What do you think? Does higher education mean a higher paying job? When you were younger, did you ever hear that you needed to keep going to school to get a higher paying job?
I’m not disagreeing that for some professions, education past high school is required. Just about everyone who has the title “doctor” comes to mind!
I knew a lot of men, high school grads, or even dropped out of high school, who ended up with good paying jobs at a young age. Who knew painting cars was a high paying job? A lot of people just fell into their father’s career like truck driving or running a family restaurant. Things the old man could teach them.
My plan was always to go to university. I wanted to be a lawyer. Specifically I was interested in working for the Canadian consulate in a South American country.
Yes, I had lofty goals as a teenager!
I went to the University of Victoria for two years and I can tell you that has not helped me find better paying jobs. When I was younger I used to list the university education on my resume, but I stopped doing that. There’s no point. Nobody cares.
And if you’re asking, why only two years of university, well that’s all I could afford. When I was younger I saved my money and I chose the University of Victoria because it has a good law school. I worked and had summer jobs and was able to afford two years before I ran out of money.
I started applying for summer jobs well in advance of the end of the second term and came up empty. All summer I sent out resumes and looked for work. As the summer dragged along with me being unemployed, it became pretty obvious I wouldn’t be returning to UVic. Desperation set in. Forget school. What about rent, groceries, and gas for the car?
In the middle of August I had to take what I could get and got hired at McDonald’s. School starts at the beginning of September so there was no way two weeks of pay at McDonald’s was going to pay my tuition, housing, books, and other costs of living for the next year.
Back then scholarships were only available to the very smart students. I was about a B+ student, so decent enough grades, but not smart enough to be eligible for a scholarship.
Not everyone has parents who are willing and able to put their kids through university, and I was turned down for student loans.
That was my reality.
Working a minimum wage job, plus paying for rent, groceries, car insurance, gas doesn’t leave money left over to save for school.
I wasn’t giving up on my dream of going to law school and I kept trying to find better jobs where I could make more money. I switched jobs a lot when I found a job that paid ten cents an hour more than the current one. Some jobs were less labor intensive, but were still low-paying, high turnover type jobs.
Nights and weekends if I wasn’t working, I took typing classes, a receptionist class, and a word processing class. I applied for office jobs, but no offers of employment came my way.
I was constantly trying to learn new skills in the hopes that I’d find jobs that paid better and maybe I could save money to go back to university.
One day when I was around 25 or 26 my mother tells me she’s made an appointment for me to see a career counselor at BC Institute of Technology, a few towns over, about an hour’s drive from where I was living at the time.
“Why the hell would you do that?” I demanded to know.
The obvious, if I hadn’t been able to save up enough money to do another year at the University of Victoria, where was I going to come up with the money to learn a trade at BCIT?
But I ended up going to meet with the counselor. He told me about the courses they offered and I think the price tag varied depending on the vocation. There might have been a couple of programs that slightly interested me.
I stopped by my parent’s house on the way home and showed my mother the brochures. She looked through them and asked me how I planned to pay for the classes.
“No idea,” I said.
That was sure a waste of everyone’s time.
When I was twenty-seven I became interested in a travel school I found, the Canadian Travel School. I think they had a head office in Ontario, and branches in Vancouver and Surrey. Probably other locations across the country, too, but I don’t recall.
The Canadian Travel School closed down a couple of years after I attended. Most of the teachers and courses were pretty good, but the administrators sucked. There was one computer class that was really bad, a simulator reservations system for the now-defunct Canadian Airlines. We had to drive in to the Vancouver location for two weeks because the Surrey school didn’t have the computer simulators.
The travel school cost way more money than I had in the bank. I was sharing a house with a room-mate and I had a horse, so I barely made enough money to cover all my living expenses.
The travel school was five days a week, and pretty much office hours. I had to quit my current day job and found an evening and weekend job as clerk at a duty free store.
Being an older student, an interesting phenomenon occurred. I was now eligible for a student loan.
It took me ten years to pay off that student loan, and by that time I wasn’t working in the travel industry anymore.
