I graduated last May with a degree in history and economics. I am certified to teach high school social studies and middle school, but there are no jobs out there in teaching. I enrolled in a masters of accounting program and already completed a semester, with good grades. I am now having doubts whether I am doing the right thing. Should I be working somewhere and building myself upwards? I have a possible job prospect for a transportation company where there is growth capability. Should I be concentrating solely on finding a place to work in? Is it mute continuing to go to school? I don't hate accounting, I just don't like the extra college loans I am taking. It was done solely to make myself more marketable for employers. But after hearing from interviewers that they weigh personality more than education, I am beginning to think I am wasting my time and money by going to graduate school. Any ideas or advice?

I am now subbing for a Catholic school, but I only get called in when they need me. Perhaps I should hold off the masters degree? But then the other side of me says if I get a job somewhere, there might be no growth in terms of a career, and I will be stuck making the same $10/hr until I am old and gray.

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I wouldn't get a Master's in accounting unless you really like the work. I'd consider one of those 8-week programs that prepare you for the CPA exam, however. I don't think having debt and a Master's will get you much further than having a CPA license and minimal debt.

OTOH, a Master's in anything gets you more pay where my father teaches. Probably not enough to make it worth it if the Master's is entirely debt-financed, though.

You have a degree in economics; you crunch the numbers. Neither primary education nor accounting are declining fields.

Should I be concentrating solely on finding a place to work in? Is it mute continuing to go to school?

Daniel, a bird in the hand is worth 2 in the bush.

I don't hate accounting, I just don't like the extra college loans I am taking.

"I don't hate accounting" does not sound like a ringing endorsement for a career in it. I wonder if you need some time to think about what you really want to do. I'm glad to hear that you don't like to take more college loans, because right now there is a crisis in student loan defaults. This is the 5th year in a row that student loan defaults have reached new highs, and the rate of default is accelerating. This is a crisis now rivalling the mortgage defaults.

The Student Loan Time Bomb

A hidden time bomb ticks away inside the government budget: Within a handful of years, US taxpayers will be on the hook for over $100 billion in student loan defaults.

I suggest reading the whole article; I don't know the author but the owner of the website is Bill Bonner who is one of the wealthiest copywriters in the country; he is very well-connected to financial information and he's a man of integrity. The defaults are happening because most students are finding jobs extremely sparse. This situation will continue for the foreseeable future due to corporations cutting back on capital spending. Therefor, it's not worth getting yourself deeper into debt for the sake of great careers that no longer exist.

It was done solely to make myself more marketable for employers. But after hearing from interviewers that they weigh personality more than education, I am beginning to think I am wasting my time and money by going to graduate school

If your purpose is to make yourself more marketable, and the interviewers are already hinting it won't help, then there is your answer.

As for personality, there are some specific traits that appeal to employers, all of which are learnable, but none of which you're going to learn in an academic setting. #1 skill is probably empathetic communication and frame control. Basically, communicating in such a way that you relate well to others, are sympathetic to their perspectives and points of view, and can redirect their attention promptly to finding solutions instead of blaming each other and being negative.

Another skill that is hard to quantify, but is very valuable, is resourcefulness. Have you ever known any neurotics? People who emotionally over-react to problems and obstacles? They tend to be problem-prone. The opposite tendency, which we don't have an appropriate name for, is valuable to employers. People who keep their heads and retain full access to their problem-solving skills under stress. They also tend to be less distractible. Try mindfulness meditation to build up this capacity.

Wish you great prosperity, Daniel.

You shouldn't be going to grad school unless it is A. Free or nearly so, or B. You love what you're doing.

Back in the dark ages, one of my college instructors provided the following advice:  "Unless you love it and can afford it, don't go immediately into graduate school."

One thing I repeatedly see is that too many guys seem to develop tunnel vision.  I have a degree in "X" and graduate work in "Y", so I can only look for work in "X" or "Y".  Not necessarily so.  For example, a bachelor's degree, a modicum of physical fitness and 3 years work experience in a "professional" capacity (roughly defined as a finishing up a step or two beyond cashier) qualifies you for many generalist positions in civil service.  Often it's the contacts you make and the experieinces you acquire that prove more useful to you when you're outside a technical field.

Do you enjoy accounting?

I do enjoy it and have aced all my classes thus far. My biggest worry is graduating with a masters with no job and heavy debt.

Unless you know you want to teach, work for a while. Grad school is a lot of time and money and there really is no guarantee of a job at the end--especially with history and economics as your primary areas of study.

If you really want to go into accounting or finance, get on-the-job experience instead of sinking money into a degree. If you land a job that will pay for continuing education, get the MA that way.

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