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Grad School or Lower Paying Job?
Old 12-30-2007, 09:44 PM   #1
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Grad School or Lower Paying Job?

My wife and I sat down the other day and went over our "financial plan." I am in the military and she is working on finishing her Bachelors this year while we have 2 school age kids (9,7)

Because of my career, we move around a lot and she has had to take most of her classes online. The plan is for her to start Grad school for Speech Pathology next year for three years and a chunk of change in loans.

Here's the hitch:

We are living fine and saving on my income alone now and she brought up the idea of skipping grad school and working as a teacher instead. This would shave 3 years off of school and we would virtually start investing all of her income.

Teacher = $36k Year
Speech Pathologist = $50k + student loans

The other catch is that because of my career, we move usually every three years, this would make it harder for any tenure and possible job opportunities if we moved to an area where jobs were not as abundant.

I told her that the Grad Degree would be better long term and because of her experience and background, it is a better fit for her personality. Plus our kids will soon be teenagers wanting cars and $20 every time they walk out the door.

Did any of you make this same decision?
Any Regrets?
Any Advice?

Lance
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Old 12-30-2007, 10:00 PM   #2
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IMHO she should look broadly at the health care professions then pick the one that works best for her (financially and abilities). She would have few problems finding a job even with all your moves, maybe even one in the military health care system. Also, odds are there are more opportunities for flex hours in a health care career than teaching.

Which program offered the best return on her post grad educational expenses I can't answer, but there may be special programs for skill sets in high demand. [Years ago pharmacists were a dime a dozen, now they are in very short suppy and often demand their employers pick up part of the tab for their school debt.]
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Old 12-30-2007, 10:17 PM   #3
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You did not say how much in loans.... makes a big difference...

And could she do the grad school and STILL teach... my sister did that as summer classes and maybe one class a semester will get you there, just not as fast...

Remember teaching has a lot of time off, so the salary might be about the same per day or hour... check it out..

AND.... my biggest comment... WHAT DOES SHE WANT I would hate to think she is doing either if she does not like it, but there is a teacher burn out that is real even if my sister taught 41 years...
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Grad school or...
Old 12-30-2007, 10:44 PM   #4
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Grad school or...

As a teacher on the verge of retirement, I say be careful -- I followed my military and then business career husband all over, and every state gives you hassles when you move as to getting certified. Many preach reciprocity but there is always at least one or several "catches", which makes one wonder about the so called "teacher shortage" -- it exists only in the places where no one wants to teach. Otherwise, it is amazing how unwelcoming it can be for transferring teachers. That said, I still managed to carve out a decent career but had to bust my fanny to make it work. I will soon retire from teaching in Connecticut and earn a very good salary now, but I paid my dues and then some. I would advise that, unless DW really loves teaching, she would be better off in a different field -- say business or health care. It is true that teaching affords lots of time off, but you end up doing a lot during that off time to maintain certification or qualify for advancement, and usually at your own expense. It is a fallacy that teaching is a 9 or 10 month job -- I do far more work in the evenings and on weekends than my husband, who earns 5 times what I make!! It has only been in the past few years that my summers are truly free, and even then I usually need to spend time doing some kind of preparation for the upcoming year. Bottom line -- think about all sides before deciding!
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Old 12-30-2007, 11:50 PM   #5
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First choice - do what you want to do. Which appeals to you?

Otherwise, the rule of thumb would be that if you can stay in one place for a career with one school district, teaching can be financially rewarding. If you're going to move frequently, there can be both certification issues and salary scale issues, as Dean mentioned above. Speech pathology specialists are in huge demand in our area and work for school districts like teachers and also for clinics, private practices, hospitals, charitable organizations such as Easter Seals, etc. There seems to be more employment flexibility.

But, again, since you'll be doing it for years, I'd pick the one I liked doing the most!

Edited to add: Oh yeah, DW the retired teacher just reminded me that you'll need the masters degree, and preferably masters plus 45 additional grad level hours, eventually in teaching or you'll stay down at the poverty level on the pay matrix.........
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Old 12-31-2007, 07:56 AM   #6
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There also will be certification/licensing issues for speech pathologists as you move from state to state, and as Dean said, reciprocity can be easy or hard.

I suspect that the demand for speech pathologists should increase as we have more elders who get strokes and need rehab - if she is interested in working with elders versus children (given her suggestion of teaching).

