Email me!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

 The world, as is it's wont, is changing. Changing in some very drastic ways, and by this I mean: getting a higher degree or a professional license is no longer a guarantee of job stability or a license to print money. (Skeptical? AND those are just two for example; I could find hundreds more.)
That's not to say there isn't real value in education for education's sake: I don't use my juris doctorate "traditionally," but I can say it has given me a new perspective on many important things. Now, was that perspective worth the six figure debt? That's a good question. Usually, I try not to think about my debt; it's like magic numbers which exist in space... because honestly if I brooded about my graduate debt, I'd either fake my own death, and the cats and I would relocate to some red state and start an organic farm/doomsday cult, while using the barter system (tempting!), or I'd have to start drug dealing, and I suspect it's harder than it looks:,140/
So was the knowledge I gained about myself, and the "skills" I learned in law school worth the debt? By "skills," I'm guessing drinking? Arguing? (Impressing impressionable yet hot young men with my law degree...ding ding ding!) Sure; four years on from graduation, I can say, without a doubt: yes, it was all worth it. But I can say "yes," because I'm using my knowledge and degree in furthering my small business, and helping my clients...if I was simply a contract attorney, engaged in mindless, depressing, rote work...I might have a different answer, because--and here's where it gets ugly--my crushing debt load would seriously curtail my professional options. That six figure debt has to be paid back one way or another, and while law schools will tell you their happy horseshit version of "but there's so many things you can do with a law degree!"...don't believe the hype, son. Example: If you apply for non-legal jobs, employers are, understandably suspicious: why aren't you using your degree? Try and tell them that the legal job market bottomed out, and they presume that you're just an unmotivated slacker, who will bail the moment White & Case comes calling. (Sigh.) Law firms, meanwhile, are swamped with offers and if you don't already have a job before you graduate, then you have the professional version of cooties.
So, in light of all that, in light of the stampede of people rushing back to grad schools, hoping that more letters after their name will save them, I will simply say: do. Your. Research!! Understand what you are getting involved in. Understand how the debt load will affect your life every damn day. Defaulting on your student loans is not an option. Bankruptcy will not erase them. Your debt is your debt. Crunch the numbers and figure out in advance what your monthly payments will be. And consider...what happens if you don't get that magical job? 'Cause you still gotta pay The Man!
To that end, take some time and attend, for example,  an open-house given by the various graduate programs you are considering. Listen to their little lecture about how their graduates are winning Nobel Prizes all over the place, and getting laid like it's going out of style and then ask them a few questions of your own.
Ask them what their rate of graduate employment is. Then, understand that grad school is a business, and see if they will give you contact info for some real-live recent graduates so you can get another version. (Ask said graduates: was the degree worth it? Are you working in the field you wished? Did the school help you get this job? If they are working in the field they studied for, do they think the degree gave them relevant skills?)
Ask the admissions people what is the percentage of graduates who are repaying their student loans. (If it's low, think about that for a minute...) How many of their graduates are working in the field they studied? How aggressively will the program's career services office help you network and find a job? (If they say they'll help you with a resume, please drain your drink and leave cackling, since that's a six-figure resume service.)
Before some of my readers get cranky and tell me I'm stomping on their dreams...relax. You want to go to grad school, mazel tov: go and enjoy. If it's truly your dream and your passion, the truth won't kill it... right? The truth will just give you more options and you're welcome! But if you're thinking that simply having a law degree (or any other degree, for that matter) means you make the Red Sea's a life-vest, kid.  

No comments:

Post a Comment