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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. 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
  2. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Hit ball, find ball, hit it again.

    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.
  3. 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
  4. Choupette

    Choupette Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure about the other provinces, but in Quebec it's about $3000 a year, and the job market is okay.
  5. 4rkidz

    4rkidz plotting, planning and travelling

    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..
  6. professordeb

    professordeb Well-Known Member

    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.
  7. bek

    bek Guest

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

    *Jen* Well-Known Member

    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.
  9. madm

    madm Well-Known Member

    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!
  10. 4rkidz

    4rkidz plotting, planning and travelling

    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..
  11. Prancer

    Prancer Slave to none, master to all Staff Member

    I believe, although I might be wrong, that student loans are handled separately. If you want to get the debt reduced, you have to go through the student loan agency, not the bankruptcy court. The fact that student loan debt can't be erased by bankruptcy is often cited as one of the reasons that loaning agencies are disinclined to work with struggling debtors.

    OTOH, you can go through bankruptcy in the US without losing everything.

    I think that's very true. I thought that was especially true in the case of the first guy in the link, who got an MBA and another master's and then applied for jobs only in New York.

    Just on principle, I would expect someone with an MBA to make better business decisions.

    Personal experience always varies, but with all due respect, if you didn't get your master's in the US in this economy, I don't think your experience is particularly applicable to the situations faced by the people in the link.

    I think the same is true of undergrad education. I never know whether to laugh or scream when people here post things like "When I got my degree (30 years ago), I paid my own way by working summers and it was good for me and what's wrong with kids today who move back in with your parents because you can't stand to give up your big screen TV and free laundry?"

    College costs in the US have increased 1,120% in the last 30 years and it is much harder to get scholarships and aid than it used to be. That's a lot of what's wrong with kids today.
  12. MacMadame

    MacMadame Cat Lady-in-Training

    Not only can they not be reduced or forgiven via bankruptcy, but they often can't be reduced or forgiven by death! The student loan companies continue to go after the parents when the former student dies in many, many cases. (There are petitions all over change.org about this.)
  13. escaflowne9282

    escaflowne9282 Reformed Manspreader

    How is that possible? In most states, under Trust and Estates law, one cannot inherit a debt. Loan companies can sue the Estate of a decedant; however, if the decedant either has no Estate or no sufficient assets within the Estate to cover said debt, and the person is not a minor, the loan company would be SOL. The only caveat I can think of is if the parent co-signed the initial loan, in which case they agreed to assume that responsibility.
  14. *Jen*

    *Jen* Well-Known Member

    :eek: :scream:

    Actually, I've checked and you can in the UK too, especially if there are kids involved or that some of your assets might help you claw your way out of debt in the future, i.e. tools for work. Many lenders will secure their loans in the first place so that they get money ahead of other creditors in bankruptcy but student debts, even at their new inflated value, are much lower than in the US so might be paid off at some stage.

    Of all the issues I have with my home country, I can't find much fault with the Australian education system. The secondary system is SO much better than the UK, and the tertiary system, at least at the time I went through it, meant I could defer payment of ALL my undergraduate fees and as long as I'm not working in Australia and paying Australian tax, I'm not paying it off. It's frozen. There's inflation, but no interest, and if were unemployed and broke it would be no big deal. The loan is from the government and they'd get it back from me when I was able to pay.

    I have an American friend who doesn't think she can have kids because she can't afford them with all her debt obligations. I find that pretty sad :( I'm glad I'm not in that position, because looking at 20 years of loan repayments for a degree like her is just frightening. By the time she's paid them off, most of my friends in Europe will have paid off their mortgages!
  15. aliceanne

    aliceanne Well-Known Member

    I'm one of the ones who got a college degree 35 years ago and while I agree tuition is higher now I'm curious as to why. One article I read said that schools are adding too much fluff such as sports teams, jacuzzis, health clubs etc. because the competition to attract students has increased.

    Rising administrative costs are also cited as a reason. I would think technology would help administrative overhead and yet it seems to have done the reverse.

    I also see colleges hiring many instructors as part-time independent contractors. That should reduce costs. It isn't increasing job opportunities for their graduates.

    Perhaps colleges and universities have become too big and are trying to offer too much. If they aren't affordable to the majority of students what good are they?

