My Master's Degree Wasn't Worth It: Students Tell Their Stories

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by overedge, Feb 2, 2013.

  1. overedge

    overedge Well-Known Member

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    flutzilla1 and (deleted member) like this.
  2. CantALoop

    CantALoop Well-Known Member

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    Not to mention the fancy-sounding but ultimately vague descriptions of their specializations/majors. If I was hiring someone, I wouldn't know what to make out of those descriptions either.
  3. Buzz

    Buzz Well-Known Member

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    That is soooooo sad!! And :wideeyes: at the amount of debt these people has. I hope they keep trying and do not give up.
  4. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    The scientist is making me :huh:. There are still jobs out there for scientists, but you often have to be willing to work in industry, which is kind of a drag. Academia doesn't pay that much, unless you are a brilliant PhD and survive tenure, and there aren't enough teaching jobs to go around. If you only have a master's, you can really only be a staff scientist. I have no idea what his expectations were. Teaching with a master's when they are a glut of recent PhDs who are willing and able? Um, no. He's going after the wrong thing entirely. Scientist with an master's = industry. Not teaching. That's just how it works.

    I know a EE major from a renowned school who supposedly "couldn't find a job" and went back for her PhD. Of course I would be the last person to tell her to take any old job, but many of these folks still hold on to certain expectations that simply can't be met by reality. In most cases, the degree is still worth something, you're just using it wrong!

    To be fair, nowadays there are too many JDs and MBAs for them to be really worth anything anymore, but a master's can still be exceedingly useful if you choose the subject well and leverage it correctly.

    I feel sorry for the guy who got a master's in HR and just graduated at the wrong time. It's really crummy luck, and only the most brilliant will survive that. Brilliance should not be a requirement for achieving modest living standards.
  5. jeffisjeff

    jeffisjeff Well-Known Member

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    From the title, I was surprised to see that the article wasn't all about MBAs not getting their money's worth. I guess in this economy, everyone struggles.

    Many engineering schools offer 5 year joint bachelors-masters programs. The trick is that they do not give the bachelors degree until the end of the 5th year (both degrees are awarded at the same time), which means that the students can use their financial aid to pay for the 5th year. I am not a big fan of those programs because it seems to be a fall back for students struggling to find a job in their senior year (often you can switch to the joint degree program during your senior year). So, while some in the program are excellent students, many are the opposite. For the not-so-good students, spending the extra $$ for the masters degree just isn't worth it in terms of job prospects (many aren't able to turn around their GPA in the extra year).
  6. Prancer

    Prancer Ray Chill Staff Member

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    :lol:

    I figure that if you have to pay your own way through grad school, you shouldn't go.
  7. jeffisjeff

    jeffisjeff Well-Known Member

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    I tell students that. But sometimes I think, well, not every program is the same, so maybe I'm not being fair. But, yeah, I don't generally advise people to shell out lots of $$$ for a masters, unless it is from a top 10 b-school.

    I didn't initially plan to get my PhD, just the MS, but was told to just check both the MS and PhD boxes on my grad school applications (sometimes by faculty at the universities!), and I would be offered RA or TA support. So I did and I was. And of course I decided to stick around a few more years. :lol:
  8. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    Do they have to pay extra for the master's, or is the extra tuition for the extra year? My sister gained a masters with her bachelor's in 4 years, but it wasn't an official program. I mean there is a program that makes it possible for students to do so...not usually both in 4 years though! She really did fulfill all the requirements and wrote two theses within that time span. She's crazy and brilliant. :lol: But again, brilliance should not be a requirement for having a modest living standard...
  9. Really

    Really No longer just a "well-known member" Yay!

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    I had to shake my head at the person who had their M.Ed and was complaining because they couldn't use it for anything else. Duh...you did a masters in education!

    My M.Ed. was most definitely worth it. I was fortunate because it was a cohort program that allowed me to continue working while I studied, so we paid for it as it went. The fact that I could base my thesis project on my work in the classroom was a huge bonus. Hubby and I did ours at the same time. I got my M.Ed. at the ripe old age of 49, and it has already paid for itself because it bumped me $5K/year. His has paid off because it allowed him to compete successfully for senior administration positions.

