College or Railroad conductor?

General discussion about working in the railroad industry. Industry employers are welcome to post openings here.

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Re: College or Railroad conductor?

Postby Komachi » Mon Oct 07, 2013 4:01 pm

Eight years of post-secondary education and two degrees (an AA and a BA in History).

Best jobs I could get after my university education were part-time, minimum wage. Ten years later, I got my first decent, full-time job as a JANITOR. Steady hours, decent pay and a few benefits.

My advice? GRAB THE JOB WITH BOTH HANDS AND DON'T LET GO!!!

I'm going to move this to the Employment Forum, where other, wiser members can give their opinions as well.
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Re: College or Railroad conductor?

Postby Desertdweller » Mon Oct 07, 2013 4:26 pm

Take Komachi's advice.

OutnumberedbyU has the right idea, too, but why would you want to leave the railroad to get a college degree? Only if the degree can get you a better railroad job.

The story we were told, that a college degree is the way to a good job, was maybe true in the 1950's and 60's. By the 1970's, college's were cranking out way more people than there were college-level job openings for. I have a BA in Political Science, and the only decent job offer I got was from a railroad. I was very fortunate to get a railroad job. It allowed me to pay off my college loan.

You might get a college degree and wind up as some sort of high-roller. Chances are not in your favor. More likely you will wind up working in some cubicle, subject to political correctness, working for some outfit that will run off with your retirement plan, and wishing you had taken that railroad job. If you didn't feel that way, you wouldn't be on this forum to begin with.

You only get one shot. Don't blow it.

Les
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Re: College or Railroad conductor?

Postby scottychaos » Mon Oct 07, 2013 7:38 pm

It really isnt true that "college isnt worth it"..
(I know no one in this thread specifically said that, but you see it out in the world a lot.)
For probably 95% of college graduates, it's absolutely worth it, and they end up getting jobs that *more* than make up for the high cost of education..
see this video:

Is college worth it?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_N7MAr98CI

Of course in recent years, with the bad economy, we are bombarded by stories of recent college graduates who cant find jobs..
while that is true, and it happens..the thing to remember is that it has always been true, and it has always happened..

The biggest problem is that many people choose useless college majors!
A girl I knew in college (25 years ago) was a theater major..complete waste of 4 years of college, she hasn't used her major a day in her life.
My sister was an art history major..she also hasn't used her college degree a day in her life.

I was a photography major..graduated in 1992 with a bachelors degree in photography..That was not a useless degree then, but it would be today..
It served me well for 20 years, I was a Research Technician at Kodak.
laid off from Kodak in 2012, all jobs in that field have evaporated..and now im going back to school to re-train for a new career at age 44..
But College was then, and still is now, my only reasonable option for good employment, and it works for me.

Some people can skip college and learn a trade..that's a great way to go, if that's the kind of thing you want to do.
You certainty dont *need* college to have a satisfying and well-paying career..
but for most people..actually, they do need college, simply because there arent a lot of better options.
dont believe all the media hype about how college is bad! it isnt..
the thing is, if you aren't going to go to college, that can work out fine..but you need *an alternative* to college..
a high school diploma, with no other training, isn't going to cut it..the training doesn't have to be college, but it has to be *something*..

So! in this particular case, what do I think Dv2012 should do?
I absolutely think he should take the railroad job! :)
why? because he already has *a great alternative to college*!
an opportunity few people have..
As long as he knows what it entails, and it's a lifestyle he can live with,
and he thinks it could work as a lifetime career choice for him..then absolutely he should go for it!

there sometimes are better alternatives than college, not often, but it happens..this could be one rare instance of that.

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Re: College or Railroad conductor?

Postby Desertdweller » Tue Oct 08, 2013 9:57 am

One thing that I keep reading on this forum is that working for a railroad is a lifestyle, not a job. I don't think there is much debate on that. Either it appeals to you or it doesn't. I don't know of any long-time railroad employees who wonder if they've made the right choice. The ones that have doubts leave early.

