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Does a Masters degree have much weight in the hiring process?

Veteran

Justin Seignemartin La Mesa, CA

I know that the more education one has is beneficial on a personal level however, I don't know the weight it has when we are in the interview process. I feel that it is important and equally unimportant in the interview. I'm a few years out from retirement and I want to make sure that when I do go in front of someone and tell them why they should hire me that I focus on the right areas. What are your thoughts?

30 September 2015 29 replies Interviews

Answers

Advisor

Paul Trejo Austin, TX

Hi Justin, and thanks for your years of service.

In commercial industry, a college degree looks great on the resume -- that can't be denied. However, in the interview process, it rarely if ever comes up.

Here are my rules for a successful interview (and my criterion for interviewing people):

(1) Never complain about your past jobs, managers or fellow employees.

(2) Never confess about any gaffs in your past jobs.

(3) Never answer a question with just as "yes" or a "no". Always have a short anecdote ready to tell.

(4) Always have a storehouse of SHORT anecdotes about your work experience, when you were faced with problem (x) and you successfully resolved it.

(5) Show that you're a Team player, and that you want to join this new Company to make your Team successful, and to make the Company successful.

(6) Study the new company on the Internet -- learn the name of the CEO, what their current stock price is (if any) and sundry facts about the Company. Be INTERESTED in them.

You'll do fine.

Best regards,
--Paul Trejo, MA

8 October 2015 Helpful answer

Advisor

martin kelly Wilmington, DE

Hey Justin.

Eryn ahs great advice!

Also, at this point, what you've done, and "letters" behind your name can be important - but for me, what you're passionate about is even more so.

Follow that, assuming you can financially, as I believe that path will lead to both " a job" and personal joy.

Thanks for your service,

Best,

Martin

6 October 2015 Helpful answer

Advisor

David Reagan Cardiff By The Sea, CA

Justin,
The usefulness of a master’s degree, in my opinion, depends upon your post-military career goals.
If you want to pursue a position in leadership and management, your experience as a Marine Corps Officer, in my opinion, counts for more than a master’s degree. Also, many firms are willing to train high-potential people with experience, so emphasize your military career accomplishments on your resume and during an interview.
If you are seeking a career in a technical field (financial analysis, engineering, social work) then the advanced degree is a big plus and may be required at some firms.
The benefit of the advanced degree depends upon the requirements of the position and the culture of the organization. I obtained an MBA degree after separation from service (in my mid-20’s) which opened the door to a position with a consulting firm where MBA’s were commonplace. However, once on the job, nobody cared how many degrees you had.
When I was a hiring manager a candidate with military experience warranted a closer look and consideration because of their experience. The decision tradeoff was between experience and education – the more relevant education the less experience needed and vice a versa.
If you choose to pursue a master’s degree, know why you want it.
You have already received many insightful comments. I hope these remarks are helpful too.
All the best.

5 October 2015 Helpful answer

Advisor

Angela Speaker Corpus Christi, TX

Having sat on a multitude of hiring committees, I can tell you a Master's is generally only 1 point in the grand scheme of hiring, literally. It is more about how you are able to sell yourself and how your personal and professional life experiences are applicable to the job for which you are interviewing.

Having your military background is a strong asset, especially because of your ability to lead and your ability to follow. You have the potential to sell yourself as the total package; a proactive, self-driven worker that can follow orders to get the job done.

Take care and best of luck. And most of all, thank you for your service!

20 October 2015 Helpful answer

Advisor

FRANCIS TEPEDINO, ESQ. San Diego, CA

A Master's degree is fine. There seems to be a lot of them in business and in consulting.

However after many years in senior corporate management, my feelings are that a J.D is far more valuable, and will set you apart from the "pack". I have sat through many corporate meetings listening to MBA's suggestions, while thinking that if they actually implement their ideas they should all go to jail.

14 October 2015 Helpful answer

Veteran

Brian Kurtz Glen Allen, VA

Hello Sir and Semper Fi!

