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How important is a college degree for an established admin?

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in Admin Pro Forum

Question: “I’ve been an admin for about a year, and am thinking about finishing my college degree studies at night. Since I really enjoy this field, I’m wondering if I’m better off just working hard and getting better at it rather than spending my nights for two years getting a degree mostly for the sake of having one. How much job experience do you think it will take to look as good on a résumé as a diploma would?” – Jane, Support Team Leader

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{ 41 comments… read them below or add one }

Denise May 2, 2013 at 1:10 pm

I have an Associates Degree and was pretty proud of that fact, especially since I worked full time and was a single parent as well. When I first hired into the organization I work for, an Associates Degree “in a business related field” was required for my position. They have since downgraded the requirement for my position, as well as several similar positions, to “high school diploma” required. I’ve also been told that an Associates Degree is nothing more than a “glorified high school diploma”. So, what I was so proud of turns out to be practically worthless, at least in my employers eyes. So, I would say from my own experience that if you’re going back to school, put in a few extra years and get your Bachelor’s degree.

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Hayley April 26, 2013 at 7:49 am

I say go for the degree. I am currently going for my Associates in Healthcare Administration specifically to help me gain respect in my field. I built my way up to my position as an Administrative Assistant but I am not considered “management” and at times , I feel like I don’t get respect because of it. I plan on getting my Bachelors as well to help increase my pay. You can have more opportunities with a degree.

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Freddie April 25, 2013 at 5:45 pm

I eased back into going back to school. I first went to a technical college and obtained an AA degree in Office Technology Administration. This took about two years doing evening classes. After that, I had gotten into the rhythm of taking classes and went on to attend an Adult Degree Completion program, which let me get my BS degree in Organizational Management in 18 months. I must say that by the end of the last semester of the BS degree, I was very tired, but getting the degree was definitely worth it. I don’t think that I will pursue a MS degree because I’m older now and the total cost – the “Opportunity Cost” of going to school is great. Your level of everything in your life besides school goes down in some degree – your work, your family, your home responsibilities, etc. There is a great deal of sacrifice once you have gotten past your 20s.

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Sharon April 25, 2013 at 4:37 pm

I don’t have a degree. I am 54 years old, I am an Executive Assistant and I looked into getting my AA with the University of Phoenix a few months ago. Unfortunately, I cannot afford tuition and it is stopping me from achieving my dream. I hear what all of you are saying and I am sure in the future, by not having a degree, it will stop me from getting promoted or getting another job if I had to. I should have gotten my degree after I raised my kids but I did not. I am disappointed but sometimes it is more than just wanting it, it is also a financial burden.

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Evelyn April 25, 2013 at 4:22 pm

Just watching my workplace, more and more administrative staff newly hired into our company — has a degree. Certifications are wonderful and worth the effort – however, many companies are not up-to-date in their awareness of the different certifications and what they can bring to a job. Most hiring managers have a degree, so they know what you went through to get it – hard work. Even if you’ve been at your job forever, you just never know what opportunity may arrive around the corner — and wouldn’t you feel awful if all you needed was the degree you decided was too hard to get “at your age” or any age. Without prepping for opportunity, opportunity may never come.

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Jacki April 25, 2013 at 4:19 pm

What types of degrees are applicable to support work? I looked at the courses for an Associates in Business Administration, but they did not interest me as they were mostly math. Will a degree in Communications or Psychology or Marketing be relevant?

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Sara April 23, 2013 at 7:49 pm

Get the degree, if only for the knowledge that you will aquire and the fact that you made a plan and had the desire and the inner discipline to accomplish it. Even if you think that you will retire as an administrative support person, you never know if some opportunity will arise, either in your workplace, or elsewhere, which would be an ideal fit for you but only if you have a Bachelor’s degree. Even though the #1 female job title in the United States is “secretary” more and more businesses are phasing out their support staffs. The rationale (which they tried in my workplace but failed) is that everybody has a computer on their desk, they can do their own clerical work. You need to prepare for a different career, just in case, and the Bachelor’s degree is your “ticket to ride”.

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Michele April 23, 2013 at 6:08 pm

Get the degree. Even though a degree won’t get me a promotion in the current department I’m working in, I believe not having one was a factor in not getting chosen to participate in a leadership program. They choose those who are in a leadership position and/or have a college degree first. I do have a cosmetology manager’s license, a technical diploma in medical office specialist and an associate degree in administrative assistant, plus have taken three college courses and am considered junior status in college. In addition, I had a ton of volunteer leadership. But that still wasn’t enough. If anything, do it for your own personal satisfaction. I’m 47 and just started classes again to finish up my bachelor’s. If I can get enough employer reimbursement and federal aid, I hope to take two classes at a time and finish in four years. Working full time and taking classes will be tough, but I’ve given up all other volunteer activities to do this. It’ll be worth it in the end. I should have gone to college right out of high school like my parents told me to, but got married instead. Listen up, young people!