    The article also stated that easy availabilty of student loans is what has fueled the increased competition for students and the increased expenditures by universities to attract them.

    As a tax payer I am thinking that defaults on student loans is another debt crisis getting ready to explode.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2013
  16. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

    Some undergrads end up paying five-figures, six-figures for their bachelors. That is inexcusable. But yes, graduate school is even worse!

    One has to wonder what kind of research they did on the program. Owing $50-60K at the end of a master's is not unheard of (it often assumes that you weren't able to pay ANYTHING during the few years you were there), but twice that is just befuddling to me. I suppose there are always outliers (again, never know who might end up in the hospital and unable to go to school), but I agree it really is not normal.

    Exactly. I'm not sure which school the guy in the article went to, but they must have told him NOTHING about scientific careers.

    Determine if she likes going out in the field vs staying in and teaching. At many places, you can do both, but if she doesn't want to teach, she should go into industry right away. Sure, a PhD gives you more time to "figure things out," but if you decide to not go into academia, you're often overqualified (and thus unhireable) for anything else.

    Might be different in Canada though. I would still encourage her to take an internship somewhere, even if it's unpaid. Even when I was in undergrad and the economy had not yet gone down the crapper, most lab internships were unpaid. Experience doing science is extremely valuable if you're a fresh grad.

    And it's harder in general to get into the schools which are need-blind and have enough money to give to their students as grants. And even those institutions who have that policy, have decreased funds too so they can't give as many grants as they used to. When I graduated in 2006, there was talk of a financial aid war (of sorts) between a lot of the top universities, to see who could give more grants to low-income students. Stanford even proposed that any student whose parents earned less than $60K would go to Stanford for free. When the economy went bust, of course that proposal did too.

    So I think many institutions understand that it's difficult to pay for college now, and want to help, but the economy has affected them as well. It sucks all around.
  17. MacMadame

    MacMadame Cat Lady-in-Training

    Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner.

    The vast majority of student loans are co-signed by a parent because the vast majority of students have no assets or income. But most parents aren't thinking "this means I have to pay this loan off for 10 years if my kid dies" because who thinks their kid is going to die? You figure you are signing in case your kid is out of work for a while and you might make a few payments until he gets another job, not 10 years of payments for a dead kid, every month you write the check being reminded that you outlived your child and that you are paying for something he's never going to use.

    It may be legal, but I think it's inhumane.

    Don't believe everything you read. ;)

    When I was in school, it was emphasized over and over that our tuition didn't even begin to cover the real costs of our eduction. The difference was made up through alumni contributions, government grants, corporate donations, etc. Those sources aren't what they once were and tuition has to be raised to make up the difference.

    This isn't to say that colleges are perfect and don't waste money. But the institutions I'm personally familiar with certainly aren't country clubs that are wasting tuition money right and left. Most of them are struggling.
  18. 4rkidz

    4rkidz plotting, planning and travelling

    I wasn't commenting in reference to the link but to the other poster.. but I do have a question.. can't students today do their degree or your master's part time (thus pay as they go) ? I did (technically don't graduate till the spring) my Master's part time in my 40's .. my undergraduate part time in my 30's and my diploma part time in my 20's .. college costs all over the world have increased - fair enough not as much as in the States.. but when I'm hiring social workers I would much rather the staff have a BSW and years of experience than MSW with no experience.. I'm not as familiar with the education field having joined it fairly late (6 years ago).. but I don't see a graduate school education paying off so much in Canada (well other than keeping teachers in jobs ;) ).. the exception being the science field where the field is constantly changing..
  19. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I <3 Kozuka


    The linked article on hardship discharge gives some actual examples of successful and unsuccessful attempts to get the bankruptcy court to discharge student loan debt under this provision. (So likely bad news for MacMadame's ex-boyfriend, were he to have filed for bankruptcy because he was struggling financially and wouldn't take a job with the tobacco industry, because the court could tell him to suck it up.)

    Even when they're not low from private lenders, with rare exceptions, the interest is compounding while it is deferred, unless the interest is paid during the deferral period. Here's one example from an online interest calculator.

    From the article above, for a private loan,

    This is critical, because lenders for other things know that there's someone above them in the pay-back hierarchy, if the borrower has financial issues.