One thing that I seldom see mentioned is perhaps the most persuasive argument of all. That is stability in retirement plan.
It may not seem very important for someone starting out, but consider how many supposedly stable firms have folded up and taken their employee's pension funds with them. It doesn't matter how loyal or hard-working the employee has been. The security of a lifetime of work can evaporate overnight.

You might wind up working for a company with a long period before you are vested in a retirement plan. If you decide to change companies, the time you have put in toward that is lost and you have to start over. If your job becomes intolerable to you and you walk off, you walk away from your retirement, too. Or, you may simply get a letter telling you your bosses have made some bad decisions and have spent the retirement fund "to save the company".

This does not happen in the railroad industry. Your retirement keeps growing and will follow you from one company to the next. You can still lose money in ineptly handled 401K plans (I have), but you will not lose your retirement fund.

Just something to consider.

Les
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Re: College or Railroad conductor?

Postby Engineer Spike » Tue Oct 08, 2013 12:08 pm

BNSF has a program to pay for college courses. If you pass with a certain grade, they will repay you for it.

This next point may be moot, with online classes, but you may try to bid yo a terminal which as at least a community college. Once you surpass that academic level, bid to somewhere with lots of colleges. Chicago comes to mind. It would be easy to fit both college and work into your schedule. If you are working the road, You will have copious amounts of time to study online. If you have to physically attend, then a yard job will give you the set schedule to do so.

When I worked there, I often worked the Chicago suburban passenger trains. The day runs often have several hours off at midday. The night jobs start in the mid afternoon. This also gives plenty of spare time. Many guys work a part time job during layover.
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Re: College or Railroad conductor?

Postby freightguy » Fri Oct 11, 2013 1:18 am

These are all great post. I have worked along side people with masters degrees or just a high school education that went on to become effective managers on the railroad. Not too many places that will pay you handsomely to attend their school with no student loans thereafter. I've seen a few people walk away from the job, but most make a career out of it.

I do not get the online degree, doesn't that kind of bypass the whole college experience?
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Re: College or Railroad conductor?

Postby scottychaos » Sat Oct 12, 2013 1:33 pm

freightguy wrote:
I do not get the online degree, doesn't that kind of bypass the whole college experience?


Yes, and that can be a negative (because the "college experience" is a great thing.) but on-line learning isnt really meant for the "typical" college student.
If you are 18-20, recently graduated from highschool, dont need to start working full-time yet, then you should go to college the "regular" way..

On-line degrees are mostly geared toward 25 to 55 year olds who have perhaps already been to college, but maybe dropped out and didnt finish,
or never went when they were younger, or perhaps did graduate from college but now need or want a new degree later in life..
and those people often cant do "regular" college, because they have a job, spouse and kids, and still need to work while they go to school.

Once you have a spouse and/or kids, the "college experience" is pretty much no longer an option anyway..
so that's where the on-line learning comes in..

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Re: College or Railroad conductor?

Postby Gadfly » Sat Oct 12, 2013 5:08 pm

Desertdweller wrote:One thing that I keep reading on this forum is that working for a railroad is a lifestyle, not a job. I don't think there is much debate on that. Either it appeals to you or it doesn't. I don't know of any long-time railroad employees who wonder if they've made the right choice. The ones that have doubts leave early.

One thing that I seldom see mentioned is perhaps the most persuasive argument of all. That is stability in retirement plan.
It may not seem very important for someone starting out, but consider how many supposedly stable firms have folded up and taken their employee's pension funds with them. It doesn't matter how loyal or hard-working the employee has been. The security of a lifetime of work can evaporate overnight.

You might wind up working for a company with a long period before you are vested in a retirement plan. If you decide to change companies, the time you have put in toward that is lost and you have to start over. If your job becomes intolerable to you and you walk off, you walk away from your retirement, too. Or, you may simply get a letter telling you your bosses have made some bad decisions and have spent the retirement fund "to save the company".

This does not happen in the railroad industry. Your retirement keeps growing and will follow you from one company to the next. You can still lose money in ineptly handled 401K plans (I have), but you will not lose your retirement fund.

Just something to consider.

