Is a graduate degree worth it in today’s job turmoil?


With the cost of a graduate degree skyrocketing and more and more jobs that required one no longer have it as part of the job requirements, does it make sense to go into debt? to get one?

Advantages and disadvantages of going for a graduate degree

Who should still go after the graduate degree? It is useful to think carefully about this decision-making process.

Some fields will always require a graduate degree.

Certain professions, such as medicine, law, and some teaching positions, will always require a graduate degree. Some STEM fields will also require at least a master’s degree to enter that field. However, many companies are changing their job requirements to one that is more skill-based than educational. In other words, having the skills to do the job is now more important than having a degree that says you can do the job. Many freshly graduated graduates have the degree in hand, but not the experience or skills to go with it.

Hedge against inflation means weighing different factors.

In this tight labor market, employers are changing education requirements to fill vacant positions. Many companies are still trying to grow their business during this post-pandemic period and are looking for people who can jump into a role quickly and start performing. Using a competency-based hiring model accomplishes this much faster than hiring a recent graduate student with no experience.

But the question is “Will this hiring model last?“Some economics experts think not and in that case having a graduate degree could help you get a good paying job if the current economic tide turns the other way. And while any post-secondary degree is a good buffer against unemployment, graduate degrees have proven to be even better than associate’s or bachelor’s degrees.

Graduate degrees come with potentially higher debt.

If you’re using loans to pay for college, it’s easy to get into serious debt. Unlike undergraduate loans, which have tighter limits on how much you can borrow, federal Grad Plus and private loans allow students to borrow up to the cost of attendance, so debt can end up be much higher than with a lower degree. And your earning power after graduation will largely be determined not only by your degree, but also by the field and employer. Keep in mind that 40% of master’s degrees pay nothing at all, so selecting your field of study is key to getting a job that will offset the cost of earning that degree.

Not all degrees are created equal.

Where you get your degree can matter. Starting salaries may be lower if you graduated from an online-only school, compared to an online degree program that also has a resident campus. While the pandemic has changed the course of online learning, many employers still prefer graduate degrees from well-known schools.

Choosing a graduate program

When searching for a graduate program, use these three steps:

  1. Research the cost of the same graduate degree at several different schools by taking information from school websites.
  2. Do your due diligence by researching entry level requirements and earnings on potential occupations using data tools and the Occupational Outlook Handbook (listed under Publications) on the Bureau of Labor website Statistics (BLS).
  3. Browse other tools that list program types and outcomes by degree level using tools like the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce.

Whether or not a graduate degree is worth it is only one thing you can answer. But by going through the three stages of salary and occupation research, you can make a more informed decision whether or not a graduate degree is worth it.

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