Here’s a little secret about the travel industry. It doesn’t pay that well. Minimum wage or a bit better. And that was back in the days before the Internet when there were a lot more travel agencies and tour operators around. The benefits of having a travel industry job are free or reduced travel and accommodation. But if you don’t make enough money to afford to do anything once you arrive at your destination, well…
I got jobs fairly quickly with several now-defunct tour operators: Air Canada Vacations, Great Escape Vacations, and Silverwing Holidays. The first two were seasonal jobs. I stayed with Silverwing for four years. What I hoped to be a dream job kind of became a nightmare, and was my last travel industry job. From there, I actually found a decent paying office job. That job ended when the company relocated to Alberta! Most of us lost our jobs. Alberta sucks!
Twenty years ago when I lost my job due to the Alberta relocation, I was eligible for employment insurance benefits. I also heard about a course for people looking to start up their own business and become self-employed. We’d be able to keep receiving employment insurance benefits while taking this training, so I applied. Long story short. Accepted.
There was about ten of us in the class, and with the exception of two women, for the most part we were a close group. After graduation, our class continued to meet monthly, but the administrators had moved those two women to join up with another class.
Ironically, the administrators managed to alienate most of our class. An incident made most of my classmates accuse the management that they’re teaching us how to run a business when they can’t even run their own business.
All that aside, even though I worked hard, I never did come up with a viable business plan that got off the ground. I became good friends with one of my classmates but we lost touch. Ironically, two years later, she bought a horse and ended up at a boarding stable where I was keeping my beloved Whistler.
Unfortunately, she sold her horse and we lost contact forever.
Some of what I learned in the course was useful when the deadbeat and I operated a small construction business. So the training wasn’t all lost. But, once again, the education did not push me into a higher earning bracket.
LIBRARY AND INTERNET LEARNING
There’s a lot of information available on the Internet about just about any kind of training a person wants to do. I’ve even done a few online courses over the years – journalism school and building a website – cost a few hundred bucks.
Not all training can be done online. For example, you can’t learn how to be a welder or a scuba diver by taking an online class! But the Internet can be used to research these classes.
I signed out books at the library to help me with computer skills. Even though I’d taken night classes at a local college on computer programs, the best help to me were books that started off with “Teach Yourself (fill in the blank) in 24 hours.”
That’s how I learned a few MS Office programs like Excel and Publisher. At least it got me in the door and I could fake my way through any formulas I didn’t know how to do on the fly. Thanks Google!
If you look online for weird scholarships, there are all kinds out there. A scholarship for creating prom attire out of tape? If that scholarship for musicians who want to learn how to fly had been around when I was a teenager, I’d have applied!
CAN YOU AFFORD TO GO TO SCHOOL?
I like watching Judge Judy. Sometimes she has litigants in front of her that are in their 30s or 40s who have children under the age of 18 and they’ve returned to school. The judge gets after them because they have no income and how are they taking care of the family while attending classes.
Many times they’re living off a student loan. Some students are fortunate to be in a relationship with a working partner who can cover the bills while they go to school.
Just because you’ve gone back to school, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get a decent job and be able to pay back that student loan. That’s always something to keep in mind. You still might be paying off your student loan after you’ve retired.
I was recently reading about a grandmother in Nebraska struggling to repay $90,000 in student loans, while never topping out over $30,000 annual income. The article didn’t state the woman’s age, but I’m ballparking 60, give or take five years. She had degrees in culinary arts and as a medical assistant.
The only jobs she could find were as a cook at a Mexican restaurant and package handler at FedEx. Though her lender fought it, grandma was able to get the student loans discharged in bankruptcy court due to being a low income worker.
That’s a reality many of us face. With or without education, we just can’t find good paying jobs in an industry we want to work in. If that’s our reality, do we want to go into debt with student loans? Will we have degrees that will never be put to use in the working world?
When it comes to student loans, that’s a younger person’s game. The older you are, the less working years you have to repay the loan.
DOES HIGHER EDUCATION MEAN A HIGHER PAYING JOB?
Let’s get back to the original question of this post. Does more education guarantee a better paying job? I remember a lady at university who was getting ready to graduate and she was applying for receptionist and secretary jobs. Seemed kind of a waste of a university degree to me.
You don’t need a university education to be a receptionist.
Then there’s my old pen pal, Lisa, who was a perpetual student. At some time you have to stop going to school, accept reality, and find a real job.
Did people with university degrees lose their jobs or have their hours slashed due to Covid-19? Or did that degree give them an edge to keep their jobs over less educated staff?
What has been your experience? Did you continue your education after high school? Did it help you find a better paying job?
Published by Cheryl at The Lifestyle Digs on March 21, 2021.