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Treva April 23, 2013 at 11:27 am

I could not agree more Robin! Being in the workforce afforded me a clearer perspective and understanding when it came to my studies and I was able to apply my experiences in the papers I had to compose for class. Congratulations on your upcoming graduation!!!

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Diane April 22, 2013 at 12:02 pm

Unless there are serious family obligations that prevent it, go for it! You never know what other opportunities are available that will require a degree in the future.

I work for a Dean at a college and have my Bachelor’s Degree Certificate framed and hanging in my office – just like all the other staff and faculty of my department. I work closely with students and it’s a great incentive for them to see that degree on the wall. I earned my degree in 1973, but have continued to pursue continuing education ever since. I currently have a 4.0 GPA at the college where I work and attend school for job enhancing skills. And because of my efforts to better myself and my job skills, I am sought out by many people on campus for help with various programs and document creation. At age 60, I was one of 4 employees who were recently promoted to a new position, and although my degree was not a requirement, I am the only one in this new job classification with a 4-year degree. If I ever felt the need or desire to find another job, that degree would be an asset – “a feature, not a bug”.

Go on and get as much education as you can – the sense of personal accomplishment will be worth it!

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KR April 22, 2013 at 11:25 am

Although we can do the job just fine without a degree, in fact possibly better than some that have a degree, education seems to trump skills and experience when looking to change (or even keep) jobs.

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Treva April 22, 2013 at 10:29 am

I have been an EA for over 25 years and always wanted to finish getting my degree because as some of you may have seen, the requirements for Senior/C- Level EA’s requires a degree. So I went back to school online 3 years ago and I just recently graduated in October from Ashford University with BA’s in both Public Relations and Marketing and Communications Studies – Magna *** Laude. It was the most rewarding experience of my life and career and I have noticed a difference in my increased responsibilities at work. I now have plans to go back and get my M.A. in Organizational Management with a concentration in HR Management since that appears to be the direction my boss is leading me. My anticipated graduation date is 10/14. I encourage anyone out there who is considering a college degree to go out and get it! The sacrifices you make now will pay off later in your career. I was nervous about going back and wasn’t sure if it would better my career, but when your employer sees that you have determination to seek further education, you look really good because they see that you are not complacent in just being an Admin and that you want to learn more. So go out there and get yours, you won’t regret it! Good Luck!

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Yolanda April 19, 2013 at 11:30 am

I have worked in the Adminstrative field for over 30 years. One of my goals was to have a degree, even though I graduated from Business (Trade) School right out of high school, it was just not the same. In 1999 I decided I was going to acheive this goal for myself, but not necessarily because I wanted a career change. I love what I do, and pride myself as a great Admin. In 2001, I received my Bachelors in Business Administration. Yes it was tough working and going to school in the evenings, but what a great sense of accomplishment! When I got laid off from my job in 2002, I was back out in the job market. I truly believe that my degree helped me get interviewed, and ultimately helped me get my current job with a higher pay scale range than if I didn’t have a degree.

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Pam April 19, 2013 at 9:28 am

I am 62 and wish every day that I had gotten a degree. At age 50, I planned on getting it, and my husband talked me out of it. I can’t complain about the salary that I make, but there have been opportunities that I wasn’t even considered for because of the lack of a degree. This day and age, that “piece of paper” is EXTREMELY important! Now, I feel it is too late to help me financially.

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Lisa April 19, 2013 at 8:25 am

Get the degree – education is never wasted. (I work at a school!) You will be smarter because of it whether it promotes your career or not. I believe coworkers may interact with you differently and may also respect your opinions more because they know that your are an educated person.

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Andrea April 19, 2013 at 9:16 am

I am in total agreement, I am also established in my career but I am pursuing my degree part-time a bit of a challenge but it will be worth it. Does provide you with more options and upward mobility.

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Diane April 19, 2013 at 7:05 am

Get the degree! Many companies are requiring a degree to apply for an admin to the CEO or even VP’s – plus, if the company offers any type of tuition reimbursement – it is a win-win. I finished my degree about 2 years ago – the promotion was not immediate; however, an opportunity presented itself and now my job is much more interesting.

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Julie April 18, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Are we talking an AA, a BS or an MS? I’m 58. I got my AA & BS right after high school. I work at a college where you don’t get into the management or teaching jobs without an MS. I just can’t see how I would ever make use of an MS in the less than 10 years (hopefully) I’ll be working.

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Mark April 18, 2013 at 5:34 pm

Get the degree. You never know when it might help you out, such as if your company downsizes or if you are up for a promotion. If a choice is between you and others, all other things being equal, if you have a degree and they don’t, you have a leg up on the competition. Plus, if you find yourself on the job market again, a degree adds to your value.

