the devaluation of my graduate degree

I am guilty of devaluing my own education.  I don’t put letters behind my name.  I do get insecure and drop the word “masters” in mixed company but mostly I feel as though I spent ungodly amounts of money to defend my level of expertise in the dynamic field of intra and interpersonal relationships.  I obtained my degree in counseling but I do not practice.  That’s my own existential work.  But I find those in masters and Phd programs becoming extremely burnt out and unwell spiraling into complete unbalance only to find that their education has been marginalized by our constant need for competition.

Education is exploding.  A masters is the new bachelors and in a college town like Laramie, it’s the norm.  However, I have noticed certain ooo’s and ahh’s at degrees and post doc research in the sciences or in whatever the current paradigm deems as valuable.  Counseling has never had much social currency.  And this particular degree will not guarantee you a better salary, only the right to practice counseling.  In the unregulated state of Wyoming, you do not even need a masters degree to practice life coaching.  You have a vision, you have a business.  Don’t get me wrong I think that any type of self and other help practices are amazing, but why does my degree pack little punch?  Why are counselors and social workers relegated to social services in work that is deemed liberal or unnecessary?

I feel the value assigned to higher education and hard sciences within higher education continues to contribute to classism when many who work in human services are there because of some sort of life troubles themselves.  They messed up, they reformed, and now they help others.  Isn’t this the stuff of life?  Is this not self-actualization? However it seems the emphasis on education and hard sciences is actually contributing further to the class divide.

A masters degree whether in counseling or rocket science can set you back $40,000 to $60,000 depending on the institution.  This means that only people of means and privilege can seek the masters in the first place.  There is unreasonable pressure for students to perform, especially in academia, where good grades often have no real life transferable skills other than the ability to jump through hoops and do what is asked.  However, in a deplorable job market, folks will often sell out just to eat.  The principles they stood for and what they are passionate about falls by the wayside.

And so, I find myself in the dating world, in my professional life, constantly telling others I am an expert in what I chose to study—ways of helping people.  Please value me and set aside my personality which you may or may not like to realize I’ve researched, I’ve bled out on midnight papers, I’ve produced my own higher level work.  But because I cannot pin down the cloud of human behavior—please don’t see my work as invaluable.  The human brain can only be studied—and barely modeled, we know so little.  And I can only speak from my position of white privilege where I’ve not experienced significant hurdles in pursuit of my dreams.  What is the point of this blog post?  To understand the double edged sword of education and the workforce in America.  While I believe higher education is what saved me, I also recognize its shortcomings.  Lets work to value each other despite our degrees, despite our knowledge.

“In order for us as poor and oppressed people to become part of a society that is meaningful, the system under which we now exist has to be radically changed… It means facing a system that does not lend its self to your needs and devising means by which you change that system.” 

-Ella Baker

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