I can tell you that when it comes to applying for Federal Jobs on USAjobs.gov, having a Masters can qualify you for a much higher pay scale. But, just to put things in perspective, recently I went through a three day grueling job interview process with FDIC to be a bank examiner. 650 people applied and only 50 of us were chosen to come to the FDIC campus in Arlington, Va. There were a lot of folks there with me that had Masters and a PH.D. None of them were picked at the end. They selected 6 people that just finished their Bachelors in Business and or Accounting. Unless your going into a Pathways to Careers type program, I have found in the last two years since finishing two degrees, that a lot of employers want to see some experience attached to the degree you already have!

Respectfully,
Brian
1stSgt. USMC (Ret)

13 October 2015 Helpful answer

Advisor

Mark Tedford New York, NY

Justin,

You have already received a lot of great advice here. There are two thoughts that I would add. The first is to echo what some above have said that your decision to pursue an advanced degree really depends on the field you want to enter and whether many / most people in that field have advanced degrees. If you want to go into sales, internal operations, or lower levels of program management, than a masters degree may not be required. If you want to go into banking, consulting or some higher level marketing roles, many only hire masters degree candidates and you would be viewed as unqualified without it.

The other perspective that matters is where you go for your masters degree. An MBA, MS or MA from a top rated program in your field can do wonders for your recruiting potential. You will have the support of the career placement office at the school, whose sole purpose is to bring high quality recruiters to campus and to place their graduates in promising jobs after graduation. In addition, you will have access to alumni networks for the rest of your career. If you go back to school in a part of the country where you want to live, these alumni networks can be very helpful in launching your career and making career transitions down the road. Unfortunately, the same is not true for all schools and advanced degree programs. Just having an advanced degree on your resume, from a school that no one has heard of will not make the difference in most interviews.

For me the answer is simple and straightforward. Additional education, properly placed, will expose you to new people, new course work, new ways of thinking and new opportunities. You will have to put in the time to earn an advanced degree, so I wouldn't recommend it unless you can get into a good school in your field or a big school in your geography. If you can do either of the above, more education is almost always beneficial personally and professionally. The only downside to additional education is if you had been a career scholar. But given your life experience and professional skills from your military service, additional education may be the thing that sets you apart in the interview, opens new doors or exposes you to career options and opportunities you might not have considered otherwise.

Hope this is helpful. Thank you for your service and best of luck in your future educational and professional endeavors!

13 October 2015 Helpful answer

Advisor

E Y Cerritos, CA

School work required in obtaining a masters degree (I'll speak of engineering degrees only) is more challenging than a bachelors degree. Therefore, as an academic, I believe holding a masters degree reflect very positively on a person as it shows that the person has dedication, work-hard attitude, and possesses an in-depth knowledge of his/her field. I think the perception will only be positive.

8 October 2015 Helpful answer

Advisor

Douglas Lavelle Chatham, NJ

Justin,
Many thanks for your service. The answers provided have been stellar. For me, I am firm believer of one's constant development. The program may give benefits well beyond a specific position. In fact, I have recently embarked on a MBA. Your choice will be the right choice. There is also no doubt as to the extreme value of your service and and expertise. I wish you success and glad to continue the dialgoue.
Best-
Doug

6 October 2015 Helpful answer

Advisor

Don Hammond Jacksonville, FL

Hello Justin.

A great question but unfortunately its an inquiry that contains a very subjective response. Therefore the best available answer is, "maybe".

The reason for this retort is due to the fact it is truly based on one of many topics such as: the industry, the company, the tenure of your career and even possibly just the specific position.

To think of it another way, consider the following question - along with its very ambiguous answer - "Do you need a college degree to have a good career?"

Of course, there is no objective way to offer a specific - and completely true - answer.

The best way to arrive at a response to your question is to simply "do your homework" and "figure out the ROI." Meaning:

1... after some Google research are you finding that the specific position(s) and all/most companies are finding it mandatory to include a secondary university degree to apply regardless of previous experience - if Yes, then you most likely have your answer.

