Trying to better myself and feeling thwarted at every turn?
June 30, 2009 1:47 PM   Subscribe

How do I get out of a career trap of my own making?

I'll try and make a long story short: In my teens and early 20s, I was an emotionally troubled young man who didn't buy into the traditional life model of higher education, career etc. Once my mid-twenties hit, I re-evaluated and tried to turn my life around onto a more traditional trajectory.

I graduated from a state school in California with B.A. in Public Administration in 2007. My cumulative GPA was brought to a 3.52 (my lowest grade once I returned to school and applied myself was an A-).

I have been unable to find a career in my field and with the budget crisis of the state and most municipalities, I don't see that changing soon. I've been working jobs to pay the bills, but nothing that is particularly rewarding in any sense of the word (including financially).

I feel like I'm going to snap unless I do something soon. So my question is this: At my age (35) is it worth it going to school to pursue a Master's? Is it feasible to do in California given the impacts on student assistance? Is it feasible to contemplate schooling at an out-of-state school given non-resident tuitions?

Is there any other solution I may be missing? Right now I'm stuck in an industry that is one step away from buggywhips and my boss is squat little troll who berates its employees when at all possible. I'd quit, but then I'd be ineligible for unemployment. (Right?) I can't take much more of this.. HELP.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
At my age (35) is it worth it going to school to pursue a Master's?

I was in an MPA program for awhile, and most of the students in the program were in their 30s and up. That's all I can tell you though - I have no idea how the job market for you will be.
posted by at 2:16 PM on June 30, 2009

Yes, start looking into grad schools - education is never detrimental, unless you rack up huge loans and bills that you can't possibly pay back. Forget student aid - it's much more likely that you can find (or be given) funding at the graduate level. Crossing disciplines at this point in your education is also something you can do, if an MPA is not for you.

Time to grab life by the balls!

FWIW, my grad program was mostly comprised of people from between the ages of 30 to 60 (yes, 60).
posted by futureisunwritten at 2:54 PM on June 30, 2009

it's much more likely that you can find (or be given) funding at the graduate level.

This goes against a good deal of what I know about professional master's programs. Grants are great but rare, loans are probably in your future unless you go to a small/little-known school that wants to attract students. (I believe the University of Delaware is one of the few schools that has a good financial aid package...don't know if anything in California will be as generous.)

As for whether a master's is useful...the consensus among my peer group (I completed a program not quite equivalent to the MPA, so take this with some caution) is that your career prospects after you graduate are going to be roughly equivalent to how they were when you started, but the second job you get afterwards--when you've proven that you're academically competent and still employable--will be a big step up.
posted by kittyprecious at 3:03 PM on June 30, 2009

(And yes, it's absolutely common to do a master's in your 30s, regardless of when you finished your BA.)
posted by kittyprecious at 3:04 PM on June 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

You're not too old to go back to grad school. But before you make up your mind, weigh the pros and cons. Think about the cost of loans (if necessary), the opportunity cost of lost income and experience, and also the non-financial implications. Some graduate programs have networking opportunities that you just can't get as a working stiff. Especially if you want to switch fields, being a student can give you instant credibility. Also think about the return on investment: how many years do you plan to work after graduating, and will your increased income/happiness offset the costs of attendance?

I'd say avoid out-of-state tuition unless you can find someone else to pay for it. It's just too crazy expensive.

Whatever course ends up making the most sense, make the most of it. Even if the smart thing to do is stay in your sketchy job for now, you are still building credibility and experience for the next job down the line. Stick with it.
posted by Chris4d at 3:15 PM on June 30, 2009

Nthing that you are not too old, not by a long shot, do be entering a master's program. If it were me I would try like hell to get a grant, move to wherever was necessary, hole up in school and wait out the recession. I don't think this guarantees you anything, but getting further education (if it's something you want to do) could open a new door for you. Or not :P
Myself, I've just become a newly minted Library Tech (which is a diploma credential), and even though I am amazingly fortunate enough to have a job it is very, very few hours. I'm going to continue on chipping away at a bachelor's while I work on my job. It can't really hurt, and who knows - it might lead to something I can't see from here.
Good luck.
posted by tamarack at 5:00 PM on June 30, 2009

I live in Michigan. So I will suggest something, based on our experience:

Get the hell out of California. That will be the biggest improvement that you could make, in this environment.
posted by megatherium at 8:29 PM on June 30, 2009

I'm 33 and I am about to enter the final year of a Degree in Computer Networking. If I do well on that I plan to do a masters. I'll be 35 then.
posted by gergtreble at 2:21 AM on July 1, 2009

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