Is it possible to have too much education? I have been wondering about this question for a couple of years now as I search in earnest for a secondary education social studies teaching job. I’m beginning to think that having an advanced degree is actually handicapping my job search.
While growing up, getting an education was a very big deal. I remember my dad saying to me one time while I was in high school something along the lines of, “you’re going there to learn, it’s not a fashion show.” My dad was always pushing me to be self-sufficient, a self-advocate, hard working, honest, and educated. My dad was very successful in his field with an associate degree in accounting, a good work ethic, and loyalty to his employer. He raised four children and his wife (my mother) was able to stay home to try and mold these children into respectable citizens.
I had a dream of becoming a fighter pilot protecting our country’s skies from Soviet communism so I joined the U.S. Air Force right after high school. My plan was to work my air force job and take classes part-time until I had a bachelor degree and then apply for officer candidate school and go through the process of flight training. The tide turned one night as I was confronted with a decision. The decision was whether to stay in the air force and pursue my dream or leave the air force to attend college full-time. See, the job I had in the air force required me to work a rotation of different shifts every week, which made it very difficult to take more than one course per semester. I had worked with pilots very closely every day in my job and the reality of being a pilot became not as glamorous as it once had appeared.
I was talking to my dad on the telephone one night and I asked him for advice about what I should do. He told me that he could not make that decision for me, but it would be advantageous to do something that I enjoy and something I was good at. Looking back on that night, I really wish that he had told me to stay in the air force for sixteen more years. At this point in time I would have been retired for seven years on a full pension. Well, I took my dad’s advice and decided to pursue a degree in geography (I have really good geo-spatial abilities) and become a teacher.
As I was in college, I decided that I would also pursue a major in social studies, and since I really enjoyed physical geography, I would get a minor in earth science. Those of us pursuing degrees in the social sciences were told and advised to either not go the social studies route to teaching or to make ourselves very uniquely qualified as it would be difficult for us to find jobs as social studies teachers. I was the first person at the university I attended to become a 5 – 12 certified social studies and geography teacher with a 5 – 9 certification in earth science (this qualified as a unique qualification as all other secondary teachers were certified 6 – 12 and I was the only person with a 5 – 9 endorsement). Over a five year time period, I had a double major, a minor, and teacher preparation it all amounted to a Bachelor of Science degree with a whopping total of 179 undergraduate semester credits.
My mom and dad were both proud that I graduated from college, and I’m sure my parents were just as proud that I had financed my way through college debt free by receiving a combination of scholarships, GI Bill benefits, and working at least 20 hours per week as I attended school full-time. I did it myself. I was what was considered at the time, a self-made man. I landed my first teaching job one month after graduation and I was ecstatic to begin teaching as a career.
The more I taught, the more I learned and that pursuit of knowledge lead to a 30 semester credit Master degree in Education – Professional Development. Right after my master’s program, I received a fellowship from the department of education to pursue a twelve-semester credit graduate certificate in public history. By this time I had enough credits to become certified to teach not only social studies, geography, and earth science but also psychology, economics, and history. I had also taken some student teaching supervisor courses and attended a summer institute in geography education. When I left teaching just over three years ago I thought that with my degrees and varied experiences working since I was twelve, that I could do just about any job that someone would hire me to do because I had proven that I could learn and that I was a good teacher and learner. Couldn’t be further from the truth. Once I left college and began teaching the quest for knowledge became an unquenchable thirst for knowledge a hunger to learn more.
Today, I have 179 semester undergraduate credits and 75 semester graduate credits. I hold a Bachelor of Science degree, a Master of Education – Professional Development degree, a Public History graduate certificate, an Instructional Design graduate certificate, and half of an eLearning graduate certificate.
What does all this mean? It means that I have priced myself out of my own field! Not only is it seemingly impossible to find a job as a secondary social studies teacher, but no one wants to hire a secondary social studies teacher with a Master degree plus 45 graduate credits. Schools are in a tough spot economically and they apparently are hiring only candidates with bachelor degrees. According to the education department at my local university, very few people in education are seeking master degrees any more.
I have been job searching for over three years now and I have had only one interview for a teaching related job. What is the sense in pursuing further education as a teacher if no one wants to hire you because of how much education you have? I thought that as teachers we were to model life-long learning? Is it truly life-long learning, but without the credits, please? Is the message that school boards, human resource departments, and administrators sending to teachers, develop professionally, but don’t take too many credits? What am I to make of all this? Is it just me or is it true that I have attained the impossible?
Now I am truly in a pickle. People are actually suggesting that I lie, that I hide the fact that I have more than a bachelor degree! I am supposed to cover up my credentials in order to reenter the field that I love, doing something I am passionate about, doing work that matters. I like Angela Maiers’s saying, “You matter,” very much, but school districts have been saying to me for over three years now, you do not matter because you are too expensive! So, in my profession I do NOT matter and I CANNOT make a difference because no one will let me.
Some of you might be thinking that maybe my resume or cover letters are the reasons I am not getting any interviews. Well, I have had human resource directors look at them, recruiting professionals look at them, and they have been reviewed by some of the best administrators and teachers in the field of education and they all give both the letter and resume a thumbs up. So, where does the problem lie? Too much education!
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