Work With Us | 901-878-9758

The Value of College

College is expensive. Private college is even more. My undergraduate school is now charging approximately $50,000 per year, just for tuition. Assuming you’re paying of pocket, that’s two hundred thousand dollars for a four-year degree, not including room and board.

I love my college, but this is bananas. The idea that a student or parents are expected to come up with this much money for school is difficult to wrap the mind around.

The high cost of college makes you wonder what the money is for. College is more than a finishing school. It’s more than a place to learn about history. It will set the foundation for your future professional career.

To facilitate this career, many colleges offer a career resources center. But, they are typically opt-in. In other words, career resources isn’t a priority.

If finding a job is the ultimate goal, why doesn’t every college offer a mandatory class about just this topic? Along with history, math, and writing, why isn’t there a class in how to get a job? After all, we spend four years learning the skills we need to do the job. Why not have a course in how to get that job?

It seems simple. Universities could use leverage existing career resources staff, or they could find outside coaches or professionals. Fundamentals might include elevator pitch, resume writing, and professional networking.

If students knew how to get a job, they would be more likely to land one upon graduation. They very well might make more money, and in turn, the school would become more valuable. If your school already has a program like this, that’s excellent news. But, sadly, most of the students I speak to don’t have such a course.

If you are evaluating where you want to go to college (or graduate school), consider this. Most schools publish what’s called a post-graduation report. You can typically find it through a straight forward internet search such as “post-graduation report for Harvard University.” This report will typically share information, including: which industries graduates work in, which companies hire graduates, where graduates live geographically, and how much graduates make.

The how much graduates make portion is important. Graduates from certain colleges (or with certain degrees) make much more (or much less) than other graduates. This is real. Companies will very often pay a graduate from a pricey school more than one from another school. Or, they will pay graduates with science or computer backgrounds more than those with art or history backgrounds. This may seem intuitive, but the post-graduation report outlines it clearly.

The next question is – will this education have a good return on investment? Education is an investment. It’s an investment in future income. Fortunately, there are ROI calculators online that can help think through this process. At the end of the day, the college and major you select may be influenced by the ROI of the degree.

Angela Copeland, a career coach and founder of Copeland Coaching, can be reached at

My Choice to Go to Graduate School

A very difficult decision we often face as professionals is whether or not to pursue a MBA, PhD, or some other terminal degree. I hear from professionals each week that are wading through this important choice. One of the things that makes this decision tough is that many graduate programs prefer that you have work experience. That means that by the time you’re thinking of going to graduate school, you might have a good paying job, a spouse, a mortgage, and kids.

I want to share a little with you today about how I decided to go to graduate school. My hope is that the thought process may help you to sort through your own complex decision making process.

For starters, I suspected in undergraduate school that I wanted to pursue a MBA. The thing is, my major in college was computer and systems engineering, with a concentration in manufacturing. My degree was like a combination of computer programming, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering.

The problem was, I started to think I might want to pursue a career in another field, like marketing. This was especially tough because hiring managers rarely thought of me for anything outside of technology back then. I remember being invited to interview for an engineering management role with Motorola. I agreed to the interview, if they would also allow me to interview with the marketing managers. But, my interest in marketing alone really wasn’t enough. I needed more credentials.

I considered the idea of going to business school right after college. But, I did a little research. When I spoke to other professionals, I learned that having business experience under my belt would give me a better foundation for my MBA studies. It would give me experience to pull from during class discussions. And honestly, it would give me a few years to confirm that business school was the right route for me (before investing time and money into it).

So, then what? Well, I needed to decide where to go – and what kind of program I was interested in.

When it comes to the type of program, there are a few options. Some programs allow you to study online while others allow you to go in person. When it comes to business school, a big part of the value you gain is through the real life connections you make. And, at least for me, in person learning is typically better than online. So, I knew I wanted to be in an in person program.

Then, I had to decide if I wanted to study part-time, or go back to school full-time. Going back full-time typically requires you to quit your job to focus on school. For me, this was the best option. I wanted to focus completely on my studies. And, I wanted to finish my program in a reasonable amount of time. Studying full-time allowed me to complete my MBA in 15-months. If I had been a part-time student, this may have taken years.

