Do you know someone who’s been thinking about going back to school for an advanced degree or credential?  That question comes up frequently in our private coaching sessions.  Since that usually requires a pretty heavy investment of time and resources, this article poses some of the deeper questions to be considered.

I once heard an esteemed colleague say, “When you can’t do, that’s when people start asking for your credentials.”  Have you ever seen that happen when you’ve hired a person and they didn’t perform properly?  You or someone on your team begins to inquire about their license or credentials!

Several times when I’ve coached managers, I’ve heard them mention that they’re considering going back to school for an advanced degree or to complete some credentialing process.  If I felt that my client was not passionate about the idea, but rather it was more of a “should”, then I’d start asking a few more questions!  I’m keenly aware how much energy it takes to complete any kind of credentialing process, and most working adults have families and numerous other commitments to juggle in addition to their job.

So how important are those credentials? I’m reminded of a time in my mid-30’s when this very question surfaced for me.  I was already making a good living and name for myself as an expert presentation skills consultant, and was fortunate to have a regular clientele. Although I’d earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Development, I didn’t have a Master’s Degree, and discovered that for that reason, I wasn’t eligible to teach at most universities. Many of my clients had advanced degrees.  So, like many people, I considered whether it made sense for me to go back to school.

Fortunately, before taking any action, I consulted my dear friend Maria, a highly ranked HR professional whose perspective I trusted on matters like this, and who’d also been a client.  Maria herself was highly credentialled and knew how important these things were when hiring leaders for her firm.  Even better, she knew my work and how it was received by clients.

What Maria told me hit home.  She said, “You’re already recognized for doing great work in your niche and making decent money.  You don’t need another degree.”  I breathed a sigh of relief as she continued. “What’s motivating this?  Is it something you really want?  Otherwise, don’t invest your precious time.”

In that moment, I realized I had neither the appetite nor stamina for going back to school at that stage in my life.  I let the idea go and never looked back.  But, I sure kept on learning in ways beyond traditional education and am still having fun with that!

So now, when I hear people at that same career stage start worrying about their credentials, here’s my advice:

  1. It takes great desire and passion to complete any kind of degree with excellence.  Therefore, it’s vital to ask yourself, “Is the thought of getting this credential a wish or a should?”  There’s such a big difference!  A wish has passion and life’s magic built in.  A should is really just mental chatter.  Without a fair dose of passion, you won’t have the endurance to complete a degree.  (Many a working adult student has dropped out after a semester or two of trying.)
  2. Working adults typically have family responsibilities in addition to full time jobs. Where is the time going to come from for your classes and study time?  What else will get sacrificed?  Have you thought that through fully and communicated to other stakeholders who will be impacted?  Are they fully on-board, or just going along with it to appease you?
  3. Be honest when you ask yourself, “What’s motivating this?” Is the credential you are seeking necessary for your current job or the one you are aspiring to?  If yes, it may be appropriate to proceed despite the costs in other areas of your life.  However, sometimes the idea of a getting that credential is more ego-driven than anything else, and that’s not the solid foundation you want for any big endeavor!
  4. Some people believe that with an extra credential, they’ll make more money. Not necessarily so!  (I know some relatively poor Ph.D.’s.)
  5. Sometimes people want to go for that credential because they’re bored. That’s good to be aware of, so you can determine if the credential is the right solution.  Sometimes you’re better off looking for a new job or expanded responsibilities where you are.

In summary, don’t invest time in a credential unless you’re willing and able to go the distance and have a passion for that process.  Otherwise, focus on doing a great job and see what happens to your career advancement as you continue to produce excellence!


This content is provided courtesy of Marie Moran’s Biz Savvy blog. To see more of her personal insights, visit her blog at

©2018 Marie Moran