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Door: Nasser Mohamud
Master’s degree = New Bachelor’s?

Is the Master’s degree the New Bachelor’s? 
 

At a certain period of time it was believed that if you go to college and graduate with a bachelor’s degree, your formal education is complete and a bachelor’s degree was sufficient to make you competitive to peruse your chosen career.

However, over the years the work landscape changed dramatically. The recession has flooded the workforce with more available workers, and employers are insisting on graduate degrees (master’s level or above).

The education writer Laura Pappano explains in a piece in the New York Times that the Master’s degree in the US has become the the fastest-growing degree in the country.

The number of master's degrees given out since the 1980s has more than doubled. Now, two in 25 adults aged 25 and over have a master's degree--about the same percent as had attained a college education or higher in 1960.



 How much of an advantage does a master’s degree provide compared to an undergraduate qualification? In short, will getting a master’s improve your employment prospects?
 

In a survey of more than 4,000 students preparing to apply for postgraduate degrees, conducted by QS in 2012-13, an average of 75% of applicants across different world regions said they believed a graduate degree would boost their employment prospects. Is this belief justified? Read on to see what employers and statistics say. 

Growing global demand for STEM skills at master's level and above 

The Observatory , an independent global organization that conducts research into cross-border higher education programs, highlights in its January 2013 newsletter a growing demand for STEM skills (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, mathematics) in the US and Europe.

 The Observatory says: “imported talent [to the US] is necessary…   The number of STEM graduates will have to increase by 20-30% by 2016 to meet the projected growth of the US economy.

The UK’s House of Lords agrees, publishing a report last July that acknowledges the “significant” role STEM postgraduates play “in driving innovation, undertaking research and development, and providing leadership and entrepreneurship”, and saying the government needs “to articulate how they intend to convey to students the benefits of STEM postgraduate study”. graduates will have to increase by 20-30% by 2016 to meet the projected growth of the US economy. Overall, STEM employment grew three times more than non-STEM employment over the last twelve years, and is expected to grow twice as fast by 2018.

Growing demand for MBA graduates and other Business Masters

According to the annual Corporate Recruitment Survey for 2013 from the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), which surveyed employers in 50 countries around the world, 75% of surveyed employers intend to hire MBA graduates this year, an increase on the 71% who hired MBA graduates the previous year.


Another 2013 
GMAC survey of MBA and other Business Masters students in 33 countries worldwide found that a majority of 60% had already received a job offer before graduating. This percentage has been growing steadily over the last five years in almost all Business Masters programs. The highest percentage of job offers was found in China (75%), and the lowest in Europe (55%), but even the European figure shows a clear majority.

Better employment prospects overall for Master's graduates

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has published a chart of ‘Earnings and Unemployment Rates by Educational Attainment’ for the year 2012. This shows a median unemployment rate of 3.5% for master’s degree holders, in contrast to unemployment rates for bachelor and associate degree holders of 4.5% and 6.2% respectively. Furthermore, it shows median weekly earnings for master’s degree holders in 2012 to be significantly higher – US$1,300, compared to bachelor and associate degree holders’ earnings of $1,066 and $785.

UK-based figures published in June 2013 by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show that 74% of those who completed master’s degrees in the academic year 2011/12 found employment within six months: 56% at home, 13% overseas, and a further 5% combining work and study. This is in comparison to 72% of first-degree students, where the breakdown in the same order is 63%, 3% and 6%.

Conclusion 
The evidence in favor of doing a master’s degree certainly looks encouraging with the two most popular destinations for higher education, the US and UK, both showing better employment prospects overall for master’s graduates.

 

Currently Im studying a postgraduate International Marketing programme at King’s College London University to convince future employers that I have the knowledge and skills they’re looking for. It’s not just about getting the Master’s degree itself, but it’s what you do with it, and how effectively you use it. In other words, a master’s degree should do a lot more for than just add an extra line to your CV.