    For the private loan in the article above,

    Not only was the co-signer someone who made $21K/year as a gardener, they loaned money for an education in music, not a profession that generally has particularly high salaries that would support the equivalent of a mortgage payment before an actual mortgage payment or rent without a high-earning spouse, independent wealth, or inheritance.

    I'm not sure what the regulations are for all types of student loans, but the petitions I saw used Reymoso case as a call to action; here, the father co-signed the private loan, and struggled with the help of lawyers to find out how much his son owed and to whom. Co-signees normally aren't absolved of debt if the other co-signer(s) die, unless there are specific provisions. From the Reymoso article linked above:

    I'm guessing the private student loan lenders who do offer debt discharges have default insurance in place in case of the death of the student, and I suspect this is built into the loan rate.
  20. centerstage01

    centerstage01 Well-Known Member

    Basically what I'm taking away from this thread is that there's no point in getting any advanced degree unless you are 100% guaranteed you've got a job waiting for you once you've got that diploma. Or unless you are so financially well-off that you can absorb those costs regardless of field of study and can sit back and enjoy the learning process.

    I got my bachelor's degree 15 years ago but am wanting to make a career change because what I'm doing now is no longer personally fulfilling. I have been considering going back to school to get a second bachelor's but after reading all the posts here why bother? The economy blows, I have no desire to get thousands of dollars in debt only to discover there are no jobs available, or get (or keep) a job in something I do not like or enjoy just so I can keep a roof over my head. That thought is so soul-sucking depressing. It doesn't help when I see friends and family losing their jobs because of downsizing or "corporate restructuring" or just closing their doors altogether. I'm not going to lie, I'm not seeing a lot of positives for the future and that's frightening. So when I read about people saying their advanced degree isn't worth the paper it's printed on, why should anybody bother?
  21. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

    It depends if you need the degree to make that career change. I'm making a career change too, but my new field (graphic design) does not require a specific degree. You only need to prove experience and the ability to do the work. Now, if I wanted a position at a renowned design firm, a degree from RISD or SVA would be preferable, but it's only a shortcut to get my foot in the door. If I put in enough time and prove myself with my work and network out the wazoo, I probably wouldn't need the degree even in that case.

    Now, if your career change involves being a doctor or lawyer or some other position where you need to have the degree/certification to practice, obviously you have no choice. But most people do have the choice, and the degree no longer guarantees anything. Ability, experience, networking, and referrals will get you MUCH farther than a degree will.

    I'm still taking classes because I think I need to learn more about design, and more practice is always better. If you feel you need to learn more, you should take classes at a community college to learn the basics. But IMO another bachelor's isn't worth it. There isn't enough real-world practice in a bachelor program to make it worthwhile. And I sure am not going to shell out $100K to get another bachelor's at an art school. Not when I'm 10 years behind the graduates already.

    It doesn't have to be depressing. You just have to choose well and be adaptable. Alf has quit jobs twice in the past 4 years, and now he's freelancing. Now, his current chosen field is booming and pays a good wage even for fairly inexperienced freelancers, and not everyone can do it (he's a iPhone app programmer), but it is possible and the future doesn't have to look so bleak. :)
  22. MacMadame

    MacMadame Cat Lady-in-Training

    Because not everyone is a stoner who blames their inability to get job interviews on having got a masters in science? ;)

    Seriously, there are people out there finding jobs and there are people out there losing jobs. If you want to change careers, you need to find people who have done it and figure out what they did that is different from the people in this article. And learn from any mistakes that the people who lost jobs or didn't change careers successfully might have made.

    One thing that is different is that most of them don't go into massive debt. That doesn't mean they don't go into any debt or their re-education was free. But they are realistic about what the new career pays and use that to guide their educational choices.

    Another thing that is different is that most people who are successful at changing careers get a lot of work experience in the new career as part of the change-over even if they have to do unpaid work via volunteering or internships. Sometimes they can even convince their current job to give them job duties that get them closer and closer to the new career as well.

