their fields. Did you do something similar part-time in college and parlay that into a career? Did you start out in a fairly low-skill job that required no degree and work your way up?

      I have no doubt that liberal arts-type majors can go on to become successful in all kinds of fields, but I’ve always wondered how they got their first gig without much related experience.

      1. alter_ego*

        I wonder about this too, because my degree is in electrical engineering, so when I was looking for jobs out of school, I just went to the job positing website, searched for “electrical engineer”, and filtered out anything that required programming, because I was terrible at it. I have no clue how you would go about finding any job other than English Teacher with an English degree. I think I’d be really bad at that type of job search.

        1. Ten*

          English degrees get to do everything. People it an think “great writing and communication skills..”

          1. Elizabeth West*

            That’s what I was told when I switched majors. But I have the worst time finding jobs because of the math thing—English also points to “administrative,” and too many companies were mushing accounting work together with the adminstrative stuff.

        2. Charlotte Collins*

          Who do you think is writing, editing, and proofreading the manuals and user guides for the engineering/CS/etc. career paths? An English degree can lead to a lot of things that seem unrelated, but mine has led me to being a job trainer (written and communication skills, and I had been a TA and adjunct faculty, where I learned classroom skills), and now I work on web content. (Other people make it pretty – I make it understandable.)

          Liberal Arts degrees often indicate a flexibility and willingness to learn new things that employers want. (This isn’t always the case – some people think they’re a waste of time.) Also, I’ve known more than one person who had a Liberal Arts major and a more technical minor (or vice versa). Also, you’ll find plenty of people with a Law degree who didn’t do pre-Law but did do a Liberal Arts degree (often Political Science or Philosphy – both often allow you to emphasize law or ethics).

      2. nona*

        Did you do something similar part-time in college and parlay that into a career? Did you start out in a fairly low-skill job that required no degree and work your way up?

        This is exactly what I did with a psychology major and what my friends with liberal arts degrees did. It doesn’t translate to a career path easily.

      3. De (Germany)*

        After getting a degree in Biology, I pretty much got my job as a software developer based on having contributed to open source projects.

      4. I threw up in my mouth a little...*

        I had internships in college in political strategy, which segwayed into PR, which segwayed into marketing, which segwayed into CRM Project Management, which segwayed into automotive CRM & other project management.

        My career has been a lot of ‘right place at right time’ incidents. But it’s all about building on and expanding your existing experience.

      5. Monomynous*

        I got a degree in Literature, but needed to eat, so I started doing tech writing after college in large banking firm. I wound up becoming an SME in our systems, moved into a Business Analyst role, and then finally into a developer position. Of course, this was all during the golden age of 1999-2002, where demand for programmers seemed to outstrip supply!

      6. Anonsie*

        I think the big myth here is the belief that a degree of just the basic required coursework is going to ever qualify you for a job all by itself. You always have to do something extra outside to actually be competitive, and you always need some additional non-classroom experience.

        Even if you’re in compsci or informatics, odds are good you probably have your own interests and did some learning that wasn’t explicitly assigned in school. If you’re a bench science you still (usually, program-dependent I guess) have to find lab time in high level electives, jobs, whatever to actually get the necessary experience to actually work in a lab.

        For me, people like to tee-hee that I dipped at the last minute from chem into my soft science degree like I flunked out or something, but I did it so I could take optional high-level courses that allowed me to do hands-on work. I interned in some unrelated areas through my department as well so I could have some general office type experience. That combination is what got me my big break research job later, and I wouldn’t have done any of it if I hadn’t gone outside the actual requirements of my studies or if I’d stuck with the “useful” degree plan in chem.

        1. Ad Astra*

          This is a great point. I’ve said that my journalism degree led to finding a job in journalism, but that is in part because my degree program required us to work for campus media in some capacity (with the option to do additional, paid work for campus media if you wanted) and the faculty pushed internships really hard. So I still had to do the “something extra” you’re talking about, I just didn’t realize it was extra because everyone around me was doing the same.

          1. Anonsie*

            Exactly. And in many cases it would totally be possible to major in something you really like (concert piano or economics or whatever) while also doing that type of thing as your actual job training. I always wished I had figured that out sooner and spent more time learning some things you never get the chance to really study after college.

      7. kara*

        I put myself through college working in hotels, which required basic accounting knowledge, computer skills, and people skills.

        When I graduated, I took a job as a receptionist with a large company, while I decided whether I wanted to go to grad school or not. And from there it just took off. I learned Excel, found I had an affinity for it, got a promotion and then another job based on my Excel skills, wound up working in several different industries, and ultimately landed in Telecom. My ability to learn quickly, to be computer savvy, and to talk to people has done FAR more for me in my career than my degree in History. :)

        I’ll admit that this is not the career path I had thought about and I never imagined this is where I’d be, but I love (almost) every minute of it and I know I’m damn good at what I do, no matter what some 20 year old punk wants to say about my 30 year old History degree. :)

      8. Chalupa Batman*

        “Did you start out in a fairly low-skill job that required no degree and work your way up?”

        Pretty much. My degree is in sociology-not a whole lot of ads in the newspaper for that skillset fresh out of college. Where it paid off for me was advancement. I would never have gotten looked at for the job I have now with my degree alone, but paired with my experience, it was a great fit. The draw for a degree that doesn’t tie to a specific job is that you can bend it to your will over time, but it’s often at the expense of more immediate secure employment. You have to be patient, driven, and a little creative to draw the connections for employers and to turn the skills you learned both in school and on the job into something measurable. Degrees with career paths built in do some of that for you. I definitely think a more abstract degree produces (and attracts) a different type of employee than a career focused degree. Lucky for us, the world needs both types.

        Side tangent: I hate the popular opinion that social science degrees are useless, because while none of us are probably ever going to get rich off of our jobs, my classmates and I have developed into quite a successful bunch, and I’m pleased with my career trajectory so far. And I use my degree. A lot. As much as I hate “do what you love” as standalone career advice, I really enjoy sociology, so I’ve gravitated toward jobs where that knowledge base was relevant, and tried on several fields before I picked one, growing and becoming more marketable with each job. I promise, parents of soc majors, your child has not chosen an inevitable fate of working three random part time jobs forever.

      9. SG*

        I went to a liberal arts school as did most of my friends and many of us had liberal arts/humanities degrees. Really any position that requires having gone to a good school and being intelligent will hire you. So, a lot of admin stuff, any grad schools like law or business (which lead directly into those careers) and so on. I always think of science/math-y jobs as being far fewer than ones that liberal arts lend themselves to, but that might be just me privileging my experience (if that makes sense). I didn’t work at all in college, just internships or retail during the summers.

      10. NoCalHR*

        I have a BA in History, plus what my school called a ‘teaching minor’ (3 classes/9 credits) in Russian Studies, Psychology, Political Science. My life plan was to teach 6 – 8th graders. Life happened, I went to work as a buyer for a small company, became a purchasing agent supervising a staff of 6; eventually moved to another company as an Admin Assistant, into Technical Support, Customer Service and HR. Now have 2 BAs (History; Management), 2 MAs (Management; Human Science (cross-disciplinary); Ph.D. (Organizational Systems). Knowledge, skills and curiosity, combined with experience = professions I enjoyed, opportunities for growth and development, and lots of wins playing Trivia games!!

      11. Nervous Accountant*

        Good question.

        I started out by volunteering at a nonprofit that prepared taxes for elderly/low income taxpayers….That led to a part time, seasonal, paid position, which led to another position and that experience made me a great candidate for another seasonal position at a small private company. While working there, I learned about the EA license, studied and passed. That led me to my first job as an accountant, and here I am.

        This was all in about 4-5 years. It’s taken a lot of effort and lots of setbacks and tears and sweat. But…..it’s possible. I still have a long way to go, but at least I’m finally there….

      12. Bagworm*

        I often think if I had to do it over again I would have picked a major that had a clear, correlating profession. But then I think again about how much richer my life is because I studied American and Women’s Studies and figure I probably would go that route again. I started out my professional life while I was still in school when I took a temp-to-hire admin type job. I’ve run through a very diverse gamut of areas of work since that time (frontline social service, fundraising, accounting, IT, and now government compliance). I’ve found that excelling at what you do is the best way to move ahead in whatever direction you want. I’ve also found that other folks with interdisciplinary degrees are more likely to hire me. They understand that my degree didn’t just teach me about specific facts and events, it taught me a way of thinking that can add value to almost any position. If you’re talking to someone who had a more traditional/less liberal arts degree, you just have to find a way to communicate that (and/or let your accomplishments speak for themselves). I will also admit that I am a lifelong learner (as cheesy as that phrase sounds) and with every new job, I’ve taken advantage of any opportunity to get as much training as possible in any area I can. It’s not always an easy course and as others have said it’s not often a particularly lucrative one but I absolutely love my degree and career path and would have been much too bored if I’d had a career laid out in some logical order before me at the end of my college education.

      13. MaryMary*

        My first job out of college was an entry-level position in a specialized area that is not covered much – if at all – in any college cirriculum. OldJob was looking for candidates with strong analytical, problem solving, and communication skills. They hired a lot of business, economics, and math majors, but they also hired history, political science, chemistry, English, Spanish, and communication majors. There were a few people without as well. Because it was a specialized area and we used proprietary software, new hires had to be trained from the ground up regardless.

      14. knitchic79*

        There is a running joke at my job that to go anywhere in the company you need a degree in music or poly sci. I haven’t finished a degree, might at some point go back to finish a pastry chef degree (if I feel like my family’s waist lines can take it lol).
        I’ve been with my company nearly a decade. I’ve been a proven performer, order a major section and help train. If I wanted to move up, degree or no, my supervisors would make it happen.
        OP trust me your supervisors know what they are doing, books and classes about your field isn’t how they got there, but they got there. Anyone who can work their way up from call center to VP has earned my respect.

      15. simonthegrey*

        My dad was a Philosophy and Theology major. He was going into a pastoral program to be a minister, but he changed his mind. Instead he took a job working nights at a pretty major company where I grew up, basically carting the tape from the computing machines (pre-computers/early computers) to the archives. He worked his way up to mid-level management across three very large corporations, in charge of billing cycles. He wasn’t strong in the computer side of things, but he was a great manager and knew how to get to other people’s strengths. He has finally stepped down from that role to do something much less stressful, but for him it was just a matter of applying his people skills and motivation skills, more than any hard skills.

      16. Rana*

        Ad Astra, speaking from my experience as a History Ph.D., there’s actually a very defined career ladder: you teach part-time while in grad school (and maybe do some grant-funded research), then apply for assistant professorships upon graduating, which hopefully translates into tenure-track positions in the future. (It can get incredibly arcane; some institutions just require a history degree, like community colleges, where you teach pretty much anything, while others are looking for something like a person with a specialty in environmental history of the mid-twentieth century with a minor in gender studies and communication.)

        That’s the theory, anyway. In practice, a lot of people end up stringing together no-future adjunct positions, hoping to earn enough money to pay off loans while putting higher ambitions on hold. The structure remains, but the number of long-term, sustainable jobs available is dwindling rapidly.

        Indeed, the rigidity of the academic career path has meant that I – and many other Ph.D.s who’ve had to bag the whole thing – have been at a bit of a loss as to how to switch to another career path. Once you fall off the ladder, there’s very little guidance as to what to do next. The idea of starting afresh at age 45 is daunting.

        (I do work as an editing and indexing freelancer, and it’s good and interesting work that somewhat taps the skill set I developed in academia, but I couldn’t support myself on it alone. Still, it’s better than trying to persuade employers that a 40-something Ph.D. with a crappy resume is worth taking a chance on.)

      17. Tammy*

        Political science degree here. I wanted to work for non-profits, so I looked for entry level office jobs that weren’t looking for experience. Now I’m a grant-writer/fundraiser and I do a lot of writing, data analysis, and talking about numbers (all related to my major).

        Just think of it this way–there are a lot of jobs out there which don’t have a degree tailor made for them. No one offers bachelor’s of grant writing, or fundraising, or program design.

      18. Felicia*

        Me too…depending on where they got it. My degree is also designed for a specific career path, and though I’m not doing that now, I’m doing something intimately related. Though there is no school for doing this specific thing that i’m doing. There are several schools here with mandatory internships or co op placement, even for those types of majors, and they get to try a lot of different things so that makes sense.

      19. JayemGriffin*

        While I was doing my English MA, I also held a work/study job in the records department, where I discovered a knack for managing and organizing data. When they decided to implement a new system, they asked me to stay on and help with it full-time, and one thing just led to another from there!

      20. techandwine*

        I have a BA in English and I work as a technical writer/beginner programmer. You have no idea how valuable people in the tech field find solid writing and communication skills.

    3. Shannon*

      My husband works in fairly technical project management in a company where the only bar to becoming a manager or coordinator is having a four year degree. Part of the reason for this is because very few colleges in the country teach his industry. This company has hired people with degrees in everything from their specific field to English majors. Admittedly, the people with a background in their degree have a smaller learning curve, but it’s not unusual for people in non related degrees to have better soft skills.

    4. 2horseygirls*

      I was a public relations major in college. For the last 20 years, I’ve been in a variety of administrative support roles (where I used my classes and degree to some extent).

      However, I’ve also been an equine humane investigator, and now spend my non-working minutes and hours coordinating the training of first responders to safely extricate large animals from trailer wrecks, mud, swift water, holes and confined spaces and more.

      My husband has an AAS in culinary arts, and makes twice+ what I ever will, and is even more passionate about what he does now than when he was fresh out of culinary school.

      My friend who has a BS in Accounting, and her MBA, went back to school to become a counselor. Another friend who got a degree in broadcast journalism worked in marketing and is now head of security for a casino. Another friend who got a degree in fashion merchandising ended up opening her own shop for paper goods and wedding invitations. Another whose original degree was in biomedical engineering went back to school to be a special needs teacher.

      On the other hand, another friend knew she would become a dentist when she was 8, and has built a very successful practice. Another is loving being a history teacher (think Ben Gates as your teacher :) ). Another has had a 15+ year legal career with one of the most recognizable brands in the world in their employment law and occupational health divisions.

      What you decide to get a degree in when you’re 20 is not necessarily what you will be doing the rest of your life. Let’s think about some of the other things we were all so “sure of” at 20 . . . . . (shudders) Eeek!

  7. spek*

    Great response. From the old grizzled seargent with the overeducated newbie officer, to the hard boiled reporter with a 25 year old editor, the naive stupid kid vs the veteran with life experience is a total cliche…but it is still apt, it seems….

  8. NickelandDime*

    And please, no attacks on “Millennials.” I’m not a “Millennial,” but the OP is indeed a special snowflake and definitely not indicative of any particular age group. Lots of people of all ages walk around thinking they are better than others.

    1. I threw up in my mouth a little...*

      Totally concur. I am a millenial and this makes me sick. This person just is so out of touch with the world…
      And yes, maybe quite a few new whipper-snappers in the work place may think this way… but usually you have that slapped out of you pretty quickly.

      My husband had an internship in college. They put him up with 2 other interns in an apartment. He and one guy would always come home after work to find their 3rd roommate home already. When asked why he was already home, “Well, I’m just way faster than all the older people at the office expect the work to be finished, so I just leave…” WOW. My husband was also fast, but when he finished ONE thing he’d ask for the next thing! The guy got an offer from the company, but he’s since been fired. (this was obviously some time ago)

    2. UKAnon*

      As I seem to fall squarely in the middle of the Millenials wherever you date them, all I’ll say is that all the people I know well in my cohort have not necessarily been immune from thinking themselves right on occasion where it may not have been warranted (guilty!) but have all been ready and eager to listen to and benefit from Experience (in all of its forms) Maybe just good selective choosing on my part ;-) but still, just to throw out a data point.

      1. AnonaMoose*

        Well, and I think you now see the issue. Special snowflakes + bad economy = COLD HARD REALITY. Hey, at least you’re catching on to the ‘life can suck more if I let it; I better open my ears’ habits of your elders. :)

    3. Ad Astra*

      As a Milennial myself, I sometimes wonder if our generation is becoming disillusioned with idea of a college education and might, on the whole, value experience a lot more. It seems like most of us were raised with the expectation to go to college because our parents believed it practically guaranteed us a good job with a middle-class income. So we borrowed tons of money to go to college, then graduated into a ridiculously tough job market where bank tellers and baristas all have bachelor’s degrees. Meanwhile, hiring managers have no reason to hire inexperienced new grads when they can pick and choose from people with years of experience in the same field, even sometimes the same position.

      The job market is certainly improving, but the experience has led me to think of my education as an expensive personal development experience (complete with some solid networking) rather than a ticket to career success.

      1. Another Commenter*

        I agree. I actually feel for the letter writer a bit, because this type of thinking is something I believe was more or less spoonfed to Millenials. I generally hate stereotyping generational behaviors, but I think it’s pretty well-documented that Millenials were the generation who were sold the idea that a college degree was Important and THE only right way to get into the working world. I know when I entered the working world, I was a little resentful of the fact that I had supervisors who had less education than I. It doesn’t take long to realize, however, that working knowledge is more important than theoretical. The letter writer will get there.

        1. Tinker*

          One thing I think here is — there’s a lot of stuff which targets Millennials that basically goes along the lines of “well what did you expect, you didn’t get a STEM degree, you wasted all that money on something useless and now you deserve what you get for your foolishness.” I’m thinking it’s something who has a master’s in psychology and who now, AFTER THAT, is going back to school for another degree in accounting, has probably heard at some point. And, it seems, internalized.

          For someone who believes that stuff, it really has got to be galling to see people at higher levels who are rampantly successful despite having obviously done precisely the thing that is now said to be obvious foolishness leading to ruin. But truth is — that stuff is basically just a rationalization to explain the sudden simultaneous dip in the economy and the virtues of youth (funny how that happens, innit?). Really, neither the OP nor their coworkers deserve such treatment.

          1. Tammy*

            This is a great explanation. You can just see it playing out:

            You need a degree if you want a job – check
            Actually, you’ll never get a job without a Master’s (something I heard a lot in undergrad) – check
            Still no luck? Well you’ll never get anywhere without a STEM degree – check

        2. anonnnymus*

          I’m in Gen X, and I was raised with the idea that going to college and majoring in something that I could get a good job in was important. It worked for me, but it’s not the only path. I actually majored in “computer science” about 20 years ago. It’s a tough major, or at least it was. It is nice to have the degree – it helped a lot when getting a first “real” job.

          1. Shannon*

            Same here. I feel that the Millennials have been sold the idea that you should get an education for the sake of having an education, it doesn’t matter what it’s in. Yes, to a certain extent, an education is its own reward. However, most people don’t have the luxury of spending large amounts of cash on self improvement simply for the sake of self improvement. Most people need a marketable skill at the end of the day to put food on the table.

            1. Melissa*

              Yes. People originally told us that we should get an education in whatever, it didn’t matter! and also, do what you love! That’s because we grew up during the relative prosperity of the 1990s and early 2000s. The economy tanked a few months after I graduated from college. The younger Millennials are now being told that anything other than business, computer science, or engineering is worthless and they shouldn’t do it. (And they’ve internalized that too – I moderate an online forum that’s dedicated to college admissions and life, and I’ve actually bookmarked unemployment rates and starting salary data because I’ve heard “you can’t get a job with a BA in English” so many times.)

        3. Fruitfly*

          I also wanted to give a reminder that many people are not has lucky as the OP’s managers. There are many people out there with degrees that are unrelated to the field they wanted to pursue. They developed a lot of skills relevant to their loved field, but they get rejected when they applied for those jobs because many companies still demand a degree. I think maybe is a company reputation thing.

          When people hear these stories, they are not willing to take a risk of just “giving college” to gain work experience. That is also a risky move!

          I also don’t think that higher education is completely useless. In my graduate classes, I learned to write reports that I did not have a chance to learn in my previous internships and current job.

          You can’t think that entering college will definitely give you a job, but you also can’t think that just gaining the work experience would either.

          There is so much factors involved in finding jobs and hiring people.

          I do agree that the OP sounds condescending. The OP should not look down at the managers like that. The OP should just see that different generations of people will have different methods of getting the job. Maybe it was easier to get work experience in the earlier generation than in the Millennials’ generation; therefore, Millennials need to stay in school longer.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        College used to do that because college education was so rare. In your parents generation less than 50% of the people had a college degree. It was actually a discriminator for those with enough gumption to get through. They flunked people more too, so the degree meant something.
        Now almost everyone has a degree so it’s not a discriminator anymore.
        Now days the rare bird is someone with skilled labor, such as a plumber, an electrician, etc. These people are in high demand because there aren’t enough of them for the population. If you are willing to get your hands dirty then it’s better to go this way than a communication major.

        1. Dr. Speakeasy*

          Wait… those numbers are off. Right now about 40% of working-aged Americans hold a college degree. It would have been much lower when “young boomers” hit the job market.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            Actually, I meant it for professional positions. But you are correct for the entire population.
            I just looked up for the 80’s and only 17% of high school graduates got a 4 year degree of any type. Most of those degrees are for a BA, not a BS. So it really did mean something.

        2. MissyMay*

          I think it also is a product of jobs asking for very specific degrees and skills. People start to think that degrees and specific experiences are the only way to be qualified or good at a job.

        3. Today's Satan*

          Yep. My plumber charges $200/hour. Hardly any mid-level white collar jobs pay that much.

          1. Eliza Jane*

            Your plumber almost certainly doesn’t get $200/hour that he works. I’ve had conversations with people about this before — he charges $200/hour, but that is excluding things like his equipment costs, any money he pays to admin staff or assistants or lawyers, advertising costs, his time doing bookkeeping, his time maintaining his certification, insurance, licensing fees, self-employment taxes, etc. The nature of that kind of trade is also that you don’t get to just show up, work 8 hours, and leave — you have much less continuous and consistent income. The money you pay to a business cannot be compared to a salary, even if that business consists of one person, which many plumbing businesses don’t.

      3. Sunshine Brite*

        Agreed, I know that’s been a big problem at my liberal arts school. It’s well known, rigorous, challenging, but didn’t translate nearly as well following the recession into substantial opportunities for students to just get a BA and get going like it used to. When you talked to alums, it was all oh yes, I got this degree and it showed all sorts of awesomeness and I got a job just by sending in my info. Now it’s like, I’m working part-time and struggling and can barely get my loans covered.

        1. Cactus*

          It’s difficult. I have a sort-of-friend who frequently gripes about how he’s never being considered for jobs he thinks he’d be good at (and he probably would be), “even with a bachelors.” I think his sense of the way the world is working right now is somewhat dated…but if I tried to impart a bit of reality, I’m afraid I’d get my head bitten off. (For the record: we’re both millennials, I’m 2 years older, we come from similar backgrounds, but I have a master’s degree…though it’s not like my job is some sort of glamorous wonderful niche thing celebrating the wonder of me.)

      4. CMart*

        I agree with you very much.

        While I think the OP is extremely short-sighted and obviously way too arrogant for their own good, the overwhelming sense of frustration radiating from the letter resonated with me. Anyone who began their career search in the last 10 years has had a really hard time of it.

