Increasingly Friendly Job Market for Those with Masters Degrees

Today’s article, written by education blogger Sophia Foster, is a continuation of many past discussions about the best college majors for getting hired in today’s economically depressed marketplace. Sophia writes regularly for an online master’s degree information resource, and shares here her insights about which fields are looking the most promising. She also gives tips to those hoping to walk across the graduation stage with an offer in hand, which many readers should find quite useful.

The Increasingly Friendly Job Market for Those with Masters Degrees

As companies and employers begin to feel more confident in the economic recovery, job prospects for college graduates continue to improve. A report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers in March of 2012 found that businesses expect to hire 9.5% more college graduates throughout the year than in 2011. Hiring is significantly up since 2009, when employment figures plummeted 22%. “Hiring projections by industry indicate positive movement nearly across the board. Employers are now more optimistic about the college labor market than at any time since 2007,” the report stated, with particularly strong demand for business, engineering and computer science majors. For master’s degree graduates, job prospects and job security are exceptionally strong, though certain fields hold a notable advantage.

For those majoring in the humanities, the value of a master’s degree is not necessarily going to yield a high return on investment. Median mid-career income for workers in humanities fields is under $63,000, with low to stagnant employment growth expected. In these fields, those in charge of hiring sometimes avoid candidates who are “overqualified” for positions being offered. In fact, in the years since the recession and economic collapse begun, there has been a marked rise in the number of master’s degree holders receiving public assistance such as food stamps, most of whom hold degrees in humanities. Research done by Austin Nichols, senior researcher with the Urban Institute has found that from 2007 to 2010, the number of master’s degree holders receiving federal assistance in the US rose from 101,682 to 293,029. On college campuses, some adjunct humanities professors make less money than custodians and campus support staff, many of whom don’t require a college degree at all. Most adjuncts hold Ph.Ds.

In a recent report from the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, 37% of students who graduated between 2006 and 2011 wished they had been more careful when choosing their major. Only 39% said they thought about job opportunities while in school.

Perhaps not surprising considering the rapid advancement and proliferation of technology in recent years, computer science was noted as one of the most solid choices for job prospects. Mid-career median pay for computer science majors is at $109,000, while employment opportunities are expected to expand to 22% by 2020. Similarly, electrical engineering, physics, medical and economics degrees also yield excellent value, all with average mid-career salary of over $110,000 per year.

Those entering education in any of these fields can expect far lower earnings, though, as mid-career median pay for teachers rarely reaches $70,000. For instance, an actuary with a master’s in mathematics can hit a median mid-career pay of $157,000, but a high school teacher will likely make make around $57,800 annually. The disparity in earnings and job security based on graduate degree major illustrates the importance of major in terms of improving the potential for a high return on the investment of graduate school.

For newly minted masters degree holders, the improving job market has created an environment where occupations that lead to rewarding careers are attainable soon after graduation. However, the market is still unusually competitive, a fact that is unlikely to change in the near future. In this environment, the most proactive and focused job-seekers will be those that find the most rewarding careers. Job seekers today can utilize social media outlets like LinkedIn and even Twitter to connect to professionals in their field. People who email recruiters, even before graduating, and ask for advice or simply introduce themselves will often be remembered once new positions open up. Applicants can also maintain multiple resume templates that accentuate different skill sets, assuring that their resumes will properly portray the skills required for a variety of positions. By working with a focused plan and tangible goals both in school and in the job market, graduates entering the job market can move forward knowing they are making the most of an economy with growing opportunities for success.