2... even if the answer to the first question is "Yes" - based on the tenure of your career - will the cost of the degree truly and positively affect your earning and placement potential -OR- will the lack of said degree truly limit your ability to meet your earnings expectations? And be honest with yourself because as I'm sure you understand "not all degrees are created equally based on the institution it originates" so an unthoughtful decision can result in throwing (A LOT OF) good money after bad.

I hope this response finds you well and I wish you the best in your future endeavors.

And of course, thanks for serving!

Regards,
Don Hammond

2 October 2015 Helpful answer

Advisor

Deborah Meyer Columbus, OH

A Master's degree truly indicates advanced education in that specific subject area. If the job is more focused on your actual work-experience, the advanced degree is not going to be weighted above experience. For people just beginning their careers, please gain hands-on work experience prior to attending graduate school. It is unfortunate when an applicant has multiple degrees in a subject area but lacks actual experience.

Returning to school now for a Master's degree may be advantageous in that a) exposure to different concepts and ways of doing things, b) many Universities will allow you to teach undergraduate classes with a Master's degree (in case this is of interest) and c) as an experienced adult I found gaining my Master's degree relatively easy. Yes I did sacrifice downtime on the weekends and evenings with family and friends. I was very focused, and with my work and life experience, found it easy to prioritize and juggle. I completed my Master's degree complete with thesis in a 17 month weekend program.

We are never to young or too old to learn!

1 October 2015 Helpful answer

Veteran

Ed Haugh Westminster, MD

Your MBA can open the door. It is an attention getter in HR and the resume screening process. It will help you get that first phone call, and interview. Once you start talking your experience and personal skills are what will sell you.

Advisor

Beverly Cooper Waukegan, IL

Hello Justin,

First of all, I wish to thank you for your service in safeguarding our country, citizens and our way of life. Now to answer your question, as a professional academic/ educator, it is my belief that having a graduate degree will never hurt your chances unless: you are applying for a position that may be beneath your qualifications, or the interviewer(s) displays a disinterest or possibly feels threatened by your educational skill set, and believe me, there are a myriad of other scenarios, just as perplexing that can occur. Such situations may seem far-fetched, but they happen all the time!

There are of course, other factors to be considered such as: where said graduate degree was obtained, when, what field, the demand within that field and of course, your competition involving graduates from schools similarly tiered, those above and those below. And unfortunately, in today's' economy many employers are forced to "shop around", faced with wanting candidates with great educational/ skill sets, yet knowing that graduates with degrees from lesser known schools (other than an Ivy or a "Big Ten") may be more affordable (at least the outset). A candidate's professional experience, both pre and post a graduate degree can also be a deciding factor as well.

Still, none of these circumstances should constitute reasons to downplay your achievements; clearly you want and need the job or you probably wouldn't be there in the first place! And as mentioned above many times over, having a graduate degree displays a level of comprehension, maturity, confidence, responsibility, as well as the ability to master complex problem solving successfully in (at times) adverse conditions, qualities that most employers find desirable in a prospective employee.

So my advice to you is: do your research, feel out the employer, and interview them as much as they will do you. Ask yourself: is this a good match for me? Will I able to meet my personal and professional goals while being an asset to the company, etc.? If during the interview, you feel uncomfortable revealing your academic achievements, experience and so on, then this may not be the job for you, but only you can decide that. But remember, at the end of the day, earning graduate status in academia is no small feat; many work hard and long to achieve that goal and many falter in the process, making its success in the end, something to be extremely proud of, always!

Advisor

Sandra Shelton Fort Worth, TX

The Masters Degree has weight only if what you say in the interview shows you are articulate in what you are interviewing for. It is often used to say you are over-qualified so that they don't have to tell you that you don't "sound" like you are a Masters Degree intellect in this field. Give examples from your experience when you can. Don't just spout what you know.

