Does It Pay for College Seniors To Stay in School?
Many college seniors in the Class of 2020 expected be welcomed into a robust job market. My sympathies go out to these students. I graduated college in a recession year, 1982. By year’s end the unemployment rate approached 11 percent. The first cases of AIDS became known in the US the year before. The root cause of AIDs, HIV, would not be discovered for another two years. Within 14 years, complications from AIDS were the leading causes of death for adults 25 to 44 years old. Americans were not asked to practice social distancing. But the fears from economic and health uncertainties were quite serious. There was no Internet to help people to work and maintain contacts.
During the summer before my senior year in college I committed to going to graduate school. Prospective graduate students applied during the fall. All of my acceptances were in by spring break. I had time to plan and consider schools. This year’s graduating seniors are not so lucky. Should they consider staying in school?
College seniors who decide to stick around might be able to:
- Take job related courses to help them find work as more jobs become available.
- Earn credits towards a second major or a certificate that might help their employment prospects.
- Apply to a graduate program that might still be taking applications. Rutgers, for example, will take applications up till August for the Masters in Education that starts in September. The Masters of Health Administration program has a deadline of July 1st. These are two programs that have courses that could transition to online instruction. Syracuse University is also offering half-tuition scholarships to seniors who want to pursue a Masters degree or certificate program. Thinking about a business program? Check out Poets and Quants to find out about business schools that are still admitting students for the fall.
Graduate programs that have deadlines past the close of the spring semester might be more likely to welcome recent college grads. But while full-time graduate students do not need to repay loans, they must consider their indebtedness against starting salaries. Graduating college seniors should be aware of the risks and rewards of staying in school. Taking one to three courses over a single summer might improve employment prospects more than a masters degree. They might also improve your chances to get into a better situation for graduate school in the future.
Thinking about moving immediately into a master’s degree? Answer these questions.
- Am I prepared to start the program? You do not want to take undergraduate pre-requisite courses for no credit. Nor do you want to pay graduate school tuition for them.
- Is the masters degree absolutely necessary ? Certified Public Accountants, for example, need 150 credits, including accounting and business courses. Many states expect elementary and secondary school teachers to have masters degrees. But many other professions do not require them.
- Will the masters degree make me more competitive in the job market? When I worked in urban planning few entry-level jobs were filled by people who has only a bachelors degree. But masters degree holders in Business, Computer Science or Engineering with no full-time work experience are unlikely to earn much more than bachelors degree grads.
- What is the return on the masters degree? Check out salary surveys against the costs of a masters program as well as your current student loan debt. Some masters programs may cost more than you could ever afford to pay back. When costs are a concern, pay as little as possible for a masters degree. Throw ego aside when your third or fourth choice school offers the most generous aid.
- Does the program have a good history of helping students find internships and full-time jobs? Some graduate programs have their own career services and/or strong alumni networks, others don’t.
- Does the program have the flexibility to switch from full-time to part-time if an attractive job opportunity becomes available? Experience counts for more than the masters degree. It will be quite tempting to work in your field, or at least earn decent pay, to help manage your expenses.
Graduate school or further college education might not be the best option for everyone. But it’s a legitimate option to consider if it enhances your career prospects. I welcome further dialogue on this topic.
Considering graduate school in architecture, business, education, public policy or law school? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 609-406-0062