        It really is demoralizing to be staring down a mountain of student loan debt with your hard-earned degrees moldering in their frames while the regional director of operations of the company you interned for (but couldn’t/wouldn’t hire you) has no formal higher education and worked their way up from a cashier position. That person is probably extremely qualified now, after all of the years of experience, but it’s a bitter pill to swallow. It’s very unlikely these days (barring some tech-specific fields) that a high school graduate can “work their way up” to a senior position. It seems deeply unfair that the current crop of upcoming professionals MUST get a degree-or-two (and bear the huge cost associated with that) while our new bosses likely didn’t have to endure that struggle.

        1. Ad Astra*

          For me, the most frustrating part is that my college debt means I literally can’t afford to start at the bottom and work my way up. It’s not that I’m too good to take a $12/hour gig to get my foot in the door, it’s that doing so would force me to default on my loans. If I weren’t paying $900 or so each month for my education, I could probably get by on $12/hour for the sake of advancing my career.

          1. Ann Furthermore*

            I really feel for you and everyone else out there who has so much student loan debt to pay off. It must feel so overwhelming. I was very, very fortunate that my parents were able to help me get through college. They paid for my tuition and books, and I worked and paid my own living expenses. I was broke all the time, but I managed to get by.

            My stepdaughter will be 18 in September, and will graduate from high school next year. We’ve already told her that we can’t spend $30-$40 grand a year for her to go to a traditional 4-year school. There’s money for college, but not an unlimited amount, and it’s a matter of making sure we’re spending it wisely and getting the biggest bang for our buck.

            I’ve encouraged her to explore the school I attended. It’s in a downtown location, and there are no dorms or high-profile sports teams that need to be funded with room and board fees and/or sky-high tuition. It’s pretty much the last affordable school in the state, and we’d be able to handle the cost. It was a fun place to go to school because there were so many cool things to do downtown, plus it had a great, diverse mix of people, ranging from late teens/early 20’s all the way into their 50’s.

            I told her she could probably get loans to go to a traditional, 4-year school, but that she’d be buried under debt before her first day of her career. She’s very practical, and agreed with what we told her — she lived with her mom, who is the most financially irresponsible person on earth — until she was 14. So she’s had a lot of lessons in what not to do.

          2. Green*

            I get this, partially, because my massive student loans led me to completely ignore jobs I would have enjoyed because they didn’t pay enough so that I could live comfortable while paying off said massive loans. But if I hadn’t been able to get a job that did let me pay it off, I’d have gone with Option B: income-based repayment and getting the best job I could get.

            I get that you won’t take $12/hour job if you have other options, but you literally have to take some job or you’ll default on your loans anyway.

            1. Ad Astra*

              Oh yes, $12/hour is better than $0/hour, for sure. But given the choice of taking a job I don’t love for, say, $20/hour or a job I might love that could help me switch to a new industry for $12/hour, I don’t have the freedom to take the latter.

              In my case specifically, this meant I didn’t have the option of interning after college, which is common for journalists and can get you in at some really impressive publications. Instead, I had to find a permanent position that paid (a little) more in a less exciting area. It still worked out, I guess.

              I am very upset that most of my debt is from a shady private company that doesn’t offer any kind of income-based repayment. Grrrr.

        2. V2*

          It depends on where you work. I work for a large, successful, but privately owned company that was founded by a college dropout. Degrees matter very little there and many employees (including myself) at varying levels of seniority came in through our call center and worked up the ranks.

        3. Observer*

          It’s a bitter pill to swallow. But reactions like the OP’s are just stupid. Sorry, there is no kinder word for it.

        4. anonnnymus*

          “our new bosses likely didn’t have to endure that struggle.” You don’t know what kind of struggles the new bosses did have to endure. Hard to compare when you don’t know.

        5. Sarah*

          Not to diminish the problems of today, but people who began their careers in the early 90s were also doing it in the middle of a recession. I graduated in the UK in the mid 90s and it was a given that everyone had to start in an entry level call centre etc job while they looked for a proper career, and the graduate careers we were promised in school just didn’t exist. These things are cyclical, and it’s very likely the supervisor faced huge debt & problems getting work too.

          1. Natalie*

            Recessions certainly come and go, but they’re not all created equal. This most recent recession is the worst since at least the 40s.

            1. Sarah*

              That doesn’t make life harder for the supervisor who graduated 20 years ago, than for the OP who has a good job in a multinational.

              1. Natalie*

                Yes, if you compare one best case scenario to one worst case scenario you’ll find a great difference, I’m sure.

          2. Ad Astra*

            Not that it’s a contest, but the most recent recession was much worse than the ’90s recession AND people who graduated in the ’90s paid (and borrowed) drastically less for college, even adjusted for inflation.

            1. Rana*

              As a ’92 college graduate and a ’99 grad school graduate, who later tried to switch careers in the late 2000s, I have agree. Both sucked in terms of the economy, but the expectations of employers have grown ridiculously stringent over the interim. Back then, it was a matter of finding a job; now it’s a matter of finding the job and convincing them that you already know how to do it perfectly without any training. (And that’s even without the loans issue.)

          3. Sans*

            I graduated in 82, which was considered the worst recession since the Depression, until 2008. I also was laid off in early 2009. So I experienced two of the worst job markets ever. 2008/2009 was worse. Far worse than anything I’d ever seen.

          4. Tammy*

            Yah, that’s something I heard from my parents. They would mention that they got out of school right in a recession and how that hurt them early in their career. But I also got to see how they moved from job to job and ended up very comfortable.

      5. Anonsie*

        This was a big part of it for me, yeah. My parents were not educated (dad dropped out of 8th grade) or wealthy, and they assumed like many people did that if I went to college I would be able to make enough money to easily pay off whatever debt was incurred with that. They didn’t have any money to pay for my schooling so it’s all debt now, but they were really sure this was ok– in fact everyone in my community did, when I said I didn’t know if I should go to college right away due to cost my high school career counselor and all those types of people all insisted student loans were totally fine and I could just pay them off.

        Of course they’re much larger now than those people anticipated, and it’s hobbled my ability to do save money or even get basic things like own a car. I couldn’t live alone even if I wanted to, I couldn’t make rent. And that’s with me having a pretty good job in the field I wanted now. Before I got that it I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. I moved back in with my mom at first and got some manual labor gigs since that’s what I knew (that’s what my dad did) and when I told my dad on the phone he cried and said “this isn’t the direction this family was supposed to go.” This was during the worst of the recession, though, if I was graduating now I probably could have gone into my field right away. But those first few years did kneecap my earnings overall and the affects will likely be long term.

        Pretty classic for what’s happened to a lot of people.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          Just an FYI here, it was hard to own a car back then too (I had a barely working rust-mobile with holes in the sides). I couldn’t live alone (had to have several room mates) and I lived in a skanky side of town. The furniture was all used. I had a degree in electronics engineering, which was fairly prestigious. I earned less per hour than the person that worked the copy machine.
          My point is that most generations have a hard time starting out. People see 50-60 year olds with lots of wealth. That’s because they’ve been saving and investing for 30 years and had time to accumulate that wealth. When we were in our 20’s we were on a strict budget too.
          One big thing is different. In my generation you worked your way through school because student loans were rare. That meant that it took 6 years to get a 4 year degree. We graduated very tired but with no debt. That meant that we could start saving right away. That made a huge difference for wealth accumulation later on.

          1. Anonsie*

            Sure, I’m not comparing generations here. My parents never lived alone, we even had roommates when I was a kid, and we didn’t have a vehicle until I was older. I’m saying the pattern specifically of taking on a lot of student loan debt due to the belief that the resulting income will easily cover it, then being hobbled by that debt, is a really common pattern now and I fit the archetype perfectly.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            My friend commented the other day, “When I got my law degree, you could pay for school as you went along. Unlike now. You just kept working and going to school, it was tight but you could make it. Now you can’t.”

          3. esra*

            The difference is today we work our way through school and need to take student loans. Everyone would be starting their education well into their twenties if they waited until they saved enough to pay for it all.

      6. AnonaMoose*

        Have you seen Reality Bites? We Xers went through the same thing when we graduated straight into a recession. Times move forward, the economy rebounds. It’s like childbirth – you kind of forget how bad it truly was. Just make sure, whatever you do, that you invest in whatever retirement plan is made available to you when you do land a job. You’ll easily make up the difference since you’re starting so much young. Hang in there!! :)

        1. Maeve*

          When the hell are we going to get a job that offers a retirement plan though?

          (28, been working full time since I graduated college, yet to have that perk.)

          1. esra*

            I think that’s where the boomers and gen xers have a tough time wrapping their head around things. They had a lot of the same benefits that just don’t exist now.

            1. Llc*

              Try being a Gen X small business owner. I pay the full load for all medical and dental and will likeky never have retirement and probably work till I drop. That said…the recession didn’t touch me one tiny bit. I give up a lot for my business but many a time I’ve been grateful that (while it could fail) I will not likely lay myself off.

      7. Pinkie Pie Chart*

        I do not have a degree myself, but there are so many places where if you can’t tick off college graduate, you can’t get a toe in the door, much less the rest of your foot. Not that I agree with that. Having just been on the job hunt, it SUCKS when you have everything except one checkbox which throws you out.

        I’m in my final year and will be (finally) getting my BA. But that’s really only good for the checkbox (especially since I’m not going into my major field). My nearly 20 years of experience are MUCH more relevant for hiring purposes.

        1. RO*

          Either way you are out of luck. I worked at a place where if you had no degree (MA in anything preferred) your 20 years of experience did not matter you were not being hired. It is unfortunate because there were individuals with potential who had been in the same role for years and would not move up.

          Fast forward to next organization which values advanced degrees (Ivy type schools preferred). I once referred to some thing someone with a BA had said and my director told me that they do not know what they are doing so I should not pay much attention to what they have to say.

      8. The Strand*

        I think for whatever reason, more Gen Xers had that bitter experience with the idea of college being “something you check off so you can get a decent job”.

        I think when the economy got better, and more competitive… their younger siblings were now encouraged to think you “had to go to college if you wanted to do well”.

      9. Jaydee*

        Also, so many jobs seem to want a very specific degree or certification in a very specific field/major/etc. That makes it that much harder to change fields, even if you have the experience to do the job. Plus, a lot of jobs actually need or benefit from such a wide range of experience that it’s hard to pigeonhole people based on their degree or work history.

      10. Rana*

        The job market is certainly improving, but the experience has led me to think of my education as an expensive personal development experience (complete with some solid networking) rather than a ticket to career success.

        Right there with you, as a Gen X Ph.D. ;)

        (I don’t regret my degree, but I do regret the years afterward when I thought it meant more than it did.)

      11. einahpets*

        The problem is that employers will choose the candidates that do have the college experience over someone who doesn’t, though.

        1. Anx*

          I don’t know if this is true.

          Many times employers will deliberately screen out anyone with a college degree, assuming they are a flight risk and will leave for another job. Other times I think they assume they are more expensive. Which is strange, because I think many college grads would rather have a steady income in the low 20s than scrambling together a bunch of smaller gigs.

          1. einahpets*

            It might not be true everywhere and every industry, but at least in the science / clinical research field (my area) it is for many ‘entry level’ positions. Sure – postings will list Bachelors or equivalent experience, but those postings usually mean 3-4 or more relevant years of experience in the same field, which is going to mean a tough entry for someone without the degree. Compound that with the fact that someone serious about a job in the sciences will likely also be doing some sort of part-time cheap labor job at a research lab during her undergrad (at definitely not a living wage), and it will make it harder for someone out of college to compete, IMO. I am not saying it can’t be done, but I think it is harder nowadays.

            I have heard your opinion in terms of advanced degrees (MS), but never for bachelors degrees.

            1. Anx*

              I’m STEM, too. Many of the jobs in my area are looking for people with an A.S. and experience instead of a bachelor’s.

              But since I wasn’t serious enough about it and worked in other fields outside of science during college, I had to look at many non-stem jobs. I couldn’t even get the jobs I had done before college. Leaving my degree off wouldn’t help because then I’d have a huge 4 year gap right after high school before the recession.

              I think it’s probably regionally dependent, too.

      12. Anx*

        If I knew then when I knew now, I never would have gone to college.

        A lot of my classmates who floundered a lot in high school are doing much better than those of us went to college. They bounced around aimlessly or got into some trouble maybe but after a year or two they got service jobs or entry-level work and got in a few years of experience before the recession hit.

        1. einahpets*

          I guess I was lucky in college in the sense that I had to work all the way through. So I got more than a degree; I got 4 years of part-time experience tinkering around in different research labs until I found an area I was interested in. Those experiences probably wouldn’t have been available to me outside of the university, as they were supported as work studies / undergrad fellowships. But I was lucky to have gone to a pretty well known research university with a really active tradition of getting undergrads involved and opportunities abounded if you looked for them.

          But even my friends outside of the sciences worked through college in a lot of those service / entry level jobs you are talking about… maybe it is partly related to where I went to school (lots of kids from blue collar families) and undergrad being about half what it costs now (so you had a hope of getting through with manageable debt if you worked), but it was not very common to not be working at all during school.

          1. Anx*

            That was probably pretty helpful. I couldn’t afford to do the summer research programs and needed to find paid work on or near campus (I did not have a car). At the time, I thought I’d gain some transferable soft-skills. I ended up working outside of science throughout college. I wish I had done retail or fast food instead of what I did (student services) because then I’d probably have had a better chance of getting those retail and fast food jobs out of college.

    4. nona*

      I’m actually not sure that the OP is a millennial. They have a B.A. in something, an M.A. in psychology, and they’re near the end of an accounting program.

      1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        It depends on how they’re counting. Some people count me (born in 1980) as a millennial, others have people born in 1983 as the start, others go even later. It’s possible to be in your 30s and still technically belong to the millennial generation.

      2. VintageLydia USA*

        The oldest Millennials are in our early to mid 30’s (depending on where you put the start date.) It’s possible this person did these degrees pretty much back to back and still be a Millennial, though they’re most likely on the cusp of Millennial/Gen X.

      3. K*

        Yeah, what counts as a millennial? I thought I would be counted as one. I was born in 1989 and have a BA, and MS, and 3.5 years of work experience.

        1. Ad Astra*

          Yep, you’re a Milennial. I was born in 1988 and I think that puts me right around the middle of that range. Because technology has changed so quickly, a lot of People Who Know Stuff have begun grouping generations into smaller ranges. Someone who’s 27 now grew up under very different circumstances than someone who’s 17 now, so it doesn’t make sense to put them in the same generation. Baby Boomers, on the other hand, were born between 1946 and 1964, which is a huge range.

        2. Melissa*

          The most commonly given start year is 1982, although I’ve seen it given as early as 1980. End year ranges from 1994-2000. It kind of depends on the sociologist – some people claim that the Millennial generation is defined in part by being old enough to have experienced and understood the 9/11 attacks, and were between 10 and 20 when they happened, which would make the age range 1981 to 1991. Others define us as the “echo boom” that are mostly children of baby boomers and do it based on the birth upswing that happened from 1983 to 2000. Either way, you’re definitely a Millennial.

      4. Dr. Speakeasy*

        I’m a millennial and I have a PhD and 6+ years of exp. It’s actually the kids coming into college right now that are really no longer millennials (Gen Z? Generation We-haven’t-decided-why-you’re-terrible-yet?)

      5. The Strand*

        I’m thinking they could be as young as 23 or 24.

        That would be 4 years (or 5) for the bachelor’s. 2 years for the master’s. 1 year to prep for the CPA licensure (which one of my friends did only about 6 months after finishing her accounting degree). Assuming they started at 18 (they don’t sound like they took a gap year), 23 or 24.

        1. Shannon*

          It’s also possible that they were able to test out of some college credits through AP, CLEP, and Dual Enrollment while in High School. Those alone can shave up to a year off of your college.

      6. Lindsay J*

        Entirely possible. A friend of mine is considered a millenial and has his BA, MLIS, and JD. (And is now in a career field that uses none of them.)

    5. SG*

      Aaaaamen. I’m a “Millennial” it seems, but I think a lot of what is failing OP here is clearly no good role models or life experience. I was very lucky to grow up with two very hard working parents who taught me a lot about the working world and how one acts as an employee. OP seems to not have people in their personal or professional/academic life modeling workplace behavior or teaching them explicitly about workplace behavior. That’s my only explanation I can come up with for someone being this WILDLY out of touch with how life works.

    6. Coach Devie*

      OP might not necessarily even be considered “millennial” by some standards she may be generation Z (Im assuming she/he was probably born mid 90’s)

  9. JB (not in Houston)*

    Wow, this OP hits a nerve. I’m not going to say much because this is one of those “flames on the side of my face” issues for me, so I know can’t be neutral.

    As an attorney, I’m surrounded by people who think that having a law degree makes them more intelligent and, frankly, more valuable human beings than those who don’t have a college degree. I once had a coworker say that her friend’s fiance didn’t deserve her friend because he didn’t have a college degree. On the other hand, my parents both attended college but didn’t graduate because they dropped out to work to support their kids. My parents are, however, self-educated, and they are two of the most intelligent, knowledgeable people I know. But when my mom was laid off in the recession (bad time to work in retail!), she had a hard time getting interviews because, despite having worker her way up to a corporate executive position at her old job, she did not have that college degree. People who think that a college degree makes you automatically more qualified for a job than those who don’t have a degree–especially when they have no idea what other way that person has become educated in the field–burn me up.

    1. Abby*

      And, as your mom experienced, so many jobs require degrees and specific degrees at that. So, what’s fair?

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Exactly! She could have explained why she was qualified if she could actually talk to someone, but it was hard to get past the screening.

        1. Laurel Gray*

          Your mom’s situation is a perfect example about why degree requirements without “substitutions” or in automated online job apps are a joke.

          1. catsAreCool*

            I think situations like your mom’s is why my parents really wanted me to go to college. Sometimes a degree opens doors. It’s not always fair; sometimes it’s not fair at all. I mean, if you have 2 people with no experience, but one has a college degree in what you’re hiring for, that’s pretty easy, but your mom’s probably a much better employee than a newbie who just has a degree. Experience frequently beats education.

    2. Soharaz*

      This. My DH has been in the military (UK) since he was 16 and never went to university, but he is really smart and a great problem solver under pressure (the quality all jobs ask for). I knew someone (no longer my friend) who basically said ‘why doesn’t he have a degree? He must not be smart enough for you.’ Degrees aren’t everything!

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        No wonder that person is no longer your friend. How do you even respond to that?

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Yep. I almost married a guy who took one semester of college and decided it wasn’t for him. Didn’t bother me any–he had way more practical smarts than I do. Of course, it couldn’t work out when it bothered him that I wanted to do it.

      3. Cath in Canada*

        I also have an ex-friend who was very snobby about my husband not having a degree. Never mind that he taught himself trigonometry from scratch and is now the go-to person at his work for complicated carpentry issues, beats me at Scrabble, chess, and backgammon approximately 80% of the time, has traveled all over, has a very curious mind, and can talk intelligently about pretty much anything – he doesn’t have a degree, therefore apparently he’s stupid and not good enough for me. Whatever, ex-friend!

    3. Aunt Vixen*

      “And this is where you set up shipments to go out.”
      “I don’t think –”
      “No, it’s really easy, we have FedEx auto-shipment.”
      “You don’t understand. I have an MBA.”
      “Ohhh, you have an MBA.”
      “In that case, I’ll have to show you how to do it.”

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        One of my all time favorite commercials, from the “funny ’cause it’s true” files.

    4. Boo*

      Nothing to add to your comment (which I totally agree with) but just wanted to wave to a fellow Clue fan *waves*

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        *waves furiously back* I so much wish there were regular screenings with people dressing up the way they do with some other movies. That, and for Galaxy Quest.

        1. Kethryvis*

          A couple of years ago, my friend’s RHPS did a shadow cast to Clue and it was the best thing ever. Everyone came dressed in 1950s-esque dinner party attire. It REALLY needs to be a more-regular Thing!!

        2. Henrietta Gondorf*

          The Alamo Drafthouse movie theaters in Austin, Texas do a Clue quote-along and provide you with props and the hosts are in costume. I can’t recall many attendees being dressed up, but it was a lot of fun.

    5. the gold digger*

      My husband’s father thinks that anyone without a PhD is pretty much wasting space on this earth.

      1. He is wrong.
      2. May I add that he used said PhD to teach at a tier-4 school?

      He holds my sister in law, Stephanie, in great disdain because she will say she is just “laying around and watching TV.” Indeed, he is in the hospital and not feeling well at all, but he found the strength to mock Stephanie, even though Stephanie is one of the few people who has bothered to visit him and help out at the house in his absence. Anyone so dumb as to use “lay” improperly has no worth as a human being.

      I cannot stand my husband’s father.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Wow, Stephanie sounds like a saint. As do you, because father-in-law presumably hasn’t been unplugged from his hospital machines? (I kid, but he sounds awful.)

          1. Brisvegan*

            And your blog is great! Also, Sly is clearly an abusive a**hole.
            Stephanie must be a saint.

            1. the gold digger*

              Thank you! Yes, Sly is an abusive a**hole. And I loooove Stephanie. Don’t care for Primo’s brothers or my other sister in law, but Stephanie and her kids are great.

      2. sam*

        Funny joke, that I first heard from one of my college administrators during freshman orientation:

        B.S. degree = “bullsh*t”
        M.S. degree = “more sh*t”
        PhD = “Piled higher and Deeper”

        (it was self-deprecating – she was a PhD herself).

      3. Sigrid*

        My parents, both PhDs, think the same thing. It’s why I got a PhD — and was bitterly unhappy the entire time, left academia to work in industry for a few years (btw my parents also think anyone who works in industry is a waste of space), and am now back in school — medical school this time. I’ve never been happier. I’m also probably the only person in my entire school, possibly the only person currently in medical school in Canada and the US, whose parents are unhappy they’re in med school and believe that they’re “wasting their life” by being a doctor.

        I don’t talk to my parents much any more.

        1. Sigrid*

          PS This was after I already disappointed my father greatly by getting my bachelors in biology, which “isn’t a real science”. He wanted me to get a degree in math, like him, or if I couldn’t manage that, physics or — if I absolutely must deviate that far from real work — chemistry.

          1. Anx*

            I don’t meant to make any assumptions about your parents, but I think it’s actually pretty common for parents not to want their children to go to med school, particularly those from science backgrounds. I think some of this has to do with that medical and biological sciences have the most women, which I’m pretty sure contributes to how seriously they are perceived among scientists.

      4. Roza*

        Ugh, people like that drive me crazy! Not least because as someone who’s wrapping up a PhD and not at all interested in an academic career, I have to contend with people assuming that I’m going to be an arrogant, condescending jerk. When actually I realize that while I’ll bring some valuable technical skills to the table, most of my degree isn’t relevant at all and I’ll have tons to learn from people with more experience in the job than me, regardless of their formal education level.

        Interestingly, my own father has great disdain for anyone *with* a PhD, because professors are “a waste of taxpayer money” and academic research is “useless.” He’s always careful to add that he doesn’t mean me, since I’m not going into academia, and is confused when I’m still offended at his decision to call all of my friends/colleagues/teachers/mentors useless. Jerks come at all education levels, unfortunately.

        1. Lynn*

          “Ugh, people like that drive me crazy! Not least because as someone who’s wrapping up a PhD and not at all interested in an academic career, I have to contend with people assuming that I’m going to be an arrogant, condescending jerk.”

          YES. #notallPhDs?