    Were we lucky? Maybe. But we were also in a position where the cost-benefit analysis was definitely in our favour. There's no way I could have done it when our kids were little. So yeah, some luck...;)
  10. jeffisjeff

    jeffisjeff Well-Known Member

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    They pay full tuition for the 5th year. These programs are much needed sources of revenue for some universities.
  11. Prancer

    Prancer Ray Chill Staff Member

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    That is true, but I hope it at least makes people stop and think about cost vs. return, especially for those who already have debt from undergrad.
  12. danceronice

    danceronice Corgi Wrangler

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    ...They get a highly-specialized masters in Education and are complaining they can only find jobs in education.

    Right...you know, I don't think we WANT these people teaching.
  13. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    :confused: She complained she couldn't find any teaching jobs, and thus the degree became useless and she went back to her old field. She wasn't complaining that she was only getting education jobs on her radar.

    I do think a teacher is better served by getting certified and teaching with their bachelor's for a while, and THEN getting a masters if it will bump up their pay. (That's what my old roommate and her husband did, like you.) But give her some credit here, she was trying to use her degree the way it was meant to be used.
  14. mrr50

    mrr50 Well-Known Member

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    I worked for a University Hospital which paid for my Master's. I wouldn't have bothered otherwise. Sometimes it seems like the new master's program is what the bachelor's was originally the qualification.
  15. Angelskates

    Angelskates Active Member

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    I think both of my masters were worth it, just because of what I actually learnt, both in them being relevant to my field, and just because it kept my mind ticking and active. I didn't get any more money for getting them, but I also didn't get into debt getting them. I enjoyed the work immensely, and would recommend anyone in Australia (or anyone who could afford it with no or minimal debt) getting one if they so want, but our system is so different that it doesn't require the same sort of financial debt. I am in debt less for my house than these people are for their degrees :(

    Why are institutions lending this sort of money if the return isn't there? Isn't there a requirement to be able to pay back and it be a percentage of living costs? How long do most have to pay these loans?
  16. MacMadame

    MacMadame Internet Beyotch

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    I feel sorry for the HR guy who missed the HR boom by 1-2 years. Something similar happened to an old boyfriend of mine -- got his PhD in Chemistry and did his thesis in an area that was in great demand up until about 6 months before he got his degree when the market totally fell out of it and the only people who would interview him were cigarette companies and he didn't want to work for them for ethical reasons.

    But that one guy with the double major / science degrees who can't even get interviews reminds me of people I know who can't get jobs because of personal issues and blame it on the market or other things when it's really just them.

    Some of the comments on the article were pretty spot on though.
  17. madm

    madm Active Member

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    A couple of things that worked for me and my husband:

    - Get your Master's degree only if you can get it fully funded (e.g. with a tuition waiver and a TA or RA position).
    - Get your Master's degree in a different field than your Bachelor's degree, to make yourself more uniquely qualified for a variety of jobs. I combined my B.S. biology degree with a M.S. in technical journalism, and was able to work doing college teaching and then technical writing for a high tech company. An education degree combined with a technical degree provides a good background for developing training courses or writing instruction manuals in the corporate world.
    - Get internships before graduating with your Bachelor's degree. You need job experience before graduation in order to compete for jobs after graduation. You also need to cultivate professional contacts in order to get job leads and references. If they like you during an internship, that could lead to a job offer.
    - Join professional organizations and volunteer for leadership positions. Employers are looking for people who have leadership skills and are go-getters.

    The amount of education you have is only one item on a resume. The other areas showcasing your work experience and professional activities mean a lot too. There is also a lot of truth to the adage that getting a job is "who you know". I got a lot of job leads after graduation from professors and past work associates.

    I also agree with the poster who said a master's degree is best suited for a job in industry, while a PhD is best suited for a job in academia or as a corporate researcher (e.g. developing pharmaceuticals, doing IC chip design).
  18. *Jen*

    *Jen* Well-Known Member

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    I agree with everyone who said it depends on expectations. I have a master's and it hasn't really helped me financially, since I got it in 2009. Wrong time! That said, I had a fantastic time studying it, met some of my best friends, took some of the best trips with them and got to live in a foreign country for two years.

