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How important was your college degree to your career path?

Discussion in 'Education and Career Development' started by gafftaper, Jan 8, 2011.

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Read the 1st post FIRST: How important was your college degree to your career path?

  1. I would not have my job without my college degree.

    26.4%
  2. It was the most important factor, but other factors were also helpful.

    14.7%
  3. Education was equally important as other factors.

    20.9%
  4. My college education had very little to do with reaching my career goals.

    17.8%
  5. What degree?

    20.2%
  1. ruinexplorer

    ruinexplorer Minion CB Mods Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    I think by your statement that you did miss the point of the poll. Since the poll is rightly biased to professionals who have earned their degree (with the option for those who did not), there is not a contradiction to your point. I would have to somewhat disagree with your university in as much as I feel that High School is your opportunity to "learn how to learn" and college is a place to give you the "building blocks to a career". College doesn't teach you how to do a job, then I worry greatly for the medical community. No, they can't teach you everything, but this is why people seek more advanced degrees, to continue their education.

    The problem with much of American education these days is that it continues to be dumbed down. With ever increasing class sizes, professors cannot teach but instead offer facts that can only be tested through multiple choice exams since they could not grade that number of essays. I would say that I had relatively few courses that required me to think about the subject matter while a majority were there to just regurgitate the information. How many students cram before an exam, just to pass the test? Do you think that this is learning how to teach yourself? What a good college/university should be doing is giving you the tools to become successful in your career. This is why I think that all the programs centered around design are failing their students. They do not offer them the tools to get out into the workforce. If the schools were training good technicians, it would be run more like a vocational program. Personally, I don't know of another success story from my state college's program (besides an actor/director) and the university I went to at one point would refuse to hire the technicians in the theater program to work in the professional roadhouse due to the lack of real world experience. There's a big difference between corporate theater and educational theater, but we use the same building blocks since physics and other sciences are the same.
     
  2. DuckJordan

    DuckJordan Well-Known Member

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    Doesnt matter

    I have to agree to a point, and it may be just a freak occurrence at the university I am attending but, while they do teach us fundamental building blocks the design professors here also teach us how to find our own research for whatever we are doing, which i find in most cases that it is lacking at some of the other schools. I can't count how many times our professor has asked us to write essays on some random tangent he went on and ask us to use outside sources in our arguments or discussions and only include what he has said to relate our information to his.

    So unless the school is really strict on keeping class size I guess, we have the opportunities here that are different from the rest of the nation.

    Just a quick question about your post though, While yes the medical schools teach the basic human functions and they go into detail about some more well known diseases and problems. How many medical courses just give you facts? Our school is our state and area leader for medical research and learning and not a single student gets out of that school without learning how to do their own research. It may be that we are a liberal education based school but every professor here apart from the "strictly" enforced basic math courses require at least 4 essays a semester.
     
  3. BrianWolfe

    BrianWolfe Active Member

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    I have a BA and an MFA. My education showed me the way. I am better at what I do because of my education. My degrees have opened some doors because people make assumptions about me based on those degrees. Some of those are probably justified. I can write better because of my education. I showed perseverance in finishing both degrees. I probably would have ended up building houses or furniture had I skipped college which would have been fine but I think I am happier in this job. Every day brings new and interesting challenges. People who visit the shop think I have the best job in the world. More importantly I feel that way most of the time and without college I don't think I would have ever learned that this job was the right one for me.

    I work with friends who didn't finish high school. They are wonderfully talented and fabulous at there specialties. But I wouldn't have them answer an RFQ or write a producer soliciting business. The lack of education limits them. I feel the extra education opens more possibilities for me within my field and within my business. If I should loose my job I have more to offer a potential employer which is more important now than ever.
     
  4. mstaylor

    mstaylor Well-Known Member Departed Member

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    I agree that college is a good thing, just not a deal breaker. As far as writing ability, college has squat to do with it. I work for several companies and all my bosses have degrees in something. I constantly have to explain basic vocabulary words, correct memos and play IT for them. I will admit they have me on advanced grant searches and other business practices but feet on the ground, getting a show in and out, I kill them. I assist many of them when advancing events to ensure the proper questions are asked and the answers understood.
     
