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nativeoutsider  
#1 Posted : Sunday, June 05, 2011 10:02:04 PM(UTC)
nativeoutsider

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Greetings,
 
I'm currently GS-11 only have a BA degree, however, I had  7 years of professional experience, 4 years of those military, before even starting my current postion.
 
I like my job a lot and have considered making this a long time career, possibly till retirement.  With that said, is it worth it at this point for me to go back to college and get a Masters degree? 
 
I've read posts where people have said that others barely have any college and have easily made it to GS-15, but that's not the case for me.  Nearly all of the people I work with have either a Masters in Public Policy, and many of those degrees are from prestigious colleges like Georgetown, Harvard, and Princeton.
 
I live in the DC area so all of the schools here are very expensive, I'm looking at going further into debt at atleast $40,000, which will be combined with my current student loans from undergrad.  Plus, it will take me atleast 3 years to finish a Masters part-time as I work full-time.
 
What are your thoughts?  Is it worth it?  Since I already have my foot in the door, is a Masters degree really  important at this point?  Or will I likely get stuck at a GS-12/13 the rest of my career?  Also, could going to school hurt my career, if I'm unable to stay late or travel, due to evening classes?
 
Thanks for your thoughtful input and time.
DCMA2130  
#2 Posted : Sunday, June 05, 2011 10:14:36 PM(UTC)
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see if your job will help with tuition assistance. that will cut your costs in half at least.

BMWMotorad  
#3 Posted : Sunday, June 05, 2011 10:23:46 PM(UTC)
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GS 12-15 positions require executive/management skills.  An undergraduate degree provides one with a specific set of technical skills (accounting, scientific research, investigations, whatever), but do not necessarily prepare someone with a good understanding of staff oversight, organizational leadership, business acumen, strategic thinking...  all that stuff an 'executive' needs to know.   Plus, you'll be competing with people who did put in the extra work. 
 
Often the people most vocal in devaluing higher education are those people who lack it.  Don't fall for that old line about 'some of the dumbest people I know went to college'.  Go for your MBA at night, nobody will begrudge you leaving work early just to go do more work educating yourself.  It's a ticket to the club.  It doesn't need to be from Princeton either.  Most agencies have some kind of tuition reimbursement program.
cityfed  
#4 Posted : Monday, June 06, 2011 1:21:30 AM(UTC)
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Are you in a technical, business, or administrative field?  That could make a difference.  I don't think an advanced degree could hurt, but I don't know that it's a ticket to a club or that MBAs in particular are coveted in government right now.  I only have a BA and have risen through the ranks to the point where it is completely unnecessary for me to get an advanced degree unless I want one for personal edification.  This one is going to depend on your unique situation, what you want to get out of the education, and the time and money you have to invest.  Good luck in your decision.
tweakes  
#5 Posted : Monday, June 06, 2011 1:41:07 AM(UTC)
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There are many commands that will only promote people with certain degrees, but it is certainly not a requirement based on OPM's qualifications.  My office, for example, almost exclusively promotes technicians to specialists if they have a degree.  I would suggest speaking to management and try to get on the same wavelength so you know what to expect.  It certainly couldn't hurt, and they could even offer to pay for some of your classes.
--- <br />HR Specialist <br />*Please understand that any comments I make are based on my interpretation of any applicable laws. Any statistics are based on my own personal (sometimes limited) experience.
hustonj  
#6 Posted : Monday, June 06, 2011 2:44:02 AM(UTC)
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It is going to depend on your department and organizational policies, in addition to what your superiors think of you.
 
I don't care how much education you do or do not have, if the formal policy requires more to advance, then you need more.  If the fomal policy does NOT require more, then you do not need more, but you DO need the support of those for whom you work.
 
I am a firm believe in acquiring an education.  I am not a firm believer in degrees.  The two frequently exist without each other.  Lots of formal policies are based on the falsehood that formal degrees serve as proof of knowledge.  <shrug>
 
You need to know what your organization wants you to have and to get, not what a bunch of random voices on the internet are going to tell you, because wht the Department of Agriculture and the Depratment of Defense want probably do not match.  Heck, I think the DoD requirements vary based on career specialization . . ..
 
