A lot has been written during the past few years suggesting that a master’s degree is the new bachelor’s.
For many people seeking the career they want, the answer is “yes,” a master’s degree is essential in today’s professional workplace.
Jason Vincent, a marketing and communications consultant at Humana and other organizations, will enroll in Roosevelt University’s Heller College of Business this January, because he believes an MA in Human Resource Management will better position him to bring about positive changes in the workplace. “By obtaining this degree, I will gain insights into topics such as affirmative action, recruitment and performance management,” he said.
Joseph Chan, dean of the Heller College, said Vincent and many other individuals like him are doing the right thing by taking graduate school classes. “An advanced education provides the breadth and depth of knowledge that is required in a rapidly changing environment,” he said. “It transcends the know-how of today with the know-what of tomorrow.”
Roosevelt University is emphasizing graduate education in all of its colleges and has hired new advisers to help students make the transition to graduate school as smooth as possible. The University had 2,113 graduate and doctoral students in Fall 2015 and President Ali Malekzadeh said Roosevelt’s goal is to enroll 550 new graduate students each year.
Nationally the number of adults completing a master’s degree grew by 18 percent from 2008 to 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That’s good news as data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employers will add nearly 2.4 million jobs requiring a graduate degree or higher between 2012 and 2022.
“In the College of Arts and Sciences, we focus significant attention on graduate education because we recognize that the current and future knowledge economy will require increasing numbers of intelligent people with deep specialized training,” said Bonnie Gunzenhauser, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
That viewpoint is supported in a 2010 report on the future of graduate education in America prepared by the Council of Graduate Schools. “The nation’s competitiveness in the global economy,” the document said, “hinges on our ability to produce sufficient numbers of graduate-degree holders — people with the advanced knowledge and critical-thinking abilities to devise solutions to grand challenges such as energy independence, affordable health care, climate change and other key issues.”
Graduate student Jada Bailey will be using the critical-thinking skills she is currently learning at Roosevelt to confront some of society’s most difficult problems. “My passion to further impact lives of people in communities I serve led me to want to pursue my graduate degree in public administration. It is my earnest desire to use my advanced degree as a gateway into legislation and to be part of the policy-making process,” said Bailey, a 2010 Roosevelt alumna with an undergraduate degree in political science.
Roosevelt offers 46 master’s, diploma and doctoral programs, mostly in areas that lead directly to jobs. For example, the College of Education has partnered with schools in Schaumburg to create an off-campus master’s program for teachers who want to become principals and teacher leaders.
The most popular majors for graduate students at Roosevelt are business administration (MBA), pharmacy, clinical psychology and integrated marketing communications. In addition to master’s-level programs, Roosevelt offers a Doctor of Psychology in Clinical Psychology (PsyD), a PhD in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD).
The Chicago College of Performing Arts has 11 master’s programs, second to the College of Arts and Sciences, which has 16. Most graduate students in Performing Arts pursue the Master of Music degree, which provides advanced study in a specialized concentration such as voice, piano or violin. Through private lessons, coaching and recitals, graduate students become fully immersed in their area of expertise. In addition, CCPA has a new master’s program in performing arts administration to hone the management skills of current and aspiring administrators.
In the College of Arts and Sciences, the Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications program, like other degrees, offers flexible scheduling, instruction by industry leaders and preparation for career advancement. “Many universities focus their programs on communication theory. We are focused on preparing the people who will lead marketing communications in the business world,” said Gunzenhauser.
Other graduate programs of note include public administration, where alumni include three former Chicago police superintendents; the MFA in Creative Writing, which provides writers with the guidance they need to become skilled in fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry and dramatic scripts; and clinical psychology, where graduates are qualified to apply for licensure as professional counselors.
Graduate admission requirements vary by academic program, but all require official transcripts from previously attended colleges or universities with a recommended overall cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. Additional application requirements may include GRE or GMAT test scores, undergraduate prerequisite courses, letters of intent, resumes and application essays. International students must also submit proof of English proficiency.
Kelly Erdman, a Roosevelt graduate admission counselor, said graduate school isn’t a great fit for everyone, but for those who want to challenge themselves academically and grow individually, there’s no better environment for this than graduate school. “Ultimately,” she said, “pushing academic boundaries is the most rewarding way to identify one’s strengths and interests, with an end goal of landing a dream career.”
Plus, employees with master’s degrees earn on average $10,000 a year more than those whose highest degree is a bachelor’s, according to a 2015 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment rates are also lower, 2.4 percent for people with master’s vs. 2.8 percent for those with a bachelor’s.
Chan strongly believes that to be successful in today’s business workplace, employees must try to anticipate changes and innovations. “Issues that confront modern day life could hardly be imagined only a decade ago,” he said. “A deep understanding of the underlying principles in a discipline allows one to adapt to new job requirements.”
In the Heller College of Business, students are encouraged to actively interact with their professors and classmates, many of whom are from diverse backgrounds. This helps graduate students in accounting, business administration, human resource management and real estate develop skills required to solve current and future complex business problems. To further facilitate career development, the college also offers networking opportunities, like internships, mentoring and professional development.
Education Dean Tom Philion uses several strategies to meet the growing need for teachers in Illinois, especially teachers of color. The college lowered the full-time tuition rate for graduate students seeking to become Illinois teachers and it created innovative graduate-level programs in dual language teacher leadership and second language special education. “We are also using online delivery options to increase access to these programs and others, like the MA in Reading,” he said.
Pharmacy is the only college at Roosevelt where all of the students are pursuing an advanced degree, a Doctor of Pharmacy. Students take courses in a lock-step fashion, earning their degrees in three years, as opposed to the traditional four years. The application process is competitive and a maximum of 70 students are accepted into the program each year.
Community service is one of the major ways many pharmacy alumni share their professional expertise. Liweza Yalda, a 2015 graduate, has been tending to the needs of dozens of elderly refugees from Iraq and Iran at the Assyrian American Community Pharmacy in Skokie, Ill. “These are people who don’t always understand the culture. They can’t read or write in English and yet they have multiple medications that they’re supposed to understand how and when to take,” said Yalda.
By stressing graduate education, Roosevelt is not only helping individuals get ahead, it is helping the national economy. Graduate education “is critical to the country’s strength and prosperity,” according to a recently issued report by the National Academy of Science. “Graduate education must be seen as a national priority if America is to develop the talent required to meet national needs and compete in the global economy.”