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Treva April 23, 2013 at 11:12 am

I completely agree with you Mark and even though most people do not want to make the time commitment, it will pay off so much more in the long run no matter how old you are or how long you have been in the business.

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Anna Kupfer April 18, 2013 at 5:21 pm

I am 58 years old and am planning on going back to school to get my degree. I love my job working for the senior pastor in my church … and though I don’t get paid much in this position, I would never think of leaving. I am going back to school because I want that feeling of accomplishment that comes from doing and finishing something like this. Plus I believe that learning is always a good thing. Good luck to you in your new endeavor.

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Maggie April 18, 2013 at 5:02 pm

As with most of the other comments, go pursue your degree!!! A degree is worth so much more than a piece of paper, a title, or even a salary. A degree is worth knowledge — something, that I believe, you are unable to put a price on. I just started going back to school a few years ago to obtain my degree… I am sure that it will take me a few more years to obtain, but the good news??? I’m still going for it, slowly but surely. Having a degree can do nothing but push you forward in life – with the knowledge that you obtain by going to school, nothing can stop you!

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Tammy April 18, 2013 at 4:59 pm

Jane, Six years ago I decided to return to school. The day before I started my daughter was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. It changed my life forever! Needless to say I stopped before I started and focused all my attention on her – researching and trying everything I could to get her back. Today she is doing amazing and I’ve never once regretted my decision. However, now that she is doing so well I’ve been stuck on do I or don’t I return before she starts middle school?

I’m 46 weighing out the pros and cons of returning, assuming those expenses with three kids. I have an amazing career although there is only one step to move up before the ladder ends. Even with a degree, I would have to take a pay cut and it would take approximately 5 years on average to move up through the ranks to get back to my current salary. So I’m looking at college expenses, time away from my family, taking a pay cut even when I get the degree and 5 years to get back to where I am currently on the pay scale…seems like a no brainer to just stay right? But for me it’s all about saying I did it and getting that degree. I’m still on the fence though.

I suggest you sit down and look at where you are in your life and career and write down the Pros and Cons of returning keeping a focus on the benefits 5, 10 and 20 years down the road – that will be the tell-all. When you write it down it makes it concrete and stops the thoughts back and forth in your head. Just remember, nothing worth having comes easy! I hope this helps.

FYI – I had a job opp come across my desk yesterday for an Executive Assistant to a Commissioner that required an Associates Degree just to apply. That requirement automatically knocked me out of the equation. It would’ve been a pay cut too in the end so not a great loss but it was surprising to see that as a requirement.

There’s definitely a certain amount of pride and security in having a degree and knowing that no one can ever take that from you – I say go for it!

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Robin Taylor April 18, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Get your degree!! It is worth it. You never know when another position will open up that you are qualified for because of your experience but it requires a degree therefore your application will not be considered. This happened to be several times so back to school I went (graduating in May 2013). I believe that going to school after being in the work force for many years has been a benefit. I am up to date on the latest work and technology. My employer was also impressed that I am a life long learner. Good luck!

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Treva April 23, 2013 at 11:28 am

I could not agree more Robin! Being in the workforce afforded me a clearer perspective and understanding when it came to my studies and I was able to apply my experiences in the papers I had to compose for class. Congratulations on your upcoming graduation!!!

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Anita April 18, 2013 at 4:48 pm

As many of the readers have already stated, the degree is worth the time and effort. Companies prefer degree holders when narrowing down applicants, plus (as in my case), I was promoted but did not make as much as I could have if I had a Bachelors degree. Since our jobs are never guaranteed, a degree increases the pool of jobs you can apply for should you have to find another job. The world today is much more competitive, so you want to gain every advantage where you can. If earning your Bachelors has to be dragged out by taking the minimum amount of classes, it is still well worth pursuing.

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Dawn Thomas April 18, 2013 at 4:40 pm

I believe a college education is very important. If you were to apply for another job it may come down to who has their degree.

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Kathy Sandy April 18, 2013 at 4:32 pm

Besides the actual knowledge and skills you acquire while getting an education, a degree tells prospective employers that you can tackle and complete a long-range plan. Education and experience are complementary indicators of your probable worth to a prospective employer.

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Denise April 18, 2013 at 4:29 pm

It took my some 27 years to complete my Bachelors Degree, but I’ll never regret it…..as others have said, you gain so much more than just the piece of paper….you gain a sense of accomplishment, and self esteem. I can also agree with others who said that even for Admin Pro type positions, not having the degree will hold you back…part of the reason I went back to finish was because I had been layed off and discovered that even Admin Assistant position postings included the phrase “degree required”….