Good luck.
sakijo  
#7 Posted : Monday, June 06, 2011 3:02:59 AM(UTC)
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In certain fields, it is good to have advanced degrees.  In the financial world (where I am), there is a strong push for education that didn't exist years ago.  Masters Degrees and certifications are now almost required for advancement.  Science and technical fields also benefit from advanced degrees.  Management types usually benefit from "executive" education, which shows that you are a "professional" manager.  Like hustonj, I believe in acquiring education.  The difficult thing is "proving" that you acquired such education - especially if it came from a mentor or observation. 
SF18C  
#8 Posted : Monday, June 06, 2011 3:15:26 AM(UTC)
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I am GS-14 without an MBA, heck I don’t even have BA and at this point, I don't plan on getting one either as the ROI is not there.

 

I do have 10+ years in my field and many more years with management, leadership and supervisory duties/experience. I too started out as a GS-11 and I have worked hard to move up the chain.  FWIW, I have never known any selecting official or had an “insider” information...just hit apply on USAJobs. Yes, I am a veteran but those benie’s ended at the GS-11 position.

 

This is just a suggestion, but another route for advancement is to look for those hard to fill jobs, those positions in less than desirable locations or jobs that just plain suck!  You might have to get out of DC and even your own comfort zone!!! I have worked in some pretty crappy places, spent time living in complete squalor, & working 20 hours days to complete the mission.  While my formal education is severely lacking, my experience and real world work record can stand on its own.

 

I am not saying you should or should not go but something to factor in, how much will it cost you to get that masters degree?  That is, not just in money...but time and quality of life.  If all you ever do is work, school, work, school; is that worth it?  Also try doing some basic math, if you got promoted one grade every year...how long would it take you to pay back the costs?  

 

Oh for what it is worth...my daughter will go to college!!!

titan2245  
#9 Posted : Monday, June 06, 2011 3:38:00 AM(UTC)
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BMWMotorad wrote:
GS 12-15 positions require executive/management skills.  An undergraduate degree provides one with a specific set of technical skills (accounting, scientific research, investigations, whatever), but do not necessarily prepare someone with a good understanding of staff oversight, organizational leadership, business acumen, strategic thinking...  all that stuff an 'executive' needs to know.   Plus, you'll be competing with people who did put in the extra work. 
 
Often the people most vocal in devaluing higher education are those people who lack it.  Don't fall for that old line about 'some of the dumbest people I know went to college'.  Go for your MBA at night, nobody will begrudge you leaving work early just to go do more work educating yourself.  It's a ticket to the club.  It doesn't need to be from Princeton either.  Most agencies have some kind of tuition reimbursement program.

I agree with some and disagree with some.  An MBA does not impart any type of leadership, management or supervisory experience, that is just marketing BS.  The only way one gains supervisory experience is through supervising.

 

What an MBA does provide is a higher degree of technical knowledge in certain areas, however, it is more of a generalist degree.  It is not the same as a masters in finance or a masters in marketing which tend to be more specific, yet still questionable in value.  I would argue that someone working in project management for 2 years has just as much ability as someone that has an MBA.  Effectively an MBA could be considered 1 years worth of experience in the business field.  Nothing more.

 

So if you have 8 years of managerial experience and your competitor has 7 in addition to an MBA, you are probably on an equal footing all else being similar.

titan22452011-06-06 11:48:27
nativeoutsider  
#10 Posted : Monday, June 06, 2011 9:10:04 AM(UTC)
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Thanks for these helpful comments.  My job area is working directly with policy that currently or will effect our national programs.  This is why i'm considering a Masters in Public Policy.
 
I can see the need for an advanced degree, but based on those I've observed, I don't think advanced degrees help with leadership and communications skills, as well as general work ethic...I've noticed that people with true work experience tend to be stronger in those areas.  I work with a lot of new people fresh out of grad school, and while they are usually very motivated, they seem to lack those skills.
 
However, I can see how an advanced degree would help in technical areas like statistics and analysis (as it relates to me).
 
I welcome more comments, this has already been really helpful and I'm guessing there are others out there with a smiliar question which will benefit from this as well.
 
