June 15, 2017

Investing In Your Own Human Capital

By Dr. Stephen Craft

Guest Column, published May 17, 2017 in the Shelby County Reporter


Careers have changed. Prior generations valued long term employment with one organization. Now staying too long with one employer raises concerns as to whether someone can adapt to a new culture. Although it is still important to network face-to-face, your next career opportunity is just as likely to come through LinkedIn as from your cousin’s friend.


The practice of “moonlighting” (understood to mean working a second job often without the knowledge or approval of the primary employer) was frowned upon and generally limited to blue collar employment. Now the “gig economy” has professionals proudly sporting multiple affiliations with multiple business cards.


I recently met a development director/closet designer/dance instructor. The idea of “freelancing,” which was often used as a euphemism for being unemployed, has never held more cultural cachet. The key to making the freelance, multiple-employer, gig economy work for you is to be constantly building the value of your own human capital.


At every age and career stage, the financial return on achievements in higher education is enormous. According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce’s analysis of Current Population Survey (CPS) data, the recovery years of 2010-2014 saw the U.S. economy producing as many as 250,000 new jobs per month. The study further shows that 97 percent of the good jobs (loosely defined as earning over $50K and including health and retirement benefits) went to candidates with college degrees.


The college degree is increasingly the required credential to build and maintain a middle-class lifestyle. This is not to discount other forms of human capital. We all know successful people without a college degree and it is still possible to be successful as an entrepreneur or tradesman. However, the odds are increasingly against you if you do not have at least a bachelor’s degree.


Get a college degree, but don’t stop with the bachelor’s degree. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, earning a master’s degree such as an MBA can add $1,000,000 in additional earnings over a career.


Even mid-career professionals see significant value investing in an advanced degree. A mid-career student of mine in the University of Montevallo’s MBA program recently reported being promoted upon completing the master’s program. Her significant salary jump more than paid for the program costs.


Consider that the MBA program at the University of Montevallo Stephens College of Business can be completed in as little as one year with total program tuition just over $12,000. The program, offered in Pelham and at distance, is fully accredited by AACSB International.


If investing $12,000 to get a $1,000,000 return does not sound like a worthy return, then business school is probably not for you. Whatever your career interests and academic background, there are always opportunities to invest in yourself. Find every opportunity to learn and seize as many as you can manage.

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