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Education vs serving

Jobs in Sleboda’s field of education pay a decent salary. Teachers make a median salary of $61,250, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This falls slightly above the median national yearly earnings of $59,540.

But Sleboda says that when she has worked in education, it was bad news for her wallet: “I’ve had to take money out of my savings to pay my rent.”

Rent.com reports the median Florida rent as $2,099 per month — which equals over $25,000 over a year. This would mean that Sleboda would spend nearly half (41%) of her $61,250 education salary on rent.

Though servers tend to make less money per year than teachers — the BLS reports a median of $29,120 per year — they can make a lot in tips. Staffing platform Adia approximates that servers bring in $100 in tips per night.

If you work five shifts per week, you could bring in an extra $500 a week. By the end of the year, you’ll have an additional $24,000, nearly doubling your salary to $53,000 — almost as much as a teacher.

Not only could you bring in a similar amount of income to a teacher through serving, you’ll also avoid all the unpaid parts of the education profession: marking, lesson planning and parent calls. On an hourly basis, you may even find yourself coming out ahead, as Sleboda does.

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The cost of an advanced degree

For generations, getting a degree was the best way to set yourself apart in the job market. Data even shows that the more degrees someone has, the higher their lifetime earnings.

But the cost of an advanced degree can get in the way of these earnings. The Education Data Initiative (EDI) reports that a master’s degree holder owes an average of $53,470 to $88,680 in student loan debt, depending on whether they went to a public or private college.

EDI adds that $86,400 is the average salary for a master’s degree graduate. That’s a good salary, but for the first few years of post-grad, you’ll be taking all your extra income and sending it back to the government or your private lender, rather than saving it.

Are advanced degrees worth it?

Advanced degrees are required for certain professions, such as doctors and lawyers. Even industries that don’t require higher education may pay more if you have a valuable degree, like in geology or business.

If you’re not sure whether your degree will be worth it, it’s not a bad idea to run a cost-benefit analysis when enrolling in a graduate program. There’s no harm in looking into if your degree is likely to increase your salary enough to make taking on student debt or tuition fees worth it.

For instance, EDI reports that a master’s in education typically costs $42,010.

Now consider your options after graduation. Because the BLS says that most schools only require a bachelor’s degree, a master’s may not help you in education. Pepperdine University says that some schools will increase your salary by 10% to 15% if you have a master’s, but it depends on the school district’s rules.

So, Sleboda may not be so off the mark: a master’s is does not equal a guarantee.


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About the Author

Sabina Wex

Sabina Wex


Sabina Wex is a writer and podcast producer in Toronto. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Fast Company, CBC and more.

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