Education In Pursuit of a Dream or Money

I never studied at college what I wanted. I chose my majors based on my future earning potential. Sadly, my education was not motivated by love for knowledge, natural curiosity and love of intellectual pursuits. My education was always motivated by financial gain.

Even though I had a dream of becoming a writer and joining the literary and intellectual elite, money was my stimulus. I viewed education as a valuable asset that would increase my chances of finding a higher paying job. I viewed it as an investment, and never a fulfilled dream.

I studied what I had to in order to survive, to get a job, make good money, establish a career.  In the ideal world, I would love to study Russian Literature and, transfer my knowledge and interpretation of famous literary works to my students. It never happened.

In Lithuania I chose to study Library Science. You are probably wondering what financial gain was in majoring in Library Science. First, it was the easiest way to learn the Lithuanian language. My mother tongue was Russian. In the early nineties, when Lithuania declared independence, the Lithuanian language was declared the official language. You simply did not have a choice but to learn it. Second, to find a good job, besides mastering the Lithuanian language, you had to have a higher education diploma. Our new country loved educated people.

I could not get into prestigious majors such as English language and Journalism because that would have required a substantial bribe that my family could not afford. I settled on Library Science, and graduated with a Master’s Degree. I never worked in libraries. Instead, I got a job with a small business company that propelled my career and caused marital trouble. 

A few years later, I moved to the United States. You most likely heard the expression “history repeats itself.” In my case, it was again money and a potential well-paying job that motivated my pursuit of an education. I figured that after five successful years in business, I was not going to choose a library as my career in the Unites States. I never worked in one, and, even though, I loved libraries and books, the idea of being a librarian never attracted me.

Money can be a very powerful motivator, especially when you are in a foreign country, trying to figure out how to build your new life. I am not a gold-digger. I always rely on myself and no one else to achieve stability and security in life.

My plan was simple: I had to learn English, and from my past experience I knew that taking college classes is the best and fastest way to learn a new language. However, I encountered two main issues with an education in the U.S.. I had to pay a lot of money that I did not have. The absence of funds led me to the idea of getting good grades, applying for all possible scholarships, getting a job as soon as I could and, acquiring student loans. The second big problem was to have a plan to pay off those student loans after I’ve got my education.

So here I was, in a country that offered so much and required a lot in return. I could finally pursue my dream of being a writer or a journalist. But would my writing pay off my student debt? I had my doubts. In the end, I’ve got myself a Master’s in Accounting, just to be sure that my future paycheck would be enough to cover my bills.

I never gave up on my dream to become a writer. I am still pursuing it. In the meantime, I have a great job and career that pays my bills. Sometimes it is intellectually satisfying. Sometimes it is emotionally draining. I call it life.

 If you do have a degree, what was your drive in choosing it? 

35 thoughts on “Education In Pursuit of a Dream or Money”

  1. It’s sad that we can’t really pursue exactly what we want. I think the silver lining is that you are becoming a writer everyday you blog. It might not be literature yet but your life is far from over. This is the stage and here you are doing it. Continue and let life take you down roads that are far better than you imagined.

    1. Blogging is a great writing outlet for me. I think I crave it like I crave French pastries. 🙂

  2. My drive for my degrees was/is definitely motivated by money. I wish it wasn’t, but I’m not interested in any other degrees. Unless of course there is a degree that is all about traveling and laying on beaches 🙂

  3. My dream was Psychology. I took one year of it, grew up, and went for practicality. I’m a business major now, and I’m making way more than I’d be able to in psychology (I didn’t want to get a PHD). I think at some point, my adult brain kicked in and told me I had to be able to make money in this world. On the bright side I really do love my major – that was a lucky coincidence though.

    1. You should’ve chosen Psychiatry. I am sure psychiatrists make good money. Probably better than business majors.

  4. Hmmm, interesting you knew then that you pursued education for money!

    I enjoyed economics and finance, and also enjoyed making money after my crappy jobs in High School. In my case, the major and desire to make a good living was more inline I guess.

