Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Getting That Power Job by a Matter of Degrees

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Getting That Power Job by a Matter of Degrees

Article excerpt

Evan Medeiros had hit a plateau. Three years out of college, he was a successful analyst at a Washington, D.C., think tank. His job was good, but he wanted a crack at more responsibility and influence.

His solution: head for graduate school. "I think a master's degree is just universally required - especially in my field," he says.

Forty years ago, a high school diploma could garner a well-paying job. But much of the job growth today is in computer programming, engineering, and teaching - all of which are progressively requiring more schooling. Many students also like the opportunities a professional degree, such as law or business, can offer them.

"Today a graduate degree is what an undergraduate degree was to your parents and what a high school degree was to your grandparents," says Art Levine, director of Teachers College at Columbia University in New York.

Robert Zemsky, director of the Institute for Research on Higher Education and a graduate professor at the University of Pennsylvania, concurs. "The college degree isn't what it used to be. Having this commodity doesn't make you any different or more coveted within your cohort group."

Ranks of students grow

As a result, growing numbers of students are considering an advanced degree. In a study conducted by the American Council on Education, two-thirds of undergraduate freshmen surveyed intended to pursue a master's degree. By 2000, it is projected there will be 15-1/2-million graduate students in America - over 28 percent more than in 1980.

An increasingly competitive workplace is fueling the increased attendance at graduate programs. "People think they need it for credentials," Mr. Zemsky says. "Most don't regard pursuing a master's degree to be leisure time."

In addition to growing numbers, the face of the student body is changing. For one thing, graduate students are now older. In 1993, 6.5 million, or 45 percent, were between the ages of 25 and 34, 36 percent were over 35, and only 19 percent were 25 years or younger, according to the US Department of Education.

One reason for the high proportion of older students is that American adults today tend to change professions multiple times and look to further education to facilitate the jump.

Mr. Levine says a typical gathering of graduate students will include professionals from bankers and Wall Street analysts to Peace Corps volunteers searching for new careers.

There has been another change as well: Women now account for 57 percent of the graduate population, up from 48 percent in 1976. "Women are now the most credentialed element of society," Mr. Zemsky says.

But attending graduate school is not cheap. …

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