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Instead of State U or Private U, Consider You U

By Marty Nemko

Three readers disagreed with me on a point I made in my article on this site, “Best Careers for 2006.”

In that article, I mentioned a number of careers in which the length of training has recently been increased. For example, social work and occupational therapy used to require only a bachelor’s; now a master’s is standard. In the past, you could practice pharmacy with a bachelor’s degree; today, a doctorate is typical. Until recently, audiologists only needed a master’s degree. Now, increasingly, it’s a doctorate.

The letter writers assert that the additional training is needed to teach all the new discoveries. But could so much be new and important beyond what replaces old material that double the training is required?

Perhaps it isn’t coincidence that two of the three letter writers were affiliated with training programs and the third is the past president of an organization whose sole purpose is to promote requiring audiologists to complete a doctorate.

I have reason to believe, as I asserted in the article, that universities’ selfish motives help explain the ever longer training. Having taught at four universities and been consultant to 15 colleges, I know that academic departments gain prestige if their training program is doctoral rather than master’s-level and receive more money by keeping students enrolled longer. So it’s in academic leaders’ interest to persuade the leaders of professional associations that longer training is needed. And the leaders of professional associations rarely object—after all, they usually grandfather themselves in, and by ratcheting up the standards, bring prestige to their profession.

None of that, however, means that students are receiving training worth the additional money and time they could have spent in their careers, learning from practical experience, and earning instead of spending.

News You Can Use: When in doubt, choose a career that requires less university-based training. And once in the profession, think twice about going back for another university-based degree. Consider foregoing State U and Private U in favor of what I call You U: With a mentor(s) who is a real-world expert in your career, craft a program of regular discussions, reading articles, attending workshops offered by a professional association, and observing and apprenticing with master practitioners. Because employers often require an advanced degree, when applying for jobs, write a letter such as the following:

Dear (insert name of employer),

I suspect you’ll be tempted to toss my application because I don’t have the required MBA. But having heard many MBA holders complain that they didn’t learn enough of practical value to justify the time and money, I decided to get my additional training as follows. (Insert all you did at You U). But now comes the moment of truth. I chose to emphasize substance over form, but will you interview me? Hoping to hear from you,


In my speeches, when I ask audiences, “If you were the employer, how many of you would consider this candidate ahead of an MBA graduate?” 80 percent said they would.

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