  5. Gene

    Gene Member

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    I got a B.S. in math (CSU, 2003)and I have no formal theatrical training. Now I work full time as the assistant technical coordinator at the facility I work at. Before me, the job was called assistant technical director.

    My career advancement is a long series of people who had confidence in my abilities asking me to do things I hadn't done before. Typically I state my experience and my limitations and whoever is asking me to do the job assures me that they think I can do it (sometimes if I don't accept then whoever asked me has to do the job.) I do whatever work, ask whatever questions, swallow my pride and ask for help if necessary and get the job done. When the dust settles I have one more person who thinks of me when they want a job done and one less task that intimidates me.

    I won't go into details, but I got the job I have now as a result of being perceived as reliable and able to work with others (I like to think both are justified) and being in the right place in the right time.
     
  6. mstaylor

    mstaylor Well-Known Member Departed Member

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    I will grant that having a degree will help open doors but as Gene says you have to build your knowledge to keep the job.
     
  7. ruinexplorer

    ruinexplorer Minion CB Mods Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    I guess where we have a difference in our education in that college was not where I learned to research. First of all, back in the day, we didn't have computers to help us research. From elementary school, we had to learn to start with encyclopedias as a reference tool and use the information to search through card catalogs to find books in the library. Later on (junior or senior high school) we had the ability to use computers to search the libraries of neighboring districts in a slightly better manner than the card catalog (still no internet mind you). By the time I was in college, there was no need for a professor to teach me how to research. That foundation was already there. What aggravated me to no end while in school was that the professors were required by the inept students to teach basic skills and information before entering a classroom. There are pre-requisites for a reason. A professor should not have to teach anyone how to research on their own, but help refine the quality of research.

    I know that the work force is changing, even from my parents' time (not to mention from my grandparents' time). My father was able to change careers into a governmental highway engineering position from an elementary education career because he was able to test into it. I doubt that he would even make it past the initial Human Resources department today because they search keywords, including what your college education is, before allowing you to interview. I'm pretty sure that my grandfather never went to college (that was during the Great Depression), but he became one of the nation's leading chemists as well as becoming a college professor (can't even do that with a Bachelor's degree most often these days). This is why many of us say that college can be beneficial, depending on your goals.

    I think that your confusion about my medical metaphor is that there are different disciplines of medicine, many of which are more research based and often require additional education and practical experience beyond a Bachelor’s degree. I think that you also confused what I meant about the level of knowledge being disseminated. Let me instead use more of a liberal arts example. I took several courses in Medieval History while in college. As with many history courses that I am sure many of you dread, I would be taught who was king from a certain period (had to know the dates), and what wars were fought during that period (know the dates again), and they would throw in some church history to "round it out". Even when these were upper division courses, I would generally not be given much more than a scan-tron test because the information provided was easily testable that way. However, I had one course that the professor taught us about the people that lived during those time periods, giving us a lot of information into understanding the relationships of the varying kingdoms and why they would go to war. She gave two exams (mid-term and final), each consisting of a single question, and would give us one week to turn in a 10-page essay on that question. That is problem solving (no additional research required since we had already listened to the lecture and done the readings), since we would utilize the building blocks and create a solution.

    This is where I feel that college has a place in preparing you for a career. You should already know how to research before you get to college. It should help you to prepare for a career. In some ways, my education did help me to succeed, just not my degree per se. With my anthropology background, supported by my coursework in comparative religions, I have become a much better manager. Additionally, the courses that I took in professional writing filled in the gaps necessary should I need to write proposals or grants.
    College is what you make of it. Many students fall into the trap of making college an extension of high school. This is why there is a high incidence of freshman failure (first experience of “freedom”, lack of discipline for homework, etc). On the other hand, there are responsible students who also end up not getting the most out of college (me being one of them) by not challenging themselves in their major and taking a lot of courses that sound cool or joining a lot of extra-curricular activities that have nothing to do with their major. However, I believe that students have opportunities at college that you will never have if you don’t go to school and the major one being the ability to fail without consequence. By this, I mean that you have the ability to experiment in your skill set, which is why you pay for this privilege. Since your GPA is the only proof of your abilities (and by [user]mstaylor[/user]’s account, that can be misleading), we as a community encourage everyone to get practical experience outside of the classroom to be more successful.
     
