Link-Is an advanced degree worth it?
Valuing Another Degree
Monday, April 12, 2010
Does an advanced degree still propel you ahead? The answer isn't as straightforward as it used to be.
The unemployment rate for people ages 20 to 24 with a bachelor's degree fell to 7.2% in March, from 7.6% a year earlier. But that still leaves scores of twentysomethings vying for fewer jobs. And the pool of job hunters will grow as the class of 2010 enters the work force.
So, it may be tempting to sidestep the whole job search, at least for a while, and go back to the security of academia -- to further your education and make yourself more marketable in the long run. But you'll need to determine if delaying your entry into the job market and incurring the costs of a master's or M.B.A. degree will pay off in this economic climate.
"In many, many fields, education up the wazoo is not going to matter as much as on-the-job training," says Heather Huhman, president of ComeRecommended.com, a social-networking site for young professionals.
The Cheaper Hire
People over 25 years old with a master's degree earn about 20% more a week than people with a bachelor's degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And those with professional degrees get paid 50% more.
These days, however, as employers continue to cut spending, expectations for such higher pay could backfire when you're competing against less educated -- and less expensive -- candidates.
For example, entry-level teachers with master's degrees often have a harder time getting hired than those with bachelor's degrees because schools typically pay more to teachers with master's degrees, says Steven Rothberg, founder of CollegeRecruiter.com.
Graduates "need to understand that many employers will be turned off by their higher education," he says.
What's more, some of the pay boosts typically associated with master's degrees may vanish as state governments and school boards contemplate moving toward performance-based pay systems, from education-based pay structures, says Mark Schneider, a vice president at the American Institutes for Research, a behavioral and social-science research organization in Washington, D.C.
Administrative or policy jobs with state and local governments, which also tend to reward higher education with higher pay, aren't as available or lucrative these days because of tight budgets, he adds.
In many industries, trading in potential work experience for additional education could leave you short of certain skills and networking, says Ms. Huhman.
Taking on Debt
Another factor to keep in mind: More education usually means more debt. People who pursue a master's degree end up borrowing 55% of their tuition, according to Finaid.org. And fewer employers are reimbursing tuition costs.
Of course, a graduate degree can be beneficial in some situations. Career changers can use the degree to show they have knowledge of the new field. And a master's may be necessary to qualify for certain higher positions. Some high-level marketing and business consulting positions require candidates to have an M.B.A., says Boston job coach Susan Kennedy.
If you're undecided, consult companies you'd like to work for and mentors in your industry about whether education or work experience will do more to advance your career, says Ms. Huhman.
Write to Jonnelle Marte at firstname.lastname@example.org
What do you think? Personally, I selected a program that will ensure that I won't get into debt after I graduate. But how about you? Is the debt worth it in the end, given the information in this Wall Street Journal article?