Next, I decided what sort of concentration I wanted to have. I decided that I wanted a concentration in entrepreneurial management. I also wanted a program that was heavy in marketing options. And, I wanted a program that values giving back to the community. On top of these requirements, I was interested to go to a school that was near where technology related things were happening – in California. I was going through this process around 2003, so this list quickly narrowed my choices down. Entrepreneurial management in particular was hard to come by back then because it was still a new discipline for business schools.

Once I had my list of schools ready, I started to look up data on their programs. It’s almost like looking up reliability statistics on a car before you buy it. Long story short, not every MBA is worth the same amount of money. I looked at the rankings in US News & World Report. I looked up a report that’s called the ‘post-graduation report.’ Most schools publish these reports on their career site. They share how much money their graduates are making.

Then, I did an ROI calculation. Yes, you heard me right. A return on investment calculation. Business school is an investment. I compared the amount of salary I would give up (by quitting my job), along with the cost of school and living expenses – to the amount I would make after completing business school (or at least a decent estimate). I was only willing to pay a high tuition if I would end up making a high paycheck after graduation.

Alright, so that really narrowed down the schools. I ended up selecting Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.

Well, the last piece is this. How was I going to pay for the program? This was a tall order. I was in my early 20s and the thought of dropping over fifty thousand dollars on an additional degree was a big decision.

I worked for three years before going to graduate school. I lived cheaply, and was able to save around $1,000 per month for school. I stashed the money in a savings account. By the time I quit my job to go to school, I had saved over $30,000. To make up the extra money I needed for tuition and rent, I did two things. I asked the school for a scholarship, and I took out student loans.

Student loans are a hot topic these days. I won’t dive into all the pros and cons here. But, in my case, with a lot of research, they worked for me. They were low interest, and they allowed me to put myself through school.

So, what happened? Well, I graduated with my MBA in 15 months. Companies started to consider me for jobs outside of computer programming (like marketing). And, I was able to land job offers that were twice what I was making before graduate school.


For me, the decision to get my MBA was a good one. But, as I mentioned before… not every degree is created equal. The only way to make the right decision for you is to do lots of research. Calculate the return on investment. Talk to people. And, time it right. Don’t go too soon, or too late.

I know — it’s a lot to think about. But, it’s a big decision. Best of luck as you make yours. 🙂

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Visit to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on iTunes or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in iTunes or Stitcher.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland


145 | Millennial Job Seekers – Alissa Carpenter, Philadelphia, PA

Episode 145 is live! This week, we talk with Alissa Carpenter in Philadelphia, PA.

Alissa is the owner of Everything’s Not OK and That’s OK. She provides strengths based coaching and professional development training for individuals and teams, with a focus on Millennials.

On today’s episode, Alissa shares the biggest struggle young college graduates face. She also gives us tips on what to do if we have little work experience, what part of our high school education should be included on our resume, and whether or not you should consider going back to graduate school.

Listen and learn more! You can play the podcast here, or download it on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

To learn more about Alissa, check out her website at You can also follow her on Twitter at @notokthatsok, and you can find her on Facebook at

Thanks to everyone for listening! And, thank you to those who sent me questions. You can send your questions to You can also send me questions via Twitter. I’m @CopelandCoach. And, on Facebook, I am Copeland Coaching.

Don’t forget to help me out. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts and leave me a review!

Graduate School: Money-maker or money-taker?

There’s one question that never goes away. “Should I go back to graduate school?”

This is an age old question, and it’s one that truly deserves careful thought and scrutiny. First, consider these questions.

Why do I want to go to graduate school? Am I going because I’m struggling to find a job and I believe a graduate degree will make all the difference? Am I going because I want to rebrand myself into a new career? Am I going because I want to increase my knowledge in one area, for the sake of learning?

Do I believe I should definitely make more money after I complete graduate school?

Will I need to quit my job to go to graduate school?

How long will it take to finish graduate school?

Where will I go?

What will I study?

Who will pay for graduate school, and how much will it cost?

If your answers to these questions leaned toward wanting to find a better job that pays more money, graduate school is a big decision for you. It’s not just about what you’ll learn. It’s an investment in your future.

And, as an investment, it should be treated as such. With any other investment, you measure return on investment. And, graduate school is no different!

Fortunately, there are many graduate school ROI calculators online to help. Here’s one from Learn Vest. The things you’ll need to take into consideration are current salary, expected age at retirement, cost of graduate school, and post graduate school salary.