Advisor

William Bahrt Sequim, WA

When I was a kid (I am 83 now), if you had a degree in underwater basketweaving, you could get a good job in the workforce. Then, a high school diploma was the basic requirement. Later, that minimum requirement became a BA in a related field. Now, with most applicants possessing a BA, the minimum expectation in a lot of fields has become the MA or MS degree. But once you have completed the degree and have it in your resume, the expectations change to the specific skills you possess and how they match up with the job requirements. The degree screens out applicants that don't have it. But what really counts is can you do the job for which you are applying and are you telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth in your application, resume or interview. Many applicants lie through their teeth on their applications . . . and employers know it. So be honest in what you say and do in the application process and you won't get bit in the butt because you didn't. Good luck.

Advisor

Doug Hill Kearneysville, WV

It depends on the job. I had this story told to me by a retiring US Navy Master Chief. He was at a job fair and applied for a position in the Education/training development field. The first question asked was "What was your rank?" When he said he had the rate of E-9 the interviewer said they were only hiring officers for the position. The Master Chief had to ask him 3 times to at least look at his resume. In his resume was a Masters degree in Education from George Washington University. The interviewer told him that was exactly what they were looking for.Sometimes the interviewer only has cue cards to read from in the hiring/screening process. The application weeds you out and the resume lets you back in. He said that was the best 8 years he had invested in getting that degree. On the other hand I had a great co-worker that downplayed her Ph.D for the position that only required a Bachelors degree. I have been told before that I was overqualified and my reply is that it is to their advantage. Education is better than an excuse. Good Luck!

Advisor

John Gialamas Naperville, IL

Depending on the field you are looking to enter it can be a requirement for the position and/or advancement.

Advisor

Teri Graves Littleton, CO

Hi, Justin! I would offer up that for earlier career individuals, a masters degree in the practiced field is key as a way to further focus and become deeper in a particular discipline to support entrance into the field. However, for those who have practiced for some years sans a masters degree, the experience and continuing education through professional organizations should be the focus.

Advisor

Andrew Karp Sonoma, CA

In my opinion/experience, a graduate degree is generally a "plus" when applying for jobs. As others have noted, this also heavily depends on the type of job for which you are applying.

Besides the skills and intellectual development you get from a rigorous graduate degree program, you also expand your network/peer group through your interactions with other students and your professors, which may be pivotal in your job search, as will be the on-campus career placement services a reputable school will offer its alumni. You may also have internship and other "face time" opportunities to meet with potential future employers during your studies.

But, not all graduate degrees are created equal. I strongly suggest you steer clear from degrees offered by for-profit outfits, either online or brick and mortar. There is nothing wrong with either a 100% online or hybrid online/on campus program, but the "name brand" of the school is important. In my experience, "degrees" from for-profit schools are simply not well regarded by potential employers.

Look for grad degree programs that are accredited by the appropriate accreditor (e.g., the AACSB for MBA programs), and not just schools that are a) licensed to operate in a particular state and b) which are accredited by a regional accrediting group like WASC (Western Assoc. of Schools and Colleges). Also, if you are seeking a career where licensure is required (e.g, to be a clinical psychologist or social worker), make 100% sure that the school you attend is among those whose graduates are eligible to sit for licensing exams in your state.

In my experience, a good graduate degree from a well-regarded (even just locally) institution of higher learning that is NOT a subsidiary of a for-profit corporation will only help you in your future career path. Invest the time to identify the best school for you based on your academic interests, location, cost, etc. and take advantage of all that it will offer you.

Advisor

Huet Sampson Philadelphia, PA

I master's degree is major. It shows dedication as well as accomplishment. However it's not a good idea to speak about it during an interview. They'll already know about it from your resume'. And you wouldn't want to seem full of yourself. Remember they will be interested in what you are able to do to help the company. Be prepared to show confidence in your achievements but let them ask the questions. Any questions you do ask should be about the company. Also, it's always a good thing to a little research about the company you're interviewing with. It'll allow you to ask intelligent questions.

