Schools say value of master’s degrees goes beyond pay

New study questions the return on investment in some fields.

A new study questions whether some master’s degrees pay off for graduates, but area college officials say the value of the degree may go beyond what it brings in pay.

“I think all students are consumers of their education,” said Jason Eckert, director of career services at the University of Dayton. “So whenever we’re talking to students one-on-one, we ask would a master’s degree make sense for you? It’s really an individual conversation.”

The study from the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., is one of the first of its kind because factors such as job placement and pay for master's degree recipients are not often tracked.

For its report, the institute examined data from six career fields in Texas, Florida and Colorado. Master’s degrees in social sciences, philosophy, art and early childhood education yielded only small bumps in pay, while master’s degrees in computers and engineering were worth more.

RELATED: Sinclair to finalize purchase of Centerville church by end of March

Area universities say they have much better data on the financial potential for undergraduates than they do for those earning master’s degrees.

“We don’t systematically track those numbers like we would for an undergrad,” said Barry Milligan, interim dean of Wright State University’s graduate school. “It’s aggregated in ways that makes it kind of hard to find the points you want to find.”

Ohio does not require the tracking of master’s degree outcomes, so it’s up to individual universities to set up their own systems.

Both UD and Miami University say they’ve started to do that. Miami set up a tracking process that consists of an exit interview and a survey months after graduation, said James Oris, associate provost and dean of Miami’s grad school.

RELATED: 2 Wright State online business programs rank in the nation’s top 20

Despite the concerns some may have over their return on investment, no area schools appear to have dialed back master’s degree offerings. In fact, several have added programs.

Miami has added or revived four programs in the last five years, while UD added three and discontinued one, according to officials there. UD offers 46 master’s degrees while Miami offers more than 50.

“I think the master’s degree provides a valuable extension of your current skill sets or an allied set of skills that can enhance your ability to do better in your job,” Miami’s Oris said.

Wright State’s master’s offerings have remained steady at around 70 while Cedarville University offers around eight, according to its website. Wittenberg University has three master’s programs and a spokeswoman there said school leaders “have a lot of cool programs we are building.”

RELATED: OSU suspends fraternity for 3 years, starts lifting bans on others

Online offerings have led to more master’s degrees being awarded at some schools, and Miami in recent years upped its total by nearly 1,000, Oris said. Master’s degrees have steadily moved toward an online market, though some officials warned such programs may soon level out.

UD found success recently when launching its online master’s of business administration degree. The program has so far doubled the number of UD students seeking an MBA from 180 to 350, according to the school.

Master’s degrees at area schools

Wright State: 70 master’s degrees

UD: 46 master’s degrees

Miami: Over 50 master’s degrees

Wittenberg: 3 master’s degrees

Sources: College officials, websites.

About the Author