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BA vs AS and career choices
July 7, 2009 4:19 PM   Subscribe

An appeal to very patient people: Please help us plan our financial/academic future!

HER SITUATION:

She moved from another country to the US months ago, between the paperwork and getting married, she was just able to find a job a month and a half ago. In her country, she got a BA in Forest Science, and she fears it may be useless here, for even though her university is pretty prestigious in her country, many people here haven't even heard about Peru, let alone her school. The thing is she got to the US and her worst nightmare came true: She's working as a sales associate in a convenience store! After giving lectures in Tokyo, being part of the Students Assembly, being an assistant professor...she feels bit disappointed and bored, to say the least. So she has decided to apply for an Earth Science teaching position in middle school (38000/year plus benefits), and meanwhile go to graduate school. So:

-Since She's 25 and done with idealism, what economically gratifying Master Programs do you recommend? she is considering something along the lines of Environmental Law, but really, anything somewhat related to her major will do, as long as it brings in the cash.

- She has been promoted to shift manager at the store, (so, 21000/year) but still would die to get the job as a school teacher, which pays better and seems to be more intellectually challenging. Considering the husband makes 40.000/year, is it possible for them to live with a combined income of 60000-78000/year, when they have house payments of 500USD/month and no children, except for a very demanding kitty?

HIS SITUATION

His plans of going to school at the proper age (he's 27)were crushed when he had to move to the US as a war refugee. Although he has a somewhat decent job, he took the very impressive decision of going to school, and started this Summer. He enjoys working with computers, but has no clue about the job market, so he decided to get an Associate's degree in Web design. After a lot of considering and asking around, he got into a crisis (apparently web design is no financial panacea), and these are his doubts:

- What are the potential benefits of web design, programming, software development, and network security, when it comes to money and potential benefits?
- Even though the wife is dying for him to get a Bachelor's Degree, he has doubts and likes the idea of the Associate's degree better. What are the pros an cons of each?
-How are husband and wife to organize their academic lives and still make money to live? Should the husband got school first? the wife? should they go together and live off savings and their small business(we have a tiny record label)?

This questions were obviously written by the wife, but really represent the concerns of both of us, since the husband just left to school very, very worried about the family's future.
posted by Tarumba to Work & Money (5 answers total)
 
I don't know if I can answer all of your questions, but here are a few ideas on the parts I know things about. Your BA in Forestry Science from Peru is probably just as valuable here as a BA in Forestry Science in the US--qualifies you for jobs in the environmental consulting industry or as a research technician at a university. Nobody with a BA in the US is an assistant professor.

I'm sorry you're feeling done with idealism. The good news is, if you're still interested in forestry or environmental science, you should be able to get a research oriented master's for free. This would mostly qualify you for better paying jobs in the same industries. Or, you could take the PhD route, which would also be free. There are lots of discussions on AskMeFi about how to get into grad school.

If you really want to break away from that field, know that in the current economy paying for a master's degree in hopes of recouping the cost of the degree plus living well is a gamble. To go into Environmental Law you'd have to go to law school which is pretty much $50K debt minimum with no guarantees of income coming out and next to no chance for any kind of aid.

Finally, becoming a teacher is a noble goal. To teach in the public schools, you will have to go back to school at least for certification and probably eventually for a master's. The good news is that science and math teachers are still highly in demand in many places and there are "lateral entry" programs that seek to place people in teaching jobs and help them get the degrees. You might be able to get a job in a private school right now, but they don't pay nearly as well as public schools--you're better off at the convenience store.

I'll let some of the many web design and programming people on here answer the questions on your husband's end.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:15 PM on July 7, 2009


In either case, husband or wife could also arrange to go to school part-time, and hold down a job in the meantime. Wherever you wind up looking, talk to financial aid departments (and the academic department) and see if you can get part or all of the educational package financed by grants or teaching. Lots of people TA while doing a master's degree and get part of their education covered.

In terms of feasibility, $60,000 a year with $500 monthly payments is totally feasible -- $40,000 is totally feasible. It depends on how much of the educational package you can get funded, but unless you (they) already have huge loan debts outstanding, this sounds totally do-able. Well worth reinvesting in a little idealism.
posted by puckish at 5:54 PM on July 7, 2009


Ditto what puckish says. Don't sweat the finances. There's plenty of aid available for undergrads. But I'm a little confused on his scenario. You say he started school this summer but is undecided about a bachelor or associate degree. I would think that decsision would've been made prior to starting a program.

That said, maybe the associate degree is the way to go. It follows his wishes and gets him something for his resume. If an A.A. isn't getting him where he wants to be professionally, then he can go back for a B.A/B.S. while working.

Really though, don't overstate your perceived financial strain. More importantly, don't make life-long decisions based on satisfying short-term needs. A few years of hectic schedules and belt-tightening are worthwhile if it means getting into the profession each of you want.
posted by tenaciousd at 7:32 PM on July 7, 2009


Since She's 25 and done with idealism, what economically gratifying Master Programs do you recommend?

Why Masters'? If she's interested in academia, why not go for a Ph.D. program. She'll get full tuition support, a stipend (~20-25k), and benefits. With her background, she can get into a top-rated program (plug) easily. This seems like a no-brainer: you get to go to school in your field full time and you don't even have to take a pay cut.

Considering the husband makes 40.000/year, is it possible for them to live with a combined income of 60000-78000/year, when they have house payments of 500USD/month and no children, except for a very demanding kitty?

Jesus, I would hope so. This is a very, very small amount of money to pay for a place to live relative to your income. Seriously; I would guess that your ratio of income to housing costs is in the top 10 percent of US residents. You should be putting away tens of thousands of dollars a year into savings, in fact. But I'm confused about something: you ask for Masters' program suggestions, but you have a house payment. How mobile are you?
posted by mr_roboto at 10:18 PM on July 7, 2009


Considering the husband makes 40.000/year, is it possible for them to live with a combined income of 60000-78000/year, when they have house payments of 500USD/month and no children, except for a very demanding kitty?

My goodness, that's less than 10% of your income. Typical in the US is more like 35%, that should be very possible indeed.
posted by atrazine at 10:29 PM on July 7, 2009


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