I graduated from the University of Maryland a while ago with a BS in Biological Science (Zoology concentration) and a BA in Criminology and Criminal Justice. What was I going to do with those two wonderfully expensive degrees? In my fantasy life I was going to be a Criminalist and work in the FBI lab. In real life I’ve done jack shit with them though not for lack of trying. (Side note for UMD: You can stop calling me in an attempt to get money for scholarships or whatever because until your degrees start making me money you can’t get any from me. Sorry.) I was able to find internships that sort of allowed me to use what I’d learned but none of the jobs were permanent nor did they, with the exception of my time at REI, hold any promise of promotion. And they certainly didn’t provide any benefits.
On the last day of class at UMD I decided that I would never go back to school ever again because I DIDN’T HAVE TO. That was the greatest realization of my life. After being required to go to school for 13 years by the State of Maryland and then voluntarily enrolling in a top notch University and spending five years there I was (and still am) thrilled that I didn’t have to take another exam for the rest of my life if I didn’t want to. My vow was broken a short time later when I enrolled at Montgomery College to get a certificate in Cartography and Geographic Information Systems. I loved my time there; the teachers were excellent, my classmates were fun, and the material was by far the most interesting stuff I’d ever learned about. After graduating from UMD with slightly less than stellar grades I pulled a 4.0, Dean’s List, and National Honor Society trifecta out of my hat at MC. To this date it’s my proudest accomplishment.
So what’s the point of all this? The point is I’m realizing that to better myself careerwise I may have to go back to school and get a Master’s degree. The problem? I don’t know what I want to get a degree in. People who have gotten their’s highly recommend figuring that out before applying and commiting to any kind of degree program. I couldn’t agree more. My undergrad was spent taking classes in a degree field that I had convinced myself I was interested in. It wasn’t until I took a few classes in Criminology and Criminal Justice (CCJS) my junior year that I realized how much I liked them and (surprise!) how easy it was to get good grades because the subjects were interesting. After adding the second degree in CCJS I spent half of my first senior year and all of the second enjoying myself in my courses. The other eye-opener was during the final semester of my second senior year (got it?) when I took an ecology course as a credit filler. I absolutely LOVED that class. It was at that sad moment that I realized the horrible mistake I had made. I didn’t like biology, I loved ecology and environmental science. I think I’d always known that but didn’t want to admit it, for whatever reason. Many of the same CORE courses are required for both degrees but I would have been able to avoid the upper level biology classes in which I struggled so much. Just check out these course titles, I want to take every single one of them.
That, my friends, is why I haven’t seriously persued getting a Master’s degree. I’m terribly afraid of making another, potentially more expensive, mistake. My undergrad turned out all right in the end; I received two degrees, and with the help of my good grades in the CCJS classes and a long list of Literature classes (which also got me close to getting a third degree), my GPA was/is just a few tenths below a 3.0. It’s not that I regret my undergrad I just wish I’d been more aware of my options. That’s mostly my fault but I also hold my academic advisers partly responsible for not questioning my intentions. I just wish someone had asked me what I was really interested in. Anyway, it’s too late for shoulda coulda woulda now.
So my questions for you, you who have gone back to get your Master’s or you who are still deciding what to do: how did you decide what to study? Did you pick a school and see what they offered? Or did you pick a degree field and find a school that offered it? Did you go into a field that was completely different from your undergrad or continue along the same path? I want to know all of it. Anything you can tell me would be a great help because I truly don’t know what I want to do.