• shane@countryexec.com
  • Seguin, Texas
Education – Was The Time And Money Invested Worth It?

Education – Was The Time And Money Invested Worth It?

I made a note a while back to conduct a practical analysis of my own higher education in an effort to help others determine if the juice was worth the squeeze so to speak in their own lives. Higher education, more so the cost associated with obtaining said education, is a hot topic issue these days. I shake my head when I learn of the horror stories associated with the mountain of student debt young folks are putting themselves into trying to get ahead. The idea of putting oneself so far in debt as you are only just beginning your adult life sounds like a recipe for disaster. With that premise in mind, I ask the question was the time and money invested in my education worth it?

Was my education worth it? - The Country Executive

A Masters And No Debt?

To begin I’ll lay the foundation to my own educational journey. Notably, I spent twelve years chasing education while being married for most of it and employed full time. It was a sacrifice. Amazingly, it’s been six years since I completed my graduate degree. I finished my undergrad ten years ago this year. Man, I didn’t need to be reminded of that.

I accrued no debt per that journey. Having enlisted in the Air Force, I was gifted the Montgomery GI Bill to be used in pursuing an education for up to ten years after my enlistment. The post 911 GI Bill extended it to a fifteen year period for service members separating prior to January 1, 2013. The “Forever GI Bill” did away with the time constraints for those separating after January 1, 2013. There are plenty of other incredible benefits baked into the newer GI Bills I encourage all service members to take advantage of.

Once my GI Bill expired and I continued on with pursuing a graduate degree, I took advantage of corporate tuition assistance. I changed jobs in the middle of my graduate degree, and per that company’s tuition assistance program I had to write a check for several thousand dollars to pay back what had been reimbursed.

Rules are rules, I agreed to them when I accepted the reimbursement and I gladly paid the money back for the opportunity to elevate my career. That was also the career move that brought me home to Texas. Winner-winner chicken dinner all the way around on that decision as far as this Texan is concerned.

The Mental Cost

I do recall the sense of personal pride and euphoria I felt when I completed my degrees. It was a similar feeling for the six professional certifications I aspired to achieve during those twelve years. Each milestone was an accomplishment I am personally proud of to this day.

I also vividly recall the many nights and weekends I spent inside working on assignments and papers. Looking out the window on a beautifully sunny weekend day, knowing I had to knock out paper after paper and more. Not going to lie, that part sucked and I in no way miss being obligated to produce assignments within the constructs of my limited free time. The time investment was the primary sacrifice per my perspective.

It felt as though I wasn’t maximizing the opportunity of those years of my life. It gets tricky when you work full time and are trying to juggle adult life with personal growth. You’re working towards goals, but the requirements of daily life are constantly pulling you back in.

Mrs. Country Execs’ Support

I was and still am extremely fortunate to be married to someone so patient. Supportive. Tolerant even. She had just completed her graduate degree when we met. At that time, I was just getting going on my undergrad.

She famously told me early on that she never thought she’d date an uneducated man. I had already started my undergrad program at that time, but those words were definitely fuel I leveraged to keep at it for years until I reached the goals I had set for myself. Sometimes I cling on to actions or words and they continually motivate me when I may not feel like pushing forward.

I’m quick to tell folks Mrs. Country Exec made me a better man, by supporting me in the capacity to which I needed to focus as best I could I will forever be grateful. Sometimes those words are tough to hear. She wasn’t wrong though, and I thank her for it.

Was my education worth it? - The Country Executive

What Did My Education Actually Do For Me?

My education opened doors in my career that I do not believe would have been opened otherwise. I’m not certain I’d be a technology executive today without having the ability to check the box when asked if I have a masters degree. When I started taking classes in my late 20’s, the transition from being a technical worker bee into more of a leadership capacity was beginning to take place.

I previously wrote about how I transitioned into more of a leadership capacity on this site. Being that it’s me and it could really be no other way, how that manifested is somewhat of a comical story. If you’re interested in reading about my journey into leadership, take a peek as to how all that came to be here.

When I completed my undergrad degree in 2011, later that year I was offered a surprising promotion. Despite my young age, I was asked to relocate from LA to the Silicon Valley to be the Site Lead for my organization and all of Northern California operations. It wasn’t an easy decision, but ultimately, I decided to go for it and have never looked back. I wrote about that story on this site as well.

