Thursday, May 27, 2004

Hookt on foniks werkt fer mee

I have been toying with the idea – again – of going back to school for a graduate degree. There are several reasons why I’m doing this. One of the biggest reasons is because I work at an institution of higher learning and am practically guaranteed time off for studies as well as financial assistance – in the form of tuition and fee waivers. Another reason might be that I’m getting frustrated with the job I have, I want to move ahead and in order to move to a level that I think I want to be at requires a graduate degree.

So why, in the fourteen years since I earned my Bachelor’s degree, have I never actually done anything about it? The primary reason is that I don’t know what to get a graduate degree in.

You see, I wasn’t one of those kids who grew up saying, “I want to be a [insert profession here] when I grow up.” To be sure, I went through the list of fireman, policeman, and superhero (doctor was never on the list) as any child does but never locked onto anything. The only constant has been that I love technology. That’s probably what attracted me to my undergraduate degree – that and the lack of math involved.

My Bachelor’s degree is in Radio and Television production. I briefly (very briefly) considered continuing with that but my heart wasn’t in it. I worked in the field for about eight years then did an about-face and started working in the Information Technology field (around the time the term was coined). I’ve also considered advanced degrees in education (I was a technical trainer at the time), business and technical writing.

I’ve most recently begun perusing the University web site for information about different degree programs. I think business is out. All of the management-related degrees require more accounting, statistics and economics than I’m willing to attempt. I’m sure I could pass them – especially with the assistance of my lovely wife, the research accountant – I just don’t want to do any permanent neurological damage. MIS is out as well. If I wanted to be a programmer, I would already be a programmer.

Education was looking really good for a while but I heard they stopped offering a specialization in curriculum design. It still has a chance but it’s appeal is waning.

That leaves us with English. I’ve always liked English. I think I write and speak well. I came within three credit-hours of having an English minor tacked onto my bachelor’s degree. This was partially due to a miscalculation of the required credit-hours several semesters prior to graduation and partially due to being involved in a wedding (mine) a week after graduation.

At any rate, one of the duties of my job I have always enjoyed has been preparing documentation. I find the process enjoyable and get a good feeling knowing that I’m working to make some poor schlub’s life easier.

So, what’s stopping me from diving in? In a word: FEAR.

I’m afraid I’ll make the wrong choice and end up learning all about a field I end up hating. I’ve already made one career switch. I don’t want to end up saying, “I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up but I’m pretty sure this wasn’t it.”

I’m afraid I won’t be able to accomplish what I set out to do (fear of failure). This is, perhaps, the most easily dismissed.

I’m afraid of putting out the effort on top of all of the other stress I have in my life right now.

I’m afraid of not getting along with the faculty – as was the case for a co-worker – and having to leave to program (or risk not being passed) because of personality conflicts.

I’ve printed out information on the Tech Writing program here and I’ll be reviewing it. It’s still a 50/50 shot – maybe I will, maybe I won’t.

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