          1. Rana*

            Yup. At this point my doctorate is as much a liability as an asset (maybe more so, in fact) because a lot of people look at it and think, “Oh, you’re one of those useless people who also thinks she’s better than everyone else.”

            It’s particularly awful for entry-level jobs, which is unfortunately all I seem qualified these days, what with every job requiring a minimum of 2-3 years experience “in the field.”

            (Man, this thread is stirring up all kinds of crap I thought I’d gotten past. Well, there’s a reason I started calling it Post-Academic Stress Syndrome…)

    6. AtrociousPink*

      24-year legal secretary here. Finally finished my B.S. in 2011 … in history, because that was what I wanted to study and the degree was just checking off a box after all. Your attitude is so refreshing for this field! I’ve had paralegals with less experience than I have (and, since 2011, sometimes less education, too) who think they’re a superior species. And don’t get me started on (most of) the lawyers.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Ugh, those lawyers. They are the ones who went to law school because they’ve always known they were important, and they needed some way to make everyone else recognize it.

        I wish I could say my attitude was because I’m a wonderful, caring, compassionate person, but it’s all circumstances. I’ve seen my parents struggle as well as other non-degreed people I’ve worked with, plus I worked for years before going back to law school, and I served my time in admin positions before getting promoted (and then eventually going back to school). I wasn’t any smarter or capable of learning before law school, and so I know that there are so, so many people who could go to law school but are smart enough not to. (plus . . . don’t all of us in this field know some people we are convinced must have faked their degrees? The “how hard can a bar exam be if this person passed” types?)

        The fact that you have managed to survive working for lawyers for 24 years says a lot.

        1. alter_ego*

          I was once helping a lawyer fill out a form at my retail job, and the first box was a drop-down menu for various honorifics. So you could choose Mr./Mrs./Ms./Dr. He WENT OFF on me because there was no option for if you were a lawyer. “Why do you get one if you’re a doctor, but not a lawyer? We work hard too!!!” Seriously angry dude, and no amount of explaining that the English language just doesn’t HAVE an honorific for lawyers, and my minimum wage retail ass had nothing to do with it would calm him down. I finally got him to agree to add Esq. after his last name as a compromise, but he made it clear that he thought I was being very unsympathetic to his rage.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            This is exactly the type of lawyer I’m talking about. Most of my lawyer acquaintances are not like this, but we cannot counteract the harm that this type of person does to our reputation.

            1. SG*

              Same- both my parents have law degrees and it always bums me out to hear “lawyer stereotypes” being true. Neither of my parents has ever pushed me to get a secondary degree, and in fact STRONGLY counsel against it unless it is necessary for a career path as they think it’s a waste of time and money unless you absolutely have to go for a secondary degree.

          2. Loose Seal*

            I filled out a drop down once while making a charitable contribution online. They had every title you could think of, even one for “His Holiness.” I got a huge chuckle thinking about the Pope taking time out of his day to send in money.

        2. Natalie*

          “They are the ones who went to law school because they’ve always known they were important, and they needed some way to make everyone else recognize it.”

          And, in case someone still refused to recognize it, the arguing skills to force them into submission. :)

        3. Anonsie*

          They are the ones who went to law school because they’ve always known they were important, and they needed some way to make everyone else recognize it.

          Ooh this is such a perfect explanation of that type of attitude.

      2. Lucky*

        I was a legal assistant/paralegal before I went to law school (because I figured out I was as smart as all the young lawyers I had to babysit, so I may as well get paid like one). Anyone trying to denigrate or talk down to legal staff better just step aside when I’m in the room.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Sometimes we have interns who try to argue with their supervising attorneys. You’re a 2L/3L! You don’t know anything! And if any of our interns who talk down to our secretaries, it’s a big mistake. We know our secretaries are good employees, but the interns need to prove themselves.

          1. Broke Law Student*

            Yes! My dad (a lawyer) is flummoxed by people who insult support staff. He’s like, don’t you know good admins are worth their weight in gold?? We will never hire you if you treat them poorly at your interview/during your internship! But you know, some lawyers and law students are just Too Important to treat admins like they’re real people.

    7. Batshua*

      I had the opposite problem of what your mom had. When I graduated right into the recession, nobody wanted to hire me because I had a degree, but no full-time work experience! It took me 7 years to get a “real” job. You can’t win. :-/

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Yeah, the recession was NOT a good time to graduate! You have my sympathies for sure. We had so many interns who could not find jobs. There wasn’t anything we could do to to help since the problem wasn’t getting a foot in the door, it was finding someone who needed newly-licensed lawyers, and that was almost nobody.

      2. BananaPants*

        My husband graduated in December 2008 after working his way through college as a non-traditional student. He’d been laid off from a good corporate job in October of that year and it took him until mid-2009 to land a job selling cell phones for slightly more than minimum wage. He’s since had a multi-year stint in a call center and another year in retail before staying home with our kids. We are children of the late 70s/early 80s and when we were in high school and early college, that degree WAS the ticket to a successful career. Now people working at McDonald’s and as baristas have degrees and are glad to get those jobs.

        We’re so glad that he/we didn’t go into debt for that degree since it’s ended up nearly useless, but wonder sometimes if we would have been better off with him taking out loans to go to school full time and graduating/entering the job market well before the recession when “real” jobs were plentiful. It’s painful for him to see high school classmates who graduated in 2001 or 2002 who are so far ahead of him career-wise that realistically he’s never going to catch up.

        He’s found a new job that he’ll start soon, but it’s in customer service and the pay is the same as he was earning in 2010. Yay for a job, but it’s sort of sad that this is what his “career” amounts to at the age of 35. If not for my career being higher-paying and more stable we never would have been able to buy a home and have children.

        1. simonthegrey*

          My husband’s story is very much the same as yours, only I’m in academia as an adjunct so there is no stability on my side either.

    8. LeahS*

      This just makes me think of the “Legal Advice” subreddit (aka one of my favorite places to lurk online). Many people have questions about whether or not their employers can commit wage theft, if what happened to them was sexual harassment, etc. Somehow the conversation always takes a turn and at least of the (actual) lawyers respond with something like:

      “My advice? It’s illegal, but if you’re working a minimum wage job that a trained monkey could do, you’re replaceable. You might want to think about that before doing anything. This happens in jobs that attract non-skilled workers. Go to college, so you’ll be valuable to employers and make something better of yourself.”

      This makes me crazy. I have a college degree and working a job a “trained monkey” could do because that’s what you have to do to survive. And so many others aren’t as fortunate as I’ve been. College isn’t a remote possibly for some. And some people actually want to move up in retail or food service, love their jobs, and don’t want to change industries. That doesn’t mean they have no value or deserve to be harassed or stolen from!

      *Stepping off my soapbox now*

      1. alter_ego*

        Also the huge amount of people that work those jobs WHILE IN COLLEGE to pay the bills. Like, you can’t just decide to get a degree, and then have it the next day. You’re looking at a minimum of 2 years, more realistically 4 or more. What the hell are you supposed to do for money in the meantime? Oh right, live off your stock dividends and supplement with your trust fund. What was I thinking?

        1. LeahS*

          Wait, what?? I went to bed one night, about 3 months after graduation, and woke up the next with a BA stuck under my pillow tooth-fairy style!

        2. LawLady*

          This is true. Once when I was waitressing (and a bit flustered; the other waitress on shift had gone home sick) a woman actually said to her kid right in front of me: “this is why you have to go to college. so you don’t have to work a job like this.”

          And I was like “Excuse me, I’m a freshman at Stanford, I just need money to pay for college.” And she looked sheepish.

          1. Ezri*

            Urgghh, people like that are why I go out of my way to be nice to servers. I waitressed for one summer in college before I couldn’t take anymore and begged to be put on the food line. Kudos to you for having the composure to respond to something like that in a polite way. People are jerks. >_<

      2. The Strand*

        Yes, but at the same time, are they really giving bad advice?

        The credential creep in our society is really bad, but that’s in part because the blue collar jobs people once made a solid living on are ebbing away and are never coming back.

        I always try to tell not only my young relatives, but young students that it’s an arms race out there, and they need to be realistic about the marketplace. I don’t fault them for wanting to spend a career in food service or theatre or what have you but if they want to buy a house or have kids, as BananaPants says, certain options are better to take.

        1. Natalie*

          Doesn’t that work out just like an actual arms race? If everyone tries to avoid the service industry by going to college, eventually you just end up with a bunch of college graduates working in the service industry.

          1. Ad Astra*

            Which, if you ask me, is why we ought to consider paying food service employees and janitors and the like a living wage.

    9. Lady Bug*

      Also a lawyer and I can’t stand when anyone thinks their degree makes them smarter than everyone else. Nope, my brain is just awesome at retaining info, like the lyrics to 1000s of songs. My husband doesn’t have a degree, and neither of my kids went to college. They are all smart. People with degrees aren’t better than anyone else. People who don’t judge and respect their fellow human beings are.

      1. Lady Bug*

        Don’t judge others and respect them instead is what I meant, that didn’t read right. Stupid lawyer :-).

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Ha, I am the worst at proofreading what I put online because I spend so much time proofreading for work, I can’t seem to do it for anything else.

    10. Green*

      I don’t think that’s a general “attorney” thing.If that’s the environment where you work, that sucks. I know lots of attorneys and one spouse doesn’t work or didn’t go to college or works in retail or works in a trade or didn’t go to college but is in the military or their spouse makes 7 times less than them and nobody cares. (And those roles aren’t necessarily tied to gender either.) I’m an attorney, I made 7x more than my husband, my siblings are awesome and work in retail/hospitality and picking up trash.

      I think a law degree makes you a better lawyer. Not a better (or smarter) person.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        I’m not in anyway saying all attorneys are like this. I’m just saying that I see a lot of them. I do appellate work, I see a wide range of attorneys, and I see it a lot. Most of the attorneys in my office aren’t like that, but there are some. Whenever you have a field that requires a professional degree and a license and engenders a certain amount of respect or prestige, you will attract that type of person. And when you throw in the power that comes with having a law license, it’s irresistible for some people.

    11. Anon Accountant*

      Exactly. Our firm (for some unknown reason) wouldn’t hire an admin assistant that didn’t have a minimum of an associate’s degree. A degree didn’t make the assistant we hired any more qualified that someone who didn’t have a degree if they had the proper skills.

  10. Violetta*

    You’re following up a degree in Psychology with one in Accounting, and yet you can’t understand that people don’t always end up sticking with one path their whole lives?

  11. BRR*

    I feel like this is going to turn into a huge piling onto the LW. But I’m not sure they deserve restraint because it wasn’t phrase as a polite question but rather extreme judgement. I’m not even sure why “been around” is in quotes because I’m assuming there’s not a dispute about the length of their career.

    Very few degrees actually train for a specific position. I have a friend who has an engineering degree who says he uses less than 5% of what he learned in school at his engineering job. Degrees in many fields are just a box to check to say you have a degree.

    Take a look out how they are at their jobs and come back.

    1. LBK*

      Exactly – no amount of school can truly prepare you to do a job well, especially once you get into management. I’d argue that your degree is actually even less relevant as a manager because so much of being a good manager is who you are, not what you know.

    2. steve g*

      And some fields don’t have degrees or they didn’t exist until recently. I’m thinking my niche in the energy efficiency thing which is now a hot thing, and digital media/ecommerce type courses (and there are hundreds of jobs in those fields I’m finding in my search)….yet when I look at company profiles, I’m seeing lots of early genx faces, so none of them could have degrees in these new niche fields unless they went back to school after 30

      1. BRR*

        I was thinking that as well. I have also noticed people who succeed at school and who succeed at work aren’t always they same people. There is definitely some overlap but there’s also a lot of people who are better at one than the other.

    3. Shell*

      My high school chem teacher gave me some of the best advice in regards to education when I was complaining about titration curves and how I’ll never use them (I was right):

      “You can say that for just about every subject in existence. Going to school isn’t about learning everything, because when you’re on the job, they’ll teach you. Going to school is more about proving you can learn in the first place.

      (Sure, there are some exceptions like law, medicine, etc. where the fundamentals are a rightful bar to applicants, but his point still stands.)

      1. Marcela*

        Absolutely. In our physics department we were told all the time that we were not there to learn equations. What they were doing was teaching us to think, so we could create new science. The role of everything we learned was to give us foundation and tools, not to be memorized because we were going to be using it the rest of our lives. It was very important that we showed we could learn, so for example all tests were almost limitless: we could be all day doing them and use books and our notes. Of course, ours is a very special field, where each one of us is expected to work in a new and untouched area of knowledge, but it’s important to remember that formal education sometimes is all about learning to learn and think, not learning how to do things.

    4. SG*

      Yeah, that was confusing. Like, what did OP/LW think these people have been doing the past 20 years? Clearly they’re working hard, acquiring skills, doing well by the company and showing leadership. AKA the things that keep you on as an employee and get you promoted…no one is going to care you read some Jung or whoever in college. Like oh boy, he’s read Freud “On Dreams”, someone make him COO! I’m honestly so baffled by this OP’s way of thinking about degrees.

  12. Oryx*


    Your use of proclaiming your supervisors as being “less educated” than you is problematic. Lots, if not most, professional education happens when you’re actually working in the field. So while, yes, they may have less *degrees* than you do, that doesn’t in any way make them automatically less *educated.*

    I suggest you take a few steps down from your Ivory Tower, OP.

    1. Mena*

      “Lots, if not most, professional education happens when you’re actually working in the field. So while, yes, they may have less *degrees* than you do, that doesn’t in any way make them automatically less *educated.* ”


    2. Anna*

      It took me a long time to get to that point where I didn’t look down my nose at those without degrees. I am over it now and tend to appreciate the on-the-job education that people get. It now makes me cringe whenever I hear someone I know talk about how she has a degree in English, so clearly she knows how to write. Well, she does know how to write, but that comes from practice, not her degree. Most people can learn how to do it.

      1. Tammy*

        This sounds apt to me. I had a coworker who was very proud of her degree in an arts and visual production, and brought up opportunities where she could contribute through design work, events management, etc.

        But I was the one who had to follow along after her organizing her event timeline, checking the event budget, aligning the wonky text in her design work, telling her to use our corporate colors, and so on. In the end, my social sciences degree didn’t matter, but neither did her arts degree.

  13. Malissa*

    OP I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. As you get closer to your CPA certificate you’ll understand how a computer science degree is actually very relevant to finance.
    In the mean time check your attitude about the situation. I fear it’s blocking you from learning and getting to know people that have a vast knowledge of your industry. Forget about degrees for a moment. Realize that there is a path these followed to get where they are. Taking time to get to know them and learning about their paths. There is knowledge there that you can’t get form a degree.

    1. bridget*

      Additionally, at a “large corporation” I’m sure that the head of finance is not doing the detail work (like a careful audit of the books) that you might need the specific, targeted skills one learns being educated as a CPA or forensic accountant. Head of finance is probably making big picture decisions for the direction of the company, based on information and analysis provided by people who are really focused on the weeds. For that, you need to have a lot of practical experience and to have gained a good intuitive sense of what will work for a particular company, because you are really familiar with that company. 20+ years of experience there is way better for a big picture job. Someone who just walked in with a shiny CPA certificate could easily make a bad big-picture decision, knowing nothing about the company and what it’s long-term trajectory is.

    2. Accountant*

      Completely agree. I’m a CPA, and almost NOTHING I learned in school has any relevance whatsoever in my day to day job beyond the concept of debits and credits. All the time spent learning to calculate random things in my tax class? We have software that does that for you. How to use this software? When I started work a few years ago, I had no clue. Because what you learn in college is theory. What you learn in the workplace is practical.

      The people who have been working where I work for decades are geniuses. We all learned the same things in our accounting classes, I assume, but the decades of experience some of my coworkers have are invaluable. No CPA certificate in the world could even begin to compare to the education many of my colleagues have received over the years of giving financial advice and talking to clients and learning about their businesses.

      1. Natalie*

        Ugh, the formulas and ratios. Somebody tell me when I’m going to need to have the AR turnover ratio memorized and calculate it by hand? Never, that’s when.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Because what you learn in college is theory. What you learn in the workplace is practical.

        YES YES YES. This should be on a pillow. I think it’s true for every major–even if you’re doing exactly what you were trained to do, like say, HVAC or something, every system will be different. No course teaches you how to apply your knowledge in the field. That only comes with experience.

        And one very important thing you learn on the job that you don’t in school is how to deviate from those theories when necessary. Because sometimes situations come up that require a MacGyver approach rather than a by-the-book one.

        1. ancolie*

          My undergrad uni’s motto is actually THEORY & PRACTICE. They didn’t ALways succeed at everyone getting the practice part of it, but at least they have that as a goal and mindset.

  14. Bend & Snap*

    I used to manage someone like this. She took an extra year in school to tack on an MBA and thought it made her more qualified than anyone else, and that she shouldn’t have to start at entry level.

    She was entitled, disrespectful, and bad at her job because she didn’t want to learn. Not to mention a f*cking nightmare to manage.

    OP, the real world is going to clock you one if you don’t change your attitude. Anyone who works their way up from a call center into a senior finance role most likely accomplished it because they’re smart, work hard and good at what they do. Those things are way more meaningful than the “right” degree.

    Also I hope nobody ever judges you this way if you ever try to change careers. What if finance doesn’t work out for you, you try to make a move and someone disparages you for having the “wrong” degree?

    1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      I had an employee who thought she should be considered as a “Senior Teapot Polisher” and that she should report to me rather than the Lead Teapot Polisher because she had a masters and the Lead Teapot Polisher didn’t.

      And when we didn’t change the entire departments reporting structure, she went to HR. No matter how much we tried to explain that she could learn a lot from the Lead Teapot polisher who had actually been with the company longer than I had, she just kept stressing that she was better educated.

        1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

          She basically flitted around the office complaining, but doing just enough work to stay out of trouble, What was ridiculous was she would ask me task specific questions, which I would then forward to the Lead, who would in turn respond to her. She then went to HR because I was “ignoring” her emails.

          I thought our HR manager was going to rage flip her desk at that point. She calmly explained that (a) the questions shouldn’t be directed to me but to the lead, and (b) me directing her email to the person who could actually answer it was actually answering her emails. We had a similar conversation when she forwarded me her one-on-one meeting appointments.

          I’m still amazed how serenely my lead took it. She just kind of was like, “it’s your issue” and went on with work. The woman in question left for a “better job” where people “actually respect her.”

          1. manybellsdown*

            You remind me of a time when my bosses were going to a conference. Before they left, they called me and another employee in and said they’d be leaving one of us in charge for the week. We both assumed it would be Other Employee, as she had a Master’s and I was still in school.

            They picked me, because I had been there the longest and they felt I had more experience with running the place. Other Employee was SO not happy about this, and her shenanigans during that week led to her getting fired.

            1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

              That’s so crazy. I’ve never understood acting out and losing a job over a perceived slight.

      1. cuppa*

        This reminds me of a staff person that I (thankfully) no longer manage. She was really lacking in some basic skills to do her job and just couldn’t improve. Managing her was a constant slog. She e-mailed me one day and told me she needed a raise because she got her Bachelor’s degree and was now overqualified for her job.

        Uh, no.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        I read that as ‘Lead (led) Teapot Polisher’ instead of ‘Lead (leed) Teapot Polisher’ and was considering the nasty health risks of making your teapots out of lead. Although, they do have a higher melting point than chocolate, so won’t melt as quickly, and lead does have kind of a sweet* taste to add to the tea taste.

        *But it’s a bad ‘this is poisonous’ sweet taste, and I’m a bit concerned that I even know that.

    2. Mena*

      Tack on an MBA? The better business schools will not accept someone who hasn’t acquired work experience BEFORE applying to an MBA program. I worked 3 years before going; the work experience provides context to the learning. And I think this is what OP is missing – any context.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        She went to a fairly prestigious college and they offered a 1-year MBA directly following completion of an undergrad degree. I know a few people who did this and none of them was better qualified to enter the workforce based on the degree. Some of them had killer internships thanks to their programs, and those did help.

      2. MaryMary*

        You have it right there: the better business schools look for candidates who have work experience. Many less prestigious programs, and particularly for-profit programs, don’t care if you’ve gone straight from undergrad to their MBA program.

        1. SG*

          Well, I think that depends on where your undergrad was. I’ve known a number of Columbia, Yale and Harvard kids to go straight to MBAs.

          1. The Strand*

            They’ll make some exceptions, but all of the Top 20 schools generally want traditional business students (younger ones, in other words) to have a couple of years of work experience.

    3. Natalie*

      We had a temp receptionist like that. She could have turned it into a permanent position with a fair amount of potential (of the 6 people currently working in my office, 3 of us started as the receptionist and one is the current receptionist), but she would not do the basic work the job required because she had an MBA. Her attitude was just awful. We cut her loose at the end of her assignment period and from what I understand it took her a long while to find her next job, which she then got fired from.

    4. James M.*

      ..was entitled, disrespectful, and bad at her job…

      If there isn’t a rap of this there should be!

  15. grasshopper*

    What an unbelievable sense of entitlement. Being around for 20+ years is what makes them far more qualified than you since they have human experience. A degree is just the starting line.

    1. BRR*

      I completely agree that this is an unbelievable sense of entitlement. But I will say being around for 20+ years does not make a person qualified for anything except saying they have 20+ years experience. Some people have been around that long and not learned a thing.

      1. grasshopper*

        It is true that years of experience might not actually mean that they are good at their job; there are plenty of old relics just floating by and counting down days until retirement. In that case the OP would have a legitimate issue with their current performance. But saying that the reason he doesn’t respect them is because of their lack of formal education 20 years ago isn’t a legitimate complaint.

        1. Not So Sunny*

          Having 20 years experience makes a person an old relic who’s counting down (from a supposed age in the mid-40s) to retirement? Please.

          1. ExceptionToTheRule*

            If I’m a relic, what does that make my boss who has 40+ years of experience?

        2. Judy*

          That may have been true in the 70s, 80s or 90s, but the 00s have not been kind to many. I saw lots of productive over 50 year olds who ended up on the chopping block during that decade.

      2. bridget*

        Sure, but the people who just coast for 20+ years rarely end up in a senior finance position. They stay where they started. It’s the people who really use those years to gain all of the education they can who succeed like that, so these people in particular are people the OP *should* be giving lots of completely due respect.

      3. Kelly O*


        And I’m not arguing that sometimes people do get into management positions purely by outlasting others. But it’s not always the case, and more often than not it happens when people are good at what they do and work hard to prove themselves.

        One place I worked fairly recently had an interesting situation – the controller for the company had an Associate’s Degree in Accounting/Bookkeeping. But she had been with the company since almost day one. She knew more about how the finances for the company worked than anyone else, and our CFO (who had a Masters of Accountancy and a CPA) would often ask her questions about how things worked, and truly valued her insights. She was excellent at what she did, but did not have the formal education to back it up.

        When our company announced it had been bought and our offices were closing, everyone immediately thought of S and worked so hard to find something for her, because she had been with this same company nearly 40 years, and was not ready to retire, but finding something at her compensation level that would understand her practical, hands-on experience without a formal degree, was a challenge. She was fortunate, and someone helped her get on with another small, family-owned company.

