Commencement brings new opportunities for education

January 22, 2010

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Fall graduation has come and gone, and while dreams of tassel-turning and diplomas swim in the heads of those soon to have the opportunity to shake hands with the chancellor this May, it might a bittersweet 'congratulations' for those without a serious job prospect.

According to, spring graduates had a rough time this past year suffering through the economy and battling each other for the 40% fewer job prospects compared to those of 2008. CNN also said that, while the job market is better, this is no time to put your feet up. With national unemployment up-now at 10.2% per CNN-the well-prepared student may find him or herself living at home with mom and dad. Don’t believe me? Nearly one in seven college grads moved home for an extended period last summer (according to Pew Research Center), and not much has changed in the job market since then.

While there are options in this economy, those options are few and far between, and to land one of them in your field, you need deep commitment, great networking and a little luck. Don’t settle for a job that will “just get the bills paid.” Take a step towards the career you want and consider a better option than scanning the classifieds: graduate school.

It’s not for everyone. Without knowing your longer-term career goals, it’s a mistake to enroll in graduate school. The University of Wisconsin-Platteville has some wonderful resources for those who are questioning or interested: namely the Career Center and Counseling Services.

If you are interested, a graduate degree can act as a stepping stone to a higher paying job and make people immediately more marketable than their baccalaureate-holding peers.

According to Roger Meyer, the director of UWP University Counseling Services, an advanced degree can do all of these things, depending on the specific degree and the job market within the field. “Advanced degrees commonly tend to make people more money and make them more marketable in general compared to someone with a bachelor’s degree.”

Employers will consider more than just your degree when seeking to hire, said Meyer. “The best way to make yourself marketable is to get your bachelor’s and work for one to three years to build up your work experience within the field. Then get your master’s degree. Also, the willingness to relocate can be very important. When you are geographically limited, options can be severely reduced, and oftentimes who you know can become as important as what you know.”

Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa have 130 graduate schools, with 31 schools in the Badger State. In the area of Southwest Wisconsin, there is UW-Madison and Edgewood College, Clarke College, Loras College and the University of Dubuque. UWP also has great graduate options offering master’s degrees in engineering, project management, and criminal justice through the Distance Learning Center in addition to on-campus graduate programs in computer science, counselor education, industrial technology management, and education.

Employers want to hire people who are lifetime learners. Fields and industries will progress, things will change, and “to be hirable later on, it often helps to have an advanced degree depending on the field you choose,” said Diana Trendt, director of the UWP Career Center. “Students interested should also talk with their advisor or faculty, because they often have some very valuable insight into their specific field.”

As the spring season approaches, flowers defrost and tassels turn, think about your future and consider the advantages a graduate degree can offer.

Ian Clark is a staff writer at the UW-Platteville Distance Learning Center, which offers online master’s degrees in engineering, criminal justice, and project management.

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