Q: I've just finished my bachelor's degree, and the only thing on my mind is getting a job. My best friend has been casual about it because she's considering continuing on for her master's degree. My parents can't pay for my school, so I took out a student loan to get through. I'd like to continue on to graduate school but thought I should first get a job and focus on paying down the loan. I know other kids who took out loans and are not concerned about it, but it bothers me knowing I owe a large amount.
The bigger problem is that I know having a master's degree would help me get a much better job. My close friend from college (whose parents are paying for everything) is going for an MBA, while I will only have a bachelor's degree in psychology. What would you do in my situation?
A: You're in a tough spot for two reasons. First, your discomfort over owing a great sum of money is holding you back from advancing in your chosen field. Second, you've chosen a field that offers practical and useful information for life but requires at least a master's degree to practice. Your choices may be to find a general type of job and give up on practicing in the field; overcome your discomfort of owing money and go for a master's in psychology; or take additional courses in another field that doesn't require having a master's degree to find a job.
Graduates with a bachelor's degree in psychology often go on to attain a master's degree in social work or counseling, which allows them to secure positions at private counseling agencies, hospitals, school districts or community centers. If you're passionate about helping in the field, it would be best to overcome your fear of school loans and continue your education. Another advantage of attaining your master's is that if you find yourself fulfilled in the practice, you can later apply to a Ph.D. program where you could open a solo practice. Many students take breaks after completing their master's before deciding to commit to another chunk of time in a Ph.D. program. But if you do, you will then earn the title of "Dr." before your name, which presents a higher level of respect for you in the field of psychology and far more potential in a career.
It isn't going to be easy, but getting over your concern about owing school loans allows you to move up in any career you choose. Certain fields, though — education, journalism, fine arts, accounting and IT, for example — are easier to secure jobs in with only a bachelor's degree than the field of psychology.
Sallie Mae, a lender of student loans, found that 47% of the funds that pay for college come from the combined savings and incomes of students and their parents. "On average, parents contribute almost three-quarters of those funds (34% of the total cost of college), while 13% of the total cost of college is the student's responsibility," according to the Edmit website.
Of course, there are parents who pay the total cost, but being jealous and envious of kids from wealthy, generous families will only sadden you and misdirect the positive energy that will help you succeed. Also, those kids may have other types of negative family issues to deal with, which they may never admit to. The grass-is-always-greener attitude eventually harms all who adopt it.
Check the universities with fully accredited graduate programs in psychology to see what options the school has for independent students financing their futures. The school's career counselors can guide you to financial possibilities. It's difficult to work full time and complete a master's, but part-time educational programs exist for those who are self-supporting. Let go of the fears that stop you from reaching your potential. When you're happy in your job of choice, paying back the school loans won't seem like such a detriment.
Email your workplace issues and experiences to [email protected] For more information about career and life coach Lindsey Novak, visit www.lindseyparkernovak.com, and for past columns, see www.creators.com/read/at-work-lindsey-novak.
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