Saturday, December 14, 2013

Some people go to college for 8 years...but they're doctors.

Question: How important is education to you?

Vitally important.

The topic of higher education is one that has been on my mind a lot lately. I am frustrated in my career and don't know if I am really doing what I want to do forever. Or until I have enough money to retire, you know, the day before I die. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate what I do. But I don't love it either. And when I am frustrated at work, I inevitably start thinking about school, and why I have not yet pursued my Master's degree.

I graduated from Portland State after summer term in 2007, after my dad had cancer and I almost flunked out of college. Literally. In order to graduate on time, after royally fucking up spring term, I took 30 credits in one summer. It was hard; all I did was work and go to class. I was in class 5 days a week from 8:00-5:00 and spent Saturdays online doing homework or taking an online course. 30 credits is insane. But I did it, and I actually got the best GPA of my academic career that term.

My degree is in Writing. I did not choose that degree based on the enormous job market for talented writers. I chose that degree because I believed I should follow my passion in school, not a job. I still believe I made the right choice, despite slim pickings for careers as: Writer, and despite the look I get from people when I say I have a writing degree. A what? What's that?

In the past year, my desire to go back to school has grown, but I am at a bit of a crossroads as far as what to do about it. My dream career, much to everyone's confusion, is to be an elementary school librarian. It is what I have wanted to do for as long as I can remember. And in order to get that job, I have two school path options.

Option 1: Get my teaching license. This would take about 2 years, during which they encourage you not to work full time, and during which you have to do student teaching...and as electives, you take the courses in Library Media so that upon graduation, I would have a teaching license for elementary education with a Library Media specialty.
Option 2: Get a Masters degree in Library Media. This would allow me to work in any library out there - except a public school. So while I would still be eligible to teach library in a grade school, I would limit myself to private schools.

To me, Option 2 seems to be the better choice, as I have literally zero desire to be a classroom teacher. I don't want to take the teaching classes, I want to focus on the library media classes; I don't want what I am passionate about to be my electives...that's like making your passion what you minor in, as opposed to what you major in. But the schools that offer Library Media as a Master's degree option are very limited. Portland State, University of Portland, and Washington State - the closest schools to home - do not offer the program. Option 2 would likely require me to relocate for a year or two, to Eugene or La Grande, or to Seattle.

Now here's the kicker. Graduate school is, obviously, expensive. On my staycation this past week, I spoke with two advisers - one from Portland State, and one from Emporia State (a school in Kansas that offers the Library Media program at PSU as a completely satellite program). The adviser at Portland State told me that the job of my dreams - Librarian - is not a growing career choice and that I will not likely find a position where I am not required to teach in a classroom as well, and suggested that the teaching route was the only way to go. The adviser in Kansas, however, told me that while most Oregon districts require a teaching degree, Washington districts don't and neither do private schools. She said that it is in no way a dying career choice.

What do I want to do? I want to enroll in the Emporia State program, as it is mostly online, with one Friday night and Saturday all-day class per month that takes place on Portland State's campus. But the problem there is, I do not live in Kansas and would therefore be paying out of state tuition for a master's degree...$30,000 roughly for the 2 year program. Are you kidding me, that's nuts!

I am not surrendering yet; I am looking into the other Oregon universities and will likely speak with several more advisers before I decide on anything. But it is out there, the conversations and the thoughts.

I am like, 3 days from a pros & cons list, you all can already see it coming, I'm sure.