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“A lot of people will go to grad school because they can’t find a job,”
Kathleen Dugan

Back to School

Could more education mean fewer opportunities?

The downturn in the economy is forcing many people struggling to find a job back into the classroom. Brennan Sommers is a graduate student at Syracuse University who sought refuge in graduate school to temporarily escape the economy.

“I didn’t like the journalism job offers that I had at the time, and the only real solid job offer I had at the time was not in journalism,” Sommers said. “So I figured I’d buy another year-and-a-half of time and go get my master’s degree.”

Brennan is part of a growing community where college graduates return to school because of an overcrowded job market. Kathleen Dugan, a graduate student at SU, also worries there aren’t enough jobs to go around.

“A lot of people will go to grad school because they can’t find a job,” said Dugan. “Once we get out [of school], we’re all in the job market together again looking for these jobs.”

Other Options

Career counselors recommend students stick with the job search instead of becoming part of the trend and incurring more debt.

“You can’t control the job market but you certainly can control the degree to which you’re focused before you decide to pay the money that it takes to get the advanced degree,” said Roseanne Ecker, a career counselor at SU.

Sue Casson, a career counselor at SU, advises students to look for companies who will offer to pay for their continued education once they have been hired. According to Casson, this method benefits the student and their future employers.

Another popular option for many students is to return as teaching assistants, which helps with tuition costs.

“Syracuse University offered me an instructional assistant position which pays for part of my tuition and an hourly salary as well,” Zack Zollars, a current teaching assistant said.

The Bottom Line

Casson said many students believe a master’s degree will earn them as much as $10,000 or more a year when they apply for a job, but the fact is it takes time to see that money. However, Casson said employers often pay both graduate and undergraduate students the same salaries. Many companies prefer to hire undergrads because they can pay them entry-level salaries while teaching them the company’s systems early on.

Before returning to school, students should ask themselves several questions before obtaining a master’s degree. However, the most important question a student should ask is “Why am I doing this, and is it worth it? If their answer is “I couldn’t find a job,” perhaps they should reconsider.