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Ocean April 18, 2013 at 4:29 pm

A degree will help you get the job but it won’t necessarily help you with the pay. I’m in my 50′s, over 30 years of experience, 2 AS degrees, 1 BS degree, passed the CAP (Certified Administrative Professional) exam last year and I make $13/hr. I have a good job that I love but the pay depends on the company. At my last company, my ending pay was $24/hr. Before I accepted this position 2 years ago, I had interviews at 2 different companies. I was offered both positions. They both paid about the same about (around $12/hr). Adminstrative pay can be really bad for the type of work we do and the amount of knowledge we need to have to be successful. So many people are out of work and you are competing against so many candidates…but the degree will get you near the top of the pile. Good Luck on your education.

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Barbara McKee April 18, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Hi All,

I’m in health care. Our policies have changed when we refer to Administrative support. If you don’t have a degre or certification you cannot advance to the next phase of this profession. Do you want to be limited to how high you can advance in this field? No me!! If I need to have a degree I’m going to get it! In the end you’ll be glad you did.

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Joyce April 18, 2013 at 4:21 pm

If you have the opportunity go for it! I’ve seen too many capable people with great experience being overlooked for someone with no expierence that had a degree even if the first had a proven track record, and the latter had nothing. Don’t postpone!

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Anne F. April 18, 2013 at 4:20 pm

While it is wonderful that you like what you do presently, it is very likely down the road that you may wish to change professions or may become interested in a management position. Without a college degree, this will be difficult. I greatly encourage you to obtain a degree, as you are young and have your whole working future ahead of you.

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evyb April 18, 2013 at 4:19 pm

You will never accumulate enough experience or knowledge to match a degree; even if that degree was at a C- average with a major in partying. Even an ancient degree is still considered with more weight than current job skills. You will always regret not getting the degree. You may be perfectly happy now, but as times or co-workers change, you will probably want to move on, and the education will always be a plus.

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Pattie Camilli April 18, 2013 at 4:12 pm

Jane,

I totally agree with Dominique. as a job seeker without a degree, you are disqualified. I have been there. I knew I could do the job but because I did not have a degree, I was disqualifed. I would highly encourage you to purse your degree. I first got my Associate’s and waited 10 years before I received by my Bachelor’s. My Bachelor’s degree has opened doors that my Associate’s did not. I have well over 15 years of experience, but people still want you to have that degree. Dominique is right. A degree is forever. No one can take that away from you. Ever!!!

Pattie

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Kathy April 18, 2013 at 4:12 pm

I have been an admin for 30 years, and I believe my experience is worth a tremendous amount. I am currently attending college at night and have always kept my skills and technology up to day. However, for someone just starting out, I definitely recommend going for it because eventually not having the degree will hold you back. Good luck!

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Terry Thomas April 18, 2013 at 4:10 pm

Like the old saying goes, “The tassle is worth the hassle.” I was a night student and got my degree w/honors at age 33. Within a few months, I was promoted into another job. Later, I was promoted again into a position where a degree was required. You’ll never go wrong by having a degree. Thanks!

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Nancy Torres April 18, 2013 at 11:36 am

Dominique,

WOW! I totally agree with you. I will be finished with my degree in January 2014, and I can’t wait for the day!

Experience is great to have, but like you say, “but can become obsolete eventually as technology changes. A degree is forever.”

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Dominique Rodgers April 17, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Jane –

As someone going through this myself right now, I think you should finish school. I’m 33 and have dragged my education out well past the limits of any sane person’s tolerance but I’m nearing the end and it feels really good. Knowing my degree is so close is a pain in the rear around finals, yes, but the rest of the time it’s very satisfying.

Also, as a job seeker, without a degree, you will be automatically disqualified from many jobs right off the bat. Even if you get your dream job, employers will use, “well you don’t have a degree” as a reason not to pay you top-level salary, even if you’re doing top-level work.

Further, the benefits of a degree go beyond your specific field of work. You will learn enhanced communication skills, problem-solving, and get to participate in group learning the likes of which you may never have the opportunity to again.

How many years of experience equal a degree on a resume? None. Experience is great but can become obsolete eventually as technology changes. A degree is forever.

Dominique

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Sandra Midkiff April 18, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Education is money and something no one can ever take away from you. Get your degree. Not only does it expand your knowledge base it will often get you considered for a position for no other reason than you have the degree. I have witnessed that OFTEN in my 45 years of working mostly in the Administrative Assistant field and as one that did not finish her degree I know it kept me back. Don’t ever stop learning. Your education is as that commercial says………….PRICELESS.

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Dolores April 18, 2013 at 4:38 pm

Dominique,
You are saner than I. I waited until I was 50 to go back to school. It took me 5 years to get my BS degree. I immediately got a promotion. Now I am in the midst of a job search because my plant is closing shortly. I believe my degree will be a plus for me. Even though it is illegal to age discriminate, I feel my age will put me at an disadvantage in the job market.

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