    Now, years later, I'm slowly cracking into a field somewhat related to my master's, and having it definitely helps. Even if it didn't, the debt was worth it for what I learned and how much fun I had :)

    I did my master's in Europe though, so we're talking about substantially less debt that in the US. Not sure about Canada?
  19. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    The institutions don't lend the money, companies like Sallie Mae do. It is a fairly rare school that will give out its own loans and grants. Also, often there is a portion of financial aid that are government grants (ie Pell Grants, named after the grandfather of Mr Kwan :) ) , and that's what the institutions are really after. I know University of Phoenix and other for-profit institutions were criticized for going after those grants specifically, often taking in underqualified students who didn't have a prayer of graduating.

    It is also a rare institution/professor to tell a student NOT to go into their field because of lack of jobs. There's an issue of pride and denial there. My boss is one of those rare ones - a professor and researcher, who tells everybody who asks that they should go to med school, not grad school. :lol:
  20. Angelskates

    Angelskates Active Member

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    I meant the financial institutions lending money, not the universities. Shouldn't you need to show you are capable of paying it back within the terms, and still being able to live? Would these people get a housing loan of $120,000? If not, why would they get a study loan for $120,000? Is the criteria different? Why?
  21. Prancer

    Prancer Ray Chill Staff Member

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    Institutions are generally not after Pell grants at the graduate school level.

    The Pell grant program is restricted to undergraduate students who have yet to complete their first bachelor's degree program. Students may not apply for Pell grants for more than one school at a time. In most cases, graduate students do not qualify for Pell grants, but there are exceptions.

    Graduate students may apply for a Pell grant if their course of study will conclude with the award of a teaching license or certificate. Thus, following a graduate-level teaching program in a state university system will qualify a student for a Pell grant


    Read more: Can I Get a Pell Grant for Graduate School? | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/about_7523985_can-pell-grant-graduate-school.html#ixzz2JjqLRGB

    Most schools, for-profit or not, couldn't care less where the money comes from as long as it comes in.

    An explanation of Sallie Mae, which is a corporation that manages and makes student loans.

    How long you have to pay and how much you have to pay each month varies depending on the payment plan you choose or the terms set by the lending institution
  22. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    It never is $120K up front. Even the most clueless student would balk at that. :lol:

    Your financial aid package is calculated every school year, but you have to keep applying every year too. I bet that most students neglect to do that, even if their circumstances change and likely affect their aid package, such as a parent losing a job and thus being unable to pay "their" share. Only solution, if you don't get your aid package modified, is to take out more loans. Also, at many schools, tuition is paid per semester not per unit, so the longer a student stays in school (which may not be foreseen, you never know when someone might end up in the hospital....), the more they pay.

    :eek: I even looked it up on Wikipedia and missed that very important bit! :lol:
  23. Angelskates

    Angelskates Active Member

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    Yes, but it seems ridiculous that if you haven't managed to pay the first semester loan, that you can still get a loan for second semester, third semester etc. just making the loan amount bigger and bigger, without making a dent in it. A bank wouldn't let you borrow money for one car per semester would it? The current loan(s) should be taking into account when applying for additional loans, and it seems amazing to me that these people are ALLOWED to borrow these massive sums of money when there is no guarantee of a return. It's irresponsible for the lender and the borrower. Like writing a book, and then spending all your money because you think it might get picked up and published one day. Or getting a loan to buy a really expensive computer to write the book that may turn into nothing.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2013
  24. Prancer

    Prancer Ray Chill Staff Member

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    Not when you are in grad school. There is no financial aid for grad school, at least not for the vast majority. That's why the competition for those assistantships is so fierce.

    You can take out loans. You can get into a program that pays your way. You can get an assistantship. But you aren't going to get financial aid like you did when you were an undergrad.

    Not only do most people not get Pell grants in grad school, those few who do get a maximum of $5,350. Woo hoo.

