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Other How important is the master's degree in the USA?

  1. Nov 15, 2017 #1
    I've seen that a lots of people end his carrier as a student without doing the master degree, and my question is, how much this one in important in the USA?

    For example in Italy is very hard to find a job with only a bachelor's degree, and probably it will be underpaid, cause the bachelor's degree is seen as half of the academic carrier that a person need to have.
    A lots of american student that came to study in Italy told me that do not intent to take the master degree, because in they opinion is useless.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 15, 2017 #2


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    Some OTHER members should give THEIR comments but USA schools allow Bachelor of Science holders (IF qualified) to enter PhD programs. People may skip Masters' Degree. If one does Masters degree doing research, then one does someone else's original research; if one does PhD, he does his own original research. A Masters degree certainly means more education in the subject than in a Bachelors degree, and certainly more lab activities (if for a natural science).
  4. Nov 15, 2017 #3
    So strange, we have a totally different educational system, here you can't do a PhD without a master degree, and you also need high marks.
    In Italy a person that doesn't get a master degree is seen as a person that don't want to study anymore.
    Plus most of the companies doesn't want a person with only a bachelor's degree, he is seen as unqualified.
  5. Nov 18, 2017 #4
    We had a previous thread on the value of an MS in Physics. That thread got highly convoluted because of the different responses from US and non-US members. Since you asked specifically about the US, let me reinforce an important point that sympolipoint raised.

    In the US, an undergraduate program typically leads to a bachelor’s degree (such as a BS) in 4 yrs. Upon receiving a BS, you have the following options:

    (1) Get a job
    (2) Go to grad school for a master’s degree (such as an MS). This typically takes 1 or 2 years.
    (3) Go to grad school for a doctor’s degree (such as a PhD). This typically takes 4 – 7 years. It is important to note that in the US a student can directly enter a PhD program with only a BS, an MS is not needed; this is a critical distinction from practice in other countries. Depending on the school, students may get an MS upon completion of certain requirements during the initial phase of the PhD program; but in some schools, they do not.

    Upon completion of an MS, you have the following options:

    (1) Get a job
    (2) Continue in grad school (either the same one or a different one) for a PhD degree.

    In the US, you can get a job with a BS, an MS, or a PhD. The functions, tasks, and pay, of course, vary with the degree. So your question really boils down to “What advantages does an MS give you over a BS?” There is not a simple answer; it depends on a number of factors, such as:

    (a) Major (e.g., physics, chemistry, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science, ...)
    (b) Industry (e.g., microelectronics, telecommunications, consumer electronics, petroleum refining, software, ...)
    (c) Company size (e.g., startup, small, medium, large, mega ...)
    (d) Organization (e.g., research, development, manufacturing, customer support, ...).

    A major consideration is also whether you are satisfied with a support role or want a lead role. For example, if you work in optoelectronics, do you want to be designing an improved laser, or do you want to be taking measurements characterizing the laser (using a test set designed by someone else)? As another example, if you work in computer science, do you want to develop the Next Big Algorithm, or do you want to write code for a module of the next Big Algorithm?

    So, if you are satisfied with a support role, you can stop with a BS. If you want a lead role, you need to determine whether an MS will afford you significant opportunities, or whether a PhD is required. That will depend on the factors I’ve listed above. For example, if you want a lead role in the research division of a microelectronics company, you will probably need a PhD. But if you want to be a manager in the manufacturing division of the same company, you can probably get by with an MS (or stop with a BS and get an MBA instead of an MS).

    As a general rule, my guidance is that it is worthwhile to get a masters in computer science or any engineering field, because a masters will open up substantially more opportunities for a lead role (over a BS). But it is not worthwhile to get a masters in such fields as physics, chemistry, or biology, because typically a PhD is needed to open up substantially more opportunities for a lead role (over a BS). Usual caveat: there are always exceptions depending on specific combination of factors (and people always point out that Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard and started Microsoft, but I consider Bill Gates an outlier).