So, how can you predict how much you’ll make after graduate school? A *great* predictor for how much you’ll make after graduate school is how much other graduates from your school made after graduate school. The best place to find this information is called a “post-graduation report.”

If you’ve never seen your school’s post-graduation report, you can usually find it on Google. Just type in something like “Harvard MBA post-graduation report.” Typically, the top search result will be a report that shares the average starting salaries of graduates from their program.

If you’re looking to make more money after graduation, it may be surprising to know – the school you study at will influence your next starting salary. In a quick search while writing this article, I found one MBA program with a starting salary of approximately $73,000 per year. I found another program with a starting salary of approximately $138,000 per year. That’s a huge difference! In fact, it’s almost double. It shows that not every degree is equal.

It doesn’t mean that you should go to the most expensive school, but it does mean that school is an investment. In the above case, the higher starting salary most likely also meant a higher tuition and higher student loans. It’s all about tradeoffs.

Before you decide whether or not to take the plunge, be sure you’ve answered all the questions above – and calculated the ROI for your graduate school’s program.

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Visit to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland


Should I go back to graduate school?

“Should I go back to graduate school?” This is a question many professionals wonder about each day. If you’ve struggled to find a new job in the difficult economy, you may be seriously considering it.

I challenge you to carefully weigh the pros and cons of graduate school before enrolling. It’s both expensive and time-consuming, so if you’re going to go, you want it to be for the right reasons.

If you’ve had trouble finding a new job, and think graduate school is your golden ticket to that perfect opportunity, think again. After graduating, you’ll find yourself going through the same process you are today: building your network, applying for jobs and interviewing. Contrary to popular belief, job offers will not pour in just because you have an additional piece of paper from another university.

Do a cost-benefit analysis of a graduate degree. Add up the total cost of your education, including salary you will forego while in school and the cost you’ll pay in tuition and expenses, such as books. How does the total cost compare to the increase in salary you expect to see after graduation?

If you want to go because you’re not sure of what you want to do with your life, look for another alternative. Graduate school is a very expensive way to figure out what it is you want to do. If you’re unsure, talk to professionals who work in the fields you’re interested in to learn about what they do. Look for an internship or volunteer opportunities to test the waters with less commitment.

Most of all, don’t go back just because society dictates that you should – or because mom and dad think it’s important. Society isn’t going to pay off your student loans, or stay up late at night to help you study.

On the flip side, there are a number of very good reasons to go back to graduate school. I went back 10 years ago and earned a Master of Business Administration. I did it because I was often pigeonholed with an undergraduate degree is in engineering, and wanted to move up in the ranks of management. I also knew that financially, the investment would pay off at future jobs. It opened doors that allowed me to grow my career.

Another great example of when a graduate degree makes sense is when you want to work in a profession like law or medicine. These are both examples of jobs that require advanced and highly specialized degrees. Without a medical degree, you can’t practice as a doctor.

If you’re still unsure if graduate school is for you, Google “grad school calculator.” You’ll find a number of sites that help with your own cost-benefit analysis. They’ll look at your current salary, the cost of graduate school and your expected future salary.

Whatever decision you make, be confident in your choice. Understand what you’ll give up and what you’ll get in return to ensure a positive experience, whichever direction you choose.

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland


Should you go back to school?


This is a question that comes up often, as it should. Education is important. We all learned that growing up. Whether or not to go back to school can be a tough choice.

On one hand, going back to school can feel like the “right” thing to do. You’re always supposed to be learning right? On the other, it’s expensive and time consuming.

To compound things, you’re not as young as you used to be. You have responsibilities like a spouse, children, a house, a job,… The list goes on and on.

I’ll be honest. The marketing higher education puts out bugs me a little. They’re selling a hope of a brighter future. If you’ve ever visited a fertility doctor, it reminds me of all the photos of babies on the walls. They’re selling hope. Hope that may or may not be fulfilled, due to a number of factors (like your age and how much money you have).

So, back to the question at hand… Should you go back to school?

The first question I have is this. Are you looking to get a second (or third) degree? Are you looking to finish a first degree? Or, are you looking to take one off classes to keep your continuing education up?

If you’re looking to complete your first degree, or keep up your continuing education, the answer is much more straight forward. If you haven’t finished college, I am definitely an advocate of going back. It provides some level of stability, especially as you enter the later part of your career.

