A Bachelor’s Degree May Not Be Enough

The bachelor’s degree has long been the standard for those hoping to find plentiful job opportunities after graduation, and the standard minimum level of education required by employers for entry-level positions that promise upward career mobility. However, many graduates may soon find that a bachelor’s degree is simply not enough due to more employers now shifting their sights to graduate-level applicants.

The master’s degree is the fastest growing degree today, according to an article published in The New York Times. Approximately 657,000 master’s degrees were conferred in 2009, which is more than double the amount of those earned in the 1980s. In fact, 2 out of every 25 people over the age of 24 now have a master’s degree. But the number of master’s degree holders is still easily eclipsed by the sheer volume of bachelor’s degree holders, which is part of the reasoning behind why many employers now only consider master’s degree holders for jobs.

With so many job candidates and so few positions, simply boosting up the minimum education requirement for the available jobs allows employers to eliminate a large portion of the applicant pool, leaving only those with a higher degree level behind. And many employers believe that someone with a higher degree level will perform better anyway, further fueling the practice of disregarding all bachelor’s degree-holding applicants.

In other words, a bachelor’s degree is now too common. Job applicants these days must go beyond an undergraduate education in order to catch the attention of employers and stand out.

But even though more jobs have raised their education prerequisites, the salaries have remained the same as when the standard educational requirement was a bachelor’s degree. This means that students are being forced to add more student debt to their name while "[e]mployers get employees with more training (that they don’t pay for), and universities fill seats," the article stated. A master’s degree typically takes about two to three years to earn in addition to earning a four-year bachelor’s degree, and the additional costs can be astronomical. In fact, the average student debt for just a bachelor’s degree is $27,204 for 2010-2011 graduates, according to an article published on NPR. Students graduating with master’s degrees are likely to have much steeper debts upon the completion of their education.

In addition, many job positions don’t necessarily need a master’s-level education, meaning that students are paying more for an added educational experience that may not actually benefit them in the work environment, Richard K. Vedder, a professor of economics at Ohio University, suggested to The New York Times. More than anything, the push for master’s degree holders is due to it being an easy solution for dealing with the amount of college educated job applicants flooding employers with their resumes. In fact, the amount of master’s degrees students are pursuing is proof of "credentialing gone amok," he said. "In 20 years, you’ll need a Ph.D. to be a janitor."

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