They didn’t teach me that in school

By David Joel Miller.

Why didn’t they teach you that in school?

We have this expectation that once you go to school, get a degree, you should be set. You should know what you need to know. That is not true by a couple of kilometers.

I have discovered since I graduated from school, that what I do not know outsizes the things I did learn. Some of this I can attribute to the student not getting everything the professor taught. I know I missed some things. Now that I have been teaching I realize we don’t tell the students everything they need to know. It is just not possible.

Most educational programs cannot begin to teach you all there is to know in your subject matter area. Personally, I have read more books, attended more trainings and had to learn more material since the degree than I did in the process of getting a degree.

This phenomenon happens in very good degree programs. It is probably worse in some of the for-profit educational systems which can teach you all sorts of things that are fun to learn but do not necessarily qualify you to get a job in that field. In some places, there were no jobs to begin with or the ones that are out there require far more than a degree.

What a good program of study can do for you is teach you the basic vocabulary of the field you want to enter. You should learn some things about the laws or ethics, hopefully, both, that relate to your chosen profession. You learn enough to realize what you do not know and that is about all. The purpose of an educational program should be to give you basic entry-level skills, not the advanced skills that you might need to be competitive in a job market.

Let’s use counseling as an example. We learn the differences between depression and autism and we learn the theory of how to counsel. That does not make the new graduate competent to work with someone with an eating disorder or Autism. Those advanced skills require more training. Most of the time we don’t know when we graduate what direction our career will take. You get hired by an agency that works with people on parole and you learn about that. If you get a job at an eating disorder clinic or an organization that works with people with autism you will need more training in that.

The result is a whole lot of recent graduates who find out that there are no jobs doing what they learned about in school or who find they have such basic skills that there will be years more training required before they can function at a competent level.

If you think that once you get that degree the education part is over you will probably not last or be successful in your chosen field. The true professional never stops learning.

One of the great tragedies of our educational system these days is the belief among so many people that going to school and getting a degree in something you like will automatically result in a good paying job in that field. The truth is that the degree only gets you in the door for the interview. The path from new graduate to a successful career is a long one.

Far too many people have run up sizable educational debt only to find there are no jobs out there in that field or those that do exist are in other parts of the country and may not pay enough to fund that large student loan.

If you have made the decision that a college degree is for you, make sure that you research not only the school you want to attend but the major you will embark on. Spend as much time researching the possible job market for that job as you would on following a sports team. And consider talking with someone who is currently on the job about the things they have had to learn after embarking on their career.

Your school may have taught you about the subject matter of your degree but that can fall far short of what you will need to know to be successful earning a living in that field.

Remember that your learning does not end with the degree. If you want to be successful in most fields the degree is the starting point in your life long process of learning.

Best wishes on your path to creating the happy life you want.

David Joel Miller, LMFT, LPCC

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books


2 thoughts on “They didn’t teach me that in school

  1. Pingback: Finding your perfect job | counselorssoapbox

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s