I hear it all the time: “A graduate degree is the new bachelor’s degree.” Meaning, to get ahead in your chosen career path, you not only need four years of schooling, but six. However, recent studies show that even grad school won’t benefit everybody.
“I expected to get out of grad school and find a job fairly easily, even in the down economy,” said Eric Peters, who earned a master’s degree in 2009 from Radford University. “What I found after applying to more than 150 jobs was that experience weighs far more than education. And I’m talking paid full-time experience, because I had four internships under my belt when I graduated that didn’t seem to matter very much.”
Peters, who got his degree in corporate and professional communications, learned after some extensive job-hunting that experience out ways education in the communications field. In the end, he settled for an entry-level position, which are generally reserved for young, inexperienced workers.
That’s not to say that everyone with a master’s degree is short-changed. Shane Ellison, who got his graduate degree in organic chemistry at Northern Arizona University in 2000, said he owes his success to higher education. Though he did not reveal his increase in salary, he is none-the-less pleased with those extra two years spent in college.
“The education was invaluable to me as a chemist, as it taught me how to handle the unique rigors of scientific research, namely pharmaceutical drug design,” said Ellison, who is now a health author.
A study conducted by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce found that, on average, roughly 40 percent of those who had a master’s degree earned more than their counterparts who only had a bachelor’s degree. Increased salaries varied greatly between fields of study. Those with biology and life science degrees generally earned 70 percent more, and social science workers earned 55 percent more. On the other hand, only 19-20 percent of those with graduate degrees in the arts or communication fields experienced an increase in salary.
Unfortunately, tuition can cost up to $40,000 to receive a master’s degree, and more education does not necessarily mean a fatter paycheck. Yes, a master’s degree may improve your chance of receiving a promotion or getting a new job, but as studies show, certain degrees will only leave you more educated, not richer.
My advice is when you’re ready to advance in your career, don’t immediately look to a master’s degree. Do a little research, and see if more education or more experience will get you ahead. It could be as simple as asking your direct supervisor what you can do to promote within the company.
Via US News