By Rebecca Wright
A bachelor’s degree may soon not be enough to win in a competitive job market.
With increasing access to college education, students in the United States are looking for ways to differentiate themselves. Some choose to pursue multiple internships or dual majors, but more often students now are taking the GRE exam with hopes of qualifying for graduate school.
“I think it is going to become more and more challenging to get a job with just a bachelor’s degree,” said Kristin Short, a doctoral student in the financial planning department of College of Family and Consumer Sciences at the University of Georgia. She said many entry-level jobs now require at least an internship or additional school to be considered for the position.
But with more education comes more money, so how are college students paying for their advanced degrees?
Logan Jahnke, a UGA student pursuing a graduate degree in computer science, has an assistantship, which pays a $1,100 monthly stipend. He works as a teaching assistant in the computer science department and doesn’t pay tuition.
As Jahnke was about to finish his undergraduate degree, he had lined up a job in Charleston, South Carolina, making $60,000. But a few months before he graduated, Jahnke received the offer from UGA to attend graduate school with an assistantship.
“I figured if I don’t do grad school now, I’m never going to do it,” Jahnke said. “On average, people who graduate from the computer science grad department make six figures out of college, so I knew there would be a significant pay increase.”
Without the assistantship, Jahnke isn’t sure if he would have pursued grad school. He took out loans for his undergraduate degree at UGA after receiving a full ride for one year at University of West Georgia.
“I honestly don’t know if I still would have done it if I didn’t have the assistantship,” Jahnke said. “I was already $30,000 in debt.”
When Jahnke graduates, he will work in Madison, Wisconsin, with a healthcare software company.
“Like my adviser said, I’m now getting a six-figure salary,” Jahnke said. “So it was a great investment.”
Short agrees. As an assistant with the graduate school, she creates seminars for graduate students on everything from budgeting to employee benefits. Short said even if you don’t find an assistantship or scholarship to fund your graduate degree, you shouldn’t rule out the decision to go altogether.
“If you can’t get the assistantship, it’s going to come down to the income analysis,” Short said. “If you can prove to yourself that it’s worth it, just take out student loans.”
Short said the negative coverage of student loan debt shouldn’t scare people from continuing their education.
“The biggest narrative that I try to communicate is that graduate school is an investment. Even if they’re having to take out student loans to go to graduate school,” she said. “It’s financially the best thing they’ll ever do.”
Rebecca Wright is a journalism student at the University of Georgia.