Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Is the Master's Degree Worth Getting?

By Richard Vedder

The New York Times has an opinion dialogue this morning on the value of a master's degree. It makes for an interesting read.

Four persons, including yours truly, were asked if the master's degree was worth getting. The answers were surprisingly similar and mildly negative. Mark Taylor, chair of religion studies at Columbia, wrote a great piece where he notes the financial problems of higher education and questions the value of master's study on cost-benefit grounds (he sounds like an economist, and a very good one at that). Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, famed president emeritus of George Washington University, is rather frivoulous in his assessment, ending up saying, roughly, if you are having fun and someone else is subsidizing you, go for it. Maybe you will pick up a spouse along the way. Liz Weston, personal finance guru, agrees with me: for many students, the master's degree is questionable on cost-benefit grounds, but for others, it can be a winner.

As Trachtenberg observes, we are in a world of degree inflation. Jobs once awarded to persons with high school diplomas now routinely go to persons with bachelor's degrees --mail carriers and policemen, for example. In some cases, a master's degree is often required, even though the content of the degree has little or nothing to do with the job in question. Are we over or under-invested in higher education? In a forthcoming book, my colleague Andy Gillen and I are going to argue that we are on balance OVERINVESTED. That raises the question: what is the optimal amount of education per person? It varies with individuals, academic disciplines, and place of residence. But it is a question that should be asked, and answered, more often.

7 comments:

capeman said...

"for many students, the master's degree is questionable on cost-benefit grounds, but for others, it can be a winner."

So I guess the question is whether a master's degree is a good financial investment.

Gee, not a guaranteed winner? Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Unlike most other investments!

Actually, sounds a lot better than having invested in the stock market the past year.

Cowboy said...

Regarding the stock market, I was always told to buy low and sell high.

Hmmm... Go figure.

capeman said...

Cowboy, you were given good advice about the stock market, it's the implementation that is the hard part.

Cowboy said...

capeman - Not for me.

capeman said...

So, it's easy for you to time the market. Congratulations! I know a guy who would like to hire you. His name is Bernie Madoff.

Cowboy said...

caveman - If you believe market timing is the only way to make money, you are the mental midget that I have always believed you to be.

I don't think Madoff is hiring. He is piker compared to what I do - I don't cheat. I have integrity - something you are not acquanted with.

There are a number of things that are easy for me that are difficult for others. And there are some things that are difficult for me that are easy for others. Take you for example, it is extremely easy for you to be a self loathing jackass - which is very hard for me.

I think you should buy a .44 magnum, load all six cylinders, and play Russian Roulette.

You are truly one hell of a miserable piece of work.

capeman said...

Cowboy, get a grip.

Encouraging someone to commit suicide, even someone as well-grounded as myself, even in jest, is not good form. It's loathesome.