    1. Oh yes, all decisions about my education were money driven. I did not pursue my dream. Do I regret? Not really because I like my lifestyle. And I still have a dream! 🙂

  5. This is very true. As a young child, my parents always told me that education = success, and success = money, but ONLY IF you choose the “right career.” Well, what your parents want is not necessarily, most of the time isn’t, what you want. I had a lot of trouble finding my passion and fighting against my parents for what I wanted. I wanted to be a dentist, they wanted me to be an engineer. I was an engineering major during my first year of college then I had to fail just for them to realize it wasn’t for me. I had to prove to them that I knew what I was doing, and that I was doing what I wanted. They finally accepted it, but I will never forget that money is the #1 motivating factor in choosing my major/career path. It still is actually.

  6. I wish I had gone to college with a little more thought into how my degree would help me make money. I went with the knowledge that just having a degree – regardless of what it was in – would be an automatic money maker in the future. My parents didn’t care what my degree was in as long as I got one, and when I went to college the main point was to finish ASAP so as to save my parents money.

    Unfortunately a degree in English Language and Literature doesn’t do much for ones finances. My husband’s college experience was the same – as long a he went to college his parents didn’t care. He never finished his French horn/dance/music degree – which is probably a good thing because then he would never have gotten into a career he not only loves but can make money at rather than being a starving musician.

    We plan on trying to guide our boys into degrees that will not only be useful, as well as give them the means and encouragement to study what they’re interested in as well. My MIL has a major in music and a minor in math – so at least one was helpful in her career and one fueled her passions. I think that is the way to go.

    1. Interesting story. What do you do with a dance degree? Teach? Teaching can be very rewarding, however it is also grossly underpaid. It would be great to combine a dream and career. It happens, though.

  7. Interesting! I did a film degree so I definitely knew if I wanted to pursue a career in that field I’d probably be broke for the rest of my life. But I loved it and wouldn’t give up those experiences and the education I got for the world. My parents always told me it usually doesn’t matter what type of degree you get because most people get one degree but end up doing something completely different as a career (proof in the pudding, I’ve got a film degree but work in ad sales now).

  8. I chose my major based on what I was interested in; dietetics. I think even if you pick something you love and dream of doing one day, you could still be disappointed. I know I was! I had a very different ideal of what my major would be like. I had no idea that the bulk of the jobs I could land (after receiving a Master’s) were in the hospital. I never wanted to work in the hospital–I was very naive and young.

    I’m so glad you are so independent and smart, Aloysa. I wish that I were more so. I rely on my husband, who I know loves me and would do anything for me, but what if something ever happened to him? What then? I should work on this! That’s all I will say. Thanks for sharing your story! I always enjoy how REAL you are!

    1. It is good to rely on your husband, but life might change on a dime and then what? You need a plan B, seriously. 🙂 It is like having an emergency fund for a rainy day.

  9. As a kid and adolescent, I had a keen interest in chemistry. When I went to college, I decided to enroll in the chemical engineering curriculum instead of chemistry. Unfortunately for me, I learned over the course of 4 very challenging years that I don’t like engineering. All of my chemistry courses I loved, and all of my chem eng courses I hated. But I opted for chem eng because I figured–correctly–that it’s a lot more marketable and has higher earning potential than straight chemistry. But I screwed up. I persevered through undergrad chem eng school, but by the end I knew I did not want to work as a chemical engineer. So I really shot myself in the foot by following the dollar. Instead I went straight to grad school and earned an MBA-Finance concentration. By doing that, I salvaged my undergrad education and have done well since. I never did work as a chem engineer.

  10. Choosing a degree is something that should be done wisely because you may end up pursuing a degree which later you end up realizing that you don’t even like, and changing to pursue another one will be costly and you have wasted a lot of time also.

