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As we enter our careers as higher education professionals, many of us consider earning a graduate degree, if we haven’t already obtained one.  But it would seem like today’s high school student is on the same page!  More and more we hear stories and research about how earning a high school diploma is no longer enough to secure your professional and financial future, but rather, employers are gravitating to and are impressed by the critical thinking and experience of college grads.  I think we in the higher education profession can support this, but also encourage our students to pursue higher education for the dramatic identity growth and development we know students experience on college campuses during an important time in their lives.  But now, the stakes are being raised once again.

A study by CareerBuilder.com found that “the rise in educational requirements extends beyond just associate and bachelor’s degrees. Some employers said that in positions where they used to hire candidates with bachelor’s degrees, they are now primarily hiring people who hold a Master’s degree.” Additionally, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “in 2012, about one-third of jobs were in occupations that typically require post-secondary education.” As the workforce becomes more competitive, many job seekers begin to look for ways to distinguish themselves, some through experience, additional education or a combination of both.  While many of your students may be thinking of pursuing master’s or doctoral degrees as a means to the job they have been dreaming about, I would encourage you to support them, as well as students who may not be thinking so far ahead,  in exploring the other benefits of graduate study.

A recent article on the Huffington Post listed 9 Reasons to Pursue a Master’s Degree besides the Paycheck.  They covered a variety of topics from deeper exploration of a subject that excites you, to intellectual growth and more job opportunities (or maybe being a more competitive job seeker), as well as financial funding for your education.

My hope is that through this series, we will explore what we can do in our various positions to prepare, guide and converse with our students about their goals of higher learning, ultimately helping them to make critical decisions about their pursuit of advanced degrees. Over the course of the year, I will be curating a series of posts featuring various programs or areas of study at the graduate level. This will be an outlet and space to connect with institutions and provide information to students who are already looking to the future beyond their undergraduate experience about the benefits of a certain program, history, community and the application process.

If you would like your program to be featured, please email me at kendallw@usc.edu with your contributions!

By Kendall Williams