by Emily Goldblum.
In our difficult economy, many college seniors aren’t looking forward to pounding the pavement to hunt for a job. What’s Plan B? For growing numbers of students, it’s grad school.
New research published in the Digest of Education Statistics shows that college graduates are increasingly seeking more education: Two in 25 people age 25 or older have a master’s as their highest degrees. That’s about the same number who had their bachelor’s degree in 1967.
But according to experts, though graduate school is useful and even necessary in some cases, students shouldn’t look to it as a way to avoid the real world. “Unless you’re going to get a masters in an area that in some way broadens you or augments your particular skill set and knowledge base that to me is the real value of a masters,” says Professor Lynn Appelbaum, advertising and PR program director.
Cade Beck puts it even more bluntly–and he’s working on his PhD at CCNY. He compares going to grad school to hitting the snooze button on the alarm clock of life. “I wouldn’t recommend grad school simply because you can’t find a job,” says Beck, 23. “Two years later you STILL won’t be able to find a job, plus have more crippling debt to boot.”
In his field, research, a PhD is necessary, and Beck gets paid to finish his education. But that’s not the case for most. According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and Workforce, the fields where acquiring a graduate degree may increase your salary: biology, physical sciences, psychology and education. In other fields, like art, business and communications/journalism it doesn’t really make a difference.
“Depending on a particular field, if you have no skills or experience in the field no one is going to pay you extra because you went to school to get a masters degree,” says Marie Raperto, a headhunter and president of Cantor Integrating Marketing Staffing, Inc.
Jaeseung Hahn, 22, is in his last semester at CCNY and sees a doctorate in his future. “I would like to pursue a PhD in order to advance and translate medical nanotechnology into real-life applications,” says Hahn, who is studying biomedical engineering. “There always was this lingering thought in the back of my head that I would get a PhD eventually. It was perhaps because of my father who had a PhD. It was also natural for me since I really liked the research experience.
Bozant Katzakian, graduated with a BA from CCNY and is applying to graduate schools for film, production/directing. He thinks grad school will increase his skills and provide connections in the industry.
“To me, it is all about specialization. The undergraduates are going to college just for the sake of going to college, and there are a lot of them: they aren’t specialized anymore, a dime a dozen,” he explains. “A graduate degree offers specialization and an opportunity to connect with people who are truly interested in the field. You really have to have a passion for what you are studying and a desire to creatively contribute to the field.”
Katzakian may be on the right track: Directors Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola all have master’s degrees from film schools.