Master'sWhen I look around at my small circle of friends, there are those with master’s degrees and doctorates and the ones that decided to take different routes when it came to their education and careers. Outside of my attorney and doctor friends, there’s occasionally the “If I had to do it all over again” conversation when it comes to pursuing a college education.

We all know education isn’t cheap and student loan debt is a motherfucker. I have several friends who won’t see a light at the end of the tunnel for at least 10 years. Their biggest complaint is that although a college education has its benefits, it seems as that their return on investment (ROI) hasn’t been met. Especially when that monthly check to Sallie Mae is sent.

As someone with a background primarily in Human Resources, I’ve seen people move up in their careers solely based on their hands on experience and connections. Also, when I look at my friends in the IT sector, plenty of them took a more non-traditional route and bypassed a four-year college.  But it’s been said that a four-year degree isn’t worth much any more, so people should aim for master’s and doctorates. But is that master’s degree worth it?

In a recent Yahoo Finance article, several people gave examples of why they consider their degrees a joke and not worth it. For example, here’s Aaron Fraiser:

Name: Aaron Fraser, 42

Place: Virgin Islands

I once looked at the MBA as the crème de la crème of business degrees, but now I realize I’m a dime a dozen. I have an MBA in media management from Metropolitan College of New York and a master’s in organizational leadership from Mercy College. I am in debt to the tune of $120,000, and for me, it just wasn’t worth it. After graduating, I applied for jobs in New York for at least a year. In interviews, I was either overqualified, or high risk. I am high risk, so I’m told, because I have multiple degrees, which means it’s more likely that I would pursue other means of employment if I am offered a higher salary. I’m 42 years old, and I’m competing with 25-year-olds who have MBAs from Harvard. There are so many young people with MBAs from exclusive schools, it’s very difficult for somebody like me to compete. Employers don’t expect middle aged people to be innovators.

Then there’s Jen Smialek:

Name: Jen Smialek, 31

Place: Boston, Mass.

I work in such a completely different industry, it’s a joke amongst co-workers that I have a master’s in education. I completed that degree — which was my second master’s — in 2010, and taught for a year in Boston. It was the hardest work I’ve ever done, but I loved it. A year later, it was first in, first out in terms of layoffs. I didn’t have any seniority and I was unfortunately laid off. I couldn’t find another teaching job, so I returned to marketing. I had about $26,000 in student debt from that master’s, and I’ve since paid off most of it (I completed my first master’s for less than $500). If I could go back, I wouldn’t earn the education degree again. It was a good personal enrichment activity, but for someone like me who does Internet marketing, my career would benefit more from an MBA.

Do you think your master’s was worth it or necessary?

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  • kamille

    It really depends on what you major in and connections. I’m currently in undergrad at a private lib arts school, and our alumnae network is vast! It really just depends. Also, the connections you make doing a variety of internships and programs. I don’t know the struggles of someone with an MBA. But for my specific major, I’m flexible enough to do a lot of things-research, NGOs, diplomat, etc.

    As it stands now, I’m not sure I’m going to graduate school right away. I have to figure out what I want to do. But in my time off, I’m definitely looking at Fullbrights, PeaceCorp, Teach for America, and other fellowships through my school.

  • Tiffany

    I’m applying for a masters in public health now. My undergraduate career taught me that a degree means nothing if you don’t do the leg work along with it. My boyfriend has started a career in marketing and sales with a journalism degree all because of his ability to sell himself. I’m going into my masters with goals set forth to be involved in campus research, to volunteer, and to really network.

  • Worth the life lessons it taught me? Yes, those were invaluable and priceless. I sometimes think it was a waste monetarily, but I’ve been able to teach adjunct collegiate classes for extra income, and I couldn’t have done that without my M.A. It’s a fair exchange.

  • dtafakari

    I want to shout from the rafters to high school students and undergrads to count the cost before they go to grad school. I loved being in grad school to get an MA in English. But I learned that the grind-work does not stop once you graduate; you have to grind and WORK to make the degree work for you! Otherwise, it WILL be worthless, you WILL be bitter, and broke, too, if you weren’t smart. Thankfully, I only used $3,500 in student loans, so Sallie is not a factor. I only wish someone had told my 22-year-old self that a Master’s degree was not a golden ticket to great gainful employment.

  • Alfalfa

    I’m in a field where a Master’s degree isn’t a reality – it’s pretty much PhD or bust, and my PhD will be paid for by my school, plus a stipend – so I’m neutral. But I thought everyone knew that an MBA is something you need to have your employer paying for. My university has the #3 business school in the US, and almost every student there has taken a few years off to work, or got noticed during an internship, so they have either a company paying for the degree or a multi-year contract for a high-paying job immediately afterwards. The few exceptions are usually trust fund students. The #1 or 2 business school is up the street and it’s the same case there.