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Getting A Masters Degree May Not Be The Answer

To stand out in a highly competitive, straining economy many students are considering graduate school as an option.  |  Sarah McCormick/The Arkansas Traveler
To stand out in a highly competitive, straining economy many students are considering graduate school as an option. | Sarah McCormick/The Arkansas Traveler

By KAITLIN EK
Daily Nebraskan, U. Nebraska

UWIRE – More than 15 million workers were counted among the unemployed in August, which saw the nation’s unemployment rate climb to 9.6 percent from 9.5 percent in July.

Naturally, upperclassmen probing the void for job prospects are apprehensive about their chances of snagging a job.

To stand out in a highly competitive, straining economy many students are considering graduate school as an option.

Despite the high cost of education, especially in today’s budget stretching times, some feel that they are making the right financial decision by pursuing a master’s degree.

Jordan Bryant, sophomore biology and pre-pharmacy major, feels that success in his career field almost mandates a higher degree.

“Getting a master’s or a doctorate shows companies that you are both experienced and dedicated,” he said. “It shows you mean business. So it is a huge advantage on a résumé.”

When asked about how he intends to pay for the initial education, he expressed little concern.

“Money isn’t everything,” Bryant continued. “Once you get your degree, you will be able to pay it off in the long run.”

Sophomore Luke Smith feels similarly.

“I think graduate school definitely makes you more marketable. I can get a job while I am in school and probably get a few scholarships, based on my academic performance here at the U of A.

And even if I do not get scholarships, the income I will get from having a master’s degree in aerospace engineering will more than make up for it,” he said.

Thus, a future-oriented mindset can be observed in students pursuing graduate degrees.

Student loans, perhaps two of the foulest words in a college student’s vocabulary, are of no consequence, provided that the end result is a steady, respectable paycheck.

“It is an investment,” Smith said. “You are investing in your future. And you are counting on that investment to bring greater returns in the future.”

Some career fields are more demanding than others when it comes to education.

The importance of distinction and specialization in broad career fields, especially within science, is extremely high. Salaries in such academic focuses are directly proportional to extent of education.

Johnathon Faught, senior psychology major, said that “it really depends on your field. For example, a bachelor’s degree in psychology will get you nowhere; you have to go to graduate school if you want to get any sort of job.”

Claud Lacy, a UA physics professor put it even more bluntly: “Publish or perish,” he said.

As a physicist and a repeatedly published astronomer, he understands the cutthroat nature of science firsthand.

And there are some credentials one simply must possess to even be considered for a job.

“If you are an astronomer and you want to teach, you have to get a Ph.D.

All science fields are like this,” Lacy said. “A bachelor’s degree in this field can get you a job in research and development, much like engineers, but you cannot teach without a higher degree. It just doesn’t happen.”

It follows that record numbers of students, heeding the advice and examples of their elders, are applying to graduate schools this year.

However, it would be a mistake to see graduate school as a necessity, and certainly one to see it as being universally beneficial.

The stakes are high, nothing is guaranteed and a plain, razor-edged question remains even after one has a Ph.D in hand: “Is this really what I want to do with my life?”

Jack Breffle, Gregson CRE, gave his input on the question of graduate school.

“What may seem like a certainty now may not be as much of a home run as a student continues to grow and mature,” Breffle
said.

“Life can change, folks may start families, and working through an on-call shift in an ER may not seem so appealing anymore.

“Someone can set themselves up for success and happiness if they do not handcuff themselves to a pile of debt they have to pay off in a job they may end up disliking.”

Breffle himself took a “year off” after completing his undergraduate degree, working a job, saving money and taking time to decide if he wanted to attend graduate school.

During that reprieve from academia, he found himself able to reflect on what he truly wanted to achieve.

“I had a delayed launch,” he said, “but by the time I started graduate school a year after finishing college, I had developed a hunger for the knowledge and experience I would gain which drove me to be successful in my venture.”

For those concerned about paying for graduate school, resources exist to help guide you on your path to higher education.

The Princeton Review annually compiles a list of the best graduate schools, sorted by size, cost, quality and area of study.

Many large corporations will also grant scholarships for top employees to obtain advanced degrees.

Education in today’s market is a win-win situation for both parties involved.

The most vital concept to understand in the realm of education is very straightforward, and twofold.

Where do I want to go with my life? And what is the best way for me to get there?

Quoting Joseph Campbell, the noted author, Lacy again answered with succinctness.

“You should follow your bliss.”

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