Does grad school pay?

Educated twentysomethings are jobless and deep in debt


At the conclusion of her column a few weeks ago about how twentysomethings are coping with the recession, Slate‘s Emily Bazelon asked for readers from the same demographic to share their thoughts on grad school. In this column, Brazelon weaves together some of their stories to offer insight into whether or not advanced degrees are paying off in the recession. Despite the fact that studies have shown that education is directly proportional to income, their experiences suggest that in tough economic times, their degrees are “underwater”; many are jobless and deep in debt.


Filed under:

Does grad school pay?

  1. Manny humanities degrees have always been a bit on the useless side, how many successful philosophers (in their own field) do you know, really? Its not exactly a secret at the Universities themselves. But considering this recession is hitting the buisness, engineering and science grads, what few and far between humanities positions there were can’t be doing too well right now.

  2. With many companies outsourcing their operations and IT services, they have tacitly decided not to nurture and educate their own workforce. The only staff being retained has specialized skills and experience. How is a your person just out of school, whether they have a post graduate degree or not, going to get work experience, when companies had effectively closed their doors? In the long run, the corporation will suffer with an aging management team and no trained replacements.

  3. Yeah, but corporations don’t think in the long run.

    To be fair to them, young workers my age have no special loyalty to companies; they quit when it suits their interests. Companies have little incentive to invest in a cadre of young workers and pay for their training, when many of those same young workers leave the company in search for something better.

    And it’s not just humanities. I have an engineering degree and it took me 16 months to find a job after graduation. Most companies want a specific set of skills and experience because they dont’ want to invest in training new employees. For example, an entry-level manufacturing engineering position requires four years experience with precisely the type of design softwares the firm in question uses.

    Are grad studies (or universities in general) useful? No. The reason people who went to univeristy were successful back in the old days was because successful people sent their children to university. Until the 1960’s, universities were exclusively for the rich or very upper middle class. That same class status guaranteed the young adults who graduated access to opportunities and jobs.

    The up and coming middle class saw this and made the wrong conclusion. They saw that those who had university educations were successful; they made a mistake and assumed that the university was responsible for the success. It’s not. It was the parents and their connections all along.

    • It’s a fair point, no degree has the quite the same bang for your buck as very well connected family or friends. This is not new or limited to North America either. You have to admit though that there are many jobs out there that you simply can’t work at without some alphabet soup behind your name. The manufacturing industry is dying or dead in North America and since our economy is moving to mostly service industry now, the degree holders are going to feel more and more of a squeeze as a larger an larger proportion of the population is being pushed into their industry to compete with them for jobs.

      • Oh yeah, I totally agree.

        A great recent example of this was the “retraining” program for graphic design. The Ontario retraining program for people who recently lost their jobs started pumping out large numbers of graphic designers; those who took graphic design in University can’t find jobs, even though their main competition now is persons who have college level diplomas.

        And actually the manufacturing industry was the worst example of cronyism and corruption. In many cases, the right of your children to have highly-paid summer jobs and internships at Ford or GM or whatever was written right into the labour contract. Those summer jobs allowed the children of the auto workers to have an easy ride, economically, through school. The summer jobs also gave the kids experience and connections they could use after graduation.

        So again, the connections of the parents allowed their children to afford their four-year-vacation (sorry, university) and also gave them jobs after graduation.

Sign in to comment.