Is your graduate degree more important than your undergraduate degree? That’s a tough question, and one that has different answers for different people.
For humanities students today, an undergraduate degree is most often thought of as the first step towards a more involved educational path. Teaching at in arts and humanities at a university, for example, requires either an MFA or a Ph.D.
Some humanities undergraduates will often study philosophy or political science in preparation for a graduate degree in law. Law graduates can go on to practice at a firm and make a great salary, or use their degree to teach at a university.
Other humanities and social sciences undergrads, however, will generally need to pursue a masters degree in their field in order to enter highly competitive job markets like government service, the nonprofit sector, and lobbying.
Additionally, degrees in art follow a similar path, with many arts organizations requiring masters-level qualifications for entry-level positions. For these students, a graduate degree is nearly a requirement for career progression, arguably making it more “important” than their undergraduate degree.
However, some undergraduate degrees can provide great job prospects immediately after graduation. Some engineering graduates, for example, face a job market with near-zero levels of unemployment and great opportunities for career progression.
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Computer Science undergraduates are also presented with great post-graduation career prospects, with software developers having similar unemployment levels as engineering graduates and even higher median salary figures.
Additionally, some business undergraduate degrees from elite business schools also offer great career opportunities for undergrads. It is well known that if you are able to secure a spot in Wharton’s undergraduate program, you’ll be able to climb the ladder at America’s top firms at a rate similar to those with MBA qualifications. However, snagging an undergraduate spot at Wharton isn’t easy; the acceptance rate in 2017 was 7.1% and average SAT score of accepted freshmen was 1499. Additionally, a Wharton undergraduate degree can cost close to $200K, but hey, if you’ve got a lucrative consulting gig right out of the gate after graduation, it might be worth it!
So, is a graduate degree more important than an undergraduate degree? The answers are as varied as the number of degree options. For hard science and technical fields like engineering, software, and business, a graduate degree might not be necessary. For social science and arts fields it’s almost a necessity to secure even entry-level jobs. What is clear, however, is that if you’re planning on pursuing a graduate education, you should have a clear academic and career plan in mind, as nothing is more risky than spending money and time on a degree in order to figure out what your next step is.
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