Les


I would simply add that, faced with the question, "Would you do it again", the answer is Y E S. For me, it was, at times, a love-hate relationship. I found the machinery and the railroad culture.........different. Sometimes difficult to take, still "interesting". Like no other job/career I ever had. It pi**ed me off many times, made me wish I"d never set foot on the RoW. Made me want to punch out a couple of managers, but I held my cool and my tongue until the last day. And there were interesting things that made me secretly proud of what I was doing, the challenge of being the operator at some outlying station, or handing up orders to the crews I knew. OR, for the really raving railfan, standing on the ballast to hand up to Southern 4501 or 611----"Yer train's a-lookin' good on the South side, OOH-VER" while Mr. Ambrose, whistled at me goin' by, waving. "Awrite, Mr Operator, thankee---we're on our way, boys!" OR----deadheading on the engines to some assignment. And that doesn't even account for the years I spent at the Shops. Sometimes it was VERY hard work. There, again, I was able to see/work with the machines: track liners, Tampers, Kershaw Ballast Regulators, tie handlers, cranes, and knew many of the parts by heart. And, whether, you are a rail buff or not, it kinda gets into your system, this culture, the methods, the language of the railroad all its own. You become part of a rich history.

So for those who are considering a career in railroading, it IS worth it, Rough, but worth it! College can't hurt, and if your major is more or less mechanical, it is a good thing. I didn't complete college, either, but I was lucky enough to find my way onto the Southern Railway, then Norfolk Southern (after merger) and spent the remaining part of my working life there. If you can separate the "hobby" aspects of railroading from that of profession, you can do well there. This is the mistake that many people make when saying, "I always wanted to work on the railroad". They come to it as if it were a toy, and that's just not true. It is gritty, life-interrupting, all-compassing (at times) and certainly not a hobby! It is DANGEROUS and you must remain alert and do your job while obeying the rules. OTH, it is interesting and rewarding. And despite its drawbacks, I wouldn't change it for the world. I'm proud of my railroad connection. Now "MARK ME OFF ONE DAY ONLY" ;)

FJ
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Re: College or Railroad conductor?

Postby the sarge » Sat Oct 12, 2013 8:38 pm

As Scotty mentioned, what you study in college is very important for future employment. What do you want to study in college? What do you want to be? At 18, you do not need to have a definitive answer to those two questions; but I would NOT invest any money or go into debt for college unless those two questions can be answered with conviction and enthusiasm. In today's world and with the price of college, you cannot afford figuring it out once you are there - or just pick a major that looks easy. Years ago, college was exactly the place for figuring it out, but sadly, those days are gone.

I look at it this way. If you take the job and end up hating it, you quit and try something else; like enroll in school. You really didn't lose anything but some time (but you are young), and most likely will pick up a few life lessons. If you go to college, and it doesn't work out - either you drop out after some time or pick a major that leads to no decent employment, you wasted a lot of money; worse if you have to pay it back for 20 years.

I'm not anti college, I have a degree in civil engineering and a great job with excellent pay, benefits, and retirement. But, I see too many people within my circle of family and friends who went to college and now serve coffee because they can't find a job as very few employers are looking for graduates with degrees in philosophy or creative writing.
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Re: College or Railroad conductor?

Postby Gadfly » Sun Oct 13, 2013 9:13 am

JSB wrote:Les


I would simply add that, faced with the question, "Would you do it again", the answer is Y E S. For me, it was, at times, a love-hate relationship. I found the machinery and the railroad culture.........different. Sometimes difficult to take, still "interesting". Like no other job/career I ever had. It pi**ed me off many times, made me wish I"d never set foot on the RoW. Made me want to punch out a couple of managers, but I held my cool and my tongue until the last day. And there were interesting things that made me secretly proud of what I was doing, the challenge of being the operator at some outlying station, or handing up orders to the crews I knew. OR, for the really raving railfan, standing on the ballast to hand up to Southern 4501 or 611----"Yer train's a-lookin' good on the South side, OOH-VER" while Mr. Ambrose, whistled at me goin' by, waving. "Awrite, Mr Operator, thankee---we're on our way, boys!" OR----deadheading on the engines to some assignment. And that doesn't even account for the years I spent at the Shops. Sometimes it was VERY hard work. There, again, I was able to see/work with the machines: track liners, Tampers, Kershaw Ballast Regulators, tie handlers, cranes, and knew many of the parts by heart. And, whether, you are a rail buff or not, it kinda gets into your system, this culture, the methods, the language of the railroad all its own. You become part of a rich history.