        I say all that to illustrate both the benefits and challenges associated with working your way up, and that there are very intelligent, well-spoken, extremely valuable employees out there with all sorts of backgrounds, and being open to others’ experiences and learning what you can from them will make you a better employee, and quite possibly a better person (not that I’m saying you’re a bad person now. That’s a personal observation on my own part. I am a better person when I look for lessons and open myself to what others can teach me. It makes me more generous, and that’s not a bad thing.)

        An Associates Degree and over fifteen years working in my “field”

        1. GlamNonprofitSquirrel*

          Can I just add how thoughtful you and your former colleagues are? That was a really kind thing you did and you set another local company up for the best damn finance person ever. My office manager at my new(ish) nonprofit gig is 72+ (we don’t ask) and she has no degrees. What she does have is an encyclopedic knowledge of everything that’s ever happened here, a file on all of the things and a warm and gracious relationship with all of our funders and donors. She’s money in our bank, so to speak.

    2. Econ grad*

      As a recent grad, I could not agree more. Too many of my classmates barely knew the basics of economics in their final semester of course work – they’d been skating by, cheating on their online courses, relying on their peers for answers, and whining at their professors for extra credit. By their own admission, many professors were giving them passing grades so they wouldn’t have to deal with the fallout of failing those losers. For too many people, a degree is just proof that they know how to game the system and had enough money/loans to finish, not that they work hard, solve problems, think critically or have any real knowledge in their field of study. Even ‘good’ universities have turned into cash driven diploma mills, and it pisses me off. I worked hard, and I hate to watch my degree become less and less valuable. If I was hiring, I would want to see a proven track record of hard work and achievement, precisely because I know how little a diploma translates into actual skill.

  16. AndersonDarling*

    I have a feeling that if the OP’s executives did have “acceptable” degrees, then the OP would find another reason that he/she is superior to them.

  17. Retail Lifer*

    I would LOVE to work for the company the OP works for. I keep switching jobs every few years because they all wind up being absolute dead ends with no growth opportunities. I’d actually stay at a company that promoted from within and valued your actual contributions, not what some piece of paper said you’d be good at.

    1. NickelandDime*

      This. But I suspect they’ll get themselves fired very soon. No one this unaware is walking around keeping an attitude like this under wraps.

  18. LBK*

    There seems to be a version of Lewis’ Law at work here – letters like this prove why experience is more important than education. I’d venture during their 20 years of experience, your management has learned how to actually pay attention to things that matter like quality of work, a lesson that seems to have escaped you despite all your fancy credentials.

  19. Ash (the other one)*

    Degrees do matter in some fields — like research — but even then, not to the extent OP is implying. For some grants/contracts, for instance, we need to make sure the PI has a Ph.D. But, many of our senior people don’t simply because they’ve been able to show they were successful without one. It just means they can’t go for those contracts or have to partner with someone with a Ph.D. Before she left, the woman I replaced as the director of my research area never finished her graduate degrees and only had a B.A. But she was amazingly successful and I don’t think anyone would think to look down on her because she made it without doing 5-9 years of hard doctoral student labor.

    Moral of the story is, if someone is good it doesn’t matter what their degree is… even in fields where it kind of does matter.

    1. Golden Yeti*

      Agreed. There are cases where that certification matters. For instance, you wouldn’t want to take advice from a doctor who doesn’t have a degree from an accredited institution. But even if the doctor has a degree, if he/she does a crappy job in practical diagnosing and curing, the degree would be meaningless (in fact, there would probably be a few malpractice lawsuits). Because even though this person should know how to treat patients in theory–after all, the paperwork is all there–if they can’t do it in real life, what’s the point?

      OP, you asked: How can a huge organization with a complex financial and billing system be run by people with no education, or education that doesn’t pertain to the job?

      The irony here is that the answer is in the rest of your question: by sticking around long enough to learn it.

      I have an English degree, and here are a few skills I’ve learned just from being on the job: web maintenance and design, graphic editing, shortcuts within our software that nobody else knows how to use, lots of media conversions, etc. I have no doubt everyone here could say something similar.

      The coworkers you are talking about have been able to move up because they’ve excelled at their jobs, from the bottom to the top. And, because they’ve done all those lower level jobs previously, they know how to do the lower job and how to help their colleagues who are in that job. At the end of the day, would you rather be managed by someone who has the educational papers, but no knowledge of the computer system, or someone who doesn’t have the papers, but can actually help you when the system glitches?

      Knowledge is power, OP, and if these guys have it, they’ve earned the right to be where they are. You should really think about learning from them instead of getting hung up on degrees. Because I promise you, when all is said and done, if the lowest-ranking person in the office knows how to do things that the higher ups can’t, that lower person is the one who actually holds the cards, and if management is smart, that person will eventually be promoted–not because they have a piece of paper, but because they get the job done.

      1. Aunt Vixen*

        doctor … degree from an accredited institution

        In addition, I will bet a billion internet dollars that there are lots of times a nurse with 30 years on the job knows what’s up with a patient before a new MD figures it out.

        1. Golden Yeti*

          I just started binge watching Scrubs, and this totally makes me think of Carla. :)

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          No bet. And I learned that in college when the nurse gave a correct diagnosis and then the doctor (with a lot of experience) did not. I suffered for several more weeks until I went to another doctor and got a correct diagnosis and Rx, one that matched the nurse’s.

      2. simonthegrey*

        Yup, and just having the degree (ie as a doctor) is worthless if the person hasn’t kept up with new information. The degree itself doesn’t guarantee anything. If the doctor doesn’t keep reading journals, they’ll become obsolete no matter where the degree came from.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          So true. Just a few months ago, my doctor told me something that didn’t sound right and, sure enough, I researched it and found that his knowledge on the subject is outdated. So now I’m thinking I need to find a new doctor because this one won’t like it if I tell him, “Oh, hey, I did some research and turns out what you said last time wasn’t right, and you put me on the wrong treatment plan.”

    2. Beancounter in Texas*

      Being in bookkeeping/accounting, I can kiiiinda sympathize from where the OP is coming. It can be frustrating to work with people who lack some of the key tenets a formal education offers. Explaining textbook knowledge teaches those who want to learn, but infuriates me when the person refuses to accept that “it’s how *everyone in the field* does things.” It’s easier to deal with someone who “gets it.” That said, I have a bachelor’s degree in applied music and I supervise a very insecure man with a master’s in finance & economics who doesn’t understand debits and credits, but can work in QuickBooks.

      Sorry, OP. A degree is not the only way to the top, but it can serve as a strong foundation. Also, formal education doesn’t always come with a degree in hand. Perhaps these superiors found time to study their field formally too.

      1. Apollo Warbucks*

        Does your coworker know Alice?

        Assets (debit)
        Liabilities (credit)
        Income (credit)
        Capital (credit)
        Expenses (debit)

        That’s how I was taught to remember it

  20. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

    Eeek! I work in a field I do not have a degree in, because well even when I entered the workforce, it wasn’t a degree option. Over my career I have worked with so many people who chose this line of work due to passion, and built up experience because there was no established path.

    In the last ten years or so, they moved from certificate programs and a few specialized MBAs to many, many universities offering undergraduate degrees in what I do. I wonder how many of the folks graduating with this degree are going to look at me and the people who came before me as “not management material” because our degrees are in a variety of non-related fields.

  21. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I’m not defending the OP, but…

    S/he does have a point about sticking around for a few centuries and then getting promoted.  I’ve had a handful of government jobs where supervisors, who also had no degree or field experience, were promoted simply because they were the only ones left standing after an administration had cleared out and it was too much effort to do an executive job search.  Or in one case, an administration, who loathed government and did everything to reduce the size of it, who promoted someone because it didn’t want to given the impression that it was expanding government by advertising the job.  These people were a disaster.  

    That said, it totally depends on the person in the job, OP.  It’ll always come back to that.  Sure I’ve known dinosaurs who refuse to get BlackBerrys or change their ways because, “We’ve been doing it this way since 1972 so there’s no reason to change now.”  BUT there are also people who have been around for decades who keep up with the times.  One of my ex-coworkers worked at that agency for 20+ years, and she was the website whiz.

    I totally see your point about certain types of people being promoted, but it goes back to the person as an individual.  I’d have your back much more if you’d come into this job with eyes wide open and THEN formed your opinion.  

    But it doesn’t sound like you did that at all.

    1. Violetta*

      I’m not gonna that people who don’t deserve it never get promotoed, but OP gave us no information whatsoever on how good or bad these people are at their jobs.

    2. GigglyPuff*

      Exactly if the OP had approached this from actually evaluating them on their work, okay, you have a much more solid foundation, but solely on the basis of their tenure and degrees, ugh.

    3. fposte*

      It’s absolutely true that promotion through stasis is a bad thing. But it’s bad because you get incompetent managers, not because it’s bad to have managers with long-term experience with the organization.

      If the incompetence of the managers were the issue, I don’t think the OP would have been shy about mentioning it.

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*


        In one of my bad examples, the guy that got promoted had always been a philosopher and a historian. (He’s been there for 40+ years.) But when it comes to actually doing stuff, he backs down and claims he needs a bunch of bureaucratic approval when he didn’t.

        It was later I found out he had a literature degree and zero field experience.

        But I can assure you, we all think he’s bad at his job because of the stuff I mentioned in my first paragraph. The stuff in the second paragraph is just icing on an incompetent cake.

    4. I threw up in my mouth a little...*

      Agreed. There are plenty of people out there who’ve been promoted simply because they were ‘there.’
      My company has quite a few people who’ve been around for 10+ years doing the same job… who everyone complains is NOT good at their job, doesn’t respond to emails, etc…. and yes that happens. But we complain because they’re NOT GOOD AT THEIR JOBS rather than because they have seemingly irrelevant – or nonexistant – education experience.

    5. LBK*

      By that same token, though, education doesn’t make you any more instantly qualified to be a manager than experience does. As proven by this letter, I sure wouldn’t want the OP managing anyone just because of her degrees, just as I wouldn’t want someone else managing just because they’d been there the longest.

    6. steve g*

      I can’t argue there because the. Manager of my last branch was literally the laziest person in the office and we all talked about stuff he didn’t but was supposed to be doing, but didn’t. He was the person who was there the longest and was clamoring for a promotion so got the job. Of course, op doesn’t give proof of the boss being lazy beforehand though

    7. AMG*

      This. For the first time ever, I am shocked by Alison’s answer and the backlash on this thread.

      While I am using my degree, I know and respect many people who are nowhere near their field of study in their professional lives. I would expect, however, that a Director of Finance would need to be educated in…Finance. Perhaps there was another way to learn this (on-the-job training?) but I would be wary of that as well, personally, because I would feel much better about my employer knowing that the exec leadership is trained to deal with complex issues. I’ve worked at places where this was not the case and some of the things that go on are frankly disturbing. If it were me, I would take a hard look at how competent these folks are at what they do and if not, it may not be a healthy company. If they really haven’t contributed much and are just there, then yes, that is a problem and you should go somewhere else.

      1. neverjaunty*

        You are making the same mistake as the OP, and assuming that there is only one proper kind of “training” and “education” for this position, namely formal education that comes with a certificate at the end.

        (Although, surely I can’t be the only one who wonders if this is a prank letter. I know that there are people this entitled, but it seems so exaggerated – OP doesn’t just have a degree, she has an MA, *all* of her supervisors have tons of experience, etc., that it almost sounds like a person who has the on-the-job experience writing to twit a co-worker who thinks only degrees matter.)

        1. AMG*

          I think you need to re-read my post. Let me reiterate some highlights:
          I know and respect many people who are nowhere near their field of study in their professional lives.
          Perhaps there was another way to learn this (on-the-job training?)
          I would take a hard look at how competent these folks are at what they do.

          1. Nea*

            20 years of work experience isn’t on-the-job training? I’d see your point if the guy was hired right out of Whatsamatta U with a degree in underwater basket weaving and put in charge of finance. But we’re discussing people with two decades of job experience and even the OP hasn’t said they’re incompetent, just that they are offended that their management doesn’t have a degree that matches their job description.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              OP can be offended, but they will keep their jobs and keep raking in the big bucks, regardless of how offended anyone is. I don’t know where OP will find work that meets her criteria.

            2. AMG*

              It depends on how well it is being done. I could put a car together but would it run? Not without a miracle. If they are doing it well then yes, I would consider that relevant experience. If not, that’s a bad way to run a company and the OP should find somewhere more stable.

          2. neverjaunty*

            No, I don’t need to re-read your post; you were quite clear the first time. For example, “Perhaps there was another way to learn this (on-the-job training?) but I would be wary of that as well, personally, because I would feel much better about my employer knowing that the exec leadership is trained to deal with complex issues.”

            You’re continuing to make the assumption that the issue is competence, when OP didn’t mention anything about the managers’ actual performance – only their credentials. This is a very different letter than “My manager has been in this job 20+ years and is very bad at Teapot Analysis, and I just found out she never got a degree in anything teapot-related.”

            1. Engineer Girl*

              Another point – a degree can never train you for complex issues. Complex issues are all about nuance. The only way to recognize nuance is actual experience.
              I can’t tell you the number of times less-experienced engineers have blasted by warning signs that something was going off the rails. Until you’ve been in the field and seen it, you can’t recognize what it means.

                1. Today's Satan*

                  Come back when you’re the VP of Finance and try and tell me that everything you needed to know to do the job, you learned in school.

                2. AMG*

                  Try to read the post and understand what I am saying. At no point did I or anyone else say that the only way to get relevant experience is to go to college. It is one way. Given the fact that you don’t know my title or what I do, perhaps you should step back a bit. I leverage my education when creating fiancial models and building multi-million dollar business cases all the time.

              1. Chinook*

                “I can’t tell you the number of times less-experienced engineers have blasted by warning signs that something was going off the rails. ”

                I actually steered a less-experienced engineer from going off the rails when I was doing one of my admin tasks and recognizing the complexity of a location she was focusing on that could be known through experience (I drove by this spot a lot when I was younger). Up until that point, she had looked down her nose at me because of my lack of engineering credentials. Now she includes me specifically to do this type of double checking because she recognizes that the knowledge from my experience can find things that her equations and statistical analysis may miss.

            2. AMG*

              People running the company need to be qualified to do so. They could do that by way of a degree and/or experience. Do they have a degree? No? Then let’s look at experience. Is it quality experience or is it that they sat there for 20 years? If it’s a healthy company then let it go. They are probably doing a good job. If not, then go find a stronger company to work for. It’s that simple.

          3. Observer*

            I think YOU need to re-read your post.

            “perhaps” there is was another way? The question itself is clueless and non-responsive. Followed bt “I would be wary of that” shows that you do NOT think it’s “really” a way to learn.

            Your assumption that people who don’t have the degree you expect need to have their work evaluated, but people who do not is a good way to ruin a business.

            1. AMG*

              There is no need to be rude and insulting. If you don’t like my opinion, then feel free to disagree without behaving like this. Yes, there are multiple ways to gain education and experience. I think both are ways to learn. You are reading into my post things that aren’t there.

      2. LBK*

        I’d think it would go without saying that someone who worked their way up to a director of finance would’ve learned on the job – how else would they have been able to do their work in their other positions along the way? I also really don’t think you can learn how to deal with complex issues in school. It’s just never the same doing something theoretical because the stakes aren’t the same and you’re not dealing with real people who don’t act in a textbook way.

        1. AMG*

          I would assume so too, but that’s my point. This is the delimiter. if they are not sufficiently trained and qualified to do the job, then time to go.

          1. LBK*

            That doesn’t seem particularly relevant to the letter at hand because we have no info about the work performance of these people – just their education level. And if anything, I’d think that if the OP were having problems with how they were performing as managers, that would be some part of the letter.

            1. AMG*

              I’m saying that they should have at least one of these things. If not the education, then the experience should be on par with the job title and function.

              1. LawBee*

                And I think you can safely assume that they have the “experience which is on par with the job title and function”, as the OP’s sole complaint is what degree the managers, etc. have.

                Degrees are nice, but don’t forget – “Ds get degrees”. You can graduate 167/168 and have a degree – does that automatically make you a better employee than the 20-year veteran who helped build the company? (spoiler: probably not)

          2. Observer*

            What does that have to do with their degree, or lack of one? Why is this question relevant particularly for people who don’t have the degree you think they should?

            1. AMG*

              My goodness! I am not the OP. I have no preference if someone has a degree or if they don’t. If they are qualified to run a company then run on. If not, the OP should go somewhere else.

      3. Jeannalola*

        If you don’t know what you are doing in healthcare finance, you will be out of business or acquired in no time. The margins are razor thin. So somebody is doing something right.

        1. AMG*

          somebody, yes. But I have seen other departments compensate for poorly performing departments. Maybe everything is ok. But it merits a second look.

          1. Wip*

            So should we all also consider a person’s GPA while in college 20 years ago? It starts to go down a very slippery slope. They have the “correct” degree but maybe they didn’t perform very well in school. Does that affect how you would see the person? Also, the person didn’t step directly into the high ranking role right away 20 years ago. I’m sure it was a series of many baby steps along the way that they built upon to get where they are today.

            1. AMG*

              Perhaps. Are they doing a good job? If no college degree, then use only experience. If they realy did just get promoted by default (and some people do), then I would find another job. If they are truly running the company and doing a good job, then the OP’s concerns are not founded.

              1. Observer*

                The OP’s concerns are not founded. Period.

                Either they are doing a good job, or not. If they are, they should be respected. If not they should be fired. And this is true no matter WHAT degree they did or didn’t get 20 years ago.

                But calling someone uneducated simply because they don’t have a degree is incredibly ignorant.

                1. Observer*

                  Correct, I am referring to the OP – s/he makes the assumption that these people “can’t” be doing a good job, based on their degree only. That’s an assumption that is both unfounded and ignorant.

                  It’s always possible that the people in question really are incompetent in their jobs. But, their degrees by themselves tell us nothing about that.

      4. BananaPants*

        A director of finance in an organization like this is not the one actually keeping the books and doing the finance work – she’s making big picture decisions and directing the work of others who are handling the day-to-day tasks. You don’t start off in a call center and get to be a director for a large corporation by sitting on your hands and waiting to be promoted. This person’s degree may be in another area but she’s proven her skills and knowledge in the trenches, or the board and the C-suite would not have put her in this role to begin with.

        1. AMG*

          Theoretically, yes. But some people are not good managers, or good at hiring (otherwise the forum wouldn’t be here, right?) Is every manager you know skilled and knowledgable? Degrees help with that. If the bosses don’t have them, then they need to show that they have earned those in other ways. if they can’t, then OP should go work somewhere better.

          1. Observer*

            But some people are not good managers, or good at hiring . . . Degrees help with that.

            No they don’t. And finance degrees are not even INTENDED to do that. Management degrees are intended for that, but even those are often not all that good in terms of things like hiring and actually managing people.

      5. Guava Cheese*

        Thank you AMG & Snarkus! Some people need a Monday Chill Pill. Geeeeeez.

        Ultimately this question could have been phrased differently (read: a lot better) and there is a lot of context that is missing. Hopefully, the OP is asking this question because they are seeing a lack of solid foundation (regardless of education OR experience) from higher ups.

        My first thought was that sounds like my husband’s company, where you move up the ranks just by breathing long enough. It’s infuriating and demotivating, among other things. Company’s still manage to trudge along though, right?

      6. Green*

        But OP isn’t very well situated to know what other qualifications the person might have. It’s not like OP was in a hiring position and sat in on the discussions about the relative strengths and weaknesses of each candidate or has been working with and observing these people from a management perspective for decades….

      7. Sarah*

        Where do they get the experience as a Director though? I mean, yeah, knowing about finance is important, but why is it more important than experience in managing people and projects and a whole department? By your logic, only HR professionals or MBAs should be allowed to manage

    8. Manders*

      The way I read this, it sounded like the OP was frustrated with the fact that the organization’s standards for hiring now were much different than the standards for hiring when her now-bosses were hired and promoted to their current positions. So OP had to go out and get an extra degree to get into the field, which might have put her in debt or delayed the start of her career, and she’s annoyed that her bosses never had to go through that.

      This doesn’t excuse the OP’s bad attitude, but I have a little bit of sympathy for her. It can be frustrating to put so much time, effort, and money into qualifying for an entry-level job in your field when you know that your bosses didn’t have to go through that process.

      Or maybe it’s all just sour grapes (or maybe the OP does have a point but it stating it very badly–I certainly have known organizations that promoted people based solely on seniority, and ended up with a lot of dead weight at the top).

      1. Anonicorn*

        So OP had to go out and get an extra degree to get into the field, which might have put her in debt or delayed the start of her career, and she’s annoyed that her bosses never had to go through that.

        I thought the same thing. And it really does stink, especially when you have to wait months to get hired while the grace period on your loan expired if you even got one at all. However, it doesn’t make those higher-ups any less qualified, but I do understand the frustration.

      2. einahpets*

        I can definitely understand this point, as I’ve seen it at my own company as well. I was one of three employees hired within a year at the same entry level position with a MS and 3+ years of research experience each (we are in clinical research field, so relevant), and we are all still at a fairly entry level position 3.5 years later.

        Our department’s associate director (and acting director for the last few months) started out with an associates degree with her only post-degree work as a waitress; she has been with the company ~10 years. I respect the heck out of her, go to her often for advise on projects, and think she does a fantastic job… but there is just no way for anyone to do that at our company (or even in our field) now.

        Our company has grown a lot in those 10 years (3-4x the size it was then), and changed a lot of it’s hiring requirements / job titles in the interim. Because they could. I don’t fault them or resent those who got the opportunities in that time. Since I was hired, our company went through a rough patch for about a year and has been recovering slowly since, so promotions have been scarce even when the workload is heavy. But it is tough to not be discouraged sometimes!

        1. Marcela*

          Yeah, I see what you mean, but you are not losing respect (which I don’t doubt has real manifestations in OP’s workplace) for your director. That’s for me the critical point: you can believe that life is not fair and get discouraged because of it, but you just don’t despise, underestimate or undervalue people because they got a different deal.

        2. Observer*

          That’s the difference between you and the OP. I totally get your frustration, and in many ways it’s not really fair. (Although I would not that sometimes the changes in hiring standards are related to outside requirements rather than “just because we can”.) But, you understand that as frustrating as it is, your boss is good at what she does, if also very lucky. The OP just assumes that they are clueless and unworthy of respect.

            1. Observer*

              Well, the truth is that we do not know how good these people are. And we only have two facts to go on. One is the degrees they got (or didn’t) 20 years ago, and the other is the success of the company. The OP chooses to judge based only on the degrees, which really don’t say anything about current performance. The rest of us choose to asses by the apparent success of the company, which points to them being good at their job.

      3. Tammy*

        That makes sense, that it’s a sort of jealousy that your supervisors had an easier entry into the field than you do. But I also made an assumption that OP is also more educated than her peers (though nothing is said about that)–which would make this a broader sort of jealousy.

    9. Ad Astra*

      Or in one case, an administration, who loathed government and did everything to reduce the size of it…

      Did you work with Ron Swanson?

    10. coriopaxi*

      I can *sort of* see where OP is coming from as well. I also work at a big, multi-site health care nonprofit. In our industry, especially, it was very common (until quite recently), to promote MDs up into C-suite jobs. So basically doctors being asked to make business decisions. The medical mindset and the business/financial mindset aren’t the most compatible (hello, out of control health care costs). Some were able to make the transition and bring something positive into those roles. But many were not. I think especially of a CIO who refused to use email. But he got the CIO job because he was the most senior MD who applied and politically, the organization didn’t want him to walk.

