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

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2005
    Messages:
    17,900
    flutzilla1 and (deleted member) like this.
  2. CantALoop

    CantALoop Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2004
    Messages:
    2,385
    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

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2001
    Messages:
    16,935
    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

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2001
    Messages:
    11,173
    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

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2002
    Messages:
    14,544
    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 The "specialness" that is Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2001
    Messages:
    38,664
    :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

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2002
    Messages:
    14,544
    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

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2001
    Messages:
    11,173
    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!

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2001
    Messages:
    29,505
    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

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2002
    Messages:
    14,544
    They pay full tuition for the 5th year. These programs are much needed sources of revenue for some universities.
     
  11. Prancer

    Prancer The "specialness" that is Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2001
    Messages:
    38,664
    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

    Joined:
    Apr 10, 2006
    Messages:
    6,476
    ...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

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2001
    Messages:
    11,173
    :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

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2004
    Messages:
    1,217
    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 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2004
    Messages:
    12,791
    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

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2005
    Messages:
    16,497
    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

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2006
    Messages:
    577
    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

    Joined:
    May 12, 2005
    Messages:
    11,557
    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

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2001
    Messages:
    11,173
    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 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2004
    Messages:
    12,791
    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 The "specialness" that is Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2001
    Messages:
    38,664
    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

    Joined:
    Apr 22, 2001
    Messages:
    11,173
    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 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2004
    Messages:
    12,791
    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 The "specialness" that is Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2001
    Messages:
    38,664
    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 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 25, 2004
    Messages:
    12,791
    Are the loans easy to get, compared to something concrete that costs the same amount? How about the interest rates?
     
  26. Prancer

    Prancer The "specialness" that is Staff Member

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2001
    Messages:
    38,664
    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

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2005
    Messages:
    6,325
    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

    Joined:
    May 12, 2005
    Messages:
    11,557
    :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

    Joined:
    Apr 20, 2001
    Messages:
    17,512
    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

    Joined:
    Jun 26, 2001
    Messages:
    2,141
    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.