And Then My Career Really Took Off

Eventually I figured out I was never going to be able to achieve my personal goals in the Silicon Valley, so like I always do I took ownership of my situation and sought out to do something about it. Dell hired me to work in middle management out of their Plano, TX office. At the time, and this may or may not still be true, Dell required a degree to work in the cybersecurity space.

I moved over to Fujitsu about eighteen months later to be their Manager of North American Cybersecurity Operations and it was a similar story. A degree was required, and understandably so as you are working your way up the rungs of the corporate ladder.

I quickly discovered I was not in the right place for who I was as a person at no fault to my new organization. Just not a good match, so the day before I turned forty, I put in my two weeks’ notice in hopes I had done enough to take control of the rest of my career.

I didn’t have anything lined up outside of interviews, so it was quite the vote of confidence to do that. Thankfully Mrs. Country Exec had my back once again. She was the one in my ear telling me my health was more important than any job. Once again, I am indebted to her.

Was my education worth it? - The Country Executive

Which Led Me To Career Ownership

About three months of job searching and countless interviews, I finally landed the offer I felt was the right place in Texas local government. I have learned over time I am a public servant by nature, supporting corporations in their insatiable attempt to conquer profits does not resonate with me. Never has. Serving others does.

For fifteen years I supported the federal government and the technology in and around the intelligence community. I got away from that when I came home to Texas and went to work in private industry. Fortunate for me, I found local government and that story is still being written five plus years later.

A guy from small town Texas that went out and found his way in the world coming back full circle and helping to bring evolving technology to rural Texas. Doesn’t get any better than that for me! Feels like that could be the premise of a movie, but that really is my life today.

My education helped open that door for me and I will forever be grateful. So, to answer the question was my education worth it? Yes, it absolutely was. Would it be the same answer for someone else? Maybe, maybe not. There’s a lot of contingent variables that come into play. My education definitely helped me establish my story though.

Is Higher Education Right For Everyone?

No, it’s really not. It’s squarely on the individual and what they want to do with their life. Their passion. What that professional endeavor will be that will make them want to pop out of bed first thing in the morning and chase their dreams each and every day.

Not everybody is fortunate enough to obtain that. It’s a shame, but I’m telling you the reader that it is attainable. You may have to work your tail off, roll the dice occasionally, but you can do it. I promise you. The end result is worth it.

You very much have to look inward and figure out who you are as a person to determine if a college degree is needed to achieve your dreams. If the answer is yes then go for it and do whatever is necessary to achieve that goal! If not, there is nothing wrong with that. At the end of the day do what you got to do to dictate your circumstances in life.

Was my education worth it? - The Country Executive

Options Are A Beautiful Thing

Options are a beautiful thing is another one of my go to clichés. I say that one quite a bit. If you are a regular reader of this blog then you know I am full of them. It’s so true though. I am of the mindset there is no need for young folks to bury themselves in debt in the hopes of achieving that big professional pay off.

Obviously, I am a big supporter of the military. The military gave me my start in my career, provided the educational conduit, and real time experience to leave after my enlistment and be hired as a mid-level engineer at twenty-four years old. The USAF set me up for success for the rest of my life. Any of the military branches can do that for you too.

I have seen many times people that went straight through high school to college struggle to land their first professional job due to lack of experience. I witnessed it first hand with my wife. She is one of those people that went straight through and at times struggled to land opportunities reflective of what she clearly deserved professionally.

As an outsider looking in, that is just a ridiculous premise to me. To go to school and accept ownership of all that debt and only receive minimal returns blows my mind. I view that as a terrible return on investment. For that reason, I am pro military and pro the many trades you can go into straight out of high school.

The Trades

I am all for those folks that want to go to college, have a good time, and earn a degree that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. College isn’t for everyone though. I am an example of this as college wasn’t really an option for me coming out of high school. I believe the narrative is pushed upon us that a degree is going to make our professional dreams come through. This simply isn’t true on a consistent basis.

I love the trades. Electricians, HVAC techs, plumbers, auto mechanics, carpenters, and even my own world of IT you do not need a high-flying degree to earn a substantial living. Get certified in one of these needed skill areas, get your feet wet with some experience out in the field, and you can make serious money if you start your own business.

Or you may choose to work for someone else. Regardless, you can provide for a family and live a quality life with that skill. No degree necessary. For example, you can work your way up through certifications in my world of IT. Cisco CCNA to CCNP to CCIE is a legitimate career path in IT networking.

