A bachelor’s degree isn’t worth quite what it was: More and more people — 657,000 in 2009, double the number in the 1980s — are getting a master’s degree, says the New York Times. In fact, 2 in 25 people (that’s 8 in 100) aged 25 and above have a master’s; in the 1960′s, about the same proportion applied to those who had a bachelor’s or higher. It is not simply that people are wanting to continue their studies. Rather, a highly competitive job market means that having those two or three extra letters after your last name can make the difference between your resumé being consigned to the recycle bin, or not.
This is not exactly encouraging news for recent college graduates and their families, weary from paying (i.e., taking out loans) for college. It’s news that makes me, a college professor at a small, urban New Jersey college which has recently started some new masters programs (in criminal justice and health records management). I wonder if we are doing enough to educate our students. Does a BA or BS no longer mean you can get a job in your field of study?
Many of the new masters programs that schools around the US are starting are geared to provide students with specific professional credentials:
“Several years ago it became very clear to us that master’s education was moving very rapidly to become the entry degree in many professions,” [Debra W. Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools] says. The sheen has come, in part, because the degrees are newly specific and utilitarian. These are not your general master’s in policy or administration. Even the M.B.A., observed one business school dean, “is kind of too broad in the current environment.” Now, you have the M.S. in supply chain management, and in managing mission-driven organizations. There’s an M.S. in skeletal and dental bioarchaeology, and an M.A. in learning and thinking.
The degree of the moment is the professional science master’s, or P.S.M., combining job-specific training with business skills. Where only a handful of programs existed a few years ago, there are now 239, with scores in development. Florida’s university system, for example, plans 28 by 2013, clustered in areas integral to the state’s economy, including simulation (yes, like Disney, but applied to fields like medicine and defense). And there could be many more, says Patricia J. Bishop, vice provost and dean of graduate studies at the University of Central Florida. “Who knows when we’ll be done?”
A few years ago — I also advise students at my college about applying to graduate school — I helped a student apply for a program in perfusionism (with success, happily). She needed this degree to get a job as a perfusionist in the cardiac surgery unit in a hospital. But other students I’ve advised are seeking master’s degrees after job searches that have found them part-time work at most. For these students, a bachelor’s degree — in education, in business — is simply not enough. As Richard K. Vedder, professor of economics at Ohio University and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, says, colleges are “turning out more graduates than the market can bear, and a master’s is essential for job seekers to stand out — that, or a diploma from an elite undergraduate college.”
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may
not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.