What’s a master’s degree worth? It depends on the subjects, say four experts on a New York Times blog. A graduate with a master’s in engineering will be able to pay off the loans. A master’s in anthropology? Maybe not.
Liz Pulliam Weston, an MSN financial columnist, writes:
Graduate school has traditionally been a great place to wait out recessions while honing your skills for a better job. But sometimes, the payoff doesn’t justify the cost.
Community college significantly boosts earnings. Bachelor’s degrees also pay off, especially if earned at a lower-cost public university. Medical and law degrees are expensive but lead to much higher earnings.
Not such a slam dunk: Master’s degrees.
In some fields, such as business or engineering, a graduate degree typically boosted income by more than enough to justify the cost. In others — the liberal arts and social sciences, in particular — master’s degrees didn’t appear to produce much if any earnings advantage.
Degree inflation makes the master’s more useful, writes Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, president emeritus and professor of public services at George Washington University.
In a bad job market does it make sense for students to seek a safe harbor and earn a master’s degree? Absolutely: if they can afford it; if the debt from their previous academic work is not too great; if someone else is paying; if they seek to reinvent themselves. If, if …
The consensus view: Look before you borrow money.