Why Advanced Education Does Not Always Guarantee Career Advancement

Having worked in the higher education field for more than 30 years in major public and private universities, I’ve watched thousands of students sign up for post-graduate degree programs. My advice to anyone thinking about entering a master’s, Ph.D., Ed.D. or other graduate program is … think twice. Here’s why.

Career Success is Not Guaranteed

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For many people getting an advanced degree is a sure fire way to advance your career. In some cases this is true. Obviously some career choices – like medicine or law – require an advanced degree to practice in that profession. However, does it guarantee career stability? No way. America’s recent “Great Recession” proved this. Workers with higher degrees were not spared from cutbacks and layoffs.

In many cases the advanced degree is just a promise that you will do better in your profession than someone who has only an undergraduate degree or less – a very thin promise in fact. For example, the Ed.D. degree – a pseudo Ph.D. degree for those going into the field of education, or who are trying to move up the career ladder in that field – is touted, mostly by schools of education, as a must have for advancing to administrative positions in education. In fact, the Ed.D. degree is superfluous to getting your undergraduate degree and your teaching credential. Armed with those two pieces of paper you can enter the education profession and do well. So, why is the Ed.D. degree offered? Well, it – as well as the master’s degree – is a huge moneymaker for university schools of education. In fact, most schools of education make so much money from these advanced degree programs that the income makes up most of their annual budget.

School district’s are often co-conspirators in this higher degree chase. School district pay scales offer more money to teachers who have a higher degree. That, perhaps, is the only reason for pursuing an advanced degree in education.

No Proof Advanced Degree Makes a Better Employee

Here’s a simple fact to illustrate the point. The majority of schoolteachers have a four-year degree and a teaching credential. There are comparatively few teachers nationwide who have advanced degrees. Another point to consider. Does possessing an advanced degree make you a better teacher? There is no statistical or research data that indicates a teacher with an advanced degree does better than a colleague with the minimum education and credential to teach.

What about administrators? Educational administration is the backbone of schools of education that tout their Ed.D. degree programs. The same is true for Ph.D. degrees in education. Most school administrators do not have either degree – and they do as well as those who do have such degrees. In the case of the Ph.D., touted for those education students who plan a career in education research, there are many more Ph.D. program students at any given time than there will ever be jobs for.

Tips for Success

While the above illustrates higher degrees in education as an example of why advanced education may not be a career stabilizing force, it holds true for other advanced degrees as well such as the Masters in Business Administration. For those seeking to advance themselves in their field and to find a measure of career stability, consider the following: Get your undergraduate degree and then find employment first. If getting an advanced degree seems critical for your job success do it part-time while you work. Weekend and evening degree programs are excellent for this. Choose a public college or university for this purpose – it saves a lot of money and offers as much quality as any private university. Ignore the advertising pitches that show successful alumni who have attended higher degree programs – you just can’t demonstrate that the higher degree was the root for the person’s success (again, with the exception of perhaps science and medicine).