Agree To Disagree — About Degrees?
There’s a lot of debate about the importance of obtaining a college degree. Conventional wisdom dictates in order to truly succeed — climb the corporate or administrative ladder — a college degree is a must. In reality, we can’t all reach the top and grab the proverbial brass ring, and we don’t all want to. I’ve never had a burning desire to get a degree and don’t feel the lack of one makes me an idiot — any more so than having one would make me a smarty pants. We all know highly educated people who are, in spite of their degrees, still dingalings.
College isn’t for everyone, and I’ve always objected to someone else telling me how and where I should sail my ship through my career path. It’s my life, it’s my career, let me do it. Just ask Roy about my “let me do it” attitude. Besides, some of us are happy as clams working patrol or investigative assignments our entire careers; and what’s wrong with that? We need the frontline troops to make it all happen. But that doesn’t mean we have to stagnate and not enrich our careers — and lives.
Do you have an interest in a particular part of police work? Perhaps you’re like my husband Roy (or, as we refer to him around here, “His Publishership”), who’s always had a voracious appetite to know everything about guns; their history, how they function or malfunction, ballistics, etc. Roy read countless books, collected and played with hundreds of different guns, mentored under a world renowned criminalist for the San Diego PD, Gene Wohlberg — whose brilliance is sorely missed — and then turned all that into a writing career. Roy’s done all this (and more) without a college degree. He’s done it because he continued to search for more knowledge and to enrich his life. It’s what allowed him to retire from police work and immediately pursue his second career.
I (we at American COP Magazine) wholeheartedly support college educations. Criminal justice degree programs are great, but so are many other programs, like business, marketing, math, English, history, etc. Obtaining a degree in something completely outside of police parameters can truly open doors for you, come retirement time. And that’s an important thing to remember.
For those without a degree who want to take one small step up the ladder, many agencies enable them to promote to sergeant by using an equation converting years of service to college credits. I figure this method works very well for both the officer and the agency because the added time on the street makes for well-rounded candidates. And the reality with sergeants is they need to have strong leadership skills to keep their squads working like well oiled machines, act as a buffer between them and administration, and be the boots on the ground decision makers when all hell’s broken loose.
What does this all mean to you? It’s easy. If you need a degree to promote, then go for it. And in this very issue of COP we talk about ways to pursue your goal. If you’re one who isn’t interested in investing the time to get a formal degree, we recommend you still grow by vigorously feeding your brain in whatever area or areas that interest you the most. Are you a gang cop? Learn more about the psychology behind gangs and how to understand them. Interested in guns, like Roy? Reach out to forensic scientists on your agency or a state agency; let them know you want to learn — then run with it.
It’s a scary thought, but you’re really only limited by yourself. If you think merely going through the mandatory yearly training is all it takes to thrive in this business, you’re only fooling yourself. The mandatory training is a minimum standard. Don’t lose your drive to be all you can be in whatever course you steer your career. Don’t lose your curiosity to see what else is around the bend. Whether in the mix of clawing our way up the chain of command or working in the trenches, pick a path and continue to improve your talents.
By Suzi Huntington
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