Jewish World Review May 29, 2003 / 27 Iyar, 5763

Robert B. Reich

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Consumer Reports

These days, grad
school is a wa$te | If you're a new college graduate, I have some bad news for you. In case you hadn't noticed, you're entering the worst job market in 20 years. As a result, many of you have decided to get an advanced degree. Applications to law schools, business schools, medical schools, and Ph.D. programs are rising rapidly.

But if you think another degree is worth the extra cost because it will win you a better-paying job when the economy turns up, think again.

Like everything else, it's supply and demand.

Since the economy went sour, so many people have been flooding graduate schools to get advanced degrees that the supply of newly-minted lawyers, MBAs, people with master's degrees and doctorates is soaring. But the demand for people with these extra credentials wasn't all that hot even before the economy cooled. The median take-home pay of lawyers and doctors was already dropping, and many Ph.D.s couldn't find university appointments.

Now, it still helps to graduate from college, of course. And if you love the law or are passionate about the poetry of John Milton or about polynomial equations or curing bleeding ulcers, please, by all means pursue your dream. But don't do it for the money. Most employers these days put more value on real-world experience than on extra degrees.

Many of you would do better to lower your sights and take a "go-for" job, as in go-for coffee, in an industry or profession that interests them. Or move to a city with relatively low unemployment, like Omaha, Nebraska, get a job and see a part of the country you might otherwise miss. Or, if you can afford it, volunteer to help teach in a poor school for a year.

These kinds of experiences will teach you more about how the world really works, and even about yourself, than any advanced-degree program I can think of. And when it comes right down this kind of self-knowledge -- learning whether you thrive in a hard-charging atmosphere or need quiet and stability, for example, or how important it is for you to have a lot of authority over what you do, or believe passionately in a cause -- this self-knowledge is just about the most important thing you can learn.

Once you've learned it, you've got a much better chance of finding a career you love, when the economy rebounds.

Robert B. Reich, a former U.S. Secretary of Labor, is a professor at Brandeis University. Comment by clicking here.


© 2003, Robert B. Reich