Maximizing Your Education Investment When You Return to the Real WorldNikki Karakostas | Master’s Student, George Washington University
The higher education space has undergone a number of significant transformations over the past centuries that have dramatically increased the societal expectation of higher education. The U.S. financial crisis of 2008 marked the most recent and significant change in the demand for greater value from higher education. A plethora of industries found themselves floundering in the disaster, and were forced to change their business approaches in order to succeed in the increasingly competitive marketplace.
In response to this paradigm shift, a number of specialized graduate-level programs sprang up to encourage students to explore new, advanced educational opportunities that could give them a leg-up in the job market. Gone were the days of a coveted undergraduate degree, and along came a strong societal predilection for a graduate credential. Prospective students found themselves considering more than just the traditional law degree or MBA; they were faced with difficult decisions on how narrowly to specialize on the graduate level.
Many institutions have taken numerous different approaches to meeting this market demand for specialized graduate-level education. The George Washington University grew its College of Professional Studies, aimed at launching “undergraduate and graduate programs that address the competency requirements of adults working in emerging and rapidly changing professions.” These programs are typically created in a highly collaborative manner, with the institution working both with experts inside the university and outside partners—from government agencies, professional associations, consulting organizations and the business world—to create high-quality and highly relevant programming. This creative approach to program development has really helped The George Washington University stand out in the crowded graduate education marketplace, especially for students looking to pursue a credential that could help them succeed in a new career.
When I began the search for my graduate program, I was working full-time as an administrative professional in a Maryland law firm. One of my biggest priorities was finding an institution and a program that would guarantee me an improved career path. Thinking back, this motivation marked a vastly different decision-making process than the one I went through as an undergraduate. When I was finding a bachelor’s program, my motivating factor was to complete my undergraduate degree as a whole, at an affordable rate. However, my graduate search caused me to search for prestige, intellectual challenge, and future improved employability. In other words, I was looking for a much higher return on my educational investment.
I eagerly began pursuing my master’s degree at the College of Professional Studies Law Firm Management Program in the spring of 2014. Not only was the faculty encouraging and optimistic that they could produce C-level executive training, but also the brochure boasted numerous improved career paths as a direct result of having completed this program.
It is important as a graduate-level student, that the future profitability of your new degree be weighed before enrollment. In addition, an understanding of specific markets and specific professional paths is now necessary in order to select the right program. As the current employment market holds a majority of undergraduate level applicants, it is imperative that the earned graduate degree set you apart from your competitor next to you.
Author Perspective: Student