Is the Cost of Master’s Degree Worth the Risk?

The gives and takes of attending graduate school

By Megan Gartrell, Staff Writer

Traditional hat toss

Image courtesy of Ashton College

The camera flashes, capturing a smiling graduate clad in a black robe, red sash and square cap. Her arms link through her parents’ arms and all three beam with pride. Four long years have finally paid off with a shiny, glass-framed bachelor’s degree. The long hours in the library, the endless papers and countless cups of coffee have all led to this moment.

But now what?

Many graduates hope to find that dream job waiting directly outside the college exit doors, but reality shows all too often this isn’t the case. The jump from student to professional can be tricky, especially in this current economy. Unlike the baby boomer generation, there is a growing argument that a university or college degree is simply not enough to land a high paying job. University is no longer the golden ticket it once was.

The New York Times recently warned, with the educational race so hot, the master’s is turning into the new bachelor’s. Which in turn, one could argue, makes a bachelor’s today the equivalent of having a high school diploma 20 years ago.

With college costs ever increasing, there has been plenty of talk about whether there’s a bubble in undergraduate education. That education, like housing, will be the next sector in which prices leap above real value.

In a Room for Debate forum published on the New York Times website, Mark Taylor, the chairman of the religion department at Columbia University, weighed in on the discussion of what a master’s degree is worth. “During times of financial stress, people become vulnerable and understandably seek to improve their situation in any way they can. For many, more education seems to be the solution. When the economy goes down, applications to graduate programs go up,” he said.

Riding out the current economy storm by obtaining a master’s degree could be the next logical step for a recent graduate, but how can he or she be sure it will pay off in the long run? Which degrees are worth getting? And which are not?

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