in Higher Ed

What’s a Master’s Degree worth?

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More blowing bubbles on the value of a Master’s Degree on the New York Times “Room For Debate” blog.

Degree inflation increasingly obliges more degrees to compensate for the devaluation of earlier degrees. Jobs that once were filled by high school graduates and later by college graduates today often require a master’s degree. This is largely optical, but one deals with the world he or she lives in. Still, just as the double and triple undergraduate major is a form of gilding the lily, a form of product enhancement, meant to seduce the hiring partner or the human resources director, the growing interest in the M.A. reveals the inadequacy of the baccalaureate.

In a bad job market does it make sense for students to seek a safe harbor and earn a master’s degree? Absolutely: if they can afford it; if the debt from their previous academic work is not too great; if someone else is paying; if they seek to reinvent themselves. If, if …

Universities are, after all, wonderful, magical places, and learning something new is the greatest of pleasures. My friend married his fiancé, never used his M.A. degree in any professional way but had the satisfaction and joy of having read a great deal of French literature at somebody else’s expense. What is so bad about that?

Stephen Joel Trachtenberg is president emeritus and professor of public services at the George Washington University. He is also chairman of the Higher Education Practice at Korn Ferry International.

There are other comments, of course, that are worth checking out. But the consensus seems to be: “Sure, as long as you don’t pay for it. But you’ll probably never use it. Maybe.”

  1. The best use of a masters degree is putting letters after your name. It definitely doesn’t make you more qualified that the person with life experience (though you aren’t necessarily less qualified either).

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