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How I Advanced My Career by Earning My Degree

opinion

Putting my education first put me in the perfect position to take charge of my career. It wasn't always smooth sailing, but in the end, it was definitely worth it.

Finally Earning My Degree Gave My Career a Leg Up

Like most young people, I entered college with big dreams. I was going to get my degree, score a job in an industry I loved, and change the world.

That didn't happen.

Instead, I took the long way around. I married, started a family, and worked at a demanding corporate job while going to school and trying to figure out what I was going to do with the rest of my life.

After the birth of my second child, I decided I needed a change. I wanted to set a good example for my family while still being able to provide for them. I had always loved children. I wanted to be able to return something to my community, so I decided to open a preschool and after-school learning center.

At a Dead End

DeadEnd

In the state where I live, this is a very demanding prospect. Directors are required to attend hours of state training, as well as continuing education each year. We must also undergo regular inspections by both State and Federal authorities. Our Learning Centers are subjected to strict licensing guidelines to ensure the health and safety of the children in our facilities. It took me the better part of a year, but I completed the requirements and opened my business in 2002 with much excitement.

In the beginning, we were able to provide rich learning experiences for a variety of children. We also provided information about local resources and held regular training for families who needed parenting support. The center was thriving, and I couldn't have been happier.

Over time, however, rules began to change, and requirements became even more stringent. It was apparent that if I was going to continue to serve my community and keep my thriving business alive, I was going to need more training myself.

It was time to finally finish my degree.

Risk vs. Reward

I had already spent years taking classes online through my local extension office and at the community college near my home with the goal of eventually finishing my bachelor's degree. The demands of my business and the scarcity of some of my courses made it difficult, however. To complete my degree, I was going to have to take time away from my business, invest in new courses, and find the space in my jam-packed schedule to attend classes and then do the homework that would come along with them.

I considered closing shop and going full time, but dismissed than in favor of buckling down and doing both simultaneously. I decided to take the leap to part-time, allowing me to take care of my education without inconveniencing my students and their families any more than necessary.

It was one of the best decisions of my life.

A Long Road, But Worth it

Winner

My schedule was rigorous. I spent nights and weekends studying. I made use of every online course I could find. I did homework while supervising classrooms during open discovery time.

It wasn't easy, but it was worth it.

By the time I finished my degree, I had made contacts within the industry and increased my support network. My new connections meant I could put my clients in touch with new services I hadn't been aware of before. I also met students with an interest in early childhood education, which gave me a better pool to draw from when I needed to fill staff vacancies.

In addition to all that, I had a new arsenal of skills to share with my students. I learned new ways of approaching issues and gained new insight into the thinking behind current practices. My new education allowed me to analyze what I was offering my kids with a critical eye. I no longer had to follow recommendations blindly because they came through official channels.

The Payoff

These new insights led me to revamp my curriculum and change the way I approached my students and their education. Our offerings became more process-oriented. Classes were more active. The children were more excited to learn. And, because we had a better classroom environment, our students were more at ease with their teachers and with each other. Better classes resulted in fewer conflicts, which had a positive impact on the children both at school and at home.

Having my degree also showed my families and State Licensors that I was dedicated to the continued betterment of myself and my staff. When it came time to check the credentials of my facility, there was no longer any question that we would pass with flying colors.

Woman Studying

In the end, finally completing my degree offered me several bonuses — an increase in self-confidence, a boost to my business' bottom line, new skills, better tools, and new contacts within the Early Learning community — all of which helped me advance my career as an educator and gave me increased credibility as a writer, particularly in the field of education.

I would say that this alone has been worth the cost of admission.

By Patricia Willis
January 2017
opinion career advancement

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