3 major post-graduate questions based on: To Master, or not to Master? To pursue a master’s degree (why?); to earn a master’s degree (when?); to pay for a master’s degree (how?)

To Seek or Not to Seek a Master’s Degree?



To Master, or not to Master; is it only the beginning of the question? Pursuing a master’s degree or choosing not to do so may represent a financial conflict of interest for colleges in their “messaging” to undergraduates about “life after graduation”.  The danger is that counseling these “soon to be graduates “, could contain a version of the “Jedi” mind trick; as universities (in light of shrinking financial resources) seek to expand their market share of: “Things college grads spend money on”. The other day I watched with great interest, the Naval Academy’s graduation (I got to know many of the graduating seniors last year.)  For these very talented young women and men, the Navy in response to their interest, skills, and the aptitude in those skill areas; provides a solid and specific post-graduate educational plan for each of the graduates. It is also important to note that those accomplished Naval Academy graduates are leaving undergraduate life without a huge college tuition/living debt to pay off. They are also entering an unreal (to our real) life of guaranteed employment, while also obtaining free, the big ticket price item of quality health care.  Civilian undergraduate students, on the other hand, are essentially, on their own. Is the master’s degree an extension of, or serving as the new bachelor’s degree?  In matters of promotion and the acquisition of greater professional “mastery” skill, in some fields it would seem so. And so according to the article many students are seeing the B.S. to M.S. path as one professional continuum. But this trend will probably also fuel the growing economic problem of huge, and financially debilitating post- undergraduate college “student debt”.  The potential economic danger of this group is that they might “inspire” a future major economic slow-down as their “purchasing power” diminishes over time, and they all reach a point of time, at the same time, in the future.  Also, what does a master’s degree mean in a culture where there is a growing (future) national trend toward multiple (as opposed to single) career options and aspirations? Should there be some generalized skills learned along with the content and career specific knowledge gained in master’s program?  Post-grad students now, and going forward into the future, may need a set of transferable and translatable skills that cover multiple professional careers; and can respond to multiple evolutionary aspects of those professions. Perhaps master’s degree program can be designed around an individual students particular career interest.  This issue of post-graduation education calls for a (case by case), very thoughtfully planned and executed strategy for each post-undergraduate individual student’s life. Post- grads must become skillful in finding the many ways to get the cost of the master’s degree; if this is what they feel they need, and/ or want, partially or fully paid for. Research in places like the Foundation Center, is critical. Perhaps this necessitates a course or workshop (independent of the university) in: “how to manage and finance a post-graduate life”. Part of this course could be the calculation (by field and for each individual entering a field) of a long term “cost-benefit analysis” of seeking and earning a masters degree. But there is also the priceless, self-fulfilling idea of just learning more; it is the experience of pursuing wider and deeper knowledge in an area of interest.