To Degree, Or Not To Degree?
To Degree, or Not To Degree is a question that I found myself contemplating shortly after I finished x-ray school. I had just graduated from my local community college with an Associates in Applied Sciences degree, and passed my Registry exam when the idea of continuing on with my education crept into my head.
My initial thoughts were that although I enjoyed x-ray, I knew that spending my career in x-ray was not something that I wanted to do. There isn’t anything wrong with spending a career in x-ray, I just knew that either CT or MR seemed more appealing to me in the long term and I was also considering pursuing positions in leadership or education. So I began to debate on whether or not I should go back to school and receive my bachelor’s degree, while also obtaining a certification in MR or CT. On the one hand, I could enroll into a program, complete the course work and clinicals, and take my registry within 18 months and begin working. On the other hand, I knew I had at least 2 years and a lot of $$$ to spend before I began working if I obtained a bachelor’s. In looking at the pros and cons of each scenario, I couldn’t decide which way to go, so I reached out to my x-ray professor for his advice on what I should do. His advice was simple and to the point, “If it is something you are willing to do, I am always going to advocate for more education. It never hurts to have a degree and extra initials after your name”. And with that, I was on my way to a bachelor’s.
It was that decision that led me on the path to where I am today, writing this blog post! If I could go back and give some advice to myself when I was considering my options, my advice really wouldn’t be any advice at all. I would ask myself a series of questions to make me think about what it is that I truly want, and to guide me to what it is that I was seeking.
What is the goal or outcome you want to achieve in your career? What are the conceivable paths to reach that outcome? What are you willing to do to get there? Where do you see yourself in 20 years? These questions are intended to help you to find your destination or desired career outcome, and reverse engineer the process for how you got there. If I know I am currently sitting at A, but my desired outcome is to get to D, I know that I will need to get through B and C to reach my destination. It doesn’t really matter if your goals change along the way, what matters is that you have intentionally set yourself on a path to reach a goal.
For me, I knew healthcare administration and education were two areas that I would want to pursue in the future and that a bachelor’s degree would help me to achieve my goal. It is possible to move up the ladder and be given opportunities with experience, but that isn’t the route that I chose. I chose to obtain my degree while working, which helped to enhance the real world experience I was receiving each time I clocked in. This worked in my favor when applying for leadership positions, because I had the formal education and could speak to what I learned in school and how I applied it my experiences at work. Ultimately, I believe that it was the combination of my bachelor’s and master’s degrees that allowed me to move into leadership roles faster than if I had not pursued the degrees. The key to this was leveraging the skills and education that I had, so that when an opportunity presented itself I was in a position to take advantage.
But the path best suited for you, may not be the path best suited for me. One of the most beautiful things about our profession is the inherent flexibility that exists within it. You can enjoy a wonderful and fulfilling career as an x-ray technologist and retire a very happy person. Or you can move around from modality to modality until you find one that’s just right, you can obtain advanced degrees and pursue positions of leadership in a healthcare organization, or you can become an educator and train the future of the profession. The path is truly yours to pave and the outcome of a successful career can manifest itself in many different ways. Choosing a career in Radiology is like stepping through a doorway into a hall of doors, each with their own unique opportunity behind them. Obtaining the RT (R) creates a situation where you have full control over your career path and personal and professional growth. Whether you choose to pursue a degree or not, think about your career trajectory and the best way for you to get there. Know your desired outcomes first, then engineer a course to getting there second. So the question is not “To Degree or Not To Degree”, it is “what do I want to do with my career, and what is the best way for me to get there?”.