Education today is an expensive affair. And depending on where you live, the cost of a university degree can set you back hundreds of thousands of dollars. Most companies and employers look for candidates who have completed a level of graduate education, which amounts to 3 to 5 years of study after finishing grade 12. Anything beyond this is a master’s degree. (If you’re from the United States, then the first level of study is termed an “undergraduate” degree, and a master’s is called a “graduate” degree.)
But in an age where technology is moving at such a fast speed – is a master’s degree worth it?
That’s what we will examine in this blog.
The State of Work
Back in the day, you finished school, you went to college, got a master’s degree if you had the inclination and the funds, and found a good job. For the Baby Boomers, they stuck to one or a few organisations in their lifetime and retired by 60. They probably held on to one role, moving from a worker bee designation to a managerial one as time went on. Is a master’s degree worth it in such a situation? Perhaps – in older organisations, and in times when having an extra degree meant that you might be a better candidate for the job.
But things have changed now, work culture has changed, and technology has rendered some things obsolete. So you have to ask yourself, is a master’s degree worth it considering the work culture of today.
The State of Study: Is a Master’s Degree Worth It?
University today is an expensive affair. Whether it’s a STEM degree, a liberal arts degree, an MFA or an MBA, they can all set you back a pretty penny.
STEM degrees are usually professional degrees. Be it engineering or medicine, you are usually ready to start working once you complete your 4-8 years of study. Considering that entry-level jobs are available after a graduate degree, is a master’s degree worth it?
Considering the sheer cost involved, especially here in Australia, the ROI on your degree could take years. For those lucky enough to afford a master’s degree without an education loan, there’s nothing like it. But for many others, they have to take out loans to pay the tuition, which could take several years to pay off. Plus, there’s the living cost involved.
It also depends on what you value – the knowledge itself, or the institution? Premium master’s degrees from the older, more established universities may give you access to a good alumni network and “old boys club,” and this may translate into good opportunities somewhere down the line in your career. But it’s not a given.
If being part of an esteemed alumni network works for you, and you can afford to pay your way through your master’s, then go for it.
BUT – if you spend a hefty loan amount and then several years paying it off, is a master’s degree worth it? In our opinion – no. Especially if you are in the STEM sector.
Has your degree prepped you for innovation? Take the quiz.
The Problem with STEM Education Today
STEM degrees are expensive. And many STEM graduates complete their basic degrees (in engineering or other streams) and then go on to pursue an MBA in hopes of getting a well-paying job. But is a master’s degree worth it if they are not going into an aligned field, considering that an MBA equips students with business (and not STEM) skills?
The problem is, STEM education today isn’t structured around what the STEM industry is looking for. Universities are still stuck in the past, with the stand-and-deliver model of teaching based on textbook theory, with little focus on practical skills that are relevant to STEM employers. And the result is batches and batches of STEM grads who are unemployed, underemployed or working in sectors far removed from what they’ve learnt.
Disillusioned, many STEM grads think a master’s is their ticket to better prospects, but it turns out to be expensive and again, focused on textbook theory. With technology advancing at a rapid pace, and new updates to existing technologies coming out on an almost daily basis, textbook theory doesn’t help.
STEM grads need industry-relevant skills, not theory, that can help them work in the STEM companies of the future. And those high-performing companies from high-growth sectors are looking for employees who have basic STEM knowledge, but also skills that enable them to work in a number of different roles and capacities. This is what we focus on in the NewLedge for STEM course in innovation, business and entrepreneurship. Innovation can only occur when you have employees who are agile, adaptable and committed to improving business performance and outcomes. (Learn more about the course at www.newledge.io)
So, if you’re asking yourself: is a master’s degree worth it, reflect on what the outcomes are of your master’s degree. If it is not equipping you with employable skills that can help you build a rewarding career, or at least move up the career ladder, it may not be the wisest choice.