While nationwide headlines have questioned higher education, a master’s degree is still a valuable asset in today’s economy.
A master’s degree can help distinguish job seekers as the number citizens who earn bachelor’s degrees increases. Only 10.5 percent of people 25 and older have an advanced degree, compared to 19.4 percent who have a bachelor’s degree.
“Higher levels of education allow people access to more specialized jobs that are often associated with high pay,” according to the September 2011 U.S. Census Bureau report.
A graduate education paired with an advanced degree can also help job seekers with their earning potential; master’s degree recipients earn on average around $20,000 more a year compared to those with bachelor’s degree.
While students may be turned off to the idea of advanced education due to the well-publicized “student debt crisis,” SUNY Oswego Graduate Studies offers students seeking higher education a financial advantage.
Tuition for a full-time student is $8,870 per year, compared to $22,482 per year for other area graduate schools. Part-time student tuition is $390 per credit hour, compared to $1,249 at other area graduate schools.
“If I had chosen a private school, it would have been triple or quadruple the cost,” said Kim Laurion, a Vocational Teacher Preparation student. “I was looking to get the most out of my dollar, and I’ve found that here.”
SUNY Oswego’s Division of Graduate Studies offers students financial aid options to combat even low levels of debt; there are over 100 graduate assistantships available with different organizations throughout the college, as well as over 25 other fellowship or scholarship opportunities.
“Right when I first came here, I had an assistantship in the MBA program” said Melissa Kane, MBA student and women’s lacrosse graduate assistant. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve always had some sort of opportunity to help me out financially.”
From the classroom to the real world
These financial aid opportunities do more for SUNY Oswego graduate students than help finance their education, they also give students the chance to utilize their skills outside the classroom through study abroad experiences, student teaching practicums and co-op positions with leading businesses.
This summer, the Division of Graduate Studies awarded five graduate students Festa Fellowships to support them as they pursued dream job opportunities.
“The fellowship has given me everything,” said Gina Sherwood, a student in the art program who spent her summer working as a graphic designer at BrewDog brewery in Scotland. “For the first time in my life, I am at a job where I feel respected, valued and able to utilize all of my skills.”
Through her fellowship, Sherwood reformatted artwork for the company, visited new breweries and helped coordinate a segment for the BBC.
Alex Klatsky, an MBA student, helped develop a metropolitan business plan with the Brookings Institution for the city of Syracuse as part of his fellowship with CenterState CEO.
“It allowed me to do something I was interested in and gave me the work experience and networking connections I wouldn’t have had otherwise,” Klatsky said.
The Brookings Institution creates a plan for a few cities each year, and Klatsky worked on the plan along with the national organization that was designed to improve employment, education levels and income levels in Central New York.
More than faculty; mentors and friends
The opportunities for students are a direct result of each program’s faculty and staff, who have the chance to establish real relationships with their students.
An average graduate course at SUNY Oswego has less than nine students per faculty member, allowing students to work directly with their professors. 50 percent of graduate level classes on campus have six or fewer students.
“One of the greatest parts about the program is that it’s not as large,” said Jaleh Mohammadi, a mental health counseling graduate. “At [my undergraduate university], there were so many people you didn’t get a chance to know everyone, here you get to be really close to people.”
Mohammadi found her first job as a mental health counselor at Integrative Counseling Services in Oswego, N.Y. as a direct result of her play therapy program advisor, Dr. Jodi Mullen.
“I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else, it’s a dream come true to me,” she said. “[Dr. Mullen] has really enriched my experience through school and now she’s going to be a colleague of mine, it’s really great.”
Joy Logan, an instructional support technician at SUNY ESF, found her position while pursuing her master’s degree in chemistry. She still talks with two of her professors, Dr. Jeffrey Schneider and Dr. Casey Raymond, on a regular basis.
“They really helped me and I still have regular communication with them about a variety of things,” she said. “If I can’t figure something out at work, I can always call either one of them.”
Carrie Knight, a graduate of the history MA program, is the art and heritage manager for the town of Windsor, CO. Her relationship with the history professors helped her secure her first job post-graduation as a museum curator at the Cuban museum of History and Arts in Auburn, N.Y.
“That level of interaction was very valuable to me and I’ve maintained a lot of my relationships with professors so many years later,” Knight said. “They were not just professors, they became friends.
Earning a quality degree conveniently
With more than 30 graduate programs and certificates in four schools of study, students and working professionals can earn advanced degrees that reflect their interests or career aspirations.
Programs are continuously being offered and developed designed to address area needs. New graduate certificates and programs have been recently approved in gerontology, health information technology and trauma studies, and are being developed in health services administration MBA and health and wellness.
Students and working professionals have the opportunity to take classes on-campus in Oswego, at the Metro Center in downtown Syracuse or online.
“The online program is great, it allows students in graduate school the flexibility they need,” Kane said. The online options ensured her graduation in May 2013.
“I wouldn’t be able to go to school and earn my degree if it wasn’t for the fact there are so many classes available online,” Laurion added.
Whether students decide to enroll in a program or just take a class, education remains a viable, and valuable, option to expand their skill set.
“You have to be able to keep up with the demands of the market,” Laurion said. “No education is ever wasted.”