Over the years, I’ve worked with a number of job seekers who never completed college. They had great careers and were stellar at their jobs. Then something happened. For example, their company went out of business. It wasn’t their fault, or a reflection of their work. Suddenly, they were on the open market, trying to explain to employers why they don’t have an advanced degree. It’s stressful and can create a sudden decrease in salary in a situation like the one described.

When it comes to getting a second or third degree, there are a few things to think about.

First, why do you want to get the degree? There’s this rumor floating around that a degree in a particular field will guarantee you work. Let’s be honest. That rumor is not true.

The result of getting a second degree is highly dependent on lots of things, including what your degree is in and how needed the degree is in the job market.

A few reasons you might consider getting a degree are — You want to change career paths and re-brand yourself with a new degree. I did this with my MBA. I have a computer and systems engineering degree from undergraduate school. It was hard for me to get people to look past the fact that I knew how to write code. My MBA helped solve this issue.

Or, perhaps you’re a lifelong learner. Your company pays for you to go to school and you have the time. So, you think — why not? It’s almost like a hobby and something you’ve always wanted to do. It’s for yourself. I can get behind this. Self improvement is an important part of life.

So, say you’ve decided to go back. Now what? How do you decide where to go?

IMHO, deciding where to go to school is almost as important as whether or not to go at all. Very often, I talk to people who went to a for profit university. They invested years of their life and have huge student loans. They are shocked to learn that some employers don’t take their degrees seriously at all. So, what can you do?

Learn as much as possible about a school. Thinking about why you want to go can help to narrow down your choices. For example, when I entered business school in 2004 (wow, that was a long time ago!), I wanted to learn about starting a business. So, I found a school that had a concentration in entrepreneurship. It was also around the same time that Enron fell apart and Martha Stewart went to jail. I felt a bit concerned about ethics in business, so I looked for a program that put an emphasis on this topic in their coursework. And, I hoped for a scholarship. I put myself through school (after quitting my job), so going to a school that could help me financially was important. That’s how I selected Pepperdine University.

Another thing to check out is what’s called the “post-graduation report.” This is a report that both colleges and graduate programs publish once a year on their graduates. It explains which industries their grads are working in and how much they make.

Often, the career center helps you to get your first job out of school. And, that career center will have existing relationships with certain companies. For example, my engineering college sees many graduates going to work for places like NASA. Pepperdine however has graduates going to companies such as Disney.

You also want to pay close attention to the part about how much the graduates are making. It’s sometimes surprising to think about it, but companies often pay different amounts for graduates based on which school they went to. You can argue whether this is right or wrong, but it just is.

So, if you have two graduate programs that both cost $20K per year in tuition (for example) — and one has graduates who make $70K after graduation, while the other has graduates making $95K, it can help you to pick between the two schools.

Another good place to look for these rankings are sites like US News & World Report. They have lists of the best schools. The lists contain lots of data that can give you an even better sense of the school and how it’s viewed by the world.

One trend I’ve noticed with people returning to school is that they consider enrolling in an online program pretty frequently. It’s easier. You can fit it into your life better. It’s less disruptive.

I would caution you against doing any kind of online degree program. Think about it this way. A big part of what you get out of business school (for example) is networking contacts. You meet new people who go with you through the rest of your career. They’re your friends. Your colleagues. You help one another get jobs and with projects. You aren’t going to make those strong connections through an online program. You’re going to make them when you sit next to your classmates day in and day out in class.

The same logic applies to something like engineering. How in the world are you expected to truly grasp onto engineering concepts if you never set foot into an engineering lab?

Last, think of school as an investment. As with any investment, you should evaluate the ROI. There are many calculators online to help you to figure this out. Here’s one from Learn Vest you might try. It helps you to get a sense of how much you’ll put into school — and how much you’ll get out.

Going back to school is a highly personal and highly individual decision. There’s no one answer for everyone. My bottom line recommendation here is DO YOUR HOMEWORK. When you finish school, you want to be sure that you end up with the results you were expecting to.

I hope these tips have helped you. Visit to find more tips to improve your job search. If I can be of assistance to you, don’t hesitate to reach out to me here.

Also, be sure to subscribe to my Copeland Coaching Podcast on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher where I discuss career advice every Tuesday! If you’ve already heard the podcast and enjoy it, please consider leaving a review in Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

Happy hunting!

Angela Copeland