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Has a master’s degree become the new bachelor’s?

It’s a trend in other, more urban parts of the country that the master’s degree has become the new bachelor’s degree. But what about Mississippi where the workforce is historically less educated? Some career counselors and human resources professionals said things are changing as advanced degrees are required more and more for some jobs.

The new director of career services at Mississippi College (MC), Karen Lindsey-Lloyd, just moved here from Chicago six months ago. With a 20-year corporate background in Milwaukee and Chicago, she said in those areas the master’s degree is most definitely the new bachelor’s.

“In some areas, you must have a master’s to advance with corporations, and we see that salaries are much higher with master’s degrees,” she said. “A lot of MC students go on to professional degrees, and I see a trend in Mississippi for students to graduate with bachelor’s degrees, work a while and go back for master’s degrees. In some cases, companies reimburse employees for acquiring advanced degrees and that’s helpful.”

Works for business

MC is a member of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, an organization that recently surveyed employers around the country. The survey revealed that members advise advance degrees more for business students, especially accounting and marketing majors.

Scott Maynard, interim director of the Career Center at Mississippi State University (MSU), is seeing an increase in the number of employers seeking students with master’s level education or additional work experience. Many MSU students get work experience through the cooperative education program and internships.

Set apart

“Employers are looking for things that set students apart and both (a master’s degree and work experience) make students more marketable from a competitive standpoint. An MBA is very helpful but may not be required,” he said. “For some, getting a master’s straight out of school won’t benefit them. It’s better to be out of school a few years and then get the additional degree.”

He has found that track more prevalent with psychology, counseling and education majors. An MBA is very helpful to work in accounting firms, financial institutions and upper-level sales.

For those already in the workforce and wishing to earn a master’s degree, MSU offers a distance learning MBA program and some engineering master’s programs that can be obtained online.

“The biggest trend we’ve seen in years for college graduates is that employers surveyed realize there’s competition for graduates and it will be higher this year,” Maynard said. “Employers will be increasing their marketing efforts. It’s a good time to be a student.”

Improving access

The University of Southern Mississippi is also working to make master’s degrees more readily available to full-time employees who can’t attend traditional classes. That’s because officials have observed employers wanting a more educated workforce.

“Almost all our academic colleges have advisory boards to help workers get advanced degrees,” said Joan Exline, assistant to the president for accreditation, planning and articulation. “We always have active dialogue between the university and the communities we serve. An example is a new program on the Coast where we took a nursing degree program directly to hospitals.”

She said mini-sessions, weekend-delivery programs and online classes are some of the innovative ways Southern Miss is making master’s degrees more accessible to working people.

Mississippi Power Company has an ongoing workforce need for all types of skilled/crafted employees and various degreed professionals such as engineers, system analysts, accountants and business administrators, according to Rufus Smith, director of human resources for the Gulfport-based utility.

Because of ongoing changes in technology and its impact on the way all companies do business, Smith believes education is the key to the company’s and employees’ success.

“I strongly encourage all to look for ways to better prepare themselves for the world of work through education such as vocational/technical training, associate degrees, bachelor or master’s degrees, no matter what type of work or career they may be interested in,” he added.

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

About Lynn Lofton

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