During economic downturns, many people consider a graduate degree in the hope of receiving better job offers.
But does a graduate degree really result in better job offers? Sometimes. But there is no guarantee.
BIG Mistake: Enrolling in a Graduate Degree Without a Plan
One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is they decide to go to Graduate School or get a second bachelor’s degree on a whim.
Before pursuing a graduate degree, have a clear plan how you intend to use it.
When I taught in MBA programs, I met hundreds of students who didn’t know how they intended to use their degree.
Yes, an MBA can help you accelerate your career and open you up to professional opportunities. But without a specific, long-term plan for how you are going to use it, you may not get a good return on your investment.
Consider This Before Returning to the Classroom
For any degree program you consider, first, ask yourself the following questions:
- How will this benefit me?
- What salary will I get as a result?
- How can I position myself to apply for a promotion?
- How long do I expect to remain in this field?
Reasons a Graduate Degree May Hurt Your Job Prospects
Sometimes employers avoid or immediately disregard candidates with advanced degrees.
There are two primary reasons for this: they worry you are overqualified and assume you will want to be paid more.
A Graduate Degree May Position You as Overqualified
Degrees beyond what is required in the job posting may lead employers to consider you overqualified.
And employers worry someone who is overqualified may get bored. They do not want you to decide the position is not stimulating enough and decide to leave after only a few months.
Employers Don’t Want to Pay You More
A graduate degree can work against you because employers may expect you will demand a higher salary.
To avoid a failed search, employers may intentionally exclude you from the applicant pool when they see your graduate degree because they aren’t confident they can meet your salary expectations.
Reasons a Graduate Degree May Result in Better Job Offers
There are several reasons a graduate degree is advantageous for your career.
Completing a graduate degree demonstrates you are goal-oriented and finish what you start.
It also showcases your ambition, a willingness to learn, and that when working toward a goal, you follow through.
Another benefit graduate degree programs offer is networking opportunities. Unfortunately, not everyone takes full advantage of these.
Networking During Graduate School
Networking, to a large extent, is done outside the classroom. You don’t get a grade for your effort or for participating.
Networking events are often held in the evenings or on weekends, so it’s up to you to pursue this outside of your required learning activities.
And attending networking events without following up is useless.
It’s imperative you actively continue conversations and build those relationships after the networking event ends.
Fewer Big-Name Employers are Requiring Degrees
Twenty years ago, bachelor’s degrees were required for most jobs. And Master’s degree requirements were increasing rapidly.
In the last couple of years, that trend has reversed.
In fact, some companies don’t require degrees for many of their positions. Not even a bachelor’s degree.
Think about it. Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg were both college dropouts. Yet they went on to found and run multi-billion dollar companies.
They proved you can obtain job offers and become a valuable employee without a degree if you have the right expertise.
For some positions, a degree is preferred, but those organizations emphasize experience over education.
If you are considering a graduate degree, another bachelor’s or certificate program, consider this before making a decision:
- Do your research. Make sure you understand your numbers. How much will it cost? What potential salary can you realistically expect to earn upon completion?
- Have a game plan. How will you use the degree? Completing a degree doesn’t guarantee a promotion or raise. You need to have a plan for using it long before you finish. Are you prepared to take advantage of the ancillary benefits of a graduate program, such as networking and high-quality internships? If you are there simply to get the piece of paper, you are selling yourself and the experience itself short.
- Understand the field and potential employers. Do you expect to remain in this industry sector for 10+ years? And is this sector growing? Also determine whether likely employers value a degree or simply want to see relevant experience like Google and Apple.
- Evaluate alternatives. Can you obtain the same skills elsewhere? There are countless online resources and self-study courses where you can get the same knowledge if you are self-motivated. Upskilling on your own will give you the necessary background and experience employers expect without the additional cost.
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