    11. Observer*

      By the way, if it’s a government job, at least in NY, it’s a good job that these people got their job in the first place only because they had a degree, regardless of competence. And, they tend to be “the last man standing” because they don’t really have too many options, and don’t want to / can’t do what it takes to rise elsewhere.

      I am NOT saying that all, or even most, government employees are incompetent idiots. I AM saying that in many government agencies, competence is not what gets you hired – which should not surprise anyone who has read of some of the ridiculous and check-box based hiring procedures some government agencies engage in.

      1. CheeryO*

        I have to say that this really doesn’t jive with my experience as a NYS employee. Yes, you need the degree to get past the gatekeeper, but that’s equally true at many private companies. And I don’t know about the hires made before the recession, but these days, all of our new hires are the kids coming out of college with 3.5+ GPAs and multiple internships. They recognize a good opportunity when they see one (great salary, benefits, and stability), and the competition for our few open positions is pretty stiff.

        1. Observer*

          My experience over the years has been that the rigidity of the hiring process in many positions tends to favor degrees (and other check box attributes) over actual competence. And, that when things start getting crazy, or (as has happened) buy-outs get offered, or anything like that, the people most likely to take a hike are the people with the most actual competence, because they have more options. It’s not universal, of course. And sometimes that very rigidity can work in favor of competence, because it sometimes keeps stupid stuff from being considered. (eg One guy i know whose hair had gone prematurely white was having a hard time getting a job in private employment, despite is his experience and qualifications. One person admitted to him that they were looking for “energetic” types, so he would not be considered. He finally got a job in a city agency where his appearance was a total non-issue.)

          There is also often enough of a pay disparity, that that can also cause someone to decide to go back into private industry.

          I’ve deal with a LOT of city people over the years. They range(d) from awesome to “would never survive 10 minutes in private”. But, all of them had impeccable checklist credentials, regardless of actual competence.

    12. Anx*

      I loved my internship in county government, but one thing I had a very difficult time with was respecting lazy senior employees.

      There was a man in his early 60s making a very good wage who complained about everything and never wanted to start a new project or make an improvement. He had been there since his 20s and had a pension ready to go and was just sitting there collecting a paycheck and going through the motions.

      He made over 3x what a newer coworker of a similar age (and a lot of work experience outside of the department) made I honestly believe she was more than 3x as productive as he was. He also out-earned young workers that supervised him and had advanced degrees. It was pretty eye-opening to see

  22. Case of the Mondays*

    I might out myself with this story but I don’t particularly care. My dad dropped out of high school and joined the Navy. He was a genius to begin with but learned chemistry skills in the military. He was recruited by multiple big name companies right after he left the service. He spent his whole career at a “household name” company. When he retired, he was managing three shifts of chemists, most of whom had masters degrees or PHDs. He has a GED. He mentioned before concerns about people not taking him as seriously because of his lack of degree. I assured him his institutional knowledge is what mattered. I guess he was right that some people may have been judging him. We as a country have done a disservice to many kids by saying that there is only one right track and that track is college. So many would be better off if we recognized their skills and promoted them going into high paying blue collar trades like electricity and plumbing. Not everyone needs to take a philosophy course in life.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I was surprised to find out some of my exceptionally skilled co-workers have no college degree. But back in the day, there was no college degree for their field. 20 years ago, it just wasn’t that important to have a degree because individuals expected to learn their skills on the job. Generally, we don’t work that way anymore, and you are expected to have some education to get an entry level job. You can take your pick of a myriad of associate degrees, and new higher education degrees are popping up every day. Things have definitely changed.
      To say that managers must have a degree would possibly equal age discrimination.

      1. Kita*

        This. I’ve gotten to see many of my (excellent) co-worker’s resumes while preparing certain documents. I always find it interesting to see what they did earlier in their careers. They’ve been everything from admins, factory workers, medical supervisors, and financial analysts. None of them are doing the same type of work in their current job.

    2. Apollo Warbucks*

      We as a country have done a disservice to many kids by saying that there is only one right track and that track is college

      Well said!

      My sister went to university and studied a STEM subject to PHD level which has done her well. I never went to uni and left school bummed around travelling for a bit fell into an accounting / tech support job that I rally enjoy and I had the benefit of not taking on a load of student debt.

      For all the extra years of studying my sisters done are careers are about equal.

    3. Saurs*

      So many would be better off if we recognized their skills and promoted them going into high paying blue collar trades like electricity and plumbing.

      Great comment.

        1. Green*

          Adjunct literally means side gig. Adjuncts should definitely not be planning on side-gigging a career unless they have some other source of paying their bills.

          1. Natalie*

            They’re generally not planning on being adjuncts. The professor market is just soft and it’s easy for a university to cut costs by only hiring adjuncts, rather than associate professors.

            1. Green*

              I know they’re not “planning” on being adjuncts, but because the professor market is soft, if they want full-time gigs they should probably look in other careers. There are at least two actors here that can make rational decisions.

              1. Saurs*

                Let me guess: one of them is an (Almighty and All-Good) Invisible Hand (of the Free Market)?

                1. Green*

                  The “actors” aren’t the invisible hand of the market. But, yeah, if you’re rational, and it turns out that Medieval Literature isn’t hiring, then you should go be something else. But people have “dreams” they must fulfill….

              2. Rana*

                if they want full-time gigs they should probably look in other careers

                That is a lot easier said than done.

                Especially if the markets were good when you started grad school but collapsed shortly after graduation…. ::waves::

                (But, yeah, my general advice these days is that anyone going to grad school had better have a damn good reason to do so. It’s not a guarantee of anything, so you have to accept that you may end up simply paying for the experience itself, as its own thing, rather than as a ticket to a career.)

          2. Saurs*

            No, that’s not what adjunct signifies. Adjunct refers to the supplementary and low-level role said adjunct plays for the department.

            1. Green*

              It’s supposed to be “adjunct” for both the professor and the department. As in, a department isn’t supposed to rely on them in lieu of full-time staff, and the professor is supposed to be doing something else as well (often a practitioner in many fields) with the income as a supplement. It’s not supposed to be anyone’s full-time job, and it’s not intended as a career.

              1. Rana*

                That’s technically true, but in practical terms that ceased being the case at least a decade ago.

              2. Saurs*

                Once again, that is wrong. Adjuncts as non-tenure-track faculty can be and increasingly are full-time. Yours is an ahistorical, apolitical reading of the rise of adjunct faculty in US public universities. The proliferation of adjuncts have nothing to do with people’s “dreams” — unless you’re referring to the dream of one day paying off student loans — but public universities trying to disempower faculty unions and undercut tenured labor to in order to manage shrinking budgets, denying a large portion of the professorial pool benefits, due process, and input in departmental decisions. Students, meanwhile, are saddled with higher tuitions than ever before, predatory and unchecked lending agencies (professional debt-collectors), and a faculty that has no time or money for scholarship, enrichment, additional training, and research, faculty that may have had a world-class education but now which are bound to flounder, faculty which cannot mentor young scholars.

                You’re right about one thing, higher education is no longer a viable career for many unless you’re interested in administration.

    4. Retail Lifer*

      The family members I have that are in the truck driving, plumbing, and carpentry fields are all making way more than me. Granted, I would be absolutely terrible at all of those things so they weren’t an option for me, but getting a degree has yet to do anything for me while my non-degreed cousins are doing just fine.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Yeah, me too. Except my sister is the perfect golden child who does everything right. :P But even my brother, who has no degree, lives in a nicer house than I do and makes more money.

        1. 2horseygirls*

          My mom coordinated a celebration for my brother (our family’s Golden Child), his wife and her brother who all got promoted to VPs within a few months. My husband is well on his way to becoming one (with his AAS), and my sister-in-law just celebrated 20 years as a flight attendant with Major Airline, in addition to being a kick-ass, top-producing Realtor.

          Oh, and we can celebrate 2HG’s new (lateral) job too (nine months later….?) – thanks Mom.

          Fortunately, I love my non-paid work – it keeps my from drinking LOL. Alcohol and 1-ton prey animals don’t mix ;) LOL

            1. 2horseygirls*

              Yep. I have a Percheron (draft horse), and the training we do involves throwing everything at the, from the Plastic Bag of Death to tarps, umbrellas, and loud noises. Instantly earns respect from first responders when they realize what 0-45mph in a split second behind a 1,000 pound rocket feels like ;)

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Amen to this. Amen so, so much. I went to college because it was good for me– but there are so many people for whom it’s not a good path. I value education, absolutely, but education comes in many more forms than college.

      1. Rye-Ann*

        Yeah, seriously! It was the right choice for me, but I have a friend who definitely wishes she hadn’t gone. It worked out okay for her, since she did graduate and it only took 4 1/2 years total I think (with a year off in the middle to work, since the school she started attending shut down after her second year and she had to find a new one). However, she has some sort of art degree (I don’t remember what it is exactly), and doesn’t seem to think her art benefited that much from having gone to school. It doesn’t seem like it was worth the money, anyway. She also knows that it’s not exactly the most career-boosting degree in existence. But her parents wouldn’t let her NOT go to college, so an alternative path really wasn’t an option for her.

        Also, my brother probably could not handle being a full time student. Right now he’s a few years out of high school, working retail, trying to figure out what path he will take. But if he ever does get a college degree it will probably take him way longer than most people. The next time I see him I am going to ask him if he has considered trade school, because I think that might very well be a good thing for him to consider.

        They (teachers and such) pushed the college thing REALLY hard on us in high school, and even though it worked out okay for me I do resent my high school a little bit for not presenting other options as though they were legitimate. :\

        1. The Strand*

          Is your friend still in her early twenties?

          I ask because getting out of the starting gate with an art degree, if you don’t have connections, really does take a lot longer.

          1. Rye-Ann*

            Yes, though I’m honestly not sure if she’s going to try to make art her career or whether she’s going to pursue something else to make money.

    6. Twig*

      Thank you for this! My grandfather had a similar story — dropped out of high school to join the Navy — after a full career there, he wound up as a technical writer at a major government contractor. I think he eventually got a GED, but I’m not sure he even did that. By the time he retired as a technical writer, he was running his department.

    7. BananaPants*

      My brother is a very bright guy and went into the military after high school. He gets to work every day doing a job he truly loves (how many of us can say the same?), he’ll get to go to college when he wants to and it won’t cost him a dime, and he periodically gets job offers from defense contractors offering high 5-figure salaries. His formal education to date consists of high school and various military technical specialty schools and if he wanted to he could leave the service next year and earn as much as I do as an engineer with two master’s degrees. Go figure.

      He does plan to go to college, BTW.

    8. Anna*

      My dad got his GED and worked in a skilled job based on needing to support a family. He didn’t get his degree until it became clear he couldn’t move up in his career without that check mark. Like it had absolutely nothing to do with the job, but they needed to check off that box to promote him. He didn’t even have his BS until I was well in to my 20s. He’s taken early retirement because over 30+ years working for the DoD, he was able to. I don’t buy that you have to have a degree to do well and I’m overly degreed.

      1. abby*

        I am also overly degreed. What is funny (and sad to me) is that my dad, described below, was much more financially successful than me. Same with my sibling, who has no degree but is damn smart and a hard worker.

    9. abby*

      Thank you for sharing! My dad also dropped out of high school to join the navy. He learned computer and electronic skills in the navy and spent his career at several very large firms. When he retired, he was managing STEM graduates, many with advanced degrees. I don’t know if my dad ever got his GED.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      Right on. My father made it through high school with Cs and Ds. He took one or two college courses. Over his life time he was credited with over 50 US patents. He spoke simply but had an intelligence about him that made people stop in their tracks.
      OP, if you keep viewing the workplace through these glasses you are going to miss some of the coolest people in life.

    11. BeeBee*

      I think this was wonderful for your dad. Unfortunately, something like that would NEVER happen today (and I also work at a big chem company). It’s really sad, because I think so many valuable people don’t ever get that chance anymore.

      But that being said, I’ve also worked for “business owners” who somehow got money via investors that had little education and/or knowledge about running a business. They would hire people with both experience and education, but treat them with such disrespect because in their mind, the employees “didn’t know crap just because they have a piece of paper.” I’m not defending the OP, but I sense there may be more going on at the workplace and that’s part of the bad attitude.

  23. GigglyPuff*

    Let’s play a little game:
    What you got a degree in (or not have a degree, cause guess what you don’t always need one) versus what your career is

    Economics and Org. Mgmt and now I’m a Digital Archivist (not for a corporation!)

    1. some1*

      I didn’t finish my Bachelor’s degree. I’m an admin and I make more $ than two of my friends who have college degrees; one as non-profit adminitstrator and one is an editor.

        1. LBK*

          Sadly there isn’t too much of a story: I lucked out and found a hiring manager that cared a lot more about attitude and aptitude than industry experience, which allowed me to get my foot in the door and learn about the industry on the job.

    2. MeredithB*

      Technical Writing and an MBA and right now I am a Production Support Analyst (configuration specialist) at a software company. I don’t do much documentation or writing at all!

        1. Cambridge Comma*

          The weird thing is that it makes sense on my CV…but that’s what sticking around for 15 years and picking up knowledge that they don’t teach you at college can do for you.

      1. setsuko*

        Me too! Glad to find out that I am not the only one. I went from politics to physics. Of course, it did involve going back to school. I managaed to skip the BSc part though and move straight to a master’s course and then a PhD.

      1. MicheleNYC*

        Exercise Physiology with an emphasis on corporate fitness. I have never worked in my field of study because by the time I got to my last year of school. I hated my major and just wanted to be out. I started in customer service and for the last 10 years I have worked in Product Development/Sourcing/Production/Fabric R&D.

    3. Malissa*

      I’m very boring in this game. I have two accounting degrees and I’m an accountant. But I am very interested in the other responses.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        I’m also very boring. I have a degree in Radio/Television Production and work in television production. I will say I learned WAY more in my first six months of real life work than I did in four years of undergrad.

        1. AVP*

          I have a similar history! Degree in Journalism and film, working as a documentary production manager and producer. I agree that I really learned everything on the job in my first few years; I’ve used almost nothing from what I studied in school.

      2. BananaPants*

        Me too. I have bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and am a mechanical engineer. But it is interesting to see the variety!

      3. StarHopper*

        Me too! BA in Spanish, MEd in Secondary Education, currently teaching high school Spanish.

        I love what I do, but I’m the likely event that I don’t retire as a career teacher, I want to know how people transition to alternate paths, preferably WITHOUT having to rack up even more debt.

      4. Book Person*

        Glad not to be the only boring one! BA in literature and publishing, MA in literature, Professional Certification in Publishing…work in higher-ed publishing.

    4. Aunt Vixen*

      BA, MA, MPhil in linguistics; MLS in archives and records management. Now I’m an editor with a little writing, fact-checking, and extremely rudimentary layout by day, and a gigging church musician on weekends and some evenings.

      1. Aunt Vixen*

        Oh, huh, my mistake – my bachelor’s in linguistics is actually a bachelor of science. Probably drives the hard/lab scientists buggy, but there really is science in the social sciences. :-D

        1. Ad Astra*

          My journalism degree is a bachelor of science, I guess because the program is focused on preparing you for a career in journalism rather than studying journalism as it relates to society in a more abstract way. Sort of the way you could get a BS in architecture with the goal of being an architect, or you could get a BA in architectural studies with the goal of knowing a whole lot about architecture as an art form, and its history and stuff like that.

        2. Joline*

          I technically have a Bachelor of Technology (with a focus in accounting) because my school was a technical school that had been given the authority to grant degrees by the province.

    5. Banditcoot*

      Dual major speech communications and business management. 17+ years as a systems analyst. I started two weeks after the new system came online and have been involved as both a user, tester and system admin ever since.

    6. Lefty*

      BS in Political Science/Pre-Law, working as a midlevel supervisor and auditor on the government scale

    7. bridget*

      Literature, and then went to law school because what the hell am I going to do with a literature degree, other than beat my friends at drinking Jeopardy!?

      1. neverjaunty*

        And this is how the legal profession gets stuffed full of people who hate their jobs :(

        1. bridget*

          I actually do really like law, or at least my corner of it (serial clerk/appellate litigator). But that was lucky happenstance, not because I made a good strategic move. PLENTY of my classmates who were also there because they didn’t know what to do with their humanities degrees are unemployed and/or unhappily employed.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Speaking as the person with the world’s least useful undergrad degree but who also loves law, concur. I just see so many people who went to law school because “what else am I going to do with [degree] and I have loans”, and they hate their lives.

            1. fposte*

              I was so close to that–I did well on the LSATs and was literally filling out law-school applications when I thought, “Hang on, I don’t actually want to be a lawyer–why am I doing this?”

              1. afiendishthingy*

                My dad did that after he aced the MCAT and got to the question on the med school application that asked why he wanted to be a doctor.

            2. Green*

              Lots of people also think they like law, but then don’t in practice. You don’t really know until you’re doing it, unfortunately.

              1. bridget*

                Right. I LOVED being a law student. I like being a lawyer fine. You don’t find out whether you actually like being a lawyer until it’s way too late (unless you do something smart like work as a paralegal before law school).

                1. Green*

                  Yep. Same boat. LOVED law school. Being a lawyer is just OK. But maybe I just don’t like working.

                2. Clever Name*

                  I’ve heard that people who love law school are more likely to dislike practicing law (specifically litigation) and those who hated law school actually liked being lawyers better. But maybe I read Corporette too much.

            3. Natalie*

              Older and theoretically wiser people fall into this trap all the time, too. At least a dozen older adults in my life told me to go to law school when I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my career. And the utter horror of the legal job market was *already common knowledge*.

    8. KT*

      My degree is actually related to my work–but I what I learned in college is already out of date…everything I know I learned from on the job training

    9. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      BA: Anthropology and History & MA: Writing and I work in Non-profit Management

      1. kara*

        Ha! Also BA in History and Anth. Currently work as a Project/Program Mgr for a major telecom company.

    10. AndersonDarling*

      Associates in German+7 years experience = Data Analyst & Report Builder.
      (But I hope to finish my Bachelors is January!)

    11. Joie de Vivre*

      No degree – now a Strategic Planning Business Analyst, with more than 20 yrs experience at the same company.

    12. Natalie*

      BA in history, currently working in and pursuing a certificate of accounting. I’m also friends with a STEM major who does nonprofit development, a liberal arts major who does event planning for a hotel, a journalism major who shifted into copywriting, and many more.

      1. Natalie*

        Oh, and my boyfriend has no degree and is in property management. He will probably pursue a technical certificate in the future, though, since it’s required in this state for certain aspects of his job.

    13. Eugenie*

      Degrees in History and Museum Studies — just promoted to be in charge of earned revenue streams at an environmental non-profit.

      1. clm*

        Hi Gwen – quick question….do you work in the legal industry? I also work in data analytics and would like work in a law firm in the same capacity. Any info if you have would be greatly appreciated!!!

    14. The Toxic Avenger*

      BS in Psychology with a minor in statistics. I’m a technical project manager. :)

      1. Mike C.*

        That psych degree must come in really handy, I always feel like PMs are more like diplomats than anything else.

      1. Cordelia Naismith*

        Mathematical Biology? Huh! That sounds like an interesting degree program! What sorts of things do mathematical biologists study?

        1. Mike C.*

          From what I understand this field has it’s root* in the 50’s and 60’s when the Green Revolution was going on, and it was a mathematic approach to looking at large scale agriculture. Those techniques then migrated to the ecology/environmental fields, then evolutionary studies and as computers came about you finally have the mathematical tools to deal with genetics. A great deal is understanding biology, then applying models and statistics to deal with the incredibly large and dirty data sets in an effort to better understand and predict how populations of (critters, genes, ecosystems, etc) are going to change over time.

    15. The Toxic Avenger*

      BS in Psychology with a minor in statistics. I’m a technical project manager.

    16. Another Day*

      Liberal Arts B.A. –at various times worked as legal secretary, claims examiner, budget analyst, management analyst, HR specialist, and HR program manager

    17. Blue Anne*

      My degree is in Philosophy. I have a couple of online bookkeeping courses under my belt, and I’m a year into training for my CA status. I’m an auditor with the Big 4.

      I only give this much detail because it’s relevant to the OP – by accounting standards I’m doing pretty well. With a totally, absolutely irrelevant (and I’ll say it – useless) degree.

      1. Robin B*

        Also a BA in Philosophy— and been working in mortgage banking for nearly 30 years.

    18. CrazyCatLady*

      Didn’t finish my degree, work in supply chain and make more money than most of my friends with degrees.

    19. Last Name here*

      Geology. I was in eCommerce fraud, now I’m in Trust and Safety specializing in child internet safety. I don’t even know what kind of degree to recommend for someone wanting to do this!

      1. Sigrid*

        Ooooo, that sounds really interesting (if also potentially depressing). Is there anything about what the job entails that you can share?

        1. Last Name here*

          We monitor what kids are doing in a very specific platform. We see a lot of kids involved in self harm behavior, sexting, exploitation, cyberbullying, etc. On the plus side, we’ve intervened when kids have been in the process of suicide, on the negative side I’ve seen horrible videos of abuse that I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to have to watch. Fortunately those are few and far between, and even then we’re helping.

    20. GiantPanda*

      Diploma (mostly equivalent to MSc) in Mathematics. I am addicted to studying and have been enrolled in various subjects for a long time – collected credits in computer science, economics, business administration, history, political science. More to come. No second degree because I won’t write another thesis unless my life depends on it.
      Work as a DBA.

    21. Saurs*

      BA in Latin, MA in history; graveyard shift at a wholesale bakery, dayshift in a propagation greenhouse, freelance landscape design when I can get it

    22. JB (not in Houston)*

      Law degree and lawyer, BUT my undergrad is history, and I didn’t use that at all other than to annoy friends and family by picking apart historical movies and TV shows (and now I do that with legal stuff, which annoys my sister because now she gets annoyed with legal shows, too, and can’t enjoy them as much). Who has two thumbs and is the world’s most boring party guest?

      1. bridget*

        Ugh. Law degrees make it so difficult to avoid alienating all of your friends due to obnoxiousness while watching tv :)

        1. LawBee*

          I had to cut out “lawyer tv” entirely. When I was job-hunting, it pissed me off because all the shows that were starting were basically meet-cutes for new grads and their ~~~amazing~~~ firms.

          Now, everything is just WRONG and I cannot watch it. Seriously, tv people, lawyers are not as a whole the Cool Kid Sex Machines that you portray us. We’re generally pretty nerdy.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Cops/detectives/federal agents are the same way. No, it’s NOT like it is on TV! My ex-bf (federal LEO–not FBI though) bitches about the way people on cop shows hold their weapons all the time. Also, he’s incredibly nerdy.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Forgot to add, this is why I try to research stuff as much as possible. I don’t want readers (if I ever have any!) to hate my stuff because I couldn’t be arsed to check it out.

      2. GOG11*

        I was in a program similar to ROTC as a teenager (paramilitary type thing) and it drives me NUTS when they mess up military customs and courtesies. Just thinking about it makes me make inarticulate grumbling noises.

        1. Chinook*

          “I was in a program similar to ROTC as a teenager (paramilitary type thing) and it drives me NUTS when they mess up military customs and courtesies.”

