To what degree should you study? Should you set your limit at a Short Course, a Certificate, a Diploma or a Degree? The pressure placed on you by society often distorts your reality before you’ve even begun to be honest with yourself about:
a) What do you really want to study, based upon what you are really interested in?
b) What is your deepest intention as to why, where and how you plan to use this course of study in your life?
c) Can you visualise yourself doing this 8+ hours each day for 30+ years?
If you don’t have an answer for a) or b), or answered ‘no’ for c), then it is back to the drawing board you go. If you didn’t have to think of your answer for a) because you’ve already known for a long time what you want to do; and b) why; and screamed “OF COURSE!” for c), you have already pulled the trigger on what to study; you are on your way.
But now you must pay attention, because society will also have its say. Many will try to stop you with advice, such as: “That’s not a proper job”; “You’ll never earn enough from doing that alone”; “Jonathan studied that and hasn’t found a job in two years since graduating”; “Study X so that you can take over Dad’s company when he retires”. I bet most readers have heard some of these before. Only when you know what makes you really happy will you have the strength of mind to forge ahead with your plan to equip yourself with the knowledge you require to earn your livelihood, possibly for the rest of your working life.
So, you can enrol for a two-week Short Course, a one-year Certificate, a two-year Diploma, or a three-year Degree. Which is it to be?
Your career goals, budget, and unique reality will largely dictate which you choose, but, the influence of others will very likely make an equally significant contribution to your decision.
Let’s cut to the chase: a Degree holds far greater prestige in society than a Diploma or Certificate, but Dips and Certs would not exist if they weren’t relevant; in fact, as qualifications they have made a significant contribution to society for decades. The distinct advantage of a Certificate course is that it only takes one year, focuses solely on the subject matter you are interested in, and will of course be far cheaper in fees than a Diploma or Degree. Regardless of what qualification you choose to study, when you get to the workplace you will start at the bottom and have to work your way to the top.
Any credible course or qualification is designed to provide students with real skills for the real world. That means, upon graduation a student is ready to work. How this is achieved is what differentiates the various options you have to choose from. Certs and Dips are more practically focussed, while Degrees are more rigorous academically. Degrees require more research, writing, and intellectual enquiry from a student. The ideal for many is a Bachelor Degree that delivers both the practical and intellectual aspects in equal amounts. In contemporary society, a truly relevant degree includes a large portion of hands-on practical training that forms the bedrock of being able to do something competently, and earn a living from it.
A Degree is one of the few things in society that does not go out of fashion, anywhere in the world. The value of a degree on your résumé (from a reputable institution) does not date, tells the world you have a brain and are prepared to use it, and may well allow you greater earning potential if you are on a salary.
However, don’t be naïve and believe that a qualification of any nature will guarantee you an effortless kick-start to your career and a good life. Only a sustained commitment to your craft, delivered with integrity every day, can earn you this. In the bigger picture of business, clever and stupid is not the focus. How brilliant and reliable you are at what you do, is.
I have not answered the question: “To What Degree?” directly. The reason is that there is no silver bullet answer. You and whom you interact with will dictate the choice you make. As with anything, do your homework so you can discern between empirical fact and the opinion of others, because if you ask five people their opinion about anything at all, it is likely you will get five different answers.
In the field of Education it is no different. If you ask a competent professional who has no tertiary qualification: “Should I study for a certificate or a degree?” they may well say: “Don’t waste your time; get a job”. If you ask someone who has taken a course of formal study, his or her answer may well be very different. Everyone’s opinions are based upon what they know, what they don’t know, and what they have and have not experienced.
If you choose professions like law, or medicine, you will need to study formally. In the music industry however, the parameters of entry are completely undefined. This is a blessing and a curse: a blessing because it allows anyone (in theory) to be involved, and to make up their techniques as they go along; and a curse because there is no formal structure, which makes entry into the workplace a challenge. It is this challenge that is so exciting for many, and the element that separates those who are only ‘along for the ride’ versus those that are eating, breathing and sleeping their craft.
If you study anything other than your ultimate love, you’re wasting your time, and often someone else’s money! Have the guts to present your case to the world by being informed. To say, “I’m passionate about music” will likely get a yawn and not a job offer. You need to be able to answer the question: “Why would someone invest their time and money in me?” If you don’t have an answer yet, dig deeper. We live in a very competitive world and need to be better than the average to attract attention.
If you’re good at something, you will get paid for it. But, always be humble, deliberate, and on time.
And lastly, leave the rubbish we’ve been taught that: “I want doesn’t get” at the door. If we don’t know what we want, how can we get it!
David Maclean | a Brief Biography
David Maclean is a mastering engineer, educator and business executive with two decades of experience in the music industry and tertiary education sector. David is the Director of SAE Institute South Africa and is based at their campus in Cape Town. The SAE Group has 54 campuses across the globe. David understands the attitudes and opinions of the industry professionals within the creative media industries and the educators and authorities within Higher Education in South Africa and abroad based on his unusual portfolio of skills in business, education and creative media technologies.