Ask A Bastard: Turning the Tables Edition

So it appears that my friend Aerin is the only one with questions this week. Because of the low turn out, I’m going to turn the tables. I have a question to ask–and I hope you all give me some pointers.

First and foremost we have the following: Aerin asked If you were e-mailed at work by a co-worker and asked to “pray at the flagpole” – – how would you respond? What would you do?

If I got the email from a coworker that I didn’t know too well, I’d write back and say, “Thank you for thinking of me in this; however, I don’t believe that this particular event is congruent with my public and private beliefs. I wish you and yours the best for your event.” If it kept happening, I’d politely ask that they stop sending me this. I have to be polite to my coworkers–especially if I am going to deal with the promotion stuff–but I don’t have to follow their beliefs. If it was from someone I knew, I’d say, “Um. Really?” In a phone call. If it kept happening, I’d go to supervisors, deputies my director, and eventually, the media. I say the media because as a State worker, I do not believe that we should be taking company time to endorse a particular religious belief or philosophy. Fact is, I have walked out of prayer meetings before–they were for my Union, not for any work function–and I will do it again. I’ve also stated that if it keeps happening, I am going to dress up like a pirate and go as priest of the flying spaghetti monster.

Aerin also asked Also – is arguing on the internet really a waste of energy?

Honestly, I think arguing itself is a waste of energy.  I’m just addicted to it. I think debate and rational discussion is useful–but far too often it deteriorates into bickering and arguing.

I’m reading comments in certain threads wondering exactly how to address the situation… I also know that after this, I’m headed to the Republic of Dogs to discuss my position regarding the political divide.

Now for my question: How do I figure out what to do about grad school? I have debated going to grad school (for an MSW then a PhD) or Law School for years. Now I’m just confused about where to go. If I want to keep working with kids, the MSW is the most useful degree to have. But now I am thinking of a Masters from UoC’s Computer Science department. Given the economy and the threats to my field (a good number of people on the right want to eliminate my job because it’s a “waste”) I do think that it would be good to diversify. I also have a plan to integrate the Comp.Sci degree with my interest with my clients. I just don’t know what the hell to do or how to figure it out.

So, help a brother out. I’ll buy you a beer.

30 thoughts on “Ask A Bastard: Turning the Tables Edition

  1. Grad school? You stop, and listen to your gut. It’s probably telling you what you need to know. You don’t rationalize your options first, you do it second. Figure out what is actually the most appealing on a basic level, and then see if it’ll work out with your lifestyle and plans. If there’s conflict, then you need to resolve it by sacrificing elements of what your gut or lifestyle are demanding.
    Not to be preachy, but I think I can help you out with both: your lifestyle has been dependent on certain social and technological necessities, and the idea of a serious time/money budget has been both a long time coming and difficult to adhere to.
    You’ve always wanted several things beyond comfort, though. Respect, for one. This is respect from strangers, which means fancy degrees are appealing, your parents, which means fancy degrees are appealing, and your friends, which means fancy degrees are appealing.
    There’s a reason you’ve always considered Law School: your Dad. That said, you’ve also known that if you really pursued a different path but got the best credentials you could, your Dad would shrug and acknowledge that it was just as good as being a lawyer…almost.
    So, I think you should pursue being a notable hero in grad school…for me, that doesn’t include computers or IT. This isn’t because you don’t like them, or they aren’t profitable. It’s because they aren’t noble, and so much of who you are is based upon being the reluctant Hero, I’m not sure you could exist otherwise.
    It isn’t about the economics, or job security. In the best circumstances, there are no guarantees. Do what you know, what you love? You should be indispensable. And the argument of increasing your marketability? Not that relevant, if you’re already employed and marketable. Plus, even without the degree in computers, you can still explore their effectiveness within your field.
    Hell, you knew what I’d say, either way.
    Do what you will. Just acknowledge that being the Hero is core to your decision.
    After all, it is core to you.

  2. Well, first of all thanks for answering my questions!

    Secondly, I work in the computer science field of sorts. I have a couple of insights – and of course, YMMV. I have a c.s. associate’s degree in addition to my bachelor’s in history. For the most part, as long as you have a bachelor’s (and some skill and / or experience), I’ve found that you might be able to find a position. Some companies care if it’s in computer science, most smaller companies don’t care. I can think of two biology majors, one English, one home economics major that I work with off the top of my head. There is always the threat of layoffs for us as well, as many companies realize that it’s much cheaper to pay someone offshore to do a similar job.