So for those who are considering a career in railroading, it IS worth it, Rough, but worth it! College can't hurt, and if your major is more or less mechanical, it is a good thing. I didn't complete college, either, but I was lucky enough to find my way onto the Southern Railway, then Norfolk Southern (after merger) and spent the remaining part of my working life there. If you can separate the "hobby" aspects of railroading from that of profession, you can do well there. This is the mistake that many people make when saying, "I always wanted to work on the railroad". They come to it as if it were a toy, and that's just not true. It is gritty, life-interrupting, all-compassing (at times) and certainly not a hobby! It is DANGEROUS and you must remain alert and do your job while obeying the rules. OTH, it is interesting and rewarding. And despite its drawbacks, I wouldn't change it for the world. I'm proud of my railroad connection. Now "MARK ME OFF ONE DAY ONLY" ;)

FJ[/quote]

Great post, I have read similar posts from other folks both railroad and non-rails from various sites, who retired after many years of working there craft. They say it goes by fast..lol 27 more years for me will give me 35 . Although I got on at 29, I think thats good some of these folks who get on at 18, 19, 20 and go to 62,65 ooohhweeeee... Congrats on a long career sir[/quote]


It seemed like a l-o-o-o-o-o-n-g time to me, too! Like it would never get "here". I also hired out at age 30 which was just enough to give me the 360 service credits if I stuck it out for the entire tour. Alas, heart problems overtook me and I went out on disability at 24 years. Maybe the railroad gave me that AND the gray hair. Well I STILL have THAT. The hair, I mean. A little thin-ER than before. Maybe I PULLED some of it out working on the RR! LOL!

But, no..................with all the bad and what I know now, my lack of college, etc. If I were 30 again, and they asked me to go to work for Southern again. I would STILL not say "no". Yeah, I know: the barking trainmasters, the pressure, the schedules to adhere to, the funky work hours, the toll on one's life, I'd still do it. I'd be waking up at 5 AM to the ringing phone, "I have the 7 AM Agent's job at Kannapolis (NC), will you protect?" Yeah, I'll protect! To you and I that know the lingo, that is Call Clerk's language for "Will you show up and work the job"! :) Its strange to hate a job and yet remember it with fondness as the years take one towards that final "Yard" in the sky. But that's the railroad for ya! And them durn railroad so 'n so's KNOW it, too! Buncha yahoos.....................! ;)

I suppose college might have helped in my case and maybe I would've been one of "them". But, OTH, somehow I "knew" from the age of 10 that I might work for the railroad. From the time my Dad used to drop me off at the Salisbury, NC station (it's still there in and use) where I would watch the trains while he went to get chicken feed (we had a chicken farm on the side)...I kinda "knew". For the next 20 years I floundered around at various jobs, figuring that that railroad stuff was just childish curiousity. I wasn't "really" a train buff in the truest sense, but I liked machinery of all sorts. I went to college, but I didn't know what I wanted to do or for what purpose I was going. I dropped out after a year w/ no degree. But there was jusssssssssst this little "thing" that kept popping up in my subconscious. When things didn't work out for me by 1976, I needed something, but what? And then the American Freedom Train came to town and I KNEW while riding that train on a Saturday as a lark with a friend. The rest is history. I had a GOAL. And that was to work for Southern Railway. Hired on the first try, first interview. It was for a laborer! But it was a START! Dirty, filthy, greasy dirt monkey, I was! But I didn't care! I knew what I was supposed to do. And it went from there. Laborer, clerk, Extra Board, Agent, Demurrage, Cashier, Crew Hauler, Block Operator and so on.

College or no, I did it. And, looking back, damn proud of it!
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Re: College or Railroad conductor?

