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Does a college degree always lead to a pay increase?

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in Your Office Coach

Question: "I feel that I have been misled by my manager. When I was taking college courses, she told me she would work on getting my pay increased after I received my degree.Now that I’ve graduated, she says our company apparently does not give raises based on degrees.  She also says that our vice president feels I don’t deserve a raise because of tardiness and because I missed some meetings with him.I recently started an MBA program, but I’m not sure management appreciates my efforts to advance my career. What do you think?" —  Educated and Underpaid

Marie’s Answer: I think you need to step back and look at this situation more objectively. Here are some points to consider:

•    Although your manager may have spoken too soon and implied too much, she actually did “work on” getting you a raise. She just ran into some unexpected obstacles. 

•    Your boss’s big mistake was talking about a salary upgrade before she knew if it was possible. Managers should never utter the words “pay increase” until they’re certain they can deliver. 

•    The company’s practice of not linking raises to the attainment of degrees is fairly common.  It’s certainly not a personal slight. Any pay increase will simply have to be based on job-related factors. 

•    Your biggest problem is the vice president’s negative opinion of you. Since there will be no raise unless he approves, you need to rehabilitate your reputation with him. That means correcting your chronic tardiness and faithfully attending his meetings. 

Now that you’ve started a graduate program, be sure that your dedication to your job remains as strong as your commitment to your education. Otherwise, the pay increases may be few and far between.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

ryao May 5, 2010 at 7:44 pm

Thanks for the heads up. I’m going to head to Amazon right now and pick up “You Have A College Degree, Now What?” Seems like it be a good read.


latisha April 11, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Normally don’t do this type of thing, but I just read this book and it was fantastic. Its called “You Have A College Degree, Now What?” and I now feel as if I’m in the right frame of mind for success to take place. I’m graduating from college in May and thanks to this book I now feel prepared. Here’s where I found it at.


Karen July 15, 2009 at 1:53 pm

I think the best thing for you to do is work hard, do an excellent job and be as friendly as possible to your co-workers, even if they are whispering behind your back. Someone once told me, “It is hard to react negatively to a positive attitude”. A cheerful, sunny disposition is hard to resist. If people make the mistake of judging you because of your color alone, that is their problem – don’t make it yours.

At my job, I have been the topic of gossip and have even heard people talking about me behind my back (women, of course). I just let it roll off my back like a duck and continue to be friendly to all while doing my job to the best of my ability. Don’t shy away from your co-workers or look at them with disposition, just concentrate on becoming a valued employee and a team player.

Eventually, your initial missteps will be forgotten. I wish you the very best of luck. On a positive note, we are working while many others are not. God bless.

Karen Kosmoski


Lea July 15, 2009 at 1:15 pm

Ric822 is so right. This happened to me. I was laid off by an employer who said that there was no good reason to get my degree. Good thing I did not follow that advice as I needed my degree to get the job I have now.


Ric822 July 15, 2009 at 1:12 pm

In today’s world most of us will need to change jobs many times, the fact that your current employer does not think a degree is important is not relevant. You should get the degree as it will give you more options when the time comes to move on.


Deb B July 15, 2009 at 1:11 pm

Dear Educated and Underpaid:

If your company is paying for your education consider this a great gift. Education is something that no one can take away from you. Focus on your attendance, get your Masters, keep your head low, do your job. When the economy is better you have more tools to market yourself better.


Tasha Washington July 15, 2009 at 12:51 pm

I have a question and not sure where to post it. This isn’t a reply.

if it can be moved to the right location, I would appreciate that. However, my problem is my mouth. I have a problem with saying what is on my mind and not thinking much of my statements. I’ve recently started a new job 8 months ago. One of the top executives in my company wanted to feel me out so he requested an interview. I met with him and during the discussion he asked what did I think of him and replied “I thought you were a snob but you seem ok to me.” Wrong Answer I thought Later. I then ran into a co-worker whom couldn’t stop minding my business. I had a problem with that and had gone to my supervisor’s supervisor because my supervisor wasn’t in. I explained to him the friendly environment I had encountered when I first arrived and told him about the uneasy feeling when Obama was elected president. All the women on my team are non-black and i felt a strong tension, heard remarks, whispers and all of a sudden they stopped speaking to me. When I brought this to his attention he labled me as unprofessional and stated my thoughts about the women was absurd. He then went into the office and told the top executive that I’ve mentioned earlier. I can tell when around them they both are not too comfortable when in my presence and I realize this is a major problem. How can I change the minds of them both and start fresh with them if at all possible?


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