I am almost 50-50 on this one. Not because I don’t think it’s important, but because sometimes the cost and time of acquiring it becomes an elephant debt in the room. For instance, I had recently called a close friend of mine who had just completed a 1 yr Masters in Engineering program at Cornell University, that I was interested in. After inquiring about the program, the deciding factor of whether or not to apply became the cost. $60,000 is not what I’m looking to spend for a one year program without scholarships. And even though people will argue that its worth every dime, I am one of those who hate being in debt, and thus don’t see myself starting off a career $60,000 in the RED. Nope. Not me. Honestly I wonder how people could spend between $200,000 and $800,000 on education, then spend the rest of their lives paying back. Nope. Not me again.
Anyways back to advanced degrees as being important to a smoother transition from College to Career. I have explored several reasons below, why many people decide to further their education beyond the Bachelor’s level:
1. Marketability: There is always that underlying mindset that advanced degrees translate into higher income. This is because the number one reason why we pick careers or why our parents help us pick one is for financial stability and security. In fact, according to a survey carried out by George Washington University’s Center on Education and Workforce, “the gross lifetime earnings for someone with a professional degree is almost $4.7 million, compared to about $3.4 million for someone who has a bachelor’s”. As such it is only appropriate for us to think that higher educational levels translate into higher income.
This is not always the case. While you might gain a more in-depth understanding of your area of interest or degree, obtaining a higher level of education sometimes does not translate into higher wages. However, in most cases, having an advanced degree will make you more appealing to an employer because it shows a higher level of initiative and indicates that you have a more in-depth knowledge in your field of interest. So go for it if you have the means.
2. Alternative to Unemployment: as the saying goes, ‘no knowledge is wasted’. So advancing your educational goals definitely contributes towards your successful college to career transition. This is because, advanced degrees equip you with more theoretical knowledge/expertise, and sometimes even practical skills when you take classes that require field work. Graduate classes might also open avenues for teaching assistant positions, which might present you with not only a part-time job, but teaching and class management skills that you might not have had. All these enhance the quality of your resume during job search.
3. Career Change: Advancing one’s degree could also provide an avenue for career change. For instance, psychology students might go on to law school or medical school, thereby switching careers while using their Bachelor’s degree as a foundational major to enhance their new careers. This would definitely be more beneficial financially than searching endlessly for entry-level jobs in psychology.
4. Management: Many other people advance their careers to secure management positions that a bachelor’s degree would not have provided. For instance, a recruiter with a job opening that involved supervising a group of people will love a candidate with a management background. Thus, an employer is more likely to employ a candidate with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, some work experience and an advanced degree in management, than one with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and same amount of experience.
5. Credibility: Like it or not, employers take into account the name/quality of school one graduates from. As such, people with no name or lower caliber schools tend to further their education at highly selective schools in order to increase their chances of being more competitive in the job market. For instance, a master’s degree from Columbia University will strike more favorably than one from an unknown school. It is therefore important to ensure that your advanced degree is from a reputable school, if you intend to make your college to career transition less tedious.
6. Relevance: With the rate at which students are increasingly advancing their educational level beyond the Bachelor’s degree, it is very possible that sooner than later, the Bachelor’s degree would become the equivalent to the GED/High School Diploma of today. Thus, people are acquiring advanced degrees to remain relevant in the job place and market. That being said, you make yourself more competitive and relevant to an employer if the employer decides to factor in advanced degrees as a criteria for employment consideration. An employer could use advanced degrees as a threshold for elimination, if there are too many qualified applicants for a position.
7. Knowledge: An advanced degree equips you with more in-depth knowledge in a particular field than a Bachelor’s degree can. It could also broaden your areas of specialization by providing you with newer areas of focus that might come in handy during job search.
For instance, after my undergrad in biomedical engineering, I was torn between a Master’s degree in the same field, or going to Law school for a dual degree in Intellectual Property Law and MBA in Entrepreneurship and Management. I chose the latter. However, I put my plan on hold mainly because of the cost of financing, setting up Re:LIFE Inc., and other current interests.
My Point: Many people, (including my very educated parents) could not initially see the correlation between engineering and law. I saw far beyond that. I was going to be a lawyer who understood IP Law, an entrepreneur and manager who could own and manage my own biotech firm, and an engineer who could design hi-tech biomedical devices. These would have exponentially increased my marketability; opened management doors, legal research doors in law firms, or all of the above and more in biotech companies; as opposed to looking for an entry-level job right after my Bachelor’s, or settling for a one-track Master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering, and looking for jobs after graduation.
That being said, advanced degrees do increase one’s chances of securing employment, and in some cases, higher pay. But when deciding to pursue one, make sure that you consider the school of choice, cost and time needed to obtain it.
Let me know what you think. This is the last part of the College To Career Series. Check them out on here. I’d love to receive your questions, comments, inquiries and all. So please do leave them.
Sincerely, Chike Ukaegbu