    I don’t know if anyone in my department (around 70 people) has a masters in cs. There are some mba’s or mba candidates. My assumption is that you could probably make more money in computer science compared with social work, but that’s just a theory.

    Yet I’m not really helping people or “making a difference” in my day to day work. There are all sorts of tradeoffs. I have more money (this way) to donate to causes that I want to.

    Anyway – I wish you luck. I do know (for certain) that the world can always use good therapists/social workers. Maybe lawyers as well sometimes. I would definitely research each end position – salaries, what the day to day life after graduation would be like, what the people who work in that field are like prior to going to school.

    The only reason I say that is, I’ve known more than a few people who wanted to get teaching licenses, until they realized exactly what teaching k-12 meant. Or like me who wanted to teach history in college, until I found out the chances of getting a teaching position after my phd (around 5% of the top of the class).

    Just my $.04.

  3. Don’t listen to her. Get rich, then become my sugar daddy.

    The notion of happiness is a bourgeois chimera designed to keep you from achieving.

    Let me know when I can send you my bank account info for scheduled wire transfers.

  4. I can’t speak to social work, but I can say from twenty-two years of experience that the IT industry isn’t where you want to go if you want a socially rewarding, warm-and-fuzzy job. The paychecks aren’t too bad, until they decide that Prakash in Hyderabad can do your function at half your salary. Now, that having been said, if you have some outside-the-box idea for combining computer knowledge with your passion for helping others, that’s different.

    Also, Aerin speaks the truth about degrees–in the aforementioned twenty-two years grinding through various jobs in IT, I’ve worked with more people with just two-year degrees, or bachelor’s/postgrad degrees in non-CS or non-IT fields than I have with four-year IT degrees like I have (actually I have an AAS and a BBA, both in computers). My degrees and experience are on the business side of IT, not the pure CS side, so I dunno how a masters there would be helpful.

    As for See You at the Pole…I’d handle it the exact same way Marty would. It’s OK to ask once if the person asking has no reason to know you don’t want to hear about it, but a simple “no thanks” should end any conversation on the subject. I’m a Christian and have no problem with collective prayer groupings like SYATP, but that type of proselytizing at work is only going to end up causing problems. If you say no and somebody stays on you about it, it’s harassment and should be handled according to your workplace’s rules.

  5. Here’s my issue: I enjoy both what I do and working with computers. I wan to advance in both areas. I’m just confused on what I should do now.

  6. Honestly, Marty, if you want to learn programming or application stuff, you could probably get books and self-teach yourself or take classes at whatever passes for the local community college up there, and do just as well as you would going for a post-grad degree in it. What I’ve found is that within a couple of years of getting out of college in this game, what you learned there goes out the window and it’s all on-the-job learning, experience, and self-training anyway.

  7. Lewis: Thanks for making it very clear to me. I do need a few classes on networking and programming, but I was made to be a social worker.

  8. You were totally made to be a social worker

    the only alternative I might suggest would be to seek a master of education and focus on computers.

    Teaching troubled kids about tech would cover all of that.

  9. Itanya’s got the right idea. Combining your obvious love for technology (all hail the Jesusphone) with your career is a great idea.

    I’m not terribly up to date on modern app development–I worked on big mainframes when I was a programmer and now I’m in quality assurance–but you’ve got a ton of choices and a lot of other people that can probably point you in the right direction.

  10. Torteya, he is going to be my sugar daddy!

    Having about 100 degrees, what I can share with you is: don’t do it. Especially if you are thinking about having children in the next 5-7 years. Graduate school is something that sounds good in your 20s and best done in those same years. In your 30s, it’s a major P.IT.A.


    Can we get a good thread going about how to break-up properly with someone? I have been giving advice to some of my friends on this lately, as they have been breaking up, but I know I am not the best person to advise on this.

  11. Having a masters in basket weaving is better than no masters at all.

    Considering that you’ve expressed the interest to go back, and are looking at a masters, choose the path that will make the experience the least painful for you. I’m not saying go the easiest course, I’m saying go the one that gives you the happy tingles. I know what your life is like with the job you have, and I know the amount of stress it puts on your platter. I think you should consider the course that gives you the best sense of satisfaction, because picking the one that will secure your future but potentially add to your stress load? Yeaaaaaah. Not so good. Pick the classes that make you happy, and pursue a degree in that.

