Employers increasingly pushing students for master’s degrees

Illustration by Devin Phillips

After four long years of sweat and tears, you’ve finally walked across the stage with your cap and gown. You’ve earned yourself a bachelor’s degree from Georgia State. Now it’s time to move to the next step: a career. Except that perfect job with a sweet salary, bonuses, 401K and health benefits now requires a master’s degree.

Can you move forward and meet this next challenge head-on, or will you have to make some sacrifices to keep up?

A master’s degree at Georgia State is an additional 36 credits. Georgia State has a handy calculator to tally up what a full year (fall and spring) would cost a Georgia resident. $9,360 (tuition) + $2,128 (mandatory student fees) + $1,600 (books) brings you to a whopping $13,088. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have $13,000 in a savings account waiting to be spent.

Yet this latest trend in hiring practices is doing more than just emptying students’ wallets. It’s also weeding out non-white job applicants.

According to Georgia State’s IPORT database of spring 2019 enrollment, the largest demographic of students at the university is African-American with 21,695 students. There are 15,814 students who are white, 7,038 who are Asian and 5,792 who are Hispanic.

The National Center for Education Statistics compiled a list by race and ethnicity between the years 2014 and 2015 and found that a total of 758,708 students in the United States earned a master’s degree. Of those, 433,106 were white. All other races and ethnicities were represented much less — 87,265 were African-American, 58,684 were Hispanic and 44,517 were Asian.

Mark Schneider and Jorge Klor de Alva of the American Enterprise Institute said in January that the highest-paid graduates earned master’s degrees in the fields of business, information technology, engineering or real estate. Notice that was master’s degrees, not a bachelor’s degrees.

After looking over these numbers, I have just one question: Are employees limiting accessibility to recent college graduates by accepting largely white and affluent applicants?

Right now the bachelor’s degree is still the most common degree granted by our nation’s colleges and universities. But is it becoming too common?

A 2017 CareerBuilder survey stated that 33 percent of employers are now recruiting those who hold master’s degrees for positions that once only required four-year degrees. That statistic increased 6 percent from 2016, showing that employers are pushing their education requirements toward higher degrees. And if you’re thinking of starting with an entry-level job and working your way up the ladder to bypass a degree requirement, think again; employers are looking to hire better-educated candidates at the entry level as well.

Most American families can’t afford the cost of a bachelor’s degree without scholarships or government financial aid. How can we manage an additional two years of schooling so that the next generation can enter the job market? Perhaps employers don’t want middle-class American families to become top earning employers. The top management and corporate positions are currently held by baby boomers who will be entering retirement soon. If employers raise the bar so only the the privileged can fill their positions, what will happen to everyone else? Will the job market collapse or will middle-class America continue to hold the nation afloat while being left behind?