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In order to maintain status as a licensed practicing attorney in any particular jurisdiction, we are required to complete a certain amount of hours of Continuing Legal Education courses every two years, typically in the area of law that we specialize in. The same also rings true for many of my friends who are physicians via Continuing Medical Education. Once you decide to enter these two particular professions, it is understood that it is mandatory to stay abreast of new laws, breakthroughs in medicine and cutting edge practices and theories to maintain your license to practice.

Though this is a mandate for some of us, many professionals choose to return to school on a graduate or continuing education basis to assist in climbing the ladder of success in their industry and/or company. New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies offers a wide array of non-formal continuing education courses and professional certificate programs for those who seek additional learning and resume builders. Additionally, many companies also offer their employees the option to return to graduate school with the financial assistance of the employer.

Take Charlotte for instance. After receiving undergraduate degrees in Computer Science and Economics and working in the Financial Services industry as an Equities Trader for well over 11 years, Charlotte enrolled in graduate school to receive a Master’s Degree in Finance and Entrepreneurship from Columbia University in New York City. “It was always my goal to earn a graduate degree. However as I got further along in my career it became harder and harder to rationalize quitting my job to achieve that goal. The massive sacrifices of being out of the workforce for multiple years and paying for a program myself, versus the minimal upside of returning to the industry with only an incremental bump in responsibility and income weren’t very appealing. The greatest deterrent of all was the cost. However, if someone was willing to pay for me to go – that would be a whole different conversation.”

Q&A For Students/Young Professionals Navigating Through The Work Place

When Charlotte was first hired by her employer, participation in her company’s continuing education program required her to apply to a formal program and compete for one of 30+ slots. Due to cost cutting, the formal program was phased out. However, a few years later, she heard from a colleague that participated in the program before it was axed that she could still approach her senior business leader and ask to participate in a more informal program. “Basically – ask if the business area would be willing to sponsor you to go. Hmmm, note to self – Don’t believe the official policy. Ask for what you want, you just might get it.”

Kimberly, Director of Regulatory Affairs for a major pharmaceutical company, also shared Charlotte’s sentiments and reasons for returning to school. She is currently pursuing her Masters of Science in Bioscience Regulatory Affairs from Johns Hopkins University. “In order to grow professionally, I sought avenues to further refine my regulatory knowledge in the drug development process. The Bioscience Regulatory Affairs program at Johns Hopkins will expose me to areas in drug development that I have not yet encountered, as well as ensure that I will remain competitive for top tier positions in regulatory affairs.”

Both Charlotte and Kimberly have and will continue to greatly benefit from their respective company’s contribution to continued education, however, differences between industry and company expectations upon completion of the graduate programs exist. “The Golden Handcuffs“, as referenced by Charlotte, is essentially, “the company is loaning you the money to cover school. In exchange you are contracted to stay on for at least 3 years after graduation. If you leave any time before the contract period is up you’re supposed to pay back part of all of the money. Most contracts are structured that way.” However, Kimberly notes that she is not required to stay with her company upon completion of her Master’s program.

When asked if their respective companies offered to promote them and/or give them a raise upon completion of their graduate programs, Charlotte responded, “No ma’am. Some say you are then considered a valued resource of the firm and would be first in line for prime assignments and roles. But nothing is guaranteed. It all depends on your role, your team, and your firm.“ Kimberly also noted that a promotion is not guaranteed, however, given her role and responsibilities at her company, she believes it is probable that she will receive both.

I am nearing the completion of a Professional Certificate Program in Entertainment Media Management at NYU-SCPS, and, as a solo practitioner, I believe these courses have assisted in my extended comprehension of current events, technology and trends in Entertainment and Entertainment Law. My completion of this program will, in turn, make me more marketable to my current and future clients. Though there are many separate, yet interesting, avenues to travel for extensive learning in your profession, the goal for all seeking to increase their level of success in the work place should definitely include continuing the edification of knowledge to make you the best in your field.

Rashida Maples, Esq. is Founder and Managing Partner of J. Maples & Associates. She has practiced Entertainment, Real Estate and Small Business Law for 9 years, handling both transactional and litigation matters. Her clients include R&B Artists Bilal and Olivia, NFL Superstar Ray Lewis, Fashion Powerhouse Harlem’s Fashion Row and Hirschfeld Properties, LLC.

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