Is further education in at my age worth while?
October 28, 2012 12:20 AM   Subscribe

Vaguely dead-end job is tempting me to return to and complete my BA (casually abandoned nearly a decade a go) so that I can pursue the University of Oregon's 'Applied Information Management' program and possibly advance within present company. Is this a good idea? Many a detail inside... (now that I'm typing them: there a many many details. proceed at will]

I work at a large food manufacturer coordinating technical/legislative/food-safety (recalls, sustainability) regulations and making sure the our products are compliant with all federal, state, and province law (Canada will be the death of me...). On top of this, I'm charged with maintaining all the US and Canadian customer spec systems, which can run between tedious all the way to full-on Kafka-esque, as well as maintaining GS1 datasync records for all items, as well as assisting out sales force in filling out forms that are ostensibly "technical". I pull it off, but perhaps too well. Management seem to think this is just a low lever button pushing job, whereas it actually demands serious resourcefulness and creativity to corral the needed info and get it to its recipients (writing custom database queries between various legacy machines is a common occurecnce).

We're a family business that gotten huge over the past few decades (I suspect any locals that check my location will be able to guess it pretty easy), and the expected home grown eccentricities of big un-strategized family busnesses are in evidence in all facets of operations. My company is dysfunctional, but lovable so (usually).

Back to the question: my job is quite unassuming, and hinges on hitting all deadlines with satisfactory results (i.e. avoiding hissy fits from the customer). When I'm firing on all cylinders, my job is essentially invisible to the high-ups. Nice for an introvert like me when things are going smoothly; deeply frustrating when something goes wrong and management decides that since we make the work look easy, it must be easy, and therefore simple mistake is egregious and must surely mean that I'm lazy or stupid or incompetent.

Ok, to the question: at my last annual review, I was assured the I could apply for and receive full tuition reimbursement for grad school (my employer has a good relation with the Oregon state college system). Seems like a nice perk. But first, I need to finish my BA that I abandoned a decade ago (Evergreen State College + a bright kid with issues with authority=quite a few casual partings...). I have 53 quarter hours to complete, which I've learned the I can complete doing independent study in winter and spring quarter, and then some of the weird "weeklong retreat to draw bugs and eat interesting mushrooms for credit" courses.

Assuming I can get my BA by next summer, I could start the Applied Information Management program in January 2014, and graduate right about the time that my 501k investments will be fully vested, giving me the chance of leveraging these new skill at the same company for better job roles and compensation, or prepare myself to strike out looking for other work armed with several years of info management experience and a newly minted masters degree.

So, I guess my question is thee fold:
a.) does this seem like a reasonable strategy (I have a bit of an innate distrust as to how the corporate game "should be played")?
b.) Does anyone have experience eith UofO's AIM program? On paper it sound right up my ally, but it young and I haven't really heard much feed back from alums.
c.) If you have any suggestions pertaining to my work situation that I might not have considered, feel free to post them or memail.

and a bonus: If any of you have worked in the weird multi-disciplinary applied info management field that the AIM program seems to be taking aim at, do you have any general advice? Certifications? Good books or journals? Conferences? Other academic programs?

Thanks for reading through this all, and thanks in advance for any advice.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (4 answers total)
a) Yes it does
c) You have not addressed the cost of undergrad tuition.

If the goal is to get into grad school, you need to work backwards from that. If you're assuming your real-world work experience is going to help strongly qualify you for a specific grad programme, that's great. The task then becomes to get your BA as cheaply, quickly and flexibly as possible. I would look at doing an online degree with Thomas Edison and compare costs to Evergreen. I have no idea how many of your credits TE would take (Evergreen classes tend to be... different), but they will give you some credit for work experience in addition to your xfer credits.

The only advantage is that TE is a little more flexible in terms of pacing in case something comes up at work, there are classes that would actually help prepare you for your graduate course, and there is no need to expend your vacation time to go eat bugs. So to me, this would hinge on a combination of cost and insect assessment.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:59 AM on October 28, 2012

Don't forget to check what the rules about tuition reimbursement and quitting are: you might be on the hook for some or all of the tuition if you quit within 12 months of getting your tuition covered.
posted by jeather at 7:35 AM on October 28, 2012 [2 favorites]

Be careful about the timing when completing your BA. It seems nice to finish as soon as possible, but the stress and workload may not be worth it compared to taking a few extra semesters to finish.
posted by twblalock at 12:01 PM on October 28, 2012

Mr. Purenitrous has been exploring the same program-AIM-and I do want to put out there that while it looks great, it is specifically excluded from most traditional tuition reimbursement or reduced tuition programs, and it's very expensive. I've been wondering the same as you, probably; is it something that will really increase his earning potential enough to make up for the 35k or so it will cost. I'm not convinced.
posted by purenitrous at 9:55 PM on October 29, 2012

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