Hello fellow Manager( and Career) Tools devotees,

My name is Ben Whipple (hence the “CoolWhip” moniker)  and I’m facing a bit of a dilemma. Over the last 8 years I’ve held positions of increasing responsibilities at different Wireless/Telecommunications companies, with my current title being “Retail Area Manager” where I oversee 6 retail locations in New Mexico, Western Colorado and Southern Utah. I work for a large company who is the phone provider in this area. I was just promoted to this position in August of last year after very solid success in a store manager role. 


Of course the “current economic climate” (a turn of phrase I hesitate to use) brings with it some pretty challenging realties, including the companies decision to close 2 of my locations and eliminate the Area Manager position here in Albuquerque. I have known for the last month or so, and it currently looks as if my last day will be sometime in the first week of February. I will receive a severance package and am in a financial situation that doesn’t require me to immediately get another job. I have been offered 3 other positions within the company, each that would involve a step down in pay and management responsibility, and I’ve decided not to accept. 


So now I come to the question. I never finished my Bachelor's degree. I started working and found something I was good at and figured life was better when you were making $40,000 a year rather than paying $12,000. Over the years I’ve signed up for classes here and there, always telling myself that I would complete that degree, but as I kept progressing up, the need for the degree became less and less apparent. I am now faced with the possibility of going back to school full time, finding some part time employment in the field (a sales rep at a store, etc) and focusing on my degree. 


I’m looking for opinions on how this works as a career move. My resume would show increasing responsibilities, culminating in a “managing managers” role that brought in half a million a month in revenue. And then a drop to a sales rep while I finish my degree. In your opinions, is the degree worth it? I realize I’ve given little to judge my career on, but do you feel like I have the foundation for further career growth with out a 4 year degree?


I’ll complete my degree at a state school (most likely Boise State) and then start looking to complete a MBA. The kicker is that I’m 32 years old, and it will take at least 2 more years to complete my bachelors. My fiancée keeps telling me that 32 isn’t to old to go back, but I guess I’m looking for some people with a business background to chime in. Any advice is certainly appreciated!




jhack's picture


Tough situation, and it sounds like you've done a lot of the right things to be prepared.  Kudos.

"What do you want to do?" 

That question goes to the heart of your conundrum.  Do you need the degree?  Why? What will you do with it (ie, what do you want to do?)  Same for the MBA.  Does what you want to do require that you get your BA/BS or and MBA?   

Know why you're doing this. 

Then you'll be fine.  In a couple years, you'll explain: "I took a step back to get my Bachelor's in Finance, so that I could move from a sales role to general management role."   Or whatever it is you chose, and the reason.  Recruiters know that most folks follow a non-linear career path!  What they look for is someone who was thoughtful, and has learned and grown along the way.  

John Hack

nejve351's picture

Excellent points John.

The only comment I would add is that IF a degree is what you want (or feel you need) to achieve your career goals, then 32 is a heck of a lot better than 52...You can't ever get any younger - only smarter :)

Good luck!

bug_girl's picture

speaking as a former faculty member, IF you decide to do this, you will almost certainly succeed! Adult students are more focused and have better time management skills than 19 year olds.  :)

They are my favorite students.

Good luck!

regas14's picture
Licensee Badge

I agree with Bug_Girl.

Having worked at a College, the adult students in general put more effort into and I'm sure got more out of their education than the average 18-year-old.  Bringing your life's experience as a foundation/framework will make not only the material, but the process of education, that much more meaningful to you.  And, having observed that first hand I genereally place a greater significance on the accomplishment of a Bachelor's Degree later on life - achieved while working and supporting oneself. 

Good luck,


tlhausmann's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

Your fiancée is very smart. :-) You have the interest, finances, encouragement and support to return to school. What an opportunity!

CoolWhip's picture

 Thank you all very much for your replies. You have confirmed the advice I've received from personal friends and mentors.  To be honest I can't say the degree would be a "requirement" for future career moves, but I do know it is a sort of rite of passage to the corporate world, even with a solid career history.  I can't view opening more doors as a detriment :).