MONEY College

The Most Important Thing to Know Before Applying to Grad School

two diplomas two graduation caps stacked
Wendell and Carolyn—Getty Images/iStockphoto

A record number of college students think they'll need a master's to land a job. They'd be smart to weigh the costs against the benefits before applying.

Four years of college is no longer enough to give you an edge in the job market—at least that’s what most of the nation’s college students seem to believe.

More than three-fourths of freshmen at four-year colleges plan to go to graduate school, according the latest in a 49-year long UCLA survey of the attitudes of college first-years. (More than 150,000 full-time students at 227 universities were polled.)

That’s up from 51% in 1974, and only slightly below the record sent in the depths of the recent recession, says Kevin Eagan, interim managing director of UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute.

Usually, interest in grad school spikes during economic downturns. But with the economy healthy, there’s clearly something else going on.

“The percentage of freshmen who think it is important to be well-off financially is at its highest point ever—more than 82%,” explains Eagan, “and during the recession these students were hearing of all of these folks with bachelors’ degrees who were unemployed. So they are recognizing that in order to achieve their objective they need additional credentials.”

Higher Degrees = Higher Pay

Indeed, recent evidence indicates that those with more education have better job prospects. The unemployment rate for those with professional degrees is almost half of the 4% rate for those with just a bachelor’s, for example.

And an analysis by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce found that while the average bachelor’s-degree holder earns about $2.3 million over a lifetime, a master’s degree holder typically earns about $2.7 million and a professional degree earner typically takes home $3.6 million.

Higher Pay ≠ Fast Payoff

But Eagan and other analysts who’ve crunched the numbers say that graduate degrees are also an expensive gamble—and in some cases, have low odds of a financial payoff.

Tuition and fees for a two-year master’s program exceed $20,000 at the average public college, and $45,000 at the average private school. The tuition and fees for a degree from an elite graduate program such as Harvard Business School totals more than $120,000. Living costs can another $12,000 to $24,000 per year, depending on location. All together, you’re looking at a considerable expense on top of the more than $28,000 in undergrad debt new grads who borrow are carrying.

Plus, many graduate programs don’t result in big salaries.

Besides, in some fields, those with advanced degrees aren’t immune to the challenges of finding a job: For example, Eagan says he cautions students pursuing PhDs in humanities about the low odds of finding full-time jobs as professors, as more colleges are replacing tenured instructors with part-time adjuncts.

When a Grad Degree Makes Sense

Wondering if continuing your education pay off for you? There are three situations in which going back to school will put you ahead, according to several recent studies:

  1. You are aiming for a job in a field that either requires a graduate degree or in which employers use graduate degrees as a hiring screen. Besides the traditional graduate-degree-requisite jobs of doctor, lawyer and professor, a growing number of jobs require graduate study, including as librarian, social worker and physical therapist.And, in a study of 19 major employers, Sean Gallagher, an administrator at Northeastern University, found that a growing number of human resources administrators are giving preference to job applicants with masters’ degrees, and that masters’ often helped in competitions for promotions.
  2. You need the degree to get the public service career you want anyway. Students who use the federal direct Stafford and PLUS loan programs to borrow the full cost (including living expenses) of their graduate study and then spend 10 years working for a government agency or a non-profit can have much of their graduate school expenses forgiven under the government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.According to research by Jason Deslisle, director of the federal education budget project at the New America Foundation, a new veterinarian with the typical education debt load of $132,000 who gets a government job and signs up for Income-Based Repayment (which caps payments at 10% of disposable income) will likely pay a total of only $36,000 in debt payments over 10 years. After the 120th on-time payment, the government would forgive a total of $147,000, which is all of the original debt, plus some unpaid interest. But beware: if you don’t end up making 120 on-time payments while working at public service, you will likely either have to pay off your debt in full, or have to keep making on-time income-based payments for at least 20 years, after which you may be eligible to have any remaining debt forgiven.
  3. You are in a field in which graduate degrees tend to lead to higher earnings. The Georgetown study found that graduate degrees typically add about $1 million to the lifetime earnings of, for example, chemists and financial professionals. But graduate degrees appear to have little overall impact on the average earnings of writers, editors, architects and many kinds of health-related therapists, such as audiologists. You can see the affects of advanced degrees on other occupations by viewing the full report.