There are several 100k plus career fields within the IT industry alone. IT architects, network engineers, project managers, and cybersecurity are always in demand and quite often do not require a degree to get your foot in the door. I’ve hired my fair share of 100k plus employees in IT over the years. It is not uncommon at all.

Hiring Manager Truism

I wrote a post in May 2021 discussing what hiring managers are really looking for. In that write up, I stated as a hiring manager that I didn’t care what a candidate’s credentials are. Credentials must warrant consideration and advancement to make it to the interview stage, but once you’ve been selected for an interview every candidate is on equal footing.

Admittedly I view life from a different lens. I place just as much if not more weight towards military experience as I do a college education. If a candidate has both, fantastic! Degrees are nice, but I’m all about the individual. How they represent themselves, what they bring to the table, and how they are going to fit into the work center I am responsible for is more important to me than a degree.

A degree doesn’t necessarily mean you’re better suited for my work environment, but it does tell me you can commit to an action and see it through. So does a military commitment. Thankfully in my world of municipal government, degrees aren’t the be all end all when it comes to hiring the best candidates. I very much subscribe to that same theory.

Was my education worth it? - The Country Executive

Was My Education Worth It?

Was my investment in higher education worth it? For me it was. It opened doors and was symbolic in a sense. As I have stated previously on this site, neither of my parents finished high school. I didn’t take the traditional path to obtaining higher education. I earned it nonetheless and you best believe it means something as someone that has lived on both sides of the poverty line.

Would I have been successful without higher education? At the risk of sounding like a jerk, yes, I believe I would have been. My career field and industry are rooted in blue collar origin. There is very much a roll your sleeve up and get after it type of mindset that can carry you far in my career field.

There’s a reason the narrative is beginning to shift with major corporations and the requirement of having higher education. In years past, a degree was needed to make it past HR to the hiring manager in large companies.

Today, top companies such as Google and Apple no longer require applicants to have a college degree. If your end goal is to work for the big dogs in tech, I can easily make the argument to not bother with the hassle and debt incurred of chasing after higher education.


When I sit down to interview candidates at all levels, in a nutshell I am looking to ascertain if that individual is going to fit within the constructs of a productive employee. I’m all about attitude. Passion. Are they going to roll up their sleeves and get after it for my organization? You don’t need a degree to give something your all.

Education makes opening those doors a little easier, and there is certainly value to that. For those of us that have been around the block a couple of times higher education is not a requirement to take a chance on someone.

The answer to the question was my education worth it is definitively yes. The answer to the question is/was your education worth it is entirely contingent on the individual and the resulting experiences obtained per that degree.

There is no right or wrong answer to me, only right or wrong for the individual. Whatever your answer is, I hope you feel the right decision was made. Until next time thank you for reading, and please take care of yourself and the ones you love.

4 thoughts on “Education – Was The Time And Money Invested Worth It?

    • Author gravatar

      This is such a great, well-balanced piece. Thank you for writing it!

      Many years ago, I chose to enter the workforce after high school. Then I went to university part-time. It’s a choice I never regretted.

      There’s so much pressure on young people to go straight to university without having a clue what they really want to do. As you say, they end up with massive amounts of debt and few job prospects.

      I was so pleased to see you promoting the trades. My daughter is graduating high school with a 90+ average. She has chosen an industrial electrical/millwright program at our local college. I’m proud of her for recognizing her strengths and following a non-traditional path.

    • Author gravatar

      Thank you Michelle! I really do admire the trades, for me there is something to working with your hands and creating/making it come to life. I work closely with electricians and water/waste water professionals in municipal government. The things they do and the impact made for the greater good of the community is noteworthy. Silent heroes literally keeping the electricity flowing and water clean and safe for citizens. Don’t even get me started on the city engineers role in managing the infrastructure growth and maintenance of the city (roads/drainage/etcetera)! Congratulations to your daughter in choosing her path, I hope she finds all the success and happiness she seeks in her chosen field!

    • Author gravatar

      This was very interesting. I agree that HE isn’t necessarily for everyone. I think it really depends on where you want your career to take you. And whether you are prepared to pay the financial and mental resources. I do think that HE comes with other benefits too, not just educational ones and as an education pathway. It has really important opportunities for social reasons as well as discovering oneself as a person at a transitional age of our development and gaining independence.

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