          DH is the worse for this – he always complain that they wear their beret wrong. I, on the other hand, can’t help but critique every show that shows a Mountie wearing his uniform wrong (whereas DH just laughs it off).

        2. Joline*

          I read that as ROUS. Which is a very different thing. I don’t know what sort of program would involve Rodents of Unusual Size.

    23. Kelly O*

      I have an Associate’s in Business Administration (Management Information Systems) and I am apparently a career administrative/executive assistant.

    24. Retail Lifer*

      Got an HR degree but I’m still stuck as a retail manager, although an acquaintance has a degree in English and she’s an HR Manager.

    25. sarah*

      BA in journalism, now work in IT. Lots of my coworkers also do not have an IT/computer science degree.

      1. Ad Astra*

        Ooh, how did you make the move from journalism to IT? I think IT would be a cool field to work in, but I’m not sure my technical skills are quite good enough.

        1. Windchime*

          You might be surprised! We just hired a person from the medical billing office as a Business Analyst. She’s been on our team only a few weeks, but she shows intense interest in SQL and I can tell that she would be quick to pick it up. We will be sending her to SQL training and I could easily see this person transitioning into a junior developer role in a short amount of time. She’s really, really smart and really, really interested and that’s sometimes all it takes (along with some lucky breaks) to get into IT.

          1. Apollo Warbucks*

            That’s how I made the leap from accounting to IT, but my boss was to tight to pay for a course for me.

    26. SR*

      Not me, but a coworker at OldJob had a BFA and was the head of the 4-person accounting department for our medium-small company. (Very good at her job too – IMHO it’s the attention to detail required that’s consistent between art and accounting.)

    27. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Bachelor’s in Theater with minors in French and Legal Studies. MA in Television. I work in brand research, which is kinda sorta related to my master’s when I have media clients, but I concentrated on TV history. I worked for a TV network for over 8 years, doing stuff with numbers.

    28. Formerly The Office Admin, Now Full Time Job Huntress*

      I didn’t finish my degree and I work as an executive assistant.
      My husband has an Associates in Criminal Justice post high school and a BS in Computer Science minor in Software Engineering that he got 10 years post Associates. He works as a software developer.
      His brother, who I consider the perfect case study for this, has a BA in History and works as a pharmaceutical sales rep and has since he finished college, although he got his degree in History to be a teacher, but went for the pharma money instead :)

    29. MaryMary*

      Degree in marketing, now working in human resources consulting.

      I also did software QA and coding for about five years, and I took one introductory IS class in college that literally started with “this is the keyboard, this is the monitor…”

    30. Anon for this*

      BA in Sociology, MS in Health Administration, and now I’m a contractor doing web administration and front end development in Drupal and Section 508 compliance for the Feds. No formal IT education to speak of.

    31. Sparkly Librarian*

      BA in Theatre Arts (minor in Vocal Performance). I worked at a tech company in various aspects of customer support/user experience/documentation/project coordination for 8 years (completely unexpected, although I never expected to work full time in the theatre). During that time I got my Master’s in Library and Information Science, and then became a public librarian (as intended).

    32. Sascha*

      Bachelor’s in English Rhetoric, job as a database developer/business intelligence analyst.

    33. Ezri*

      Computer Science and Software Developer…. so that’s boring. But it’s only been a year, who knows where I’ll be when I’m 40. :)

    34. Vanishing Girl*

      BA in Fine Arts, Textile Design; MS in Information Science
      Currently using my master’s in corporate media, but looking to go back to archives. My Bachelor’s is a good topic of discussion, but not related to what I do.

    35. the_scientist*

      B.Sc in biology, specializing in molecular biology and genetics; M.Sc in epidemiology and I am now an epidemiologist. Scientific fields tend to be ones where you do need a specific degree to get hired- in my corner of the company it’s rare that people don’t have an M.Sc a MPH. Rare, but not impossible.

      My boyfriend, on the other hand, majored in political science and film and is now a buyer for a big chain of stores in Canada. He learned it all on the job.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Epidemiology is FASCINATING. One of my favorite novels is this old 1970s thing called The Black Death, about pneumonic plague (gah!) breaking out in New York City. The heroes of the book are public health people–a doctor and nurse-epidemiology team. I LOVE that book so much. It scared the living crap out of me, partly because it’s so well-researched.

    36. Persephone Mulberry*

      No degree, working toward a BS in Marketing, currently a Project Specialist. My goal is to eventually leave here for someplace with an actual marketing department, hence the degree-in-progress.

    37. snarkalupagus*

      English major, concentration in POETRY…now a logistics engineering manager (disclaimer: did later get an MBA in supply chain management, which is field-germane).

    38. Cordelia Longfellow*

      BA and MA in English, working as a crime analyst and currently doing an MSc in that field, which didn’t exist when I started working.

    39. AnontoAnswerThis*

      BA in History, technical writer. I have a master’s that’s closer to my profession, but that came a good 12 years into my career.

    40. Cari*

      Boring here also: CS degree -> software dev and IT tech jobs after graduating. Now I’m getting into jewellery making though.

      BUT! If I hadn’t gone into the field linked to my degree, the supermarket I worked at on the checkouts wanted me to take on a job in their finance office after I graduated. Who knows what I’d be doing now if I’d taken that opportunity.

    41. HistoryChick*

      BA in history and theater arts (costume design) MA in history and archival studies. Working as a graphic designer and PR specialist for an educational organization. ;-)

    42. sam*

      well, I went to law school and am now a lawyer, so that’s pretty on the mark :)

      but my undergrad degree is in poli sci and women’s studies, with a minor in sociology (or as I like to say “I majored in not planning on getting a job after college”), and my career is generally focused in the area of corporate finance.

      I spend my days often reading and reconciling financial statements and muttering under my breath things like “I went to law school because there was no math on the test!”

      1. LawBee*

        As my ethics professor was fond of saying, “who goes to law school? Smart kids who can’t do math!” :D

        1. sam*

          I say it half in jest. I was actually quite good at math when I was younger, but I got weirdly screwed by getting promoted from the “regular” math track into the “honors” math track at the beginning of my senior year of high school. The problem was, there was a whole range of information that the junior honors kids learned that the regular kids didn’t, so I went into the class with a major gap in knowledge, and ended up woefully behind. to the point where I had to drop back into the regular track after the first quarter.

          At which point, I had missed an entire quarter of what they had learned in the regular track, and ended up playing catch-up there for the rest of the year as well.

          People who know me now, and who know my facility with computers and all things technical, often ask why I didn’t go into engineering or computer science. This was one of the major reasons.

      2. Mike C.*

        There was a time when I was having a really difficult time and was thinking about going into law instead of the sciences. I was told by some lawyers I knew that if I wanted to go into law, and they told me that the last thing I should do is stop being a science major.

      3. Chinook*

        “I spend my days often reading and reconciling financial statements and muttering under my breath things like “I went to law school because there was no math on the test!””

        I feel your pain. I somehow got an university degree without taking one statistics course but ended up in a job that requires heavy duty statistical analysis. Every so often coworkers hear me muttering “I am the only one on the floor with an English degree – why am I doing this instead of the engineers?”

    43. Xay*

      Psychology, MPH in progress (started 11 years after my BA). I work in public health, currently as a consultant to a federal health agency.

    44. Skylarcke*

      BA in American History, senior billing analyst for a major teaching hospital. I did go back to school two years ago to become professionally certified in medical coding, and much of the information from that training is already outdated. Healthcare billing changes ALL the time and is very much a learn-as-you-go field, in my experience.

    45. Folklorist*

      Degree in Folklore (with emphasis on the supernatural in storytelling–see ghost hunter discussion above), working at an engineering magazine.

            1. folklorist*

              DO IT!! My local krampus chapter is having a “krampus in July” party this week. I’m super excited! And Nat Geo is fun to work with, but a very tough nut to crack! I’ve gotten to do a lot of temp and contract work with them over several years but haven’t made it full-time yet.

      1. Schuyler*

        This is awesome–the degree and the concentration. Had I realized that my hometown university had a folklore degree when I was there, I may have saved so much money getting that instead.

        1. Folklorist*

          It depends. There are aspects I love about it and I don’t regret doing it, but it’s a lot of explaining to people. I see why it’s relevant to a lot of different things and can connect my skills interdisciplinarily (possibly not a word), but a lot of people can’t…and it sometimes takes a lot of explaining on cover letters, etc. (Or if I try to avoid explaining it so that I don’t sound defensive, people can write me off as a kook. And fair enough; they might be right!)

          I’m so far doing OK in my field (writing/journalism) and am proud that I followed my passions, but there are definitely days that I wish I had done something more “practical”!

    46. GOG11*

      BA in English. Admin Assistant. I’ve worked in retail, social work, and as a second-in-command at a small nonprofit, as well.

    47. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

      English (both BA and MA), currently a program specialist in a highly specialized program in my state’s Special Education department.

      1. Rye-Ann*

        How did that happen? I’m about to have that same degree set, but I’m thinking that I may need to get creative with my job search if none of the obvious job postings pan out.

        1. Jubilance*

          I’ve had an interesting career path. I spent 7yrs as a laboratory chemist; 3 of those at a big company that is known for Six Sigma, and there I got my introduction to process improvement and project management. Then got hired by a large retail in an analytics role, on a supply chain team. Figured out that I really liked supply chain, really liked managing process improvement projects, but didn’t really like fulfilling requests for data from other people, I’d rather pull my own data and come up with my own conclusions. I’m still at the retailer, just now I focus on process improvement and project management exclusively (no analytics work).

          TL,DR answer: I found a company that valued my skillset and I made the leap. Probably wont ever go back to a traditional laboratory chemist role.

    48. INFJ*

      Used to be a medical diagnostic lab tech with a degree in English. I was the person everyone would ask for the difference between “effect” and “affect.”

      I have since acquired a biology degree and am now an editor. Go figure.

    49. Newsie*

      English and Communications (theoretical, not practical) BAs. Journalism MS, which I actually use.
      The English major ALMOST came in handy yesterday, but hardly, since my focus was more nonfiction. And like ExceptionToTheRule mentioned, I learned a lot on the job that I could not have learned in school.

    50. Not my usual nym*

      Economics, currently working as an imports specialist. So it kind of works, I guess.

      However, let’s throw in my parents. My dad has a PhD in particle physics. He is now a bigwig at a government agencywhich is tangentally related, but very very different from the work he did with lasers for his doctorate. My mom has a masters in comparative english literature, specializing in Faulkner – she was a stay at home mom, though she could have been anything she wanted to be. My FIL got his original degree in electrical engineering. He has since gotten an MBA and writes procedural stuff for a energy company.

      1. Marcela*

        Wow. In my next life I’ll get that PhD in particle physics. Then I’ll do astroparticles and I’ll be singing everyday =^.^=

    51. Cordelia Naismith*

      BA in English, M.Ed. in English Education, and Ed.S. in School Library Media. I work for a university as an academic advisor. My students are all biology majors. Not the strangest career path ever, but it’s not what I thought I would be doing when I was in college.

    52. Betty (the other Betty)*

      Degree in Communications Media (Radio and Television Broadcasting); now a graphic designer running my own business. I think I took one art class and no business classes in college.

    53. Amber Rose*

      B.Sc. in Geography and GIS (dual major baby!).

      I’m a technical documentation controller and marketing manager for a company in a pretty niche part of the oil and gas industry. I’ll also end up as the Safety Coordinator by virtue of my ability to manage paperwork like nobody’s business. My job is probably closer to engineering and records management in terms of what sort of education would be most relative.

      In my last job I spent most of my time writing legal documents: restrictive covenants and easements. I had debated going back to school for paralegal education and even found a lawyer willing to employ me to do just that, but I really like my current job and the lack of additional student loan debt.

      1. Ad Astra*

        One of my sorority sisters, who was from out of state, said she chose my university for its GIS program. I had only recently heard of GIS when I took a geography elective, so I always thought it was crazy impressive that a 17-year-old was so honed in on what she wanted to do. Most of the 17-year-olds I’ve known said stuff like “I want to be a lawyer because I love to argue.”

        1. Amber Rose*

          GIS came out of a long talk with the head of the geography department. I was frustrated by my love of science and design and experimentation and my utter inability to do calculus.

          One of my final projects was a program that simulated grass fires. It was super fun. Sadly I don’t use it at all for work, but I did enjoy it while it lasted.

      2. Pinkie Pie Chart*

        I love GIS. :) I wish I had the money to take more classes in it, even though it’s totally irrelevant to what I do now.

    54. BirdyTX*

      My degree is in Classical archaeology and I am working in accounting and about a year away from being a CPA.

    55. LawBee*

      Economics, French minor. Now I’m a litigation attorney who specializes in a teeny tiny area of law that has absolutely nothing to do with a) economics or b) french.

    56. fposte*

      Bachelor’s in English literature (grad degrees as well), academic in library science working with children’s literature and youth stuff.

    57. Elizabeth*

      BS in interdisciplinary social sciences, with an emphasis in geography & history. I work in health information technology. At our hospital, if it isn’t a doctor or nurse, there is a good chance I work with the system, and I do a lot of work the with doctors now.

    58. LeighTX*

      Degree in Business Education (in 1993–I was going to teach typing! Remember typing class?!).
      Now I’m an Accounting Manager/Assistant Controller.

      1. Jill*

        BA in Accounting, Masters in Business
        Currently a policy analyst/political researcher, previously spent 8 years as a political aide.

    59. vKit*

      ASB in Computer Management/Solutions Development. I’m now in Business Intelligence (IT). My current skills/job are related to my education, but represent a discrete specialization.

      My path immediately out of school was: PC/Printer Support Specialist (ugh) for a large company –> Junior Programmer (VB6) for a startup –> Front-end ASP developer for a startup –> Business Intelligence Programmer Analyst for a retail chain –> Business Intelligence Developer for a database services company.

      I’m very happy with where I landed even though I didn’t like databases when I was in school. Considering that my schooling was very affordable and that I’ve been working in IT full time since I was 20, I’m more than satisfied with the ROI of my education. It was just enough to get my foot in the door, but not so much that I put myself or my family in financial stress.

    60. Drama Llama's Mama*

      BA in Music, MA in Arts Administration, MBA.
      I work in healthcare analytics.

      1. Drama Llama's Mama*

        Also, my husband has a degree in history and is…a professional musician.

    61. anon for today*

      I have an English BA and creative writing/translation MFA, and I do accounting work within book publishing. A CPA would have no advantage over me if they came to my job with no publishing experience. Virtually everybody in this industry learns their specialty on the job, and they often get a strong foundation in more than one area. Based on my past experience, I could also easily transition into a job drafting and negotiating contracts, and I have no formal law education. I recently interviewed at a division of a ginormous corporate publisher where the very successful VP of Finance has a history degree. She supervises a team of financial analysts, and when she was hiring, my on-the-job accounting training was enough to make me a finalist.

    62. Sunshine*

      English major (incomplete)… working in Logistics/Transportation. Coming up on 19 years.

    63. Lizzy*

      B.S. in News-Editorial Journalism and an MPA with a concentration in Government Management. I work in Marketing and Development for a performing arts organization. Maybe not too far off from my undergrad degree since I still do a lot of writing, but never in my career did I get to set foot in a news room.

    64. Pinkie Pie Chart*

      No degree, but finishing up one in geology. Now a SharePoint systems manager.

    65. moss*

      Math/CS undergrad, statistics master’s, which got me into the door in my current field. I’ve been a software developer, systems administrator, & now do data analysis for drug studies (but I’m not a statistician! although they get paid way more! because I am a really good coder.)

    66. Anna*

      MA Sociology and BA Spanish.

      I work in marketing and outreach for a federally funded job training program. Marginally related to my MA but I don’t need an MA to do what I do.

    67. AliCat*

      BA in Classics, MA in Liberal Studies, Postgrad Diploma in Palaeopathology…currently work as an admin at a community college.

      1. CollegeAdmin*

        Hey, me too! (Until recently – now in grad school for data analytics and just changed roles at my college to be an analyst)

    68. Tagg*

      Graduated at the height of the recession in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design. I actually managed to get a few jobs in the design field before I realized that I hated, HATED, working in Graphic Design. (fun fact: it’s less designing gorgeous packaging for Apple and more slapping together hideous ads for the local Car Dealership).

      Eventually got a job in customer service for a large healthcare organization, and I’m happier than I ever was in Design. Plus, I actually have creative energy at the end of the day, and can pursue my own side businesses.

    69. Windchime*

      No degree; a couple of years of community college. Senior Data Solutions Architect in a BI department.

    70. Chinook*

      B. Ed in Secondary Education – Major in English, double minor in ESL and Rel. Education.

      Now an office worker (no one has come up with a real title yet) at a pipeline company working with Integrity Department, Procurement and who ever else calls as well as designing and managing a complicated database.

    71. Schuyler*

      BA in music (emphasis in music management), but work in higher education administration as a financial aid administrator.

      I’m also working on an MEd in higher ed admin because higher ed is one of those fields where you really cannot move up without the requisite degrees. (Exceptions: Those who already have a a good amount–10 years or more–of experience in the field may be able to sub experience for a master’s.) This is a real sore spot for me, because as so many have mentioned, a degree can’t and shouldn’t substitute for a track record of good work. I try really hard to keep the bitterness away, tbh.

    72. Rebecca*

      BA in sociology, work in the corporate retail world.

      I mean, it’s not *totally* dissimilar, it’s a lot of analyzing numbers. But definitely not what I thought I would be doing 10 (!) years after graduating college. I worked in retail sales while I was in high school and college, then got recruited to go through a store management training program, did that for a while then found a job on the corporate side where my store experience was a plus.

    73. Beancounter in Texas*

      BA in Applied Music (Piano Performance), working as a bookkeeper/HR generalist/office manager for small businesses.

      1. afiendishthingy*

        I have a good friend who has a BA in Piano Performance and works as a Certified Nurse Midwife. Obviously she did need more schooling for that.

    74. Beezus*

      BA in English, working in Supply Chain. One of my long-timeyest coworkers has a degree in Physical Education. We interviewed a peer candidate with a Sociology degree last year, and he was sooo nervous that his unrelated degree wouldn’t trump his five years of related experience (not a problem, he got the job and does it well.) Most of our hires in the last few years are people with accounting/finance/business/supply chain degrees, though.

    75. Beezus*

      BA in English, working in Supply Chain.

      One of my long-timeyest coworkers has a degree in Physical Education.

      We interviewed a peer candidate with a Sociology degree last year, and he was sooo nervous that his unrelated degree wouldn’t trump his five years of related experience (not a problem, he got the job and does it well.)

      Most of our hires in the last few years are people with accounting/finance/business/supply chain degrees, though.

    76. Elizabeth West*

      Started BA in Vocal Music Performance; didn’t finish (almost did).
      Earned BS in English and AS in Criminology years later.
      Started MS in Ed and didn’t finish.
      Started BS in Professional Writing and didn’t finish.
      Works as administrative assistant for a large technology services company. Owns nothing that is worth a crap.

      I’m done with school forever. I don’t know why I keep running back to the bosom of Mother Education–she has done nothing for me. I owe tons and will end up never being able to retire and will have no Social Security and die alone. :P

      1. Not So NewReader*

        In a parallel universe, EW made a bizillion dollars on her first book, and paid off all her loans in the first month’s royalties.

        Remember the poster of the frog choking the pelican? Just keep choking that pelican.

    77. YogiJosephina*

      Sociology and Classics, and I’m a yoga teacher at a university and work full-time at a grocery store. By choice, after leaving 6 years in non-profit/fundraising.

    78. Dorth Vader*

      Early Childhood Ed (birth through age 5 specialty) and a Social Work minor. I’m a nanny for two kids- one entering 3rd grade and one entering their second year of preschool. I’m not really using all my teaching experience, but it’s really helpful to have the background knowledge of what to expect at each age. Especially when the younger was toilet training.

    79. Clever Name*

      I’m boring and predictable. BS in Biology, MS in Environmental Science. Working as an environmental consultant using both degrees. Whomp Whomp. ;)

    80. MJ (Aotearoa/New Zealand)*

      No degree (I have one semester of a BA in History!) and I’m a Payroll specialist.

    81. Chickaletta*

      Business Administration and now a graphic designer, although I’m considering changing careers again.

    82. LadyErin*

      BS in Architecture – now Retail Manager for a Garden Center

      Everything I know about plant care, plant diseases, and insects came from working my way up from cashier. I don’t have a horticulture or plant pathology or entomology degree.

    83. greenlily*

      Degree: Music major (my instrument is choral singing/conducting, so it was sort of a general major) and theater arts minor (stage management).

      Job: Financial aid administrator at a performing arts college.

      I didn’t know anything about financial aid when I was hired, but the folks doing the hiring thought I would have the necessary perspective on the life of an artist and what kind of financial choices arts students and their families make, and I could learn the rest on the job. It worked out okay.

    84. Clinical Supervisor*

      BA in anthropology. Masters in Education with concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis, BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst). I supervise home-based treatment for kids with developmental disabilities and behavior issues. The masters and certification are related and required for my position, but I held lower level positions in this field for years when I only had the unrelated bachelors. I do definitely use a lot of what I learned in grad school in my job, but my grad school program also required that students were working in the field so we could apply what was being taught. I loved my liberal arts college, I learned a lot critical thinking skills and it definitely prepared me for graduate school, but there also isn’t a substitute for on the job experience.

    85. CA Admin*

      I have a BA in Political Science (American Politics concentration) and I work as a partner-level Executive Assistant in Finance.

      My husband has his BA in Anthropology (Biological Anthropology concentration) and is a software engineer for a startup.

    86. ginger ale for all*

      No degree (just one semester short of a undergrad degree in history, no plans to ever get it) and I work in a university library. I competed against others who have their masters in library science and got the job. My previous experience of working my way up the ladder got me here. I take in extra training when it is offered on the job.

    87. Verde*

      Haven’t formally graduated from anything since 8th grade.
      Currently Manager of Finance & HR. Have taken some college classes in both, and have an HR certification, but have not completed a degree program. Have participated in ten years’ worth of annual non-profit audits with revenue growing from $3mil to $9mil over the years, and the last six were my responsibility completely.
      Prior to that, I’ve done everything from retail record store, to early tech start-ups, working in a club/bartending, PR and Communications Manager, and so on. It’s been a wild pathway and here I am!

    88. pinky*

      bachelor’s – marketing; master’s – special education; post master’s certificate – Behavior (bcba). I’m a special ed preschool teacher

    89. YawningDodo*

      BA in film studies, now a processing archivist. I did come here by way of an MS in information studies, though.

    90. knitcrazybooknut*

      Blended degree in Women’s History, Psychology and Literature. MFA in Creative Writing. Currently working as a techie in HR for a state university.

    91. Soharaz*

      BA in Religious Studies (minor in History) and MA in Publishing. Working as a Marketing Executive at a software company and looking to transition to recruitment.

    92. Interesting!*

      I don’t usually comment, but this is a really interesting game/sub-thread.

      History BA & MLIS — librarian at a college, with a few years teaching in there between the BA and MLIS.

    93. Fact & Fiction*

      Started out studying English Lit and Spanish, got BA in Humanities with emphasis on Lit/History because Reasons, applied to law school because was another interest and worked in legal support services, came to senses due to wanting to start family and the economy tanking, got paralegal cert/Masters instead, worked as paralegal a few years, sold book series, quit legal field, developed freelance writing/editing career, now have full-time job as an editor for a publishing services company and am trying to reinvigorate fiction career.

