Not Sure What to Do With Your Degree? Try Graduate School

As the job market continues to flounder, more and more people are turning to graduate school to fill time and improve their job prospects. A recent report from the Council of Graduate Schools shows that first-time enrollments in American graduate programs jumped considerably between 2008 and 2009.

Knowledge Economy

Preparing for the Knowledge Economy

People often say that 'today's college degree is like yesterday's high school diploma' - in other words, an associate's or bachelor's degree is about as necessary to get a job these days as a high school diploma used to be.

Pretty soon, the saying may become 'today's graduate degree is like yesterday's college degree.'

As the 21st-century job market transitions from a 'labor economy' to a 'knowledge economy,' more and more careers demand the skills conferred by advanced education. And with the job scarcity created by the recent recession, many people are turning to graduate school to acquire those skills - and fill time. After all, it's better to be learning than to be unemployed.

Since 1986, the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) has released an annual report on the state of graduate applications, enrollment and degrees in the U.S. The 2011 report, the most recent report available, shows strong growth in applications and enrollment, as well as the reversal of several demographic trends.

Grad School Applicants

Graduate Applications and Enrollments Are Up

Between 2010 and 2011, applications to American graduate schools climbed 4.3 percent.

But the largest single-year growth (14.2%) was in mathematics and computer sciences. That isn't a huge surprise, given the fact that computer science is a quickly growing industry in the U.S. People who are seeking advanced education to improve their job prospects are naturally turning to the field where there are the most jobs. Other fields that saw a strong increase in number applications include health sciences and engineering. Education, arts, and humanities all saw a decline in the number of graduate applications.

Although applications to grad school increased, the total graduate enrollment decreased by .8% between 2010 and 2011. First-time graduate enrollment also fell, specifically by 1.7%.

Male Graduate Students

Demographic Shifts

In 2011, women comprised 58.5% of all graduate students but just 51.2% of doctoral students. At the master's degree level, programs in the health sciences, education, and public administration have a high concentration of women. In contrast, men make up a larger percent of master's degree programs in engineering, mathematics, computer science, and business.

About 85% of all graduate students in 2011 were U.S. citizens or permanent residents. Students who are not citizens or permanent residents are more likely to be enrolled at research universities than other types of schools.

Although graduate enrollments may be in decline, if you have a graduate degree, you'll likely earn a higher salary than with a high school diploma or bachelor's degree. According to the College Board, those with a master's degree earn 97% more over a lifetime of work than a high school graduate.

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