As others have said, what does she want to do and how much loan will you need at what rate and what repayment?
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Old 12-31-2007, 08:41 AM   #7
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Edited to add: Oh yeah, DW the retired teacher just reminded me that you'll need the masters degree, and preferably masters plus 45 additional grad level hours, eventually in teaching or you'll stay down at the poverty level on the pay matrix.........
Ii don't know where your DW teaches.... but down here a masters only got you about $1,000 more per year... not like you would be down in poverty if you did not get it...
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Old 12-31-2007, 04:02 PM   #8
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Ii don't know where your DW teaches.... but down here a masters only got you about $1,000 more per year... not like you would be down in poverty if you did not get it...

Illinois. Works differently here. Our school district capped you out at 7 years seniority if you only had your bachelors degree. That is, with only a bachelors degree, you got pay step 7 even if you had 20 years in. To move beyond pay step 7, you had to have bachelors plus 9 hours and so on and so forth until to move to pay step 20 you had to have masters plus 45 hours.

So, capped at pay step 7 (seven years of seniority) with a bachelors you'd earn $45,574 regardless of your actual seniority,say 20 years. If you have masters plus 45, at 20 years you'd earn $78,831 a difference of $33,262.

That's substantially more than the $1k delta there in Texas!

The pay difference when first hired (pay step 1) for a teacher with a masters is approximately $4k more than a teacher with a bachelor degree, closer to your $1k figure there in Texas.

My "poverty" comment was meant tougue in cheek and I should have added a "winky face." But, by 20 years seniority, the difference in pay between getting your masters plus 45 or staying at the bachelor degree level is a staggering $33k! Over a 30 or 35 year career, a masters plus 45 can mean $100k's of difference compared to sticking with a bachelor degree.

Edited to add: Please, let's not turn this into a teacher pay thread. My comments were only intended to help OP understand that if his DW chooses the teacher path with her bachelor degree, it may well be worth it for her to pursue her masters. At least in Illinois, not necessarily in Texas, according to your $1k figure.
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Old 12-31-2007, 04:16 PM   #9
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Youbet....

That IS a huge difference and well worth the money to get the degree...

My sister got hers to become a reading specialist so she could work longer (got tired of the classroom)...

It might be more down here now, but when she taught it was not...


Edit... decided to look it up and it is not much different now...

Master's Degree Stipends

Sixty-one percent of districts (452) pay stipends to teachers with master's degrees. Most districts (90 percent) pay a single-rate stipend above the local base salary schedule. The average master's degree stipend in these districts is $1,119.
  • Ninety-three percent of responding districts with more than 3,000 students pay stipends to teachers with master's degrees.
  • All districts with more than 25,000 students pay master's degree stipends.
  • The Texas Education Agency (TEA) reported that 21.7 percent of teachers in the state hold a master's or doctorate degree (2005-06 State Academic Excellence Indicator System Report).
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Old 12-31-2007, 04:38 PM   #10
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Wow! What a difference in compensation philosophy! In Texas, it would not financially pay to do graduate work. Your only motivation would be to qualify to do something you consider more desireable, as your sister did.

In Illinois, (at least in our school district) you'd have to be missing a couple of french fries in your happy meal to not do graduate work as they not only pay a stipend for graduate hours but cap your seniority pay without graduate work.

Don't know which is right or wrong, better or worse, but they sure are different! Thanks for mentioning the difference when you saw my comment. I had no idea.

BTW, I'm surprised that such a high percentage (21.7%) of the Texas education work force holds master or Phd's given the low financial reward for doing so!

Edited to add: Just noticed that in Texas the stipend is above base salary schedule and there is no cap on seniority. In our district, the difference, given the same pay step is about $4k. It's the capping of seniority, if you don't earn grad hours, that results in the real pay difference by career's end, not so much the stipend.
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Old 12-31-2007, 05:05 PM   #11
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I'd say forget the numbers and do what you WANT to do. A few years before retirement I was working on a MS in Information Systems, thinking to leverage law enforcement/computer forensics into a nice six+ figure job with a defense contractor as many others have done. I'd get home from work and have the home PC booting up as I changed clothes, then be on that for several hours.

In January 1999 my mother died, the following July my wife's mother died, and I thought "I am spending WAY too much time in front of a computer screen". Wife was stressed at her job, I was frustrated at the bureaucracy and traffic, so we bailed. Had we stayed our income would be over $300K by now but we don't regret the decision one bit. Both of our families say we're a lot more relaxed than ever so for us it was the right move.

