One of my readers, “Em,” is thinking about going back to graduate school so she can transition in a career in Human Resources. I thought I’d open her question up to all of you.
I am in a bit of a career rut. I received my BA in 2006, and have since been working in assistant/office manager/receptionist-type roles. I am 26, and have been thinking it’s time to start thinking seriously about my career and the steps I need to take so that I can start down an official Career Path. I know there are no typical, proven, Total Success Guaranteed ways to approach the elusive Career Path, that different careers have different requirements, and that people find their dream jobs in multitudes of ways. However, I am finding myself stuck in this rut, and not sure how to move forward.
I would like to pursue a carer in Human Resources, specifically in the area of employee onboarding/training and learning and development programs. In this job market, I’m finding that you need previous HR experience even for the most entry-level jobs in the field, and because I cannot figure out how one gains experience in a position that requires the experience to be hired (which came first, the chicken or the egg?!), I’m thinking about going back to school.
However, school costs money. I do not want to stay at my current job long enough to take advantage of their education reimbursement program (I’d be required to stay at least another two-three years, if I even qualify for it, which I might not, since it is hard to justify how an HR program is important to my role as a receptionist in a company that doesn’t even have an actual HR department), but I have been thinking about my options, and trying to see what is worth the investment.
There are a few Human Resource Management Certification programs that I’ve been looking into, ranging in cost from $1500-$6000. The higher cost comes with the UC Berkeley (extension) label, better classes, and a (somewhat) closer proximity to where I live (though it’s still about a half hour. The lower cost comes with a California State school label, less interesting-sounding classes, and a location that I might not even be able to get to (I would likely be attending these classes at night after work). The other option is a strictly online university, but I’m not sure that would carry the same weight as even a state school.
The other option that I have just started thinking about is some sort of Masters program, though I haven’t begun to research programs, schools or costs yet. I always said I would only go back to school if it was necessary for furthering my career, and I’m starting to think that it’s time, but we’re talking about a lot of money here! Although the other side of me says “$1500? That’s like one, nice vacation. Or my portion of two month’s rent. It’s not THAT much, if it means doors opening to a new career.”
How do you decide when a higher degree is a necessity for career advancement, and then how do you decide how much money is worth it to spend?
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