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Thread: Valuing Another Degree

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    Valuing Another Degree

    Valuing Another Degree
    Jonnelle Marte
    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.

    [Click here to find an online degree program]

    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 jonnelle.marte@wsj.com
    To sit down with these men and deal with them as the representatives of an enlightened and civilized people is to deride ones own dignity and to invite the disaster of their treachery - General Matthew Ridgway

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    Interesting post, thanks. I'm actually lined up to do the GMAT test to enter an MBA in a couple of months so it is food for thought. I think it will be worth it in my field and since my employer will pay for most of it I figure I'd be nuts not to, but it is important to bounce around the costs versus the benefits. I continue to mentor a recent graduate from my previous employer and he came to me asking whether he should do extra study and I told him to wait three or four years, as I believe that it is more important to focus on getting runs on the board at work when you first start rather than getting extra qualifications. Coming back to postgrad study a bit later also allows you to get more out of it as you can apply it to work experience that you don't have as a recent graduate.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aussiegunner View Post
    Interesting post, thanks. I'm actually lined up to do the GMAT test to enter an MBA in a couple of months so it is food for thought. I think it will be worth it in my field and since my employer will pay for most of it I figure I'd be nuts not to, but it is important to bounce around the costs versus the benefits. I continue to mentor a recent graduate from my previous employer and he came to me asking whether he should do extra study and I told him to wait three or four years, as I believe that it is more important to focus on getting runs on the board at work when you first start rather than getting extra qualifications. Coming back to postgrad study a bit later also allows you to get more out of it as you can apply it to work experience that you don't have as a recent graduate.
    I've just finished my degree and am now doing my Masters (in Pharmacy). A lot of the people I did my science degree with are doing Honours, those that arent, are having a lot of trouble finding jobs because the employers are all after "experience", and at the current time they can probably pick and choose.

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    Quote Originally Posted by StevoJH View Post
    I've just finished my degree and am now doing my Masters (in Pharmacy). A lot of the people I did my science degree with are doing Honours, those that arent, are having a lot of trouble finding jobs because the employers are all after "experience", and at the current time they can probably pick and choose.
    My comment was probably directed more at "vocational" type qualifications rather than research oriented fields like science. I think that a vocational type masters course like the one that you are doing is a good follow on for those sorts of quals.

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