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For the second time in three years, Bubba Watson won the Masters tournament on Sunday, and this time the celebration was a family affair.

The 35-year-old golfer celebrated with his wife and two-year-old son, Caleb, in front of a cheering crowd at Augusta National. Watson had tears in his eyes as his son walked out to greet him on the 18th green.

And to make Watson’s Masters win even sweeter, the player hit a Waffle House somewhere near Augusta National with family and friends to celebrate. “Champ dinner @WaffleHouse” he tweeted at about 2.40 am.

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Bubba Watson was clearly overjoyed after emerging triumphant again at the Masters Sunday, beating 20-year-old Jordan Spieth to the fabled green jacket at Augusta, Ga.

“I really don’t know [how I won] … I don’t remember the last few holes,” Watson said. “I just remember hanging on and all I thought about was ‘make par, make par.'”

The 35-year-old posted a 3-under-par 69 for the final round to finish 8-under with 280 total for the tournament.

Spieth’s dreams of becoming the youngest Masters winner ever, youngest major champion since 1931 and the first rookie to win in Augusta since Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979, were dashed by a poor final day, despite showing remarkable pluck for such a young player.

Back-to-back bogeys for Spieth on the eighth and ninth as Watson made birdies turned the tournament on its head. Watson’s previous victory came in 2012.

 

 

 

 

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At Least Two Dead as Severe Storms Deluge the Southeast

Rusty Murphy
Jay Reeves—AP Firefighter Rusty Murphy wades through flood waters in a mobile home park in Pelham, Ala., on Monday, April 7, 2014.

Heavy rains inundated the American Deep South on Monday, causing widespread flooding throughout the region that killed two people

Severe thunderstorms flooded large swaths of the American southeast for the second straight day and have caused at least two deaths, including that of a nine-year-old girl in Mississippi who was reportedly swept away by floodwaters on Sunday night.

Officials recovered the body of Patrauna Hudson on Monday after she was last seen playing outside near her parent’s home in Mississippi’s Yazoo City northwest of Jackson the previous evening, according to the Associated Press.

The second reported death occurred outside of Atlanta in the suburb of Lilburn when a car swerved off the road and crashed into a local creek on Monday. Local firefighters were only able to recover the driver’s body hours later.

In nearby Augusta, Ga., a practice round ahead of this weekend’s U.S. Masters golf tournament was called off on Monday due to the excessive rain, the first time in an more than a decade such a cancelation had occurred.

Flood warnings remained in place across much of the southeast on Tuesday morning, with more rain forecast to inundate the affected areas for the next 48 hours.

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Tiger Woods Drops Out of Arnold Palmer Invitational Due to Back Pain

Tiger Woods
Lynne Sladky - AP Tiger Woods bows his head on the fourth green during the final round of the Cadillac Championship golf tournament on Sunday, March 9, 2014, in Doral, Fla. Woods made bogey on the hole.

Persistent injury plagues golf’s top ranked player

Tiger Woods announced on Tuesday that he is not in good enough health to compete in the Arnold Palmer Invitational Tournament in Orlando this week.

The world’s number one golfer cited ongoing bouts of back pain and muscular spasms as his reason for pulling out the week’s contest, which falls within a month of the Masters in Augusta in April.

”I personally called Arnold today to tell him that, sadly, I won’t be able to play in his tournament this year,” wrote Woods in a post on his website.

”I would like to express my regrets to the Orlando fans, the volunteers, the tournament staff and the sponsors for having to miss the event.”

Just three weeks ago, Woods dropped out of the Honda Classic after completing 13 holes in the final round due to intense pain in his lower back.

[AP]

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