As the cost of education continues to rise, it is important to factor in just how valuable an advanced degree can be in a particular field. Universities and colleges always tout the benefits of earning a degree, but what about hiring managers and employers? What is their take on the importance of education? And how much value do they place on an advanced degree?
Answering these questions is the purpose of this series, where we sit down with key leaders and hiring managers across a variety of industries, to better understand the relationship between education and employment. We recently talked with Joe Ahlbrandt, a high school assistant principal. With over 15 years administrative experience in education, Ahlbrandt was nice enough to share his insight and thoughts on the value of education, and why he believes it’s important.
Name: Joe Ahlbrandt
Organization: Fort Collins High School, Fort Collins, CO
Title: Assistant Principal
Years on the job: 15
Number of employees managed: 80
Q: What are your goals or biggest priorities when hiring new employees?
A: That we not only bring in someone with great content knowledge, but a person who builds great relationships and a passion for the job. When I speak of passion, I am alluding to someone who wants to be impactful in other peoples’ lives, and someone who is always looking learn and grow — someone who isn’t afraid to try new things and take on new roles.
Q: What challenges have you encountered during the hiring process?
A: One of my biggest frustrations is when we go through the entire process of reviewing applications, interviewing calling on references, then the candidate is waiting on another position.
Q: Describe any emerging trends you have observed in your field.
A: The employment here in northern Colorado is very competitive with qualified and even overqualified candidates. This is great, as we have a tremendous pool of applicants to select from to put the very best in front of our students. Education does play a big part in the hiring process. We want the right fit, but we also want someone who has been exposed to a lot of different settings. I don’t look at being overqualified as a bad thing, but there are times when some candidates might be interviewing for a position that they might perceive as being one that is a bit of a step back. Much of that has to with the fact that getting a job in our district can be challenging.
Q: When reviewing resumes and cover letters specific to your business, how important is education?
A: Education for a teaching position is a must. What I do see is that in northern Colorado we have candidates with multiple degrees and even outside work experience that brings another benefit to the school to work alongside teaching experience.
Q: What makes a resume rise to the top of the pile for you?
A: For myself, I want a quality cover letter that introduces the candidate on paper, so that I feel as if I know their experiences prior to reading their resume. The narrative part of a cover letter tells me more about the person than the resume; I view the resume as more of a timeline of events, experiences, and references.
Q: How personable should a candidate be in their cover letter?
A: Well, you don’t want to be too personal, but I think an anecdote or a personal story that ties into education or the position is never a bad thing. I think a good cover letter that has some specific examples allows me to get a better feel for the candidate.
Q: What makes a resume sink to the bottom of the pile?
A: Poor cover letter and too much clutter on the resume; I like a resume that is specific and to the point.
Q: How has education impacted your own career?
A: It has made my career. I cannot stress how important an education is, as you never know what doors will be opened by furthering your education.
Q: You said education has made your career — what exactly did you mean by that?
A: Education has helped open doors for me that might have not otherwise been open or available to me. It didn’t automatically mean that I would be successful, but I think my education gave me greater opportunities. My education also taught me the importance of meeting deadlines and prioritizing things, which I think are big roles in my present position.
Q: What tips would you give for someone considering going back to school?
A: Just Do It! Even if not sure what you want to do, take a few classes. It will open your world up to things you may have never considered.
Q: How valuable is a master’s degree in this line of work?
A: As a teacher, it is always beneficial to have more knowledge and advanced degrees, but not always necessary. Advanced degrees will open up more opportunities for teaching advanced-level classes.
Q: Could you expand on that last part a bit more?
A: We offer a lot of advanced-level classes that are very competitive at Fort Collins (High School), as does pretty much every other high school in this district. It’s important that the students in those classes are pushed. We want teachers in those slots who have been pushed at the highest level and extreme knowledge and competence in those particular subjects. Not all the time, but quite often those teachers hold advanced degrees.
Q: What is the best career advice you have ever received and who was it from?
A: My mother, she told me to be a teacher and a lifelong learner.
Q: What advice do you have for someone interested in pursuing a teaching career?
A: Get some experience working in a classroom, spending time with children in the age group of interest. A way to accomplish this is to volunteer or work as a paraprofessional or as a paid teacher assistant.
Q: Any final thoughts on the value of education?
A: You can’t put a number value on education. You never know what doors you might be opening by continuing to learn.
Learn about how you can advance your education with Colorado State University’s Teacher Licensure and Master of Education.