Come for the Credentials, Stay for the Success

By Betsy Piland - February 23rd, 2021

back to school after layoff
Richard Berger earned both his BS in Project Management and MS in Organizational Leadership from CSU Global.

CSU Global Alum Richard Berger Believes in the Value of Education at Any Age

CSU Global alumnus Richard Berger’s story is one that is all too familiar: He was a dedicated, hardworking employee until he was unceremoniously laid off in his late 40s. He found himself competing with people half his age for lower-paying jobs simply because he lacked a degree.

Richard started his career in the Air Force in 1989, where, to his surprise, he spent five years as a Morse code operator. After the military, he earned his associate degree, but like many, went straight to work instead of heading back to school. 

Roadblocks in the Rear View

After Richard was laid off in 2013, he began his job search, and quickly regretted not completing his degree decades earlier. “I was looking online for jobs that I was qualified for, and it was really discouraging to see jobs that were paying much less than I was making, and knowing that the one thing I was missing was a degree.”

With the full support of his wife and family, Richard set out to find the right program to finish his bachelor’s degree. He said his first priority was a school’s credibility. “I wanted to proudly announce where I went to school without the assumption that I took the easy route.” 

Richard started calling around to universities with online programs, and said people were always happy to give him the hard sell on a program, but they didn’t have the ability to really answer his questions and help him make informed decisions about his education and career options. He said that speaking with his CSU Global enrollment counselor was a different story. “It didn’t take me long to say, ‘I want to be part of that!’”

Taking the Next Step

Once enrolled, Richard was aggressive in his coursework. “I wasn’t getting any younger and I wanted to finish before I turned 50. So my life consisted of getting up at 4 a.m., driving to work, working, and getting home around 6:30, doing school work until around 10 … and I did that for a year and a half.”

Just a few months before completing his Bachelor’s Degree in Project Management, Richard was hired as a Project Manager for the Town of Apple Valley, California, where he still works today. He’s been in that role for nearly seven years, where he is glad to come to work every day. “I get to make a difference—making sure projects get done, writing grants, making sure roads get paved. I’m doing everything I can to improve the quality of life for the residents here in Apple Valley.” 

With his career in full swing, Richard still felt something nudging him to pursue a master’s degree, one that he thought should match his experience. In his job with Apple Valley, Richard explained that he needs to ensure that teams communicate effectively. That’s what spurred him to look into CSU Global’s Master’s in Organizational Leadership. Now that he’s earned that graduate degree as well, he said it’s really helped him to look at things from a different perspective, and to help keep people motivated. “It truly was the right degree, as much as the Project Management degree was, for me. It was the right degree, and it’s paid off.” 

Seeing a Return on Investment

Since earning his bachelor’s and then master’s degrees, Richard is proud to say his pay has gone up by at least 25%. Beyond financial gains, he credits his education with his overall wellness and outlook on life. 

“If [CSU Global] hadn’t given me the skills, the opportunity to learn, and to grow as an educated individual worthy of this type of position, I would not have this job. There’s a level of serendipity here, [but I was able] to have a better quality of life which probably extended my life. I’m 55 years old now, and I try to pour myself into everything I do.”

“I hope I can inspire other people to not give up. If I can do this, you could too. When I decided to go to CSU Global, that changed everything.”

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