Advisor

Rick Spiewak Annapolis, MD

Some companies are overly focused on the number of staff with advanced degrees. Personally, I think this is excessive in the case of experienced individuals.
You should ask yourself whether this is something which would better prepare you for your specific career goals. After your long military career, if your new focus area is significantly different than your military specialties, the answer may well be "yes". Don't get an arbitrary masters degree just to pad your resume, though - be prepared to answer (for yourself at least) the question "what did you learn from this which applies to your new career?" You will be a new graduate at this level, so be sure that what you learn makes you a better candidate, not just someone with more letters after his name.
Best of luck, and thank you for your service.

Veteran

Michael Del Vecchio Killingworth, CT

Good morning,

A master's degree matters if you are looking for a job that requires one - advanced engineering positions, entry level consulting positions and academics are examples of areas - in technology, my experience is that things change so rapidly it is difficult to assign a value after you obtain a position, and that background has a shelf life - I would focus on your accomplishments in the military. My experience is that an MBA is of limited value compared to experience.

In my opinion, entrepreneurship is a great option for soldiers who ran their own show (like sergeants and above), many programs exist to help returning military with this including breaks on franchises and startups.

Welcome home

Advisor

Robert Jung Houston, TX

Deborah;

There are many good helpful answers, but I admire and suggest yours as the best fit advise.

Regards,

Robert.

Advisor

Jeanne Perdue Houston, TX

Some jobs need a master's degree or MBA, and in those cases it is good to mention it during the interview, pointing out your thesis topic or project that pertains to the job. If you are applying for a job that does not require a master's degree, e.g., a food service job to tide you over until you get your dream job, then mentioning an MBA would make them think you are overqualified and will leave at the first opportunity, so in that case, don't mention it. Generally speaking, more education means a more valuable (smarter) employee and a better salary.

Advisor

Charles Krause Glendale, AZ

Education is always an important tool in your kit. Experience and attitude top all other tools, however.

Advisor

Jim Schreier Milwaukee, WI

Lots of good answers here -- many have nailed the bottom line: it matters -- it doesn't matter. Very often depends on the company. Some will make a big deal about it -- other won't. And just because a job posting includes it doesn't mean it will be a key factor.

Here's one of the biggest mistakes job seekers make -- putting the "degrees" or education in a prominent place on a resume. Of course, your education belongs on a resume -- but it's at the bottom because it's nothing more than something you HAVE -- not what you've done. It's the accomplishments -- what you've done with that education -- that matters.

Related to that is what are your strengths -- not just the things you can do but the things that you do well because you enjoy doing them! People have a lot of skills but if they had to do that work every day they'd would be very unhappy and ultimately unsuccessful.

Advisor

Paul Holzschuher Lebanon, OH

Hello Justin,
The other advisors answers are excellent.
I was director of engineering for 20 years, my goal was to hire engineers and techs with real-world experience.
I would ask "tell me what have you done since school?".
I wanted people with hands on experience solving problems.
Your military experience is want most employers are looking for.
I was always looking for vets.
Good luck,
Paul

Advisor

Gerald Mannikarote Houston, TX

Justin,
It looks like the others have hit all the points. A Master's degree would not hurt your chances for a job, especially if the job description has the words 'master's degree preferred' or something of that sort within.
My Master's degree helped me get a foot in the door of a job that I never thought I would've received.
I think the most important thing is to show that you know how to use the knowledge from the Master's degree. If you can demonstrate successes that are related in some way to knowledge pieces often attributed to a master's degree, you will be golden.
I hope this helps.

Advisor

Damin Kirk Hazelwood, MO

Hi Justin -

Don't stress over it too much. You can't go wrong getting your Master's degree. You can always start on it while on active duty and finish it while at your new job. Having your Bachelor's degree is ok in the majority of positions. Any position with a "Master degree required' will likely be an executive position that also would required specific experience. If you're about 3 years out from retirement, you have plenty of time to start and finish your Masters.

Damin

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