Beagle  
#11 Posted : Monday, June 06, 2011 10:58:27 AM(UTC)
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I agree with SF18C.  The best position are ones that automatically go up to GS-13.  DOJ recently had an announcement for 15 positions in a city in Texas that automatically went up to GS-13.  Neat thing is you don't have to qualify at GS-13 just have to qualify as a GS-7.


TheFrederalGovt  
#12 Posted : Tuesday, June 07, 2011 11:04:44 PM(UTC)
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nativeoutsider wrote:
Thanks for these helpful comments.  My job area is working directly with policy that currently or will effect our national programs.  This is why i'm considering a Masters in Public Policy.
 
I can see the need for an advanced degree, but based on those I've observed, I don't think advanced degrees help with leadership and communications skills, as well as general work ethic...I've noticed that people with true work experience tend to be stronger in those areas.  I work with a lot of new people fresh out of grad school, and while they are usually very motivated, they seem to lack those skills.
 
However, I can see how an advanced degree would help in technical areas like statistics and analysis (as it relates to me).
 
I welcome more comments, this has already been really helpful and I'm guessing there are others out there with a smiliar question which will benefit from this as well.
 
After college, I recieved an MPA in California and got a federal job in DC 5 months in a GS-9/11/12 ladder. I knew that with my BA in Political Science that would never happen
spacecowboy  
#13 Posted : Wednesday, June 08, 2011 9:48:24 PM(UTC)
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There are many SES and GS14-15 who do not have Masters degrees, yet supervise those who do...
Beagle  
#14 Posted : Sunday, June 12, 2011 5:43:02 AM(UTC)
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TheFrederalGovt wrote:
After college, I recieved an MPA in California and got a federal job in DC 5 months in a GS-9/11/12 ladder. I knew that with my BA in Political Science that would never happen


Man you need to have a better self esteem.  You can always start at GS-5/7 then after a year as a 7 apply for a GS-9/12 position.
bearpele  
#15 Posted : Sunday, June 12, 2011 9:06:18 PM(UTC)
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I know in my command and career field, if you want advancement opportunities you need to have an advance degree to be promoted to a GS-14/GS-15. 

cityfed  
#16 Posted : Sunday, June 12, 2011 10:02:15 PM(UTC)
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I think the answer is that there is no one answer. For every time someone could post that s/he is a GS-15 with only a BA supervising several people with advanced degrees, someone else could post that you MUST have an advanced degree to be a 15 where they are.

spacecowboy  
#17 Posted : Sunday, June 12, 2011 10:04:03 PM(UTC)
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And the "real" answer is what do you know, and more importantly who do you know...
Mind Explorer  
#18 Posted : Friday, April 13, 2012 8:14:23 PM(UTC)
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spacecowboy wrote:
There are many SES and GS14-15 who do not have Masters degrees, yet supervise those who do...

How long have they been GS14-15s? It seems that NOW you need advanced degrees to get to those positions.
stana  
#19 Posted : Saturday, April 14, 2012 12:44:43 PM(UTC)
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Beagle wrote:
TheFrederalGovt wrote:
After college, I recieved an MPA in California and got a federal job in DC 5 months in a GS-9/11/12 ladder. I knew that with my BA in Political Science that would never happen


Man you need to have a better self esteem.  You can always start at GS-5/7 then after a year as a 7 apply for a GS-9/12 position.
 
Someone getting a GS 5/7 without a hiring preference doesn't happen anymore.  Maybe 5 years ago, but not now. 
carebr2212  
#20 Posted : Saturday, April 14, 2012 2:49:00 PM(UTC)
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Can I just also ask you to be careful about where you choose to go to school if you do decide to take that route?

Keep in mind I am speaking from a hiring manager perspective, which I did do outside in the civilian world.  I have a feeling this is not done at the main personnel level for the US government, but I could be wrong.

I once had two candidates who had exactly the same everything--similar experience, similar work background, and so on.  One went to the University of Kentucky, the other received their degree online through the University of Phoenix.  We chose to interview and hired the person who obtained their degree from the U of K.  People can jump all over this, but I am just being honest.  I would stay away from any "for profit" schools--especially those under investigation by the federal government!

Note:  I do not know anything about the University of Phoenix, and it may be a great school, I am just being honest, so please don't be too mean!  :)

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