    Or you can bitch and moan about how impossible it all is and let fear keep you from making any move at all. Right now that's the choice I'm making but I figure I'll start job hunting again soon enough. :lol:
  23. madm

    madm Well-Known Member

    An alternative to getting a master's degree after completing the bachelor's is to go to a junior college to get a certification in a field you want to work in. This is a pretty cheap way to get additional training or to be re-trained. My daughter did this to get a veterinary technician certification after her bachelor's in biology, and she worked full time as a vet assistant at the same time. Sometimes it makes sense to get a certification in something so you can get hired. If she had stayed at the vet clinic instead of starting vet school, she would have made an additional $5/hr just by being a certified vet tech. The bottom line is that you may need to get a license or other credential in your field in order to get hired. Having only a bachelor's degree doesn't automatically make you qualified for jobs in many fields.
  24. susan6

    susan6 Well-Known Member

    Well, it depends on how much the degree is going to cost. As people have mentioned, graduate school in many of the hard sciences is "free"....you will be supported as a teaching assistant or a research assistant, which involves the department or your research advisor paying all your tuition and giving you a stipend on top of it. That stipend is going to be small, but you can live on it, as long as you don't have several kids and a spouse who is not working.

    As for the 100% guarantee of a job....that's not available for anyone in any field, really, unless you have a relative who is hiring and doesn't mind nepotism. Even in the hard sciences, grad students have to realize that you will have to apply to many companies/schools/whatever and be willing to relocate.
  25. Prancer

    Prancer Slave to none, master to all Staff Member

    It depends on whose argument you most believe, but I think all would agree that it is a combination of factors. Some blame government aid, some blame admin cost, some blame retirement and benefit packages for faculty, some blame student demand, some blame the cost of technology, etc., etc. All colleges are suffering from a drop in non-tuition funding, whether it be endowments or state funds. Education is expensive at all levels, but the higher the level, the higher the expense.

    Issues also vary from school to school; some are administered better than others. One of my friends used to teach for a private college that charges very high tuition, but she was always having to watch her cash flow carefully because the same school often couldn't meet payroll.

    Well, you may not be thinking that, but you sure should be thinking "I will have to pay this off if for any reason my kid can't--or won't." Death is not the only reason that student loans don't get paid and if you co-sign, you are on the hook.

    Or you can find someone else to pay your way through. Or you think the odds are in your favor and you will earn more. Or you can afford to take the hit if the degree doesn't translate into more money.
    Maofan7 and (deleted member) like this.
  26. overedge

    overedge Janny uber

    It really depends on the program. There are quite a few graduate programs in Canada that you can attend part-time, but in some of them you're paying up front, or a good chunk of the payment up front, regardless of how much of the program you're actually doing at the time.

    I don't know if you're talking about graduate programs in education or graduate programs generally. But despite the stories in the article, IMO in Canada there are a lot of fields where a graduate degree is really helpful. And not just to have some letters to stick after your name. And even in education specifically, there is a lot more changing than just science, e.g. online learning, administration skills.
  27. madm

    madm Well-Known Member

    I disagree. There is value in getting a master's degree if you want to pick up more education in a different field (e.g. to combine two disciplines like science and writing), or if you want to further your knowledge in a specific area. Not all undergraduate degrees prepare you for a specific career, like dietician or physical therapist. In those fields, you have to go on to get more education after the bachelor's degree. In psychology, you have to get a PhD to practice as a clinical therapist.
  28. flowerpower

    flowerpower Well-Known Member

    Thanks, professordeb and 4rkidz, for the helpful information.
  29. nlyoung

    nlyoung Active Member

    Sorry to be picky, but Dalhousie University is in Halifax, NOVA SCOTIA ;)
  30. overedge

    overedge Janny uber

    I must admit, the photo of the guy in the last story on p. 2 (the chemist who is making furniture) - seriously? There's a story on a major website about your troubles getting a job, and you can't even be bothered to provide a semi-professional looking photo of yourself? If that's how much effort you put into presenting yourself as a credible potential employee, I wouldn't hire you either.

    And the first guy in the story - I work in a post-secondary business school program, and I've never heard of either of those schools or their master's programs. When school reputation/visibility plays a BIG part in the impact of a business-related master's degree on your career/earnings....I feel bad for the guy being $120K in debt, but I also can't help but feel that maybe he didn't do enough research on these schools before shelling out that kind of $$$. Both of his programs might have been really good programs, but if the schools/programs are not well known, that's a lot of wasted money.