    You don't start paying off student loans until after you graduate. The whole concept of student loans is based on the idea that you will start making decent money once you have your degree. And that's generally been true. It isn't true right now because a) there are too many people with degrees and b) the economy sucks. But even so, college graduates are doing better than non-college graduates, the government is pushing hard to get more people into college, and the only way many people can go to college is to take out student loans. Ergo, there is a lot of support for the student loan system.

    Most people who have student debt do not have six figure student debt; it's mostly people who go to professional schools who rack up that kind of debt. And people who attend professional schools would be expected to make pretty good money--at least until very recently. Racking up six-figure debt just for a master's degree is unusual.
  25. Angelskates

    Angelskates Active Member

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    Are the loans easy to get, compared to something concrete that costs the same amount? How about the interest rates?
  26. Prancer

    Prancer Ray Chill Staff Member

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    Student loans are usually very easy to get. And the interest rates are usually very low.

    People who are struggling to pay can apply for relief or deferments. The debt cannot be erased, however, even in bankruptcy.
  27. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Get off my lawn

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    I think some of the folks in the article just forgot to do their homework. Every successful person i know in a scientific field got there in one of two ways. Those who were set on research went straight through to PhD with financial support of fellowships and grants. Those who preferred the commercial side took entry level jobs in pharma, biotech, or medical devices and had their employers pay. The "struggling" ones seem to have taken out big loans with the expectation of a big payday with no evidence to back that up.
  28. *Jen*

    *Jen* Well-Known Member

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    :eek: That's terrifying! I'm fairly sure bankruptcy in the UK means losing everything you own, but wiping the slate clean. We're yet to see the effect of the changes in student fees here though.

    Can the loan be reduced at all in bankruptcy?
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2013
  29. Jenny

    Jenny From the Bloc

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    This. I recall a young woman who had just finished a masters degree applying for a management job in my company. She was amazed that she wasn't handed the job, at an advanced salary at that.

    Education is a good thing, but for many jobs, you also need experience in the field, and even a few very good internships aren't going to cut it. In my field at least, no one is going to let you manage anything if you've never done the work before.
  30. Yehudi

    Yehudi Well-Known Member

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    And also look where the alumni end up. For example, many aspiring accountants are getting an MSA because they need the 150 hours anyway and because certain schools are feeders for the big 4. One person I know, however, was getting an MSA at a non feeder school and was very shocked to find out that so many people got their offers by November.
  31. bek

    bek Guest

    Well I'm stuck with a big debt from Seminary, thought I'd use it to be a pastor and then realized that wasn't for me.... I'm actually considering getting an MBA. My job offers 5,000 a year in tuition reimbursement. (up to 10,000 if you get a manager's approval)... I could get a designation in the field I'm in at my job. But since I "just started" in this field, I'm not sure how I'm going to feel about it.. My place of employment is a huge conglomerate so there are opportunities to move into completely other fields besides the field I'm in... So I'm thinking of taking a couple of business classes/MBA would be a good idea because it is useful where ever. My only question is online vs real school. Real school sounds like it will be treated better. However its not like I have a top program ten minutes away, and no way will I quit my current job to go into a full time program.

    I frankly want to use the degree to move up-where I'm at. And I figure honestly if I were to ever want to change jobs, my experience at the current company I work for would look just as good as the degree I currently have (if I were able to move up there.) If I choose to stay in the current area at my job, I'll get the designation too
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 2, 2013
  32. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Get off my lawn

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    At most big companies, there's someone in HR/benefits who can point folks towards programs that are recognized by that company. Why not ask your boss along the lines of "I'm thinking of taking courses towards an MBA, but need some guidance on the best program. Do you know if there's anyone who can help me figure it out?" Then see where that goes.