    Real life sucks hard enough already for most folks. I will always advise against making it suck more, even if it’s “for the greater good”.

  12. My first experience from graduate school taught me a lot, in that

    A) It is not better to just have a Masters degree than not have one. Right after I got my MA in medieval history, I wound up working in a used bookstore for $7.50 an hour. It eventually came in handy, but it is not necessarily a payoff in terms of job. Personally, I wouldn’t hire someone at the Museum if they have an MA and no experience; I’d rather hire the person with experience and a BA. I say this working in a field where having an MA is seen by many new graduates as qualification enough. It is NOT. (Although you will probably get a raise.)

    B) You HAVE to really love it. You’re going to be doing double or triple the work for each class that you did (or were supposed to do) in college.

    C) Make sure that you get something out of it in the end. Is this the same social work program we last talked about? You had supervised interns that were currently enrolled in that program. Make sure that the program recognizes that you are NOT right out of college, and that you have a shitload of experience. If you are teaching their interns (which is sort of what intern supervisors do), you may not get as much out of the program as you think you will.

    D) Um. No offense intended, but are you sure you have the mathematical skills and coding background to get an Masters in Comp Sci? There are ways to integrate technology into your work without a Masters degree. The guy who does this at the Met has a BA in music composition.

    At any rate. If you want to go, I think you’ll be a huge success. If you decide not to go, I think you’ll be a huge success. The question as I see it is whether or not you want the additional education and theory.

  13. Damn. You have a lot of vocal readers. I get a lot of traffic, but rarely vocal ones. Perhaps that is because I don’t ask for response and I don’t post very many controversial things.

    Anyway, Graduate School: If you what to go, go. If you love working with kids and want the MSW, get it.

    I defend my MFA in Writing on October 22 after 5 years of part-time class work. Do I feel I could have gone to school and learned a trade, something that would make money for me, OH FUCK YES. However, I’m going to really try to break into a job where writing is valued. My dream job, if I have to have one, is working in a high school or community college writing lab.

    Marty, we’re in our thirties. We’re still young. Money might be tight, but fuck it, do what makes you happy.

    – The Soulless Machine

  14. Oh yeah, one more thing. After Beloit College, Graduate School is a cake walk — feels a lot like high school level work except for the head-in-toliet problem.

  15. I think about getting some kind of degree in computer science all the time. I don’t know what I’d do with one; it just sounds like a good idea. But like someone said upthread, you can probably go a long way picking up a few books and teaching yourself, for a start.

    Having not yet pursued my master’s (yes, I’d still like to), I’m not sure whether there are faculty advisors like you usually have when you go for a bachelor’s degree. If there are, maybe that would be the person to talk to when you’re starting classes – someone who knows the field of social work and knows how to help you figure out a career path that would help you tie in all those different elements.

    You should be able to add a few beginning CS classes into your courseload while working towards your MSW. If you love them, take more.

    How’s that personal statement coming? (And before you ask how my business plan’s doing, I think I need a new assignment. The book industry’s in far too much flux for me to write an accurate business plan at the moment.)

  16. I think about getting a masters in secondary education all the time. Because it is quick and easy. (As opposed to one in Molecular biology, which is simply impossible to do part-time.)

  17. I think Lauren’s got it right. If you do want to work toward an MSW, I assume there’s going to be a few elective slots that you can slide some computer classes into. If not, you can use books or other self-paced materials. Just remember, what I’ve found for learning computer stuff is that there’s no substitute for just getting in there and playing with whatever you’re working on, be it an application or a programming language or whatever.

  18. I have no advice. I have two degrees (although no advance degree) and no job!
    I like what Alison has to say – putting the work into a degree because you want to move on but not necessarily upward seems a bit pointless unless academia is a passion.
    How much more money will you make with an MSW? I ask because I thought about that when I was in social services and here you get only about $10k more a year, which hardly pays for itself.

  19. Questions for the next round:
    -Why did you choose Beloit for undergrad (apologies if you’ve discussed this before). Were there other schools you were looking at/investigated/applied to?
    -Do you know the story behind your middle name? Just out of curiousity.

  20. My question for today:
    Seriously. How much damage could I have done to my vocal cords by screaming for like 2 hours non-stop? Could it be permanent?

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