  8. Khel958

    Khel958 Member

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    I feel that College education can dictate what and how far you can go. I read a friends post on this forum and he pointed out that without the correct degree certain places will not look at you. He's right.
    I personally have a BFA in Tech. Theater from a school that no longer exists and have traveled the world literally. I've spent time as a Performer Rigger/Choreographer, TD, LD, SM for a road house, summer stock costumer, Adjunct professor, ATD for a state university and currently am a project manager for a theatrical supply store.
    What I got from my small college was a wide spectrum of experience in all fields so that when I moved to a new place I looked around and asked "what do they need?" and filled the slot. What I didn't get were contacts and a named school to "back me". It does make personal references much more important.
    What I have also found is that without an MFA I have hit a ceiling in my career. Family is very important to me and the sacrifices I would have to make to move above where I am too costly without the MFA.
    What education you chose will affect the path you have to take. Many good stage hands do not have degrees. In most cases TD's and SM's will have some sort of degree even if it isn't always in theater. To go above and get into design and college education you’re looking at MFA's. This isn’t always the case but I have been passed over for jobs to have someone younger with no practical experience in theater but have a MFA. The irony is when they find themselves against the wall they call myself and those like me to bail them out.
    I will say that there will come a point in all careers that it becomes more important who knows you and who you know than what degree's you have, and if you are persistent enough you can become whoever you want, the degree just helps take bigger steps to get there.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 21, 2011
  9. misterm

    misterm Active Member

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    my BA in theatre education and masters in education. REALLY wish i had had more hands-on experience outside of the college atmosphere.
     
  10. bobcatarts

    bobcatarts Member

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    I finally got my Associates in Arts in '09, was going to college off/on since '99 and been working professionally since '95.

    -How important was your college degree?
    My college degree has only been important in so much as I had to have a degree in something to get hired. Subject was unimportant. This is immensely frustrating - if the subject doesn't matter, how valuable can it be?

    -Did you get an MFA? BA? BFA? Did it help?
    Associates - graduated with honors, honors society, etc.

    -Do you have a theater degree at all?
    My degree is "Arts" which had a theatre component, but I basically got career credit for that to skip over it.

    -What has been the most significant factor in you reaching your career goals and the position you are in now? Education? Hard work? Dumb luck?
    The connections I made in school have been invaluable, as were a very few select skills I would have had a hard time learning on-the-job. The rest is some combination of leveraging opportunity, shameless self promotion and hard, hard work.

    Looking back, I would NOT recommend this path to anyone. Had I the ability, I would have stayed in school and finished my BA. Not having a Bachelor's degree was a tremendous stumbling block early on. I was told more than once, "I would love to hire you, but you need a BA in anything. Doesn't matter what." An Associates is essentially worthless, but it's better than nothing. As I've progressed in my career, I've built a reputation and skill set on my own merits, leveraging whatever I could and jumping on any opportunity.

    The paper is most important, and the connections you make during that time slightly less so. I've met numerous students that learned in near-limitless budget programs, on the most advanced equipment - yet had almost no practical skills, hands-on experience across production disciplines, or the ability to be creative and improvise on no-budget. Others from similar programs could build, light and sound check Rome in a day. Your mileage may vary.

    Stay in school, kids. Really.
     