    94. LiveAndLetDie*

      I hold a BA in History and English and an MA in History, and I work in market research.

    95. Felicia*

      Degree in journalism, do marketing/communications for a small non profit. Actually extremely related and I use some of what I learned in school every day, but I know that’s not the norm.

      1. Finny*

        Oh, yes, and my mother has a BS in sociology with a minor in gerontology, and was a mortgage loan underwriter.

    96. phillist*

      EMT certification; still working on my Bachelor’s.

      I manage Operations for a very well-known non-profit. I’ve been a manager in various industries for almost a decade (I’m fairly young, so basically my entire working life), starting out at entry level and working my way up.

      I drastically out-earn the majority of my peers who have 4 year degrees (besides maybe the Engineers).

      OP would hate to work for me.

    97. MissDisplaced*

      What you got a degree in (Communications/English/Graphic Design) versus what your career is (Communications-Marketing). Guess I’m in the minority. Everything I’ve done in my career led up to what I do now, including all those years working in the printing factory. And it took me almost 15 years to finish my degrees while working full time.

    98. Human Resources Manager*

      Bachelor’s in Sociology/Criminology, work as a Human Resources Manager for a financial institution. I never intended on getting into HR but it’s been a good career path, pays well and I always seem to be able to find positions and move up. I did not finish my degree until I was in my 30’s and was already moving up in the financial field but the degree did allow me to check the box which is helpful as many can attest. I also have a senior certification in my field which I think is completely unnecessary but my company paid for it so why not?

    99. Pixel*

      M.Sc. in evolutionary biology, working as an accountant in public practice with a detour in teaching at a community college. I’m *thisclose* to earning my CPA so I guess I would earn the OP’s approval. However, I don’t hold a candle to my supervisor, who does not have a degree and is behind me on her CPA course, but has been with the company for several years and is really, really good at what she does.

  24. MsM*

    In case you’re wondering why people are being so hard on you, OP, nowhere do you provide any evidence of these people’s incompetence. Which, considering the company has stuck around as they’ve worked their way up the ladder, can’t be all that terrible.

    I do get it. You’ve worked hard for your qualifications. You don’t want all that effort to be in vain. And it may be that this organization isn’t a good fit for you if you’re hoping for a dramatic career boost post-graduation. But there’s a reason most MBA programs want people who’ve been out in the working world for at least a little while: theory might give you a solid starting point, but experience generally trumps it, especially when you’re dealing with complex and idiosyncratic issues.

    1. some1*

      My friend got an MBA and still couldn’t get higher-level job because employers also wanted someone who had managed people before.

    2. PriorityZero*

      This! Maybe these people are incompetent, but we have been shown no evidence of that.

    3. BeeBee*

      I sense there may be more and/or some incidents that contribute to the bad attitude.
      To be fair to OP, I have seen the cases where the people who’ve “been around” or are business owners that are not terribly well educated think they are better/know more than the educated people. And there definitely seems to be a backlash right now towards higher education from the right wing nuts.

      I worked for one such owner who liked to hire very well educated people only to disparage them with the “I know more than their piece of paper and fancy education will ever give them” attitude. He wouldn’t listen to any advice they offered, and of course he soon ran the business into the ground. I always wondered why he hired them… in fact he insisted his employees have the advanced degrees he lacked.

  25. Cassie*


    College degrees are great for getting you in the door. However, a lot of companies value work experience over a degree. A degree means nothing if you don’t have success in your field. Emloyers look to promote people with experience, success, good work ethic, etc. I know people who have started at the bottom and worked their way up with no college degree at all.

    1. AMG*

      mmm…no. I actually use my education. It’s not just a foot in the door. It has practical value once you have a job too, even if it’s not in the same field.

      1. LBK*

        This depends so heavily on your field that I don’t think you can make a blanket statement – and even for highly technical fields where you’ll be able to directly apply knowledge you gained in school, I think you always learn more once you’re applying it to real situations. There’s just too many nuances to real work that you don’t get in coursework.

        1. AMG*

          Agreed, but that isn’t to say that a degree is nothing more than a piece of paper. It’s quite a bit more.

          1. LBK*

            I don’t think people are saying that to devalue the worth of getting a degree, but rather to say that after someone’s been in an industry for 20 years, the weight you should be giving their education is minimal. The odds that the technical knowledge they would’ve gained from that even applies anymore are small, and that’s 20 years of soft skills experience as well that trumps the 4-6 you might get in school.

            1. AMG*

              I see people flat-out devaluing the degree. Of course 20 years of relevant experience is…relevant. I am talking about the statements like this: “College degrees are great for getting you in the door” when the fact is that they actually do quite a bit more.

              1. Blue Anne*

                They can do quite a bit more, but they’re so incredibly varied that it doesn’t make sense to assume they do.

                I say this as someone with an undergrad Philosophy degree from a great university. There is just no application. There really isn’t. Do I think differently now? Did studying Philosophy lead to a lot of personal development? Sure. But basically, career-wise, it’s just a piece of paper saying that I can be successful at sticking with something difficult for a number of years.

                And there’s a huge spectrum between your degree and mine.

                The only common denominator of pretty much all types of degrees is – they get you in the door.

                1. AMG*

                  I think there are other things you can learn in college, and I don’t think getting a degree necessarily gets you in the door. Isn’t that kind of the point of the post? What if there’s a job posting and 2 candidates apply: one with 20 years experience but no degree and one with a degree but no experience? Does the person with the education get the job? All else being equal, the experience would win out. And I’m not saying it shouldn’t. My point it that they both have value.

                2. kara*

                  AMG – you asked: 2 candidates apply: one with 20 years experience but no degree and one with a degree but no experience? Does the person with the education get the job?

                  Let me tell you a story. My housemate has 18 years experience (including multiple training courses and certifications related to his field) running a Sales Tax division for a major manufacturer. Last year his company declared bankruptcy and laid off 50% of their people. He has been applying for jobs since May of 2014. He is still unemployed. You know why? He doesn’t have a degree. He has gotten several interviews, but not as many as he should based on his experience, his knowledge, and his references. In every case he’s been told that if he only had a degree, he would have been their choice.

                  So yes, in a situation where someone eminently qualified with 18+ years experience, sterling references, and tons of non-degree certifications comes up against someone with less experience but a degree? The degree wins.

                  I would suggest that you back down on your dogmatic stance here just a bit. It’s obvious you’re not aware of what it’s like out there for people who don’t have a degree.

                3. AMG*

                  Actually, Kara, I fully understand the value of the degree–it seems to me that there are many people here who think that a degree is ‘just a piece of paper’. I know how hard it is because I went to college late. The only reason why I went is because I had to go through that. For me, it would really depend on my particular hiring need as to which person I would choose. We have a good mix on my team at work.

              2. Xay*

                But sometimes they do just check a box. Every degree doesn’t have the same value in every field or for every employer. I have a BA from a great liberal arts college. That said, aside from my first job, that degree is on my resume to check a box. Similarly, I am working on my MPH now just to check an additional box so I can get higher pay and better chances for advancement. I have 10 years of experience so although what I am learning in school is interesting and enriching, it isn’t a game changer in terms of my job. I’m paying to check a box, credentialize my experience, and add the name of a university that is well respected in my field to my resume.

                1. AMG*

                  Better chances for advancement = better expereince. At least, that has been the case for me. It compounds.

            2. Retail Lifer*

              This is true. My college marketing courses didn’t include internet marketing because the internet was barely a thing back then. Someone fresh out of school is bound to have a better understanding of the nuances better than me, but not necessarily someone who has been in the industry for 20 years and has been learning as things are changing.

      2. I threw up in my mouth a little...*

        I disagree. It is a foot in the door. You can be the most highly educated monkey and have no actual real-world practicality. You have to prove that you’re good at a job in order to STAY at a job.
        For example, I once got an intro to a company through an acquaintance. I got the job, after interviewing extensively. The acquaintance then said I ‘owed’ him for ‘getting [me] a job’ – and continued to do so during the 1.5 years we worked together before he moved on (other personality fit/issues with him).
        He didn’t get me the job. My good interviewing and experience got me the job. And after that, my good work ethic and good work kept me the job. *He did not get me the job; he got me the introduction.*

        Education is, in fact, the ‘foot in the door;’ it might get you the interview. You have to interview well to get the job, and then perform well on the job to keep the job, and subsequently be promoted. You may APPLY you education on the job, true, but it doesn’t get you the job nor does it keep you the job.

        1. Just Another Techie*

          Truth. If it did, our economy wouldn’t be full of unemployed people with college and even graduate degrees who can’t find work.

          1. I threw up in my mouth a little...*

            Per what I said, many people apply their education on the job regularly.

            However, the piece of paper itself saying you have a bachelors or masters in teapots, all it does is get your foot in the door. You have to know how to effectively apply your educational (and real world if applicable) experience to keep the job.

            I think we’re saying the same thing, it’s just tomato tomahto. :)

          2. Anon for this comment*

            You’re seeming a little defensive of your degree – lots of people commenting on this thread have a degree, or multiple degrees. Their opinions about the current value of higher education don’t devalue your degree, or the work you put into achieving it.

            It is very true that in some fields, the undergrad degree and the practical work are married together very well. In a LOT of fields, however, it doesn’t matter what your degree is IN, as long as you can learn the job. And that’s how people move up with no degrees or unrelated degrees to management and higher level positions.

            You should be proud of what you’ve achieved! But also try to recognize that you’re taking these comments really personally.

            1. AMG*

              I don’t think someone else’s opinion devalues my degree, although it is offensive to say that a degree is a piece of paper. And I can tell you that I am selected for specific assignments over my peer with 30 decades of experience on me. I know for a fact it’s because I have a degree, among other qualifications. I just don’t get where on earth anyone would think that a degree isn’t worth anything other than getting a foot in the door, even when it’s not directly related to your field. It’s. So. Weird. I am taken aback by this whole thread.

              1. Rana*

                AMG, I agree with you. I have painful experience with the fact that for many employers, a degree is just a tick-box on their application form, but that assumption is not reality in a lot of cases.

                What my particular degree indicates is the ability to see a difficult, long-term, and complex project through to completion; possession of communication skills honed through writing, teaching, and public speaking; the analytical skills needed to sift through large amounts of data, extract representative examples, and translate that into well-organized narratives; technical skills such as mastery of word processing software, presentation technologies, database construction and analysis, mechanical troubleshooting, and so on… and that’s not even touching on the specifics of my particular subject areas, nor mentioning a highly-trained ability to learn and assimilate new information quickly.

                Now, does that mean that a person without such a degree lacks such skills? No, of course not. Nor does it mean that those skills have been necessarily been used in ways that are immediately useful to an employer in another industry.

                But to say that my degree is “only” a “piece of paper” or “only” a “way of getting a foot in the door” implies that I spent seven years twiddling my thumbs and learning nothing at all of value. That’s pretty insulting!

              2. I threw up in my mouth a little...*

                AMG I am definitively NOT saying your degree is only as valuable as a piece of paper. I really think you are reading into this too much.
                Plenty of people out their get degrees from big prestigious schools, and plenty get degrees from programs that may or may not be very respected. Regardless – it’s all about how you APPLY the learning of your degree on the job.
                Having a degree may check a box on your application. Which may get you an interview (among other experience factors). Once you get the interview you have to be able to effectively apply your learning to real world on the job situations in order to keep the job.
                I have a degree. I worked hard and spent a lot of money on it – my own money, not my parents’ – and I don’t think it doesn’t account for anything. But for on the job experience you could have a degree that is the highest most utmost best looking degree ever, and have absolutely zero ability to apply it in the real world, and you won’t keep the job.
                A degree isn’t a ‘piece of paper’ in and of itself, but once you get the job you don’t keep the job because you have a degree.
                I promise when we’re having conversations on whether or not to fire Bob, we talk about his ability to work with others, his on the job results, etc. etc. I would not speak up and say “oh but even despite all this, he has an electrical engineering biochemistry CPA lawyer degree from Harvard, we definitely shouldn’t fire him!”

      3. Observer*

        But, according to the OP, that’s not true. If notice, the OP complains that s/he cannot respect people who “have no education, or education that doesn’t pertain to the job.”

        1. AMG*

          That’s a fair point; I don’t believe anyone is saying that an attitude adjustment isn’t in order. I’m not the OP. This is what I am saying.

      4. Felicia*

        I directly use my education sometimes, but my practical experience is still far more valuable, which I think is usually the case.

  26. steve g*

    I know where you are coming from, but I don’t think finance is one of the fields where you HAVE to have a degree to get ahead in it (but not having one definitely holds you back so it’s kind of impressive if your boss gets ahead without one). In addition to other work history, I have about seven years in sales ops doing 90percent excel based analysis, forecasting, making templates, etc. I’ve worked with quite a few people who associates degrees or Bachelor’s in liberal arts who can tear through annual reports, accounting statements, and build financial models like someone working in finance, in jobs where we did a lot of work for accounting and finance. The truth of the matter is that a lot of accounting and finance concepts are common sense and easy to look up or buy a book on if you want.

    I think areas you need to have a finance degree in are ones dealing with regulatory and compliance projects in finance, working in regulatory reporting, or if you’re in a role where you are the sole finance employee for a company, or if your in venture capital….but not every job is going to need one.

    You mentioned “running complex systems.” I took a lot of. Accounting, finance, and statistics/econometrics classes in college and that wasn’t a skill area touched. IMHE people running complex systems started out in psuedo-business analyst roles and worked there way into more technical business analyst roles.

    I hope people don’t pile on that you are wrong though! That is never fun to read

    1. Mike C.*

      This is a great point. There is a huge overlap in the sorts of degrees or educational experiences someone can have for the vast majority of jobs. How many jobs require a decent knowledge of math, and how many different types of degrees offer it, for example?

  27. fposte*

    OP, that would also make you undercredentialed, since you’re lacking an MBA but working in the business office. An accounting degree isn’t a substitute. (Do you see how that logic doesn’t really work for what it is you need to do in the job?) (Oh, and maybe dial down on the Googling your co-workers.)

    Given that you’re focusing particularly on post-grad stuff like certificates and master’s degrees, I’m wondering if this is really about you thinking you’re smarter than your managers. Which may or may not be true–you can’t tell from degrees. But even if it is true, it doesn’t actually matter; it doesn’t mean you know better than they do, or that you’d be a better manager than they are.

    And if they do suck as managers, it’s not because they got the wrong degree, so you’re focusing on the wrong issue there.

    1. Saurs*

      But even if it is true, it doesn’t actually matter; it doesn’t mean you know better than they do, or that you’d be a better manager than they are.

      Saddled with an out-of-touch, elitist attitude and unimaginative, rigid thinking about what makes a suitable supervisor, a person would be pretty crap as a manager. Hiring, managing, training, and promoting people require more than a degree, OP. You’d lose out on a lot of bright, hard-working employees because you endorse degreed affirmative action.

  28. Jeannalola*

    I’m not going to do a smackdown on you-although I feel like you deserve it—I’m going to try to give you some advice that may help you in your future career. The value of formal education has increasingly been overrated. Sure, you learn certain things, and there is a discipline required to get through it and get that degree. But there is SO.MUCH.MORE to the world of work than having a degree (or in your case, it looks like three degrees!) Numerous degrees does not help you with a work ethic, office politics, frustrations in dealing with managers and c0-workers, SOPs for specific industries and companies, and, most importantly, particularly in the healthcare finance field, there is almost DAILY change in how things are done. It sounds to me like you have drunk the Kool-Aid that (mostly) proprietary higher education schools have sold to the unsuspecting American public just to get the student loan money. I have worked with so many people that are doing a less than respected masters that will never get them anywhere, because they don’t have the foggiest as to how to work, manage their management, get along with their co-workers, and keep up on the latest developments in their field. And they are paying so much for these degrees; it is pitiful. My advice is to see what you can learn from the folks that have been able to persevere for 20 years in healthcare–the most stressful and difficult field you can be in. Don’t be elitist and see them as enemies. See them as a continuation of your investment in your education and can help you to shine in your field. And don’t be ageist, because you sound like you are!!! Oh, and by the way, can you check back with us in twenty years?

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Agree 100%. The OP is not alone. After paying so much for a degree and putting in so much time, it can feel like there should be more workplace “value” in a degree. It also doesn’t help that colleges and universities coddle students in to thinking they will jump right into a managerial/executive jobs since the school provided a “real world, leading, [inset other buzzwords]” education.

  29. Guy Incognito*

    I used to work for a major financial services firm in the UK (just out side the big 4) and from what I can see degree subjects are kind of irrelevant.

    The former CEO has a History degree the current CEO has a Chemistry degree they are both very talented and capable people. Who have reached the top of their profession and are wildly regarded as some of the most influential people in the City of London financial circles. I can not understand the thought process involved in looking down your nose at someone’s educational back ground from more than 20 years ago.

    I don’t think I can add anything more to what Alison said in the last couple of lines of her answer:

    “You have a deep misunderstanding of who to respect and how people earn their positions.

    But do your managers a favor: If this is how you look at them, by all means go work for someone whose college coursework 20 years ago meets with your approval.”

  30. Artemesia*

    My Dad had a degree in mining engineering. For most of his career he designed aircraft, like the B52 and 747 and missiles like the Minuteman. He was a minor but important player supervising a key element in the design of the equipment that put men on the moon. It isn’t what your degree is in, it is what you can do and most of what we learn in life we learn as we go along on the job.

    1. Mockingjay*

      “It isn’t what your degree is in, it is what you can do and most of what we learn in life we learn as we go along on the job.”


  31. Not Today Satan*

    Honestly, I remember a very very very very very small amount of the things I learned as a college student (and it wasn’t *that* long ago). I suspect that many people are the same way. In fact, it’s for this reason that it really bugs me when jobs require very particular college majors for people with lots of work experience.

  32. Former Usher*

    Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the OP chose to write a letter and seek Ms. Green’s input. I’m hopeful that the OP might now see things from a different perspective.

    1. Kiki*

      Also, OP doesn’t write the article title, the writer does, and it’s usually a bit sensationalized. OP never said they “don’t respect”, at least not in what got posted here. OP’s tone isn’t *quite* as rough.

      1. Bend & Snap*

        Actually, OP did say that. And it’s worse than the headline: “It’s becoming a sticking point, so much that I don’t respect or look up to my managers.”

        1. Kiki*

          I stand corrected on the wording, but I hold fast to my headlines-are-a-bit-sensationalized, as a general rules on this site. Sorry, but I’ve been reading this site off and on for several years and that’s consistent. It pulls in readers…so I get it, but sometimes it helps the pile-on really get rolling.

          1. LBK*

            Really? I find the titles here as non-sensational as possible. They very dryly describe the situation in the letter – which is often sensational in and of itself.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        From the letter: “It’s becoming a sticking point, so much that I don’t respect or look up to my managers.”

        I don’t believe I write sensationalized headlines. I try to write headlines that are extremely straightforward summaries, in fact.

        1. Bend & Snap*

          I write headlines as part of my job, and AAM’s don’t qualify as sensational IMO. Sensationalized = the content doesn’t match the headline. That’s never the case here.

          1. Beancounter in Texas*

            Compared to the trash mags at the checkout lines, AAM’s headlines are mild and IMO, definitively more interesting.

            1. Anna*

              It would be sort of fun if they were more sensational. “Her Boss Doesn’t Have a Degree and She Does! Can They Get Along? Click Here to Find Out!”

              The article, I think, would be very short. :)

              1. Lionness*

                She Found Out Her Boss Doesn’t Have a Degree. What Happened Next Will Make You Gasp…

        2. Ad Astra*

          I wouldn’t say the headlines are sensationalized, but they do often reflect (or at least hint at) Allison’s opinion on the situation. Which is fine, because that’s what we come here for.

    2. Cambridge Comma*

      For me that is the most surprising thing. I think a lot of regular readers could have predicted Alison’s response. Which made me wonder whether Alison received this mail in a different context…is there a story behind it?

        1. Cambridge Comma*

          Wow. Then maybe the OP isn’t a regular reader. (S)he didn’t even ask an actual question.

      1. The IT Manager*

        I think a good percentage of the letters come from people who aren’t regular readers. Less than 50% but maybe not much less.

  33. qtipqueen*

    A degree doesn’t open doors as much as it keeps doors from being slammed in your face.

    1. Ash (the other one)*

      Yup. And even then, a degree can be a disadvantage too. When I was looking for jobs about a year ago I started dropping the Ph.D. from my resume for some positions so hiring managers wouldn’t immediately dismiss me for being too qualified for a position. I’m hiring for a BA level position right now and find myself having to disqualify those with an MA simply because of our structure here (and I don’t need another MA level hire).

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I agree to a point. I’ve been told I’m overqualified for jobs I’m perfectly capable of doing because I have degrees—“You’d be bored.” I always wanted to say, Well yeah, maybe a little bored, because it’s work and not the fun fair. But if I’m applying, you should at least assume I’m halfway interested in doing the work.

        1. Rana*

          Yup. I really wish people wouldn’t make so many assumptions about what a degree means to the person who holds it.

  34. Mena*

    Recent college grads arrive with a piece of paper that shows they can commit to earning a degree and maintaining that commitment. There may be some basic learnings in a focused area too but value arrives with work experience and a track record of success. Or, as the OP’s management demonstrates, long-term success in an organization.

    Rather clueless, OP – and you are over-valuing your possible impact on the organization. You give your management too little credit (and your recent college accomplishments much too much credit).

  35. Joie de Vivre*

    OP – Please understand that not all learning happens in school and academic success/credentials do not automatically translate to success in the work place. Career paths start in different places, take wildly different routes from person to person and are all valid ways to make your way in the world. Some of the best opportunities to learn and grow are when we have the chance to work with people who have taken different routes through life than ourselves. With this type of attitude you are seriously limiting your ability to learn from people who have a different background than yours.

  36. Long Time Reader First Time Poster*

    Wow. This reeks of ageism.

    I see it all the time — people right out of school (especially in tech) assume that the Olds in the office can’t possibly have anything to offer.

  37. JMegan*

    OP, my first job was in a workplace situation sort of like yours. There were about a dozen people on the team, evenly split between young people with shiny new Masters degrees, and older people with no degrees but with twenty years of work experience. (Some of them had more than that – there were a couple who had been doing the same job since before I was born!)

    And believe it or not, most of the kind of attitude you’re displaying here came from the people in the “no degree but lots of experience” camp. They couldn’t believe they had to work with us young whippersnappers who came in thinking they knew everything just because they had a fancy degree. So first, I’d suggest that you try to see yourself from your coworkers’ perspectives – as much as you believe they’re not qualified, there’s a pretty good chance that they are thinking the same thing about you.

    Second, I think if you take a step back and look around a bit, you’ll realize that there’s probably a lot you can learn from each other. There are lots of things that you don’t learn in school, about office etiquette, who has the real power, and how things actually get done once you put the textbooks away. And there is probably quite a lot that you have learned in school that will be useful to your colleagues – a lot has changed since they started their jobs, and it’s possible they may benefit from an fresh perspective as well.

    But you really, really, need to approach this as a “how can we learn from each other” situation. Because if you go in waving your degree around, and thinking that you don’t respect people who don’t have degrees, I think you’re going to be pretty unhappy there.

