Grad Degrees that Lead to Jobs

Where are the headlines? Where are the screaming press releases? The talking heads proclaiming opportunity?

Right here folks:

One-Year Graduate Programs See Sharp Rise in Recruiter Interest

One-year specialized masters programs in business have seen a 30+% increase in recruiter interest per GMAC‘s 2012 Year-end Poll of Employers. At a time when recruiter interest in people with a bachelor’s degree has actually declined slightly, specialized business masters programs are increasingly viable and appealing options for college graduates according to a survey of 200+ employers conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council.

Percentage Increase in Recruiters Hiring -- Specialized Masters

Who are these programs for?

Perhaps someone like you, if you:

  • Are currently a hard science major, but not too keen on spending your working life chained to a lab bench. And you find that business intrigues you.
  • Studied communications, but are less than thrilled with a starting average salary of $42,286*, and are attracted to commerce as well as communications.
  • Thought you would like to be a doctor, but organic chemistry and molecular genetics zapped your GPA while the world of medical devices has captured your imagination and passion.
  • Studied political science because you liked it and had some vague notion of becoming a lawyer, but the current legal job market necessitates a Plan B.

And What About ROI?

It’s great that recruiters are looking to hire more of these degree-holders, but is the education worth the cost? That depends. Let’s take a look at a few salary figures for college grads in specific fields:

Bachelors Average Salaries

Let’s also examine a few specialized masters programs and average salaries for those grads:

Specialized Masters Salaries

Obviously, there is variability here, and the specifics matter. You as an individual need to weigh your tuition and opportunity cost (the earnings you lose by not working for a year) against the anticipated increase in earnings associated with your particular specialized masters. You should also consider the value of pursuing a career you enjoy.

If the average cost of tuition is $50K and the opportunity cost is let’s say $45K, then your educational investment is $95K.  Let’s examine the anticipated return: If your earnings are increased by $20,000 per year as a result of your degree, you recoup your investment in roughly five years. (Yes I know I have not calculated the future value of money, non-financial benefits, the multiplier impact of salary increases starting at a higher base, and the impact of bonuses, but I’m trying to keep this simple.)

Curious about the recruiting experience of one leading specialized masters program, I spoke to Sheryle Dirks, Associate Dean for Career Management at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. I asked to what she attributed the increased recruiter interested in these one-year degrees and specifically in Fuqua’s MMS holders.

She attributed it to two main factors:

  1. Recognition of these degrees and their value to employers is increasing as grads make their impact in the workplace. She proudly said Fuqua’s MMS program gets a lot of “repeat business” from recruiters.
  2. Business continues to evolve and remains a “complex animal.” Companies, frequently the same ones that hire MBAs, are seeing benefit in hiring for their entry level positions people with a bachelors in a field other than business supplemented by rigorous business analytical skills and a strategic framework.

Take-aways:

  1. Yes Virginia, you can pursue non-business interests in college and study business later. The combination can be powerful in the marketplace.
  2. If you are a college senior looking for a job and concerned that you won’t find one, consider applying to specialized masters programs while seeking that career-propelling position. And if you don’t get the job of your dreams, attending a top specialized masters program may be better for your career than flipping burgers or doing data entry.
  3. If you are already in the work force, realize that hiring for MBAs and a variety of specialized masters programs that cater to more experienced students is also up. The percentage increase is smaller, but existing demand was much greater.

Let your goals guide you. Do your cost-benefit analysis. And then pursue an education likely to lead to a satisfying career AND to provide a return on the investment you made to acquire it.

* From NACE 2012 Salary Survey

This article first appeared on Technorati.

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Linda Abraham By , president and founder of Accepted.com and co-author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.

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