    With respect to physics specifically:

    (1) Traditional grad physics programs have been geared towards a PhD. In some schools, you pick up a masters upon completion of X credits of coursework. Also, in some schools, you get a masters as a consolation prize if you do not complete your PhD program (e.g., you do not pass your qualifying exams, you do not complete your thesis work, ...). This dilutes the value of a masters in physics.
    (2) Some schools have recognized that there is a need for a graduate program in physics that is not geared towards a PhD. Towards this end, they have started “professional masters” programs. I don’t know anyone who has completed such a program, and I don’t know how well such degrees are received by employers. Perhaps others here do.
  6. Nov 20, 2017 #5
    @CrysPhys I appreciate you answers, it's wide.

    I asked these because a person form the US went in Italy to study at the university, and she completed only the Bachelor's degree saying that is enough to get a good work.
    Well in Italy we tend to see the Bachelor's degree as half of the preparation a person can have, this also because the law says that a person with only a bacherlor's degree can't do some complicated job, like ( for civil engineering) working on building that are higher then 15 m^2.
    Also in the US there are this kind of limitation for a person that have only a bachelor's degree?

    If I'm not wrong, from your works I understand that a PhD is always an important opportunity to get job with more important responsibilities, is it true?
    I know it can sound strange by in my country PhD is seen as a waste of time in most of the cases, because the companies then to think that a person with a PhD have a to theoretic preparation that is not good for work.

    There are cases when a person have a Bachelor's degree, a Master degree, a PhD and a MBA?

    I've heard that a MBA can boost your carrier, is it true?
  7. Nov 20, 2017 #6
    <<Reference letters in bold added.>>

    (a) I answered this in another thread. There are specific jobs in the US that by law require specific degrees.

    (b) It's not that simple. As I posted above, depends on a number of factors. A PhD is needed (or greatly helps) in some instances; is not needed (or may even hurt) in other instances.

    (c) Yes, you can combine an MBA with other degrees such as BS, MS, PhD. I even know of people who have a law degree (JD in the US) and an MBA and others who have a medical degree (MD in the US) and an MBA. The MBA may help advance your career in business. Suppose you first have a PhD in physics or engineering, later get tired of research or design, and go into management at a corporation, or start-up your own company. An MBA would be helpful. A friend of mine early on knew that he wanted a career in pharmaceuticals, but he didn't want to do laboratory research; so he got a PhD in biology (to establish his technical credentials) and an MBA ... he eventually became a vice-president in a major pharma.
  8. Nov 20, 2017 #7


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    Employment interviewers did, often, express a discomfort with candidates who have PhD's; saying "too theoretical"; "not very practical"; "want too much money". "too interested in long involved research instead of finding solutions promptly".

    With more advanced educational degree, more knowledge occurs.
    With less advanced ed. degree, less knowledge occurs.
    Sometimes years of experience can be a replacement (not necessarily a perfect one) for "advanced degree" or more education.

    Sometimes, an employer picks the candidates having Bachelor degrees because company will not pay for a smarter , more qualified person.
    Sometimes, company hires person with Bachelor degree because company wants a technician and not a scientist or development specialist.
  9. Nov 21, 2017 #8


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    A quick google tells me that Italy has the lowest educational attaianment in the EU, with less than 20% achieving a bachelor's degree or higher. So it appears to me that your perception is way off from the reality.
  10. Nov 21, 2017 #9
    It's true, only 22% of the italians have have a major, but those one that have only a bachelor's degree in 70-80% of the cases get also a Master degree.
  11. Nov 21, 2017 #10
    That number sounds way too high but even so, that wouldn't matter. I think you are confusing worthless bachelor degrees with bachelor degrees being worthless. With such a low overall level of educational attainment, there is going to be a ton of positions that educated people are needed to fill. If there is high unemployment among people with bachelors degrees, it will be because they are studying the same subjects that there just is no demand for, not because a bachelors degree is only seen as half complete.

