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Is a bachelor’s degree enough?

by Archives September 25, 2007

Francesca Chiarappa, a 23-year-old graduate of Concordia’s psychology department, found herself in a place she had never expected to be in when she graduated; applying to more universities.
Working in her field with a bachelor’s degree was simply not an option.
As she neared the end of her studies, it became clear to her that jobs would not pay as well as she had imagined, unless she continued her education for several more years and obtained a master’s degree or even a PhD.
“In psychology, without a master’s or a PhD, you can’t find much. You find low paying jobs. People with no university education can get the same salary I can get with a BA in psychology,” Chiarappa says.
With job opportunities scarce these days, it is in the best interest of most students to consider future education plans even before they begin their undergraduate studies. Graduate studies seem to be the way of the future.
“They [employers] like you to have a master’s degree because you’ve got that additional training,” says Dr. Joanne Turnbull, the Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Concordia.
In the last decade, the number of students attending university has risen substantially.
So it’s no secret that a bachelor’s degree is no longer worth as much as it once was.
Completion of undergraduate studies may not be all a student needs to ensure prosperous career opportunities. In fact, it is only the beginning.
“A bachelor’s degree will get you into an entry level position where you will do repetitive lab work,” says Dr. Turnbull about the field of sciences.
Dr. Turnbull agrees that although a bachelor’s degree requires hard work to complete, it simply does not prepare a student for some of the best positions in the job market.
“Nowadays, a lot of people have bachelor’s degrees and a lot of people are now interested in that little extra level of training,” Dr. Turnbull says.
With a master’s degree in the fields of chemistry and biochemistry, students are expected to receive an initial salary of around $75,000 per year, as opposed to $40,000 per year with a bachelor’s degree.
Dr. Turnbull encourages most of her students to invest the extra two years in a master’s degree.
“I have several students who have taken that route and have been very successful. They tend to progress through the ranks quite quickly.”
The theory about bachelor’s degrees not being incredibly significant anymore does not only apply to science majors.
The John Molson School of Business also encourages students to move further ahead because a bachelor’s degree simply isn’t enough.
“As a matter of fact, I expect that the bulk of the students majoring in accountancy are expecting to follow a designation,” says Wendy Nadine Roscoe, Senior Lecturer and Director of the Graduate Diploma in Chartered Accountancy Program at Concordia’s John Molson School of Business.
“That is true in accounting. They all require more than just that,” Roscoe says of bachelor’s degrees. She says the majority of her students complete a designation later on in either Chartered Accountancy (CA), Certified Management Accountancy (CMA) or Certified General Accountancy (CGA).
Roscoe suggests students follow a designation such as Chartered Accountancy, or even complete supplemental courses in some other aspect of the field.
However, the option to look for work with a bachelor’s degree can only provide a student with a job in bookkeeping.
A bookkeeper’s average starting salary is usually about $30,000 per year in Canada, which is significantly less than the expected starting salary of a graduate with higher level education.
Furthering one’s education in accountancy is just about the only way to guarantee a successful career upon graduation.
“I don’t think there’s any such thing as an unemployed professional accountant.”
With entry level salaries for bachelor’s degree holders being so much less than the starting salary of master’s degree holders, students in this day and age should really be considering future options once their bachelor’s degree is completed.
Chiarappa actually suggests all undergraduate students start looking into such options from the very beginning of their education.
“Do your research,” she says. “Find out what your future career expects from new employees.”

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