Graduating from college is a huge feat that should be celebrated, but the amount of Americans going to college and graduating with their bachelor’s degree is continuously escalating. For many people this means getting a master’s degree or even a doctorate is the only way to stand out in a crowd full of eligible bachelors.
Dr. Paul Duncan, Senior Associate Dean of the graduate program at the University of Florida, said that after undergrad, students can consider three categories of professional degrees: professional degrees, terminal master’s degrees and traditional scholarly graduate degrees.
According to Duncan, professional degrees include medical school or pharmacy school. Terminal master degree programs, which include Master’s of Business Administration, heavily focus on coursework and learning skills so that students can get a job directly after college. Traditional degrees focus on research and writing a final dissertation. This degree would prepare someone who wanted to teach as a professor.
In recent years, there has been a gap between the percentage of jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree and amount of employees who actually have one. Known as the “credential gap,” employers sort piles of applicants into those without graduate degrees and those with graduate degrees. Does that mean graduate degrees are necessary for employment?
Duncan believes the specific skills offered by graduate schools could often be delivered in other settings. “Employers, especially in the United States, have increasingly come to expect universities not just to provide education but also job training,” said Duncan. “I’m old fashioned. Schools should provide education while training should be the responsibility of employers. [Employers] shouldn’t be expecting a new master’s degree for every skill.”
Currently attending Florida International University school of Business in Miami, Florida to receive her MBA, Magalie Augustin’s career involves buying incorporates merchandising and business management since graduating with her bachelor’s from Florida State University. Currently a hiring manager, Augustin says applicants with a master’s degree always catch her attention. “Obviously experience in itself speaks volumes, but the ideal candidate would have both.”
Due to the nature of her career, Augustin knew having a MBA would make her more “marketable” for executive positions, but she didn’t go apply to graduate school right away.
“To be quite honest, I wanted to go immediately after graduation, but I kept finding excuses not to,” said Augustin. “I do feel that it is more of an investment when you attend grad school later in your career, but I do wish that I was more disciplined earlier in my career to attend grad school right after graduation.”
According to Duncan, taking time off between undergrad and graduate school adds “maturation and opportunity to be sure about what you want or don’t want to do.” While he believes work experiences help your application, he mentioned that it could be hard to go back to school after settling into a new job.
Still, one of the largest determining factors most people consider before going after higher education is cost. “Yes, there is a cost associated with grad school, but there is an earning potential that comes with it as well. No one can ever take your education away from you,” said Augustin.
Feeling worried about paying off another set of student loans or juggling multiple jobs to help pay for a second degree is normal and understandable. What you must look at when contemplating the price of grad school is whether or not this new degree will grant you a career whose salary can pay off your additional loans.
Not all degrees are printed equal.
In fields like medicine or engineering, a master’s degree is optimal for maximum financial success, whereas fields like criminal justice don’t always ensure the best payback guarantee. However, there are countless companies that will offer you incentive to go back to school—that is, paying for your college, or at least some of it.
For example, Best Buy offers students up to $5,250 for graduate school, Proctor & Gamble compensates their workers for an education up to $40,000 and Disney will pay $700 per credit plus help fund books and other required supplies. If you’re ready to jump off the graduation stage and into the workforce, the option for graduate school is still available.
Going back to school is a big commitment, however. Those who have already settled down, whether with their family or career, consider certificate programs. Offered at the undergraduate level and graduate level, these programs consist of three to four courses usually offered online. These cluster of courses are skill-oriented and target a specific area. “It’s a wonderful innovation in higher education that provides people with the opportunity to gain skills without having to be too invested,” remarked Duncan.
Overall, don’t let the fear of the unknown scare you into not reaching your goals. “Grad school helps build your confidence in everyday life because you are always surrounded by the best of the best,” said Augustin. “You pick up on the language of professionals and you are challenged to network with other like-minded individuals. You are also exposed to a plethora of opportunities to grow financially and professionally.”
Regardless of the information out there, don’t believe your entire career will depend on going to grad school. Like choosing your major for undergrad, deciding what’s right for you post-graduation will take time. So choose wisely and ask questions. In the end, you’re the one earning the degree, and boy, will it be worth it when you do.