Will getting a PhD improve my job prospects?

This week’s advice from Lauren Weiner, Director of Wittenberg Weiner Consulting, LLC, a firm specializing in contracts with Government Agencies.


While I’m a huge believer in higher education, I don’t think a Ph.D. is a great way to increase your marketability or earning potential.  A Master’s degree, especially a marketable one like an MBA or MPP (or a targeted one that will move you forward in a chosen career field, like an MSW or a Masters in, say, speech pathology), is usually the right level to target for marketable job skills.  A Ph.D. is generally useful only if you want to go into very specific career fields—science, medical research—or if you want to go into academia.  According to this article in The Economist,  http://www.economist.com/node/17723223  overall a Ph.D. only adds about a 3% premium over a Masters.

The big elephant in the room, which few in the military-affiliated community seem to acknowledge openly, is where you get your degree.  I would absolutely much rather see a Masters degree from a solid school than a Ph.D. from a university that is known for being a diploma mill—regardless of if the course work at either type of university was on-line or on-ground.  (See this NY Times article about the problems at one for-profit university   http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/11/education/11phoenix.html).  As a small business owner,  I have a few major reasons that I hire people with advanced degrees :

  • They have shown the perseverance to start and finish a degree.
  • They have (hopefully) been taught critical thinking skills that are necessary for success in a knowledge-based employment culture.
  • They have learned to write and speak effectively.

While some students at these non-traditional universities may have the skills I’m looking for, their educational experience doesn’t signal that to me at all.   There really is a difference between the education you get from a more traditional university—even in an on-line program, many of which have stellar fundamentals, instructors, and curriculum—and a university focused on their quarterly earnings targets.  As a military spouse, I know it is difficult to get a degree from a more traditional university, and we’re going to be working in the coming months to identify quality programs that will allow military spouses to participate effectively.

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