  11. I originally was a Management major because I loved business but switched to accounting after realizing that management majors are generally viewed as a joke and really won’t get you into management. Accounting has been great to me but I switched to it because I was good and I knew I could get a job from it. It worked.

    1. I cringe when people say that they are Management major. It does not mean anything, really. Accounting, on the other hand, teaches you specific skills. 🙂

  12. Aloysa, you are a writer! And a fantastic one at that.

    Work is work. Even work you love. I love writing, and write for a living, but it’s not always fun. Sometimes it’s tedious. I also love editing, but again, while I love seeing the finished, polished result, the actual hard yakka is a drag.

    Writing is a better hobby than a career IMO ( but there will always be people who want to earn their crust through writing – I just think that like with many other ‘glamorous’ fields (film/TV for example) there are lots of misconceptions about the realities.

    1. Thank you so much for your nice, great, inspiring and motivating words. Readers like you make me want to improve, and be a better writer. Thank you!

  13. Even though I lived most of my life in the UK (my parents were first generation immigrants)and had the opportunity to go to univeristy I did not. I lacked confidence and my parents had such a chaotic approach to parenting and adjusting to a new country that education was not encouraged.
    In my 30’s I decided to get an education. I did a variety of short courses in all the subjects I was interested in: Creative Writing, Psychology, Philosophy & Sociology.
    Money was never the motivator as I love learning for it’s own sake. I was never well paid as a result of my education and I never recived any accolades. Education is much de-valued when money does not follow as a result of it.
    I now work in Education Administration and am a learning mentor. It is not well paid but I find it immensely rewarding. I believe I have the natural ability to impart knowledge regardless of how much I’m paid for it. I pass on love and receive it back in bucketloads….it’s the greatest feeling in the world!

    1. It is wonderful to be able to do something that rewarding. I am more of a money person. Even though a reward is nice, and challenge is great, I still need a stable and a good paycheck.

  14. I went into business simply because I loved the idea of it. I had dreams of running a big company, which didn’t transpire after I graduated, but I did put it to use and have built a pretty solid career. I aligned my education with my technical savvy and have always been in the IT area. It’s served me well.

    1. It is funny how we all hope to change if not the world, at least something in it, and end up building quite trivial careers.

  15. I actually did think of my earning potential when choosing my career, but I also thought about enjoyment. I did enjoy what I studied, hopefully some of it will relate. I got my undergrad in Global Business, and my Master’s in Supply Chain Management. My Master’s increased my earning potential by 50%. This is based on salary offers received before and after my graduate degree.

  16. I was the exact opposite from you; I was passionate about the liberal arts (specifically history and religion, and watch out when you combine the two – NERD ALERT!), so that’s what I studied. In some ways, I’ve always wondered if that was a mistake, since my history degree really doesn’t pay you for anything… but I always look back at my college classes and have fond memories of how much I enjoyed learning about the world and my role in it.

    1. History and religion? I bet it was quite interesting to study. Religion never interested me but history…

  17. I guess I kind of had the best of both worlds. I have always been passionate about health care and because it is an essential service it pays well and there is job security. Between both those reasons, I went into health care and I love it. It is very rewarding, at least most days, and it is always interesting. My schooling has definitely been worth it.

  18. I chose my major because I wanted to escape poverty and enter the middle class. And stay there. I get angry when people criticize me for choosing to study for something that wasn’t even a passion. But I like my lifestyle and only wish people in this country would truly know how it is like to struggle.

    1. I can understand you very well. I did the same for exactly the same reasons. There is nothing wrong with it.

  19. Wow, that’s a really interesting story. I originally went for money. Then after I stopped and reassessed, I went for my dream. It’s taken me a while to complete school, though, because I refuse to get into debt over it as I know what my salary expectations will be.

    1. Very interesting. I truly admire people who go and pursue their dream. I simply cannot afford it. 🙂

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