    Another option would be to check the LinkedIn profiles of managers 2+ levels above you and see where they went. Then see if those schools offer a mostly online track.
  33. bek

    bek Guest

    Well I just started working there and have been in training for months. I qualify for the tuition assistance in about a month... I have a new manager who said we will talk about career development, and we also have education counselors there. I will have to take some business undergrad courses, so I figure I can start out slow...There is a list of the schools they will recognize. But there's recognizing and recognizing... :)lol:) However I suspect and fact know that they first look at is performance reviews...
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 2, 2013
  34. Choupette

    Choupette New Member

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    I'm not sure about the other provinces, but in Quebec it's about $3000 a year, and the job market is okay.
  35. 4rkidz

    4rkidz GPF Barcelona here I come

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    It depends.. for my daughter her grad school is getting paid for (science) but for me.. I was able to do it the same time as teaching part time and working full time so paying as I went didn't really cost that much.. plus the research is on the work I have done the past 20 years anyway so a bit rewarding (focus on the bit).. I am more worried about the students I saw at the grad school classes I attended who were only there because they couldn't get jobs in the teaching field so were 'advised' you may as well stay in school and get more education.. I don't agree with that.. I blame the grad schools for that they just want the $$$.. my daughter said she would only do grad school if she was paid..
  36. professordeb

    professordeb Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, Quebec has some of the cheapest tuition in Canada as it is heavily subsidized by the provincial government, so I have been led to believe.

    I live in Ontario, my daughter is studying Marine Biology @ Dalhousie in Halifax, New Brunswick. She gets about $1200/year from her school as a bursary because of our financial situation. Her tuition is easily $3K per SEMESTER so that's about $6K per year. Then there is food, housing, textbooks etc. Last year it cost (and she received) about $16K for her to go to school of which some of that is grant but most is loan. Of her loan, some of it will be "forgiven" because she maintains about an A- average. She is planning to do her Masters and PhD at the same time so I can only imagine how much she will owe by the time she finishes school.

    As for a job, she's not sure what type of position she'd like to pursue. Probably research but unsure if she wants to try private sector, public sector or even something in the education realm. Since she's in her 3rd year of her Bachelor of Science, I am hoping things clear up for her soon.
  37. bek

    bek Guest

    I frankly think its criminal how much college costs right now. I know someone who actually went to school in Quebec.
  38. *Jen*

    *Jen* Well-Known Member

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    A lot of European schools now offer master's programmes in English, and there are a LOT of American and Canadian students enrolled. Especially American. I did one such programme and there were students from around 40 countries. 80% of all students were from the US. I don't know if this gave them any advantage on their CVs when they went home, or if it was purely a financial decision, but there are some really great schools around the world that don't cost the earth.
  39. madm

    madm Active Member

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    My daughter also did her bachelor's degree in marine biology and graduated 4 years ago. She knew she'd have to work unpaid internships for 12 months before she could even apply for any jobs that require minimum 12-months experience. She did that, and was lucky one of the internships turned into a paid job as a dolphin trainer in Florida. However, her pay was very low ($9/hr) and she could barely afford to live with a roommate, especially with Florida rents being high and having a 10-mile commute to work via toll roads. After 1.5 years of doing that, with little prospect of advancement, she decided to pursue veterinary school where she has a chance of earning a decent salary. She plans to work with zoo and aquarium animals.

    My next door neighbor (a senior wildlife biology PhD managing a state wildlife disease office) has a daughter engaged to a PhD marine biologist who is going to work for the university in New Brunswick. I think he's very lucky to be getting any kind of job offer. The only people I know in wildlife fields got their jobs a long time ago and work for government. It's a very small job market. I also have a cousin engaged to a former zoology major who interned with the U.S. Navy at their marine mammal training site in San Diego (the dolphins detect underwater mines and retrieve equipment). They liked her well enough to hire her permanently. So the military is another place to consider employment. Good luck to her!
  40. 4rkidz

    4rkidz GPF Barcelona here I come

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    Deb.. get your daughter to check out funding for grad school because if she has A grades and a 4 year/honours (or equiv) she shouldn't have to pay a penny for her graduate school.. she needs to now start checking out her research options now..as decisions are made by graduate supervisors not the school admissions.. they will also guarantee a minimum amount for students in grad school.. also even at her under graduate school she should check out jobs at school.. my daughter hasn't had to pay anything for her final year as working as a TA and lab assist - both jobs on campus.. in her field and living off campus (tons cheaper) she actually broke even for this her last year.. UBC has a marine biology grad school stuff with funding.. if she hasn't done her honours yet she might want to stream it towards where there are research dollars later on.. also she should be applying for NSERC funding.. which is federal funding for science and engineering..