The Credential Conundrum—Limiting Whose Qualified for Which Jobs

Recently I wrote that I’m lucky that my work as a college prof affords me ample opportunities to learn about myself and become a better person. That doesn’t stop me from daydreaming about other work.

Depending upon the day, I’d like to be Dustin Johnson’s caddy, write a newspaper column, be a subsistence farmer, have a radio talk show. The alternative work that loops the most in my peabrain is money counselor by which I mean a hybrid of a financial planner and a financial therapist. I enjoy managing money a lot and I’m always intrigued by people’s disparate thinking about money’s relative importance and how those differences complicate partnerships. Most of all, I’d enjoy helping people reduce the gaps between what they think about money and how they live their lives.

I didn’t know shit about investing thirty years ago when my parents gifted me some money to save on their federal taxes. Somehow, as a modestly paid school teacher, I knew the gift was an exceedingly rare opportunity to build a little bit of a financial cushion, that is, if I didn’t blow it. So I started reading John Bogle’s books, the first step in my personal finance self education. Today, I’m a good money manager for at least two reasons—my independent studies and I internalized some of my dad’s self discipline.

What I’d like to do for an alternative living is listen to individuals or couples talk about their dreams, their finances, their greatest challenges and then help them clarify their priorities, adjust their spending, restructure their portfolios, and enjoy more open and honest communication about money. There’s gotta be people interested in that doesn’t there?

There’s only one problem, to do that work I’d need a long list of personal finance and counseling licenses and certificates. Absent an alphabet soup of credentials, my self education and life experience don’t count in the formal economy.

Licenses and certificates are required in many sectors of the economy. They are designed to help consumers know they can trust that the holders of the licenses and certificates are competent. Take my work with teachers-to-be. Often people bemoan the fact that a Ph.D. can’t teach elementary, middle, or high school without first completing a formal teacher education program that typically lasts 1-2 years, not to mention passing related requirements including content area exams and a student-teaching based performance assessment.

Similarly, if you want to work on people’s nails or hair, you can’t simply rent a space and hang out a shingle, beauty schools offer formal training that culminates in licenses that enable you to “join the club”. Sometimes, when work is complex and requires specialized expertise, the Credential Industrial Complex contributes to public trust. Other times though, when the related work isn’t terribly complex, like working on nails or driving a cab, they can be used to limit competition.

Money counseling is on the “complex, requiring specialized expertise” end of the continuum, but wouldn’t it be nice if our job gatekeepers, the credentialing officials, devised intelligent ways to give some credit to individuals for self study and life experience. Absent that, everyone has to start from scratch, meaning people on the back nine of life, like myself, are less likely to switch things up.


7 thoughts on “The Credential Conundrum—Limiting Whose Qualified for Which Jobs

  1. You can get the credential I received after years of graduate study and other qualifying exams for only 20 bucks online. Maybe you should call yourself a “Financial Coach” and avoid the scrutiny. I’m most curious, however, to follow your stint as a subsistence farmer.

  2. No credentials needed to toil in the soil. Living in the country, new neighbors have a small farm, fruit trees, veggie gardens, and chickens who enjoy “Cluckingham Palace”. First step would be to help them more. Lots to learn. The appeal is probably the contrast with my work. Seeing the efforts of my labor bear fruit, literally, in relatively short order. I like that it’s physically demanding too. And if I got good, I’d get to buy a truck to run back and forth to my farmer’s market stall. :)

  3. 1) I would suggest if you really you would like to do this, you go full steam ahead and go through the hoops. You would be the best and you are very young, 2) perhaps all teachers of education at the university level should be certified public school teachers. If the training supplied by the universities for primary and secondary education is valued, it would seem that it would be even more important in higher education. The ability to do research does not equal the ability to teach. 3) would the same criteria apply to the medical profession? Why do we have really rigid requirements for medicine (perhaps overly high) but “anyone can teach” Just some thoughts.

    • 1) Appreciate that. If I’m very young, why do I have to stretch for about the same length of time as my runs these days?! 2) Imminently sensible. 3) I think teaching requirements are legit. And I’d be a little nervous seeing a “life experience” doc.

  4. Life experience counts for a lot, but unfortunately the powers that be do not trust that. So it’s off to school you go, to accumulate a variety of courses and degrees that won’t help you a whit in doing your work, but will look really good framed and on the wall! I’m not down on degrees at all (having collected a couple), but I know that there’s nothing like practical experience in the world of work!

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