  11. Cruiseduck

    Cruiseduck Member

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    This is always a tricky question and one I still wrestle with every time I cut a check to the us department of education.
    There is no easy answer. Particularly in the cruise industry.
    I started my education in theatre at a very early age. I have been interested in all aspects of the art from an early age. I was one of those cast members who helpped the crew and a crew member who could fill in when a cast member got sick.
    I went to a four year school (SUNY Buffalo) for a BA in theatre, and then to Northwestern for my masters work. After I finished school In between undergrad and graduate school I took a few years off and took a job in the cruise industry.
    I started as a stage hand. UB had very little automated lighting education so I had to learn how to use the HOG on the ship. I spent a lot of time asking myself if the education was worth it, as low man on the totem pole I was making less then $60 a day. However, I was promoted very quickly, and my education had a lot to do with it. My superiors in the corporate office knew that my BA meant training and drive.
    I did one contract and decided to go back to school. After I was done at Northwestern I took a job with another cruise line, this time as a lighting tech. I again started to question if my education was worth the price tag because a large number of other techs in the fleet are people who worked up to the position from stage hands to ASM to auxiliary lounge technicians to lighting or sound techs.
    In the end yes I think my education was worth it. I get to design three to six shows a week, I wake up in a new location every day, and I very proudly get to say that I am paid to work in the arts. In addition to the pervious reasons I believe experience and proper education are more important then experience alone. We work hard and fast. I routinely need to have fixtures repaired in a mater of hours, I usually have just under two hours to program shows, (Granted a lot of my cuing is wash rinse repeat) and I need tone able to cue for acts ranging from musicians, to broadway singers, jugglers, acrobats, and comedians. The skills learned in my schooling are instrumental in keeping me sane.

    The best way to answer this question is to quote Rev. Lovejoy from the Simpsons episode "Hurricane Neddy" shot answer with with a but, long answer no with an if
     
  12. BillConnerFASTC

    BillConnerFASTC Well-Known Member

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    Interesting thread. Everyone is different. For me, undergrad and graduate school were essential. Didn't even know what a theatre consultant was or did till after I was in grad school. The networking is essential in my experience and opinion. No idea what I'd be doing if not this but certainly wouldn't be doing this if it weren't for SUNY Potsdam ('74) and Yale School of Drama ('79).
     
  13. StNic54

    StNic54 Active Member

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    I'd say hs theatre got me interested and developed my passion for live production, undergrad helped me realize how big the world of entertainment could be, and graduate school sharpened my abilities as a designer and communicator. The job market and advances in technology show me daily that no one school or single job can teach you everything you need to know, but instead it's up to me to stay focused and on my game - always learning and never assuming. High school and community theatre led to college, college led to professional work opportunities, pro work and college led to grad school, grad school led me into the job market with a better focus on who I am and what I do. And yes, student loans are nuts and apparently only getting worse for the newer generation.
     
  14. ryanswiftjoyner

    ryanswiftjoyner Member

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    Essential. I would not have been hired without my MFA, for starters. As you guessed, I work for a university. They wanted a Master Electrician but also someone who could teach the sound design classes and possibly a lighting class every now and again. This worked out perfect for me as I had majored in lighting and sound design in grad school. So that answers the degree part. The actual knowledge I garnered from my BFA and MFA degrees have helped me immensely with bringing the technological know-how of my current department up a notch. It also kicked my ass into respecting time management and work ethic. These were the main skills my degrees helped me learn that aid in my current job: Time management, work ethic, keeping up to date on theatre technology, and learning how I learn.
     
  15. sk8rsdad

    sk8rsdad Well-Known Member Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    I am not going to vote since I don't work in the entertainment industry but I felt compelled to comment on said industry from the outside looking in.

    Focusing solely on the technical side and excluding the artistic element, I have to question the need or even the value of a Master's
    degree in order to get a job in the entertainment industry. Most of the stage jobs are best taught by apprenticeship, reinforced with some related certification programs for those areas involving life safety issues. A university program seems an expensive option for learning how to push a case, move a piece of scenery, hang and focus a light, build a piece of scenery, program a console, sew a costume, apply makeup, call a show, sell a ticket, mollify a customer, or any of the myriad tasks we all do.

    You don't need a Master's degree to get a job as an engineer who designs the gear, so why on earth do you need a Masters degree to USE the stuff designed by said engineer.

    I've donned my flame-retardant underwear. :)
     
  16. justjasen72

    justjasen72 Member

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    I started out in college as an actor, and to make ends meet, I worked in the costume shop. I realized that I enjoyed costume design more than acting, and I had a natural talent for it. I only have my BA, and I am currently the Resident Costume Designer for a small theatre, I would not have this job without my talent and knowledge base..