Postby Gadfly » Sun Oct 13, 2013 9:13 am

JSB wrote:Les


I would simply add that, faced with the question, "Would you do it again", the answer is Y E S. For me, it was, at times, a love-hate relationship. I found the machinery and the railroad culture.........different. Sometimes difficult to take, still "interesting". Like no other job/career I ever had. It pi**ed me off many times, made me wish I"d never set foot on the RoW. Made me want to punch out a couple of managers, but I held my cool and my tongue until the last day. And there were interesting things that made me secretly proud of what I was doing, the challenge of being the operator at some outlying station, or handing up orders to the crews I knew. OR, for the really raving railfan, standing on the ballast to hand up to Southern 4501 or 611----"Yer train's a-lookin' good on the South side, OOH-VER" while Mr. Ambrose, whistled at me goin' by, waving. "Awrite, Mr Operator, thankee---we're on our way, boys!" OR----deadheading on the engines to some assignment. And that doesn't even account for the years I spent at the Shops. Sometimes it was VERY hard work. There, again, I was able to see/work with the machines: track liners, Tampers, Kershaw Ballast Regulators, tie handlers, cranes, and knew many of the parts by heart. And, whether, you are a rail buff or not, it kinda gets into your system, this culture, the methods, the language of the railroad all its own. You become part of a rich history.

So for those who are considering a career in railroading, it IS worth it, Rough, but worth it! College can't hurt, and if your major is more or less mechanical, it is a good thing. I didn't complete college, either, but I was lucky enough to find my way onto the Southern Railway, then Norfolk Southern (after merger) and spent the remaining part of my working life there. If you can separate the "hobby" aspects of railroading from that of profession, you can do well there. This is the mistake that many people make when saying, "I always wanted to work on the railroad". They come to it as if it were a toy, and that's just not true. It is gritty, life-interrupting, all-compassing (at times) and certainly not a hobby! It is DANGEROUS and you must remain alert and do your job while obeying the rules. OTH, it is interesting and rewarding. And despite its drawbacks, I wouldn't change it for the world. I'm proud of my railroad connection. Now "MARK ME OFF ONE DAY ONLY" ;)

FJ[/quote]

Great post, I have read similar posts from other folks both railroad and non-rails from various sites, who retired after many years of working there craft. They say it goes by fast..lol 27 more years for me will give me 35 . Although I got on at 29, I think thats good some of these folks who get on at 18, 19, 20 and go to 62,65 ooohhweeeee... Congrats on a long career sir[/quote]


It seemed like a l-o-o-o-o-o-n-g time to me, too! Like it would never get "here". I also hired out at age 30 which was just enough to give me the 360 service credits if I stuck it out for the entire tour. Alas, heart problems overtook me and I went out on disability at 24 years. Maybe the railroad gave me that AND the gray hair. Well I STILL have THAT. The hair, I mean. A little thin-ER than before. Maybe I PULLED some of it out working on the RR! LOL!

But, no..................with all the bad and what I know now, my lack of college, etc. If I were 30 again, and they asked me to go to work for Southern again. I would STILL not say "no". Yeah, I know: the barking trainmasters, the pressure, the schedules to adhere to, the funky work hours, the toll on one's life, I'd still do it. I'd be waking up at 5 AM to the ringing phone, "I have the 7 AM Agent's job at Kannapolis (NC), will you protect?" Yeah, I'll protect! To you and I that know the lingo, that is Call Clerk's language for "Will you show up and work the job"! :) Its strange to hate a job and yet remember it with fondness as the years take one towards that final "Yard" in the sky. But that's the railroad for ya! And them durn railroad so 'n so's KNOW it, too! Buncha yahoos.....................! ;)