    According to this article about unemployment among the educated in Italy,

    So yes a masters might be necessary for those people competing with each other over the same small set of positions they can fill, but by and large, a bachelors degree in just about any other subject will be much more than enough, as the employer's only other choice is someone with only a high school education since so few people are educated.
  12. Nov 21, 2017 #11
    It's true but only in part.
    Also engineers have difficulties in finding a good job, in which they use the skills of a engineers, some of them do a job that can be done also by someone that have only high school.
    I know a lots of people with a degree in Economics of Civil Engineering that don't find a job in Italy.
    I would like you to show news about this, but I don't know how to translate the web page in english.
    Here there is an article that maybe can make you understand better the situation https://www.thelocal.it/20170322/it...-financial-independence-at-age-50-study-warns.

    My neighbor have a major in Literature with magna cum laude and she don't find a job, she is home, asking money from parents and making some money as a tutor ( 8 euros per hour).
    Another guy I know graduated in Civil Engineering went in Spain, because he didn't find a job in Italy.
    Also there the company he worked for closed, so he returned in Italy and now he teach basic math to children of 5-6 years old that don't have the money to go to school because were abandoned.

    Here is the link, even thought is in italian you can understand what happened today at the university of Milan http://milano.corriere.it/foto-gall...co-7a688f46-ced5-11e7-bf2a-292d3c6f067f.shtml.
  13. Nov 21, 2017 #12
    I understand what you're saying, but none of your sources or arguments still support your claim that a bachelors degree isn't valued. You will always find a number of people out of work or working a poor job. There's never a guarantee you're going to have a great job. That is a given in any economy. It will be especially true in Italy since the unemployment rate is a whopping 11%. 11% is far too high and so problems will be evident. Yet still, that is not evidence that a bachelors degree is an unappreciated half step.

    From all that I've gathered, and even in your articles, the industry is having quite a bit of trouble filling technical positions because students are either not in school (your first article states the increasing cost of "neets" on the economy) or they are getting degrees that aren't needed (irrelevant/oversaturated). There is no evidence or reason to believe that they're going to be turning away people with relevant bachelors for not having a masters. Unless its among one of those oversaturated fields everyone is drawn to, it still stands that bachelors degree in general will be well worth its weight in general, which makes sense given its scarcity, as was original my point.
  14. Nov 22, 2017 #13
    I didn't want to say that a bachelor's degree is not taken in consideration by companies, but that is not very important.
    For example in my country many people do a bachelor's degree in a random university and after try to get the master degree in the best possible university, because they think that this has a greater value.

    11% is high?
    I'm my opinion is good.
    Did you see the youth unemployment in Italy?
    It's 37%, a disaster....it's hard to find a job even at McDonalds, also if you have a degree.

    In my opinion it's partially true the fact that is the fault of the "wrong" degree.
    For example I say that in the US a lower will probably have a job, and makes a lots of money, while in Italian is very common to find lawyers that work at McDonalds.
    At my high school I have a lawyer didn't find a job so she stay with us when one of our professor when one of our professors is ill, she make something like 7 euros per hours, but she doesn't have a regular job.
    Another lawyer I know work in a Library, selling books.
    You might think that there are to much lawyers in Italy, well I think the problem is the how companies are build.
    Every great company in the US probably have a group of lawyers, this doesn't happens in Italy, with few exception, companies ask help to the same lawyer, and companies prefer to contact only lawyers with experience, so young ones can't find a job.

    It is true that in Italy the industry is still something that works, even if there aren't big salaries, you can find a job that allow you to survive, but this isn't the main problem.
    On internet you can find that part of the fault is also of the universities that doesn't gives to the students the necessary skills to work, https://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/sep/09/italy-spain-graduates-skills-oecd-report-education.
    We know how to build a motor but we don't know how to present ourself for a job, we aren't able to work in a team, to use email for job etc...
    I have a lots of friends that finished the university and they don't know how to write a CV ( even if the first Cv in the history was invented by Leonardo da Vinci that is italian).
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