To master or not to master

By Brianna Wellen

My parents both have master’s degrees. When I was young and I caught them doing something that I was not allowed to do, such as eating in their room instead of the kitchen, their go-to quip was, “When you have a master’s degree you can do whatever you want.”

I realize now that this was their way to avoid explaining to me that they were adults and I was a child, so the rules were different. At the time, however, it was a subtle message to my young ears. I heard, “You must get a master’s degree.” Ever since, I assumed it to be the proper thing all adults would do before getting a job and continuing on with life.

Now, at the point in my life when I should be considering graduate school, I’m not so sure it’s the right thing or entirely helpful. When my parents got their master’s, it meant they were one step closer to a job than other candidates and would most likely be offered more pay. In those days, companies would often even pay their employees to go to grad school so they could be the best they could be. This is a far-off dream in today’s downtrodden economic times.

These days, a master’s degree could hurt you in the marketplace. Employers are, more often than not, looking for recent college graduates who are willing to do the most amount of work for the least amount of money. A MBA or MFA on a resume just might scare them into thinking job candidates want—and probably rightfully so—more money.

Without a job, it will be awfully hard to pay off those student loans. And at this point it’s no longer just for undergraduates. Graduate programs can cost just as much if not more than an undergraduate education, and most programs last at least two years. That’s tens of thousands more dollars to worry about. No, thank you.

Continuing education after getting a bachelor’s degree is a respectable move, but there are ways to go about it that can save money and job opportunities. Plenty of programs offer night classes and online classes individually, which could curb the cost of another full year’s tuition.

There are certainly career benefits in the long run to attending graduate school that I wouldn’t want to dismiss. Those with a master’s degree are able to teach at a college level and can go on to earn their doctorate, which could open up job opportunities down the road. These things, however, are not mandatory for success.

When it comes to experience and education that will be useful in the workplace, someone recently said it to me best: Your first job is your grad school. That’s where you’ll learn the business, learn from your mistakes and get the most valuable education for your future.

For now, I’ll pass on graduate school and concentrate on getting a jump start on my career instead. Once I have my bearings and am making enough money to pay for it, I’ll consider getting a master’s degree so I can, at the very least, have a solid argument for my children when they catch me eating in my room.