I suppose college might have helped in my case and maybe I would've been one of "them". But, OTH, somehow I "knew" from the age of 10 that I might work for the railroad. From the time my Dad used to drop me off at the Salisbury, NC station (it's still there in and use) where I would watch the trains while he went to get chicken feed (we had a chicken farm on the side)...I kinda "knew". For the next 20 years I floundered around at various jobs, figuring that that railroad stuff was just childish curiousity. I wasn't "really" a train buff in the truest sense, but I liked machinery of all sorts. I went to college, but I didn't know what I wanted to do or for what purpose I was going. I dropped out after a year w/ no degree. But there was jusssssssssst this little "thing" that kept popping up in my subconscious. When things didn't work out for me by 1976, I needed something, but what? And then the American Freedom Train came to town and I KNEW while riding that train on a Saturday as a lark with a friend. The rest is history. I had a GOAL. And that was to work for Southern Railway. Hired on the first try, first interview. It was for a laborer! But it was a START! Dirty, filthy, greasy dirt monkey, I was! But I didn't care! I knew what I was supposed to do. And it went from there. Laborer, clerk, Extra Board, Agent, Demurrage, Cashier, Crew Hauler, Block Operator and so on.

College or no, I did it. And, looking back, damn proud of it!
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Re: College or Railroad conductor?

Postby Desertdweller » Sun Oct 13, 2013 11:21 am

GF,

I think we both made the right career choice.

I also think that young people are pressured to make career choices way too early. My grandchildren are being asked to make career choices in junior high school!
The idea is that they can then be channeled into an educational track that will help prepare them for higher education to help make their career goal. That would make sense if a child that age would be able to make a sensible career goal. But there is no evidence that is the case, and the children get no preparation to help them make a choice like that.

It should be no surprise, then, that young people are entering college without clear career goals, or even knowing what their major should be. Add to this the thinking that a college degree is worth pursuing for its own sake, and you get people like you and me. I'm not sorry I went to college, but as long as I was there, I should have studied subjects that would have helped me more in my chosen career.

Les
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Re: College or Railroad conductor?

Postby COEN77 » Mon Oct 14, 2013 9:44 am

Furthering an education one must have a valid plan. Most don't that's why there's a problem with repaying college loans. Even manufacturing jobs today require furthering an education because of technology mostly in technical schools not a university. Manufacturers don't want to spend the time & money for extended OJT. Reports show that 300,000 good paying manufacturing jobs are available but no one is qualified that's troubling. Most only require a year to a year and a half schooling. I think our primary level education system is out of whack. There should be more of an emphasis on directing students towards an actual goal not everyone is college material. We should invest in more trade schools geared for todays technology not the same old auto mechanics, carpentry, brick layer ect...which are all good but not realistic. Schools haven't kept up with the times. It's been 43 years since I went to high school visiting the county trade school recently to possibly take some night hobby courses I noticed they're still teaching to high schoolers the same thing they were in 1971.

I never regretted my decision to hire on with the railroad it was a great carreer. I hired on a little over 3 years after my discharge from the military. Before that I continued my education through the GI Bill. Even in 1976 an advanced education didn't gaurentee a good job.
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Re: College or Railroad conductor?

Postby GE45tonner » Mon Oct 14, 2013 9:54 am

Unfortunetly, in America's public schools working class jobs are indirectly discouraged. Often kids will get a sheet with 10 jobs, and'll they'll have to circle the one they want. Closest thing I've seen was a carpenter or plummer, that was it. The truth is. There are only so many college level jobs. Kids coming outta college are more likely to end up on the railroad or similar professions.
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Re: College or Railroad conductor?

Postby gp80mac » Mon Oct 14, 2013 2:36 pm

COEN77 wrote:Reports show that 300,000 good paying manufacturing jobs are available but no one is qualified that's troubling.


I wonder about those reports. I think a lot of the times the companies just use the excuse of not finding the "right" candidate to justify not hiring anybody. Or they want someone with 10+ yrs experience, and 15+ qualifications just so they can offer them an awesome wage of $9 per hour. Or hire someone just to lay them off the second they can manage to squeak by (barely) without that person on the payroll.

No wonder people go to the railroad.

Disclaimer - I did go to college and have a degree. That was almost 10 ears ago. Hindsight being what it is, I should have tried to hire out with the railroad that much sooner. My degree wasn't completely worthless, as it helped me get this job, and a subsequent job within the industry, but to use that degree to its fullest, I would have had to go to grad school to get at least a master's. Starting "Adult life" with $50-100K in debt didn't sound fun, so here I am.
Yep.....
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