The bar has been raised for Zack Odem.
The first-year graduate student at MU has hopes of becoming an executive at a major company. After being in the work force with an bachelor’s degree for the past three years, Odem decided he had to pursue a master’s of business administration to reach his goals.
“At some point, with a bachelor’s degree, you reach a ceiling,” the 25-year-old accountant said. “A master’s degree gives you the opportunity to burst through that ceiling and go as far as you want to. In many ways, I think a bachelor’s is basically an extension of high school now, in that it’s practically expected.”
More employers are looking for a graduate education on resumes, experts say. And that expectation has translated into growth for MU’s graduate programs.
For the 2007 academic year, MU saw a 29-percent increase in the number of graduate applications from 2006, receiving 4,098 applications for the Fall 2007 semester versus 3,169 for the same period last year. Across the various fields of study, 33 percent more graduate students were admitted to MU, according to the Office of Graduate Studies.
“I think a bachelor’s degree isn’t as sought after as it was,” said Norma Jackson, coordinator of student recruitment for the graduate school. “I also think that our economy makes students want to come back to school.”
Recruiters are definitely looking for applicants with graduate degrees, said Bob Osman, account executive at Missouri Staffing, a local company that helps to establish connections between graduates and prospective employers.
“Without a doubt, a graduate degree overshadows a bachelor’s degree, and definitely gives you the upper hand,” Osman said.
But don’t start applying to grad schools just yet.
Andrew Brooks, branch manager of Adecco Employment Services in Columbia, said that while he has seen an increase in the amount of applicants with a graduate education, it is not impossible to get a job with only an undergraduate degree.
“The perception is that with a higher degree, you get paid more money,” Brooks said. “But I am not sure that is accurate.”
Employment opportunities vary depending on what a person studies, he said. Sometimes, it is easier for individuals to go back and get their master’s degrees, hoping that the job market will soon get better. But other times, sheer determination can be just as rewarding.
Despite the debate, Odem is content with his decision to invest time and money in his graduate degree.
“I think a grad degree allows anyone more control over their career and life,” he said. “I think I will see returns both financially and personally.”