    I went to a very small school, that was primarily an acting school. All of the students had to do some technical element on every production, it was sort of like theatre boot camp. Luckily, I was able to intern at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival for a year, and was able to work on several productions and watch the Professional Designers. Almost all of my knowledge base comes from hands on experience and talking to Resident and Guest Designers and watching their individual processes.

    I have designed over 100 shows, taught Costume Design, Make Up Design, Designed for Opera, Operetta, straight plays and Musicals. My education is not classroom based, but without the experiences gained from my college productions, and my natural talent I would not have the experiences to have my job.
     
  17. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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  18. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    And keep in mind that he has a communications degree from Towson Univ, one of the top public schools in the country. He is a classically trained Opera singer and worked professionally as an Opera singer for some time.

    So the real lesson should be "Go get a degree in theatre/communications/music then try to get a reality show.

    He has some points, but the kids who are going to grow up to be "makers" and teach themselves are going to do that no matter what. I also really don't believe his "you don't need a degree" figures. Seems rather high to me.

    We have a larger issue that he is not touching on. Secondary education is completely setup to get people into college and that is it. You can't expect a system setup to do that to produce kids who can hit the workforce and just figure it out. Some can, but not all can. Until we flip high schools on their head and start training differently nothing is going to change there.

    I will still argue that the people who are actually working in our industry could have gotten there without the piece of paper. Out of my graduating class everyone who took the leading role day one of freshman year are still working. Those who did not never made after graduation.

    We need to move high school to the point where engineering schools are. They teach you how to learn. They don't get very specific but give you a taste of everything. After that, they expect your employer to give you some time to get your bearings before you dig in. No matter what, someone is going to be paying for your education, be it you or your employer.
     
    dvsDave likes this.
  19. TheaterEd

    TheaterEd Renaissance Man Fight Leukemia

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    I didn't realize that I never responded after taking the survey.

    My degree is the only reason I am where I am today. I graduated from UW-Milwaukee with a Theater Education degree almost exactly 5 years ago. After a year of unemployment and working my crappy college jobs I got my first 'real' job as a part time performing arts center manager for a high school located 1.5 hours away. The commute sucked, but it was 24 hours a week and paid more than my other two jobs combined. I firmly believe that the main reason I got that job, other than my awesome interview skills, is because I am the only person with this degree that applied. Everyone else either didn't have a theater background or didn't think the position should be part-time (they were right). The only previous experience I brought to the job was from my student teaching, and a couple of freelance gigs that I got at the school I student taught at. If nothing else, college gave me the ability to teach myself and over the 2.5 years I spent there, I thrived and grew immensely.

    I used the experience that I gained running that PAC to get hired as a full time Auditorium manager / Tech theater teacher at a different school district closer to my home. Once I left they replaced me with two different employees, and at the end of the school year they bumped one of them up to full time.

    Although a part of me wishes I would have pursued a professional carrier, I highly doubt I could afford to pay back my student loans if I had. This was the one path I could see that would allow me to make enough to provide for my family, and pay back my debt. I am definitely the exception though. The majority of people I went to school with are not able to support themselves within the theater education community. The jobs are slowly coming back, but for a good couple of years, they were non-existent.

    All of that said, I could not possibly be happier with where I am. I get to do EVERYTHING working with tech while spreading my love of theater to the next generation and continuously building my portfolio and learning new skills. Added bonus, I have most of the summer off so I have time to act when the bug bites me ;)
     
  20. What Rigger?

    What Rigger? I'm so fly....I Neverland.

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    Stumbled into an acting class in college, because one of my better math teachers in high school told me that when I got to college to "do things you wouldn't normally do". And the next thing I know, I had a BA in directing/acting- with all of my hands on experience coming as crew/stage management. Got out of school, and started all over again working for free, to learn more of what I needed and eventually that led to the whole rigging/flying thing.

    The experience is priceless, but if I hadn't had such a great program in school, how might I have ever fallen in love with all this?

    Also? Don't forget that the purpose of a University/college, is not to train you for work. It's purpose is to train you to think.

    Just sayin'.....
     

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