I know this sounds crazy because I’m an engineer but I’m the least educated person in my family! My dad is a podiatrist and has a doctoral degree in podiatric medicine (DPM). My mom has a masters in business (MBA). My sister is a pathologist and has a MD. My brother recently got a master’s degree in IT. Yeah, my family is pretty impressive and I’m so proud of them all.

I often feel like I’m lagging behind my family, but my four-year bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering felt like the longest and hardest four years of my life. If I had to do it all again, I’m not sure I could. After I finished my degree I didn’t want to ever have to go back to school again.

Luckily in engineering, a bachelor’s degree is often all you need. Engineers learn a lot on-the-job, and sometimes more than you can learn in school. That’s the great thing about engineering – you can have a great career at a high paying job with just a bachelor’s degree.

However, sometimes a master’s degree is necessary in engineering. For instance if you’re working in a research field or one that requires highly specialized skills a master’s degree or higher may be a requirement for the job. My mentors at the national laboratory where I worked my summer internships all had higher education beyond a bachelor’s degree. If you are trying to switch fields and learn a new discipline getting a master’s can often help get you the skills you need to get your foot in the door. Or if you would like to move into management a MBA is always going to be useful.

Each person has their own story and experience and what works for one might not work for another, but in my experience so far I am glad that only having a bachelor’s degree has worked for me. I have never felt held back or been passed for an opportunity because of my education.

Yes, I am the only person in my family without a master’s degree or higher, but it doesn’t make me the less successful. My family members, including myself, are all high achievers and I think we are all doing well in our respective fields. Our education levels are a necessity of the job we want/have and what was required to get there.

I don’t envy my sister and all the time and work she has had to put into getting her MD. It was a huge commitment which required perseverance and dedication, but it was her dream and I am so proud of her for achieving it. She now has a great job as a pathologist in a cool city where I love visiting her. I don’t envy my brother either, he got his master’s degree while working full-time and having a newborn son at home. How he managed to find the time to complete the degree while balancing his other duties, I’ll never know. But I hugely admire his dedication to getting the degree that he wanted for himself and his family.

My mom also got her MBA while taking care of three children at home and while managing my dad’s podiatry practice. It took her several years of late nights doing homework and studying. I know she sacrificed a lot to complete the degree, but it’s something that has served her well in managing my dad’s office and something she is, and should be, extremely proud of. My dad went straight into podiatry school after his bachelor’s degree. It was a long path for him too, but now he’s so happy doing what he loves.

My husband has been considering getting his MBA. If he chooses to do it, I will fully support him. It’s not an easy decision to make because there will be high cost involved, not only the price of tuition but a cost to our personal life. It will probably require him to sacrifice many things he currently enjoys such as lazy nights relaxing after work and doing care-free errands and yard work on the weekends. But it is so worthwhile if it helps him achieve his career goals.

What is your highest level of education? Did you have to make many sacrifices to get there? Do you ever think you need a higher degree?


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