    1. THE OP*

      When I took my entry level finance job, the then manager stated to me “We’ve never had anyone this educated in this position before”. I’ve also had the Director comment that “I’m smart and know how to work things”. I’m not saying this for my “ego” these things were actually said to me.

      Which made me think that perhaps they are intimidated by my education. I could be wrong, I could have taken it wrong, but after being a therapist for so many years, one can pick up on nuances.

      When I challenged one of their policies that made no financial logic, I was reprimanded for questioning them and as Cartman would say “disrespecting their authoritay”.

      To me it felt as if they were being quite defensive in what was pure logic and mathematically based. Silly me using logic of my schooling and education to bring to light something that financially wasn’t viable.

      1. De (Germany)*

        I really don’t know how you jump from “you are smart and know how to work things”to people being intimidated by your education. The comment doesn’t even imply that you are smarter than other people at your job.

        Likewise with the other comment – so they never had anyone with a Master’s in one of their entry level position – so what?

      2. Kara*

        Honestly OP do you not hear how elitist and rude and condescending and honestly just jerky you come across? If your tone to your employers is anything like what you’re writing here, I’m not surprised they’re reprimanding you and feeling disrespected in the workplace.

        You may have 20 years experience in your field. You may have degrees out the wazoo. But you’re still the new guy in the office and the low man on the totem pole. It sounds to me like you showed up and expected everyone to kowtow to you because you have an OMGAccountingDegree.

        You keep talking about when you were a therapist, but I can’t think of anyone I would want as a therapist LESS than someone who talks about people the way you do. How can you be an effective therapist when you obviously think most of the world is inferior to you?

        And also because you keep talking about how smart and educated you are: Educate yourself on the proper use of quote marks. They’re not meant to be used to indicate emphasis.

      3. AtWill*

        Take it from an asshole: Assholes do not get listened to in the workplace, correct or not. Recently I tried to get a new process adopted at my workplace. I had mountains of backup research and case studies to prove the value of what I was advocating. I presented it as The One Truth, as if not doing it made you an awful human being. It was objectively, provably true, what I was saying, but they did not listen. People don’t like being told that the way they are currently doing things is wrong or stupid, especially when they’ve been there a lot longer than you have.

        Eventually we did adopt the practice, but it was despite my efforts instead of because of them. If you present an argument in the context of “I have an actual degree so I know better than you”, yes, you will get static from your co-workers or managers. It doesn’t matter if you’re right or not. It should, but it doesn’t. Human beings are not robots; they don’t take well to “just do it and shut up because I know better than you”.

        How did you challenge them? Did you do it in private, or in the middle of a large meeting? Did you present it as “I just noticed something, does anyone else see X” or “I think we might be missing something here”, or was it “You’re wrong, here’s why?” People will respond much better to the first two than the last one. Challenging one’s supervisors in a public meeting is a good way to get yourself fired, and it doesn’t matter if you’re right or not. A far more effective method would be to quietly send an email to your manager or other interested parties detailing your concerns. Keep your language neutral and refrain from assigning blame. If you do that, and they still don’t listen, you have done your job, and when it blows up in their faces, you’ve got written evidence that you knew of the issue, presented the issue to your co-workers, and were ignored.

        People are irrational, illogical, petty, self-centered piles of ego. You can’t change that. Either adapt your approach to take that into account if you want to be effective in your job, or find someplace where you don’t have to work with people you consider inferior (and by the sounds of it, that would be pretty darn difficult).

  38. Jerry Vandesic*

    “I’m a few terms away from graduating with an accounting degree and a CPA certificate on top of my masters in Psychology …”

    Just to be clear, the OP currently has zero financial credentials, and thinks they are more capable than people who have years of work experience in the field. Psych, Motion Science; Tomato, Tomahto.

  39. Marzipan*

    OP, I hate to have to tell you this, but your degrees are likely to be of very little interest to, well, anyone, just a few years from now. I’m not saying they weren’t worth doing; they may well open doors and get feet in doors and all that – but they don’t, in and of themselves, increase your own worth, and on a day-to-day basis they will probably rapidly become irrelevant. And that’s not a bad thing – it happens because life leads you down complicated paths that aren’t always the ones you expected, and stuff happens.

  40. Dana*

    There comes a time in many college students’ lives where you realize that a degree is proof you can learn. A piece of paper that says “I can follow directions and get things done”. It is a document that might go on to say “I really like learning in X field” or “I get things done in Y field”. It is a way to demonstrate that you are trainable. If college degree programs taught you everything you needed to know to work in a certain field, there would be no such thing as entry-level jobs. You could walk in a be the VP and make tons of money because you already knew everything there was to know. In reality, a college degree is a starting point and often gets you in the door. But there are also windows. The famous “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” adage means there are other ways to get the opportunity to learn how a certain company works. Plus, all companies are different and many evolve the way they operate over time. It’s a bit hard to image now after going through the recession, but a lot of people were able to work at the same company for 20+ years and grow in their roles, be valuable, and even help the company to evolve themselves. I don’t know how or why you know what kind of degrees the people you work with have, but I’d also like to remind you that taking a course on finance to help advance your knowledge does not give one a degree. And you’re able to learn very applicable things from just a handful of classes without needing to also retake Bio 101 and other gen eds to get another degree. So I’m not sure why you assume your co-workers haven’t done just that.

    Something else to think about is that managers and supervisors can absolutely know how to manage and supervise people and help them get things done without actually knowing how to do that thing themselves. And that’s also not something that can easily be taught in college.

    I encourage you to read everyone’s comments here and think about why the general consensus is not very favorable to your opinion.

  41. Gene*

    Besides, managers don’t need to know how to do the daily work, they need to know how to manage people.

    Our current Plant Manager (title change from Chief Operator) is not a Certified Operator, and that has created a lot of heartburn in the certified staff. Truth is, we needed someone who knew how to manage people, and while the previous COs were great operators, they couldn’t manage themselves out of a wet paper bag.

  42. Natalie*

    I think it’s great that all of these people found good career paths for them, even if they didn’t originally choose accounting/finance. I find there’s an unnecessarily large focus on choosing “the best” major, as though the career you pick at 20 must be your career for ever and ever. When I was 20 I didn’t have any idea what the career for my chosen major (history) was actually like , much less whether I wanted to do that forever or what I might want to do instead. I can’t tell you how much angst I went through at 25 when I realized I had no interest in getting a PhD and truly, sincerely believed I had ruined my life and was doomed to work as a receptionist forever.* Finding a different career path (accounting, coincidentally enough) was a lifeline.

    And FWIW, OP, I’m sure your accounting education has covered audits and other financial controls. Don’t you think a large, multi-state hospital system is occasionally subjected to one of those audit things? Like, probably constantly?

    *Receptionist is a perfectly fine career, just a terrible one for me as I’m generally a misanthrope.

    1. LeahS*

      Not to derail, but thank you so much for this. I’m 26 and truly convinced going to college ruined my life. This kind of made me want to cry, because I had no clue anyone else 1) Felt that way 2) Felt that way into their mid-twenties and was wrong

      1. BirdyTX*

        More people feel this way than you know. Most of us just hide it because we are convinced that no one else feels this way. I was almost 30 before I found what I wanted and what I was good at doing. And after finding what I wanted to do it took me almost 10 more years before I sought professional certification. So, at 42, I am still a year away and I could not be happier about it.

      2. Natalie*

        Have you ever thought about talking these kinds of things over with a therapist? I had a very similar mindset, always assuming I was the only one going through something and shouldn’t talk about it because OBVIOUSLY something was wrong with me. In my case this grew out of my general tendency towards anxiety and a not-so-great family of origin. I spent a few years with a therapist experienced with CBT breaking down and changing that thought pattern. It was very helpful and I’m approximately 1 million times happier.

        On a more practical note, I also found it super helpful to ask older adults (50+) about their career histories. Maybe I just know a lot of weirdos, but I never heard “Oh, I’ve been at Teapots, Inc. since I finished by degree in Teapot Design 30 years ago.”

      3. catsAreCool*

        Having a degree, as other people have stated, can get people take you more seriously, even if it’s not a degree you’re really using. Just because you might not have known what you were going to do doesn’t mean you ruined your life. Take heart!

        I think the people that know what they want to do when their 18 are not all that common. It’s a good argument for people taking a year or two off before going to college and also starting in community college to get the core classes finished.

  43. Blue Anne*

    OP, I’m a Big 4 accountant in the UK. I’m training for CA status, or equivalent of CPA.

    My degree is in Philosophy. I was accepted onto the training program because I have a degree with a good enough grade, was able to demonstrate relevant work experience and skills, and passed the math tests. There are people on my CA program who had accounting degrees and so were exempted from some of the classes, but that’s it.

    This is standard over here. In the Big 4. So much of accounting actually is, in fact, about practical experience. Is the CPA only exam-based? There’s no work experience component?

    You need to knock that attitude on the head if you want to succeed in public accounting. This is a field with way better social mobility than most types of finance, because the emphasis isn’t on what school you went to or what your degree is, it’s having the skills and getting your nose to the grindstone and being there for the team in busy season. If you’re looking down on your superiors because you don’t realize that they are way more qualified than you are right now, you are not going to make any friends.

    1. Blue Anne*

      Aha, I just re-read and realized that I’d missed the part about where OP is actually working. I’m… really surprised. In the UK, to get your charter, you must be able to demonstrate that you have a certain amount of experience doing a variety of accounting work, which would be really difficult if you were doing your traineeship anywhere but a public firm. There are companies who are able to do it, but they’re mostly large multinationals.

      So there you go, OP. Over here the emphasis is so much on experience that I assumed you must be training in an accounting firm. The things you learn in class are incredibly useful but you’re going to be clueless until you’ve applied them, multiple times.

      1. Natalie*

        Like most things in the US, this is annoyingly different by state. That said, by “CPA certificate” I’m assuming the OP is referring to a certificate that allows them to sit the CPA exam. I’m not aware of any way you can get a CPA without taking a big ass test.

        There are generally work requirements, too, but they may not be required before sitting the exam. (In my state we have up to 2 years after successfully passing the test.)

        1. Blue Anne*

          Ah, I should’ve known it’d be a state by state thing!

          Is the test itself standardized across states? I’ve heard rumours that our American colleagues get multiple-choice questions on the CPA, which made me sit down with a bottle of whisky and wonder why I ever left the States. (Expat here, moved at 18.)

          1. Natalie*

            Yep, same test across the country, plus all of our territories and protectorates, apparently. And there is a big chunk that’s multiple choice.

            1. LawBee*

              That’s about the only thing it has over the bar exam. It’s my understanding that the CPA exam is BRUTAL.

              1. Blue Anne*

                That’s my understanding too, which makes me weep, because over here the beginner tests which you take 5 of within a couple months of starting training are the only ones with any multiple choice at all. There’s tests all the way through the three years and for most of them you’re basically just writing financial statements from scratch onto a blank page.

                Sigh. Grass is always greener!

    2. Accountant*

      In the US, in most states you have to have 1 year experience working with a CPA as your boss.

  44. Just Another Techie*

    The cherry on this entitlement and bad manner sundae is that the LW has a masters degree in psychology. A masters. In psychology. If ever someone didn’t have room to throw stones for another person’s choice of subject to study in college. . . (not that I think it’s wrong or a waste to get a degree that’s not immediately marketable; hell I’m in the midst of an MDiv that I expect to have zero impact on my work life at all when it’s done, just, wow, the hypocrisy of bagging on someone for a degree you think is “useless” when your own degree doesn’t qualify you for anything.)

    1. AMG*

      I don’t think that throwing stones back is helpful, nor is a Master’s in psychology useless. I don’t think this is very fair at all. I assume we are here to help the OP, not to perform an online roast?

      1. scoop*

        I think the point wasn’t that the psych masters was useless, as it was that a psych masters has nothing to do with finance, which is what the OP is all in a lather about.

        At least, I hope that was the point. Otherwise, yeah AMG, you’re right.

      2. OfficePrincess*

        But how is the degree in psychology more relevant to finance than the supervisor’s degree in motion science? Unless we can show that, OP’s argument falls apart.

        1. THE OP*

          That is exactly my point. My psych degree is worthless in a business environment ( sorta, there are many facets I can still use from it ), those aside, Realizing that my psych degree isn’t appropriate for the business environment, I went back and am finishing up a relevant business degree. Unlike my supervisor who just continues to ride out the whole Motion science degree in a business environment. I actually had the gumption to go get something pertinent. If my supervisor were to go back to school and get an business related degree then I would have no issue at all.

          1. AtWill*

            Why are you so f*^(ing convinced that someone cannot attain competence in a field without being formally educated in that field? Take my field, for example, I’m a web developer. If you polled 100 of my peers, you would probably find 30 that had degrees in computer science. The rest of us studied something else but pursued this path for various reasons. Some of the best coders I know majored in English or communications or philosophy (seriously).

            Just because you don’t have the initials after your name doesn’t mean you can’t do the job. Five years into your career, what you majored in has become pretty much completely meaningless. After that it’s all about your experience.

    2. Aunt Vixen*

      “Hell, I’m in the midst of an MDiv” is my very favorite accidental irony so far today. :-D

    3. Muriel Heslop*

      I hire a lot of psychology grad student for internships. Many of these degrees are research-based and don’t have the focus on people skills that our culture projects onto psychology. I’ve had some amazing interns and I’ve had some interns that I have prayed stay in research and never interact with people. (We need people skills from our interns.)

      (I have a BA in History and English + an MA in education. No psych degree.)

    4. Ad Astra*

      Most of the therapists, counselors, and researchers I know have a master’s in psychology. It can be a very useful degree, though maybe not so much in the business department of a hospital.

  45. KT*

    I will try very hard to be polite, but it’s hard, as the LW sounds extremely young, naive, and has a sense of entitlement that really needs to be knocked loose.

    Dear LW. Your degree, beyond a piece of paper, really is pretty meaningless. I’m sure you feel very smug and worldly with your degree, but until you are int he workplace, putting out fires, frantically trying to make things work that have actual consequences, you quite honestly don’t know smack.

    Someone with 20+ years of experience and no degree is better equipped than someone with a Master’s and little experience. They have actual situational experience–they have problem solved, strategized, and made things work for decades. You wrote a few papers and passed a few hypothetical tests.

    Rein in the privilege, eat some humble pie, and learn to listen.

    1. AMG*

      I took OP’s comments to mean that someone with 20 years’ expereince AND a degree would be better.

        1. alsoanon*

          Which is the point 85% of the comments are trying to hammer home–“stop judging, OP, they have college degrees AND 20 years experience–yes, they are qualified for your respect as managers!”

  46. Jake*

    My wife and I both work in fields where for many positions a degree is required to legally perform the work. I can understand the OP’s position, but the bottom line in almost any position is can the person do the job? In this particular situation education shouldn’t even cross our minds because the level or style of education doesn’t indicate whether a person is competent. The only thing that matters is if they are doing a good job.

  47. AMG*

    I’m just really shocked at all the comments about how a degree isn’t anything more than a way to get into the job. I would never have guessed such a high proportion of people really believe that. My education helped me to learn many things that come in handy on a daily basis even though I graduated a long time ago. Soft skills, more tangible skills, all of it. I really value my education and degree because of what it has done to advance me in my career and to enable my professional successes and experience.

    1. LBK*

      How much of that is specific to your actual degree, though? I agree that a lot of what you pick up in college is helpful in the working world, but a lot of it you can get with any degree. It doesn’t have to be specific to your field.

      1. Mike C.*

        What exactly do you mean by “specific to your degree”? The analytical skills I learned by taking so many math courses is really useful even though I haven’t used formal calculus in years for instance.

      2. AMG*

        Pretty much all of it. I currently have 3 books from college on my desk right now, and I use them. I have used my education to solve problems my peers haven’t. Statistics, Spanish, Communications, Finance, CIS, International Business, Operations Forecasting, Manufacturing, Planning, Procurement, Calculus, Algebra to name a few.

        1. LBK*

          I’ll take your word for it, I guess. That’s so completely different from my experience that I don’t know how to relate – I never had to do the kind of problem solving for school that I do for work.

        2. LawBee*

          That’s impressive! It sounds like you actually managed to do that thing that so many of us didn’t – got a career in the field in which you studied. :D

          I use literally ZERO of my actual college coursework in my career. Z-E-R-O.

    2. Chickaletta*

      I’m a bit surprised too. I wonder if it’s a sign of a societal shift away from post-secondary education. My nephew recently dropped out of college because he felt the expense wasn’t worth it. He has a point – it’s getting to be so expensive that instead of spending four years racking up debt, you could spend four years earning income AND experience. In a lot of fields, it kinda makes sense.

      1. Phoenix*

        I don’t know if it’s a sign of a shift away from post-secondary education altogether, but perhaps a shift in exactly how *mandatory* a degree should be, and a realistic look at what degrees actually get you in the current job market. I’m three years out of college, and I know a LOT of my peers are disillusioned with the actual advantages of their (very expensive) degrees.

      2. ExceptionToTheRule*

        If I’d known when I was 18 what I now know at 41, I’d have gotten a 2-year associates degree. My finances would certainly be in better shape.

    3. Nina*

      I personally think an education (along with a degree) is extremely valuable, job or not, but that’s not my issue here with the OP. It’s that they’re dismissing the education of their supervisors (the condescending “computer science” comment for one) and because of this, they feel that their managers/supervisors don’t deserve any respect. Apparently, skill and experience don’t count?

      1. AMG*

        Good point, and I think that these are 2 separate issues that are getting thrown into one pot.

    4. MsM*

      I value my degrees, too. But I’ve been surprised by the parts of them I wind up using on a daily basis, and how important the one that supposedly should have made me unemployable outside of the food service industry is in relation to the more advanced one. And while the soft skills have also been helpful, I could potentially have picked those things up via other avenues. I think we all just want the OP to realize that degree does not automatically equal competence or sufficient training or expertise in a given subject area.

    5. MashaKasha*

      My education was in computer science, in Eastern Europe in the mid 80s. You can take an educated (heh heh) guess as to how much of it is now applicable in my day to day job. It did however teach me to absorb new information, learn new skills, apply logical reasoning etc. Not to mention it provided connections that sometimes still come in handy. This IMO is what a college education does – helps you become a well-rounded individual, and provides you with an initial network of connections before you can build one through your work.

      Thing is, going back to OP’s post, a) a degree in Motion Science can provide you with these benefits just as well as a degree in finance; and 2) there are alternate routes to becoming well-rounded and developing a network. They aren’t the easiest routes, but if a person wants and is able to follow such a route successfully, more power to them.

    6. Oryx*

      But how much of that has to do with the actual degree and how much has to do with just going to college? Soft skills are rarely, if ever, taught in the classroom. Instead, they are often learned by interacting with classmates and professors or by interacting with colleagues, regardless of whether or not you went to college. Same with tangible skills: I have a specialized Master degree and most was all theory work. The tangible skills I did learn I don’t use and the tangible skills I use I didn’t learn in the classroom, I learned on the job.

      1. AMG*

        In my classes they were. Negotiations, compromise, sound decision-making, talking through disagreements, and I’m sure there are others.

        1. Chickaletta*

          See, I didn’t learn any of these types of soft-skills in college, I learned these through on-the-job and life experiences. College taught me hard-skills, like debits vs. credits, assets vs equity, the formula to figure how interest rates directly affect real wages…

        2. LBK*

          We must have done wildly different types of classes because I can’t think of how I would’ve learned any of those things in college. I assume through group projects? But I really feel like there are no similarities between working in a team for work and how group projects operated other than at the highest surface level of multiple people contributing to a finished product.

            1. Editor*

              I didn’t learn any soft skills while pursuing an English major and I never did any group projects, although I do use things I learned in my linguistics classes and computer science electives in the course of my work. I took one course in statistics after college, and that has been useful in some of the work I’ve done.

              I learned work skills in my work-study job in the campus libraries. That work led to my first job after college, not my degree. While I don’t view my degree as “just a piece of paper,” I think the usefulness of particular degrees varies a lot by major, department, and college. This is why fit is so important when choosing a college, why I now think a gap year is important before attending college, and why I recommend to young relatives that they look for college programs that support co-op education or internships.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Soft skills? I would never recommend the soft skills I saw being used in college for use the workplace. Never. Ever. You don’t undermine your cohort, you do not mock your boss, you don’t settle for average or below average work… no, no, no.

    7. Rita*

      I think it totally depends on the job and the career. My husband no doubt uses what he learned getting his bachelors and masters degree in his teaching. On the other hand, my degree in journalism has given me more general skills that I could use towards different roles I’ve had since graduating 10 years. I continue to learn new things on my own and by working with others to help develop new skills when needed.

      1. Muriel Heslop*

        I am sure this varies from person to person, but I learned very little from my education classes compared to my student teaching! It was all theory until it was tested in front of a class (but it certainly underscored for me the value of student teaching, which is coursework.)

    8. fposte*

      I wouldn’t say that’s all it could ever be either; my career path is pretty strongly related to it, in fact. But that’s not the same thing as saying a degree is the measure of your knowledge 20 years on, and I think that’s what people are pushing back against.

      1. AMG*

        Of course–a very fair point. I just take exception to the comments that a degree worthless after you get your first entry-level job.

        1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          I don’t think most of us are saying it’s worthless, but the farther away you get from it, it does become of less worth. My dad is an electrical engineer, with a focus on audio. He graduated with his BS in 1985. When he got his degree, the world was still working in analog. Digital audio was starting to become a thing, but it hadn’t trickled down to his school yet. His math classes still had him using a slide rule, for heaven’s sake (he did get a scientific calculator a few years later, but it cost $300, which inflation calculators say is about $900 today. He still has the calculator, incidentally). He was laying out circuit boards by hand. Does he still use the basics he learned back then every day? Yes. Has had to learn a heck of a lot in the intervening 30 years to stay relevant? Oh, heck, yeah.

          When you throw in that he was already working full-time as an engineer for several years before he graduated (mostly self-taught), it makes that degree seem much less relevant.

          1. AMG*

            I think some people are saying the degree is straight-up worthless, but perhaps I misunderstood. If I had to pick between my degree or my experience, I would absolutely choose the latter because I have learned much more that way…over time.

            1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

              Well, in some fields, the degree might be worthless or almost worthless. I think, though, what most people here are saying is that given a choice between a degree and experience, we should err on the side of experience.

              I like to think about it like this conversation from L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of the Island (and looking over it, how appropriate it is!):

              “Judging from what you all say” remarked Aunt Jamesina, “the sum and substance is that you can learn—if you’ve got natural gumption enough—in four years at college what it would take about twenty years of living to teach you. Well, that justifies higher education in my opinion. It’s a matter I was always dubious about before.”

              “But what about people who haven’t natural gumption, Aunt Jimsie?”

              “People who haven’t natural gumption never learn,” retorted Aunt Jamesina, “neither in college nor life. If they live to be a hundred they really don’t know anything more than when they were born. It’s their misfortune not their fault, poor souls. But those of us who have some gumption should duly thank the Lord for it.”

              “Will you please define what gumption is, Aunt Jimsie?” asked Phil.

              “No, I won’t, young woman. Any one who has gumption knows what it is, and any one who hasn’t can never know what it is. So there is no need of defining it.”

              1. Mike C.*

                At least for me, i wouldn’t have the experience I currently have without my degree.