Your mileage may vary.

By the way, when I was a teenager and wanted money my Dad told me to get off my ass and earn it. So I got a job at a gas station pumping gas (remember those days?). It was an incentive for me to go to college - in those days I was a lot of things but "student" was not one of them. There was a guy about 60 years old there pumping gas too and that scared the hell out of me.

So maybe it wouldn't be a bad thing for your kids when they're teenagers to be told to earn their own money.
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Old 12-31-2007, 05:59 PM   #12
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so maybe it wouldn't be a bad thing for your kids when they're teenagers to be told to earn their own money.
That certainly is the plan. Developing a healthy work ethic young. But we are still starting to see a rise in just basic costs: Sports, Lessons, Clothing.
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Old 12-31-2007, 06:08 PM   #13
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I think youbet's comment really hit home.

As a speech pathologist, my wife could get hired us a DA Civilian. USAjobs has listings all over the US starting at GS-11/13. I think this would make it easier for her to transition from post to post.

Also, my wife brought up that she could probably work part time freelance as a Speech Pathologist and make the same salary as a full time teacher.

Helping other people is where her heart is and she already has an extensive background working with the deaf and hard of hearing. She is also very patient and extremely unselfish which I keep telling her are necessary traits for Speech Pathology.

I think see is just not looking forward to 3 more years of school but in the long run it will pay off.
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Old 12-31-2007, 06:53 PM   #14
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I think Speech Pathology is the way to go, without a doubt!

She has the passion for the field, there is strong long term demand and good pay, and it is more flexible geographically - particularly if she works in the military health care system.
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Old 12-31-2007, 09:12 PM   #15
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I think youbet's comment really hit home.

As a speech pathologist, my wife could get hired us a DA Civilian. USAjobs has listings all over the US starting at GS-11/13. I think this would make it easier for her to transition from post to post.

Also, my wife brought up that she could probably work part time freelance as a Speech Pathologist and make the same salary as a full time teacher.

Helping other people is where her heart is and she already has an extensive background working with the deaf and hard of hearing. She is also very patient and extremely unselfish which I keep telling her are necessary traits for Speech Pathology.

I think see is just not looking forward to 3 more years of school but in the long run it will pay off.
I am a physical therapist, and I work per diem (about 20 hours a week, no benefits). My hourly rate is much more than it would be working as a full-time PT, and it is significantly more since I transitioned from outpatients to working in a nursing home. FYI, the demand for working in geriatrics is very high, and I would expect it to continue for some time. I would imagine the situation is very similar for speech therapists.

We travel a lot too (for my husband's job), and I've never had difficulty finding a job. You do have to pay fees/apply for licensure in each state. I have found the process to not be too difficult; just some paperwork (lengthy at times) and some money! If she worked for the military this might all be paid for, and she may not even have to be licensed in each individual state. Not sure though...you'd have to check on that.

I would suggest your wife go shadow some local speech path's to really get an idea of what they do. Seems like a good career choice to me. I like being a PT, but it's a tough job to do as you age. There can be a fair amount of lifting if working in acute care or geriatrics, and if working in outpatients there are repetitive stress injuries to the hands/arms (i.e. if you do a lot of manual therapy). An ST doesn't seem to have these physical demands, and thus it appears to be a career that is gentler on the body, and you can do longer.

Good luck in deciding!
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Old 01-01-2008, 01:12 PM   #16
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Helping other people is where her heart is and she already has an extensive background working with the deaf and hard of hearing. She is also very patient and extremely unselfish which I keep telling her are necessary traits for Speech Pathology.
My hat is off to both of you!

My oldest grandson has cerebral palsy which affects his right side motor functions, including speech. I spend a half day each Wednesday with him at Easter Seals doing speech and physical therapy.

The skills, dedication, attitude and devotion of the therapists is wonderful and very appreciated by myself and the rest of the family.
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Old 01-02-2008, 08:26 AM   #17
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A friend of DW's is a speech pathologist. She followed her husband to a job in California from the East Coast, but is able to run her previously-established speech pathology business remotely. Although your wife doesn't have such a business as of yet, her skills will be in pretty high demand no matter where she goes. She will have far better career options and compensation if she pursues the speech pathology route.

One more thought. Speech pathology will likely be in demand among Baby Boomers who are suffering health problems (strokes, Parkinsons, etc...) She may find that this is a great long-term career path to pursue.
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