Graduate School Is The Answer – What’s The Question?

A lot of my friends are back in school these days. I find this significant because these friends’ ages span over a decade, with their chosen fields ranging from social work to computer programming. Everyone has their own reasons for going after a(nother) degree, but the big reasons boil down to two: get a career, or advance a career. There’s really no other reason to do it – not since the draft ended, anyway.

The bigger question is: how do you know when going back to school is the answer?  Maybe there’s a particular profession or promotion that requires that sheepskin as a minimum. Maybe the Master’s will give you an edge over others in the field. Maybe you can’t think of anything else to do. Maybe it’s the free transit pass and computer labs. I don’t know.

I’m a technical writer and editor for a major engineering and construction company; the specialty is “mega-projects,” world-class or world’s-first type jobs.  The particular project I’m on is due to be completed in 2019, which seems a long way off until you think that it’s only eight years away, and eight years ago was 2003. So.

There’s no way that this project will require the current publications staff through to startup; some of us will have to move on before then. There’s also the much more personal problem: the division of the company I work for has this one environmental project, and about a dozen other projects that are all defense jobs. For personal reasons, I flat-out won’t work on defense projects. So sometime in the next four to eight years, I need to be able to transition to a different division, or a different company. I wondered what’s out there for tech writer/editors, so I looked in a couple of major metros that I’d be willing to live in. The bulk of the jobs in my field are with high-tech companies; they want people who can write sample code, at least – and that’s to start with.

Okay, so it’s time to learn some computer programming. What does that mean? Here are some options, in order of expensiveness:

  • Install Processing and monkey around in the provided sketches, picking it up as I go.
  • Buy a copy of “Beginning Programming for Dummies” and work through that.
  • Audit a university CS class or two, if they’ll let me.
  • Actually take a CS class or two.
  • Enroll in a second baccalaureate program for a BS or BA (yes, it exists)
  • Enroll in a graduate program – after completing the required courses I didn’t take 20 years ago.

How do people decide these things?