The Continuing Education Dilemma

By the age of 26, I had spent over 70% of my life studying and had grown comfortable with it and even enjoyed the world of academia. Comfortable with not having to generally deal with all the stresses a student takes on once he leaves academia and enters the working world. Comfortable with having a predictable timetable that allowed me to prepare in advance for exams; a luxury that is unavailable at most jobs because work can hit you just about any time. Comfortable in the fact that I only had to deal with the relatively manageable task of being in the good books of my few professors, as opposed to pleasing multiple overzealous managers. No wonder then that people used to tell me to enjoy my school days and not be in a hurry to join the workforce.

Over the last few years, since I finished my masters degree and entered the work force, I have flirted on and off with the idea of pursuing further education. The reason for this was mainly personal and professional growth, but I have to confess that a small part of me longed for the familiar academic environment that I had grown accustomed to and comfortable with.

For a while, I considered resuming the CFA certification I had left unfinished a few years back. But given my professional trajectory, that certification no longer really added much value to my résumé. In fact, that was the very reason I had abandoned it in the first place. Having completed the first level, and studied for the second, I can attest to the fact that preparing for it consumes all the free time you have, and this is while you are working a full-time job. That didn’t really appeal to me, or the Honey Bee, anymore.

Next, I seriously considered going back to school for a PhD. I did some serious research here, looking into areas of study that interested me as well as schools. I spoke to current and former students, read a number of relevant blogs, forums, etc.
A PhD has numerous benefits compared to other courses of study including free education & stipends to substitute your lost income during that period, full-time dedication that does not require you to juggle your time between your income generating job and your education, etc. However, despite all this, I finally decided against it because 5-6 years of a relatively unstructured course of study didn’t really appeal to me. In fact, it generally takes longer; something I was definitely not okay with.
In terms of post PhD employment, one of the primary avenues is academics which involves research and teaching. Research I’m all for, but teaching is an idea I wasn’t totally in love with. It was hard for me imagine my impatient self, trying to teach a class of students and spend my whole life doing that. The Honey Bee agreed, with the impatient part at least 😛 . Additionally, during my research I found out that getting employment as a PhD is getting harder by the day and there is intense competition for very few spots. Armed with all these conclusions, this option was axed.

Then, I looked online searching for courses that might be interesting to me including Microsoft Office certifications. However, given that I am very comfortable with the Office suite of products, and my work is testimony to my abilities in this area, a silly certification doesn’t really add that much value. Now, it might have added some degree of credibility if I was a newbie fresh out of college, but since that is not the case, I dropped the idea.

Then a couple of months ago, my wonderful little brother who holds a CFA asked for my opinion on a 60+ hour online financial modeling course that he was considering. I looked into it, and turns out it is exactly the kind of thing I was looking for to help boost my professional skill set and add to my résumé, all without eating up all of my free time. A secondary benefit also emerged- for the first time in our lives my younger brother and I are going to be studying “together”, something I’m pretty stoked about.

Happy Studying!