Tuesday, July 26, 2011


The Master’s as the New Bachelor’s
Published: July 22, 2011

William Klein’s story may sound familiar to his fellow graduates. After earning his bachelor’s in history from the College at Brockport, he found himself living in his parents’ Buffalo home, working the same $7.25-an-hour waiter job he had in high school.

It wasn’t that there weren’t other jobs out there. It’s that they all seemed to want more education. Even tutoring at a for-profit learning center or leading tours at a historic site required a master’s. “It’s pretty apparent that with the degree I have right now, there are not too many jobs I would want to commit to,” Mr. Klein says.

So this fall, he will sharpen his marketability at Rutgers’ new master’s program in Jewish studies (think teaching, museums and fund-raising in the Jewish community). Jewish studies may not be the first thing that comes to mind as being the road to career advancement, and Mr. Klein is not sure exactly where the degree will lead him (he’d like to work for the Central Intelligence Agency in the Middle East). But he is sure of this: he needs a master’s. Browse professional job listings and it’s “bachelor’s required, master’s preferred.”

Call it credential inflation. Once derided as the consolation prize for failing to finish a Ph.D. or just a way to kill time waiting out economic downturns, the master’s is now the fastest-growing degree. The number awarded, about 657,000 in 2009, has more than doubled since the 1980s, and the rate of increase has quickened substantially in the last couple of years, says Debra W. Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools. Nearly 2 in 25 people age 25 and over have a master’s, about the same proportion that had a bachelor’s or higher in 1960.

“Several years ago it became very clear to us that master’s education was moving very rapidly to become the entry degree in many professions,” Dr. Stewart says. The sheen has come, in part, because the degrees are newly specific and utilitarian. These are not your general master’s in policy or administration. Even the M.B.A., observed one business school dean, “is kind of too broad in the current environment.” Now, you have the M.S. in supply chain management, and in managing mission-driven organizations. There’s an M.S. in skeletal and dental bioarchaeology, and an M.A. in learning and thinking.

The degree of the moment is the professional science master’s, or P.S.M., combining job-specific training with business skills. Where only a handful of programs existed a few years ago, there are now 239, with scores in development. Florida’s university system, for example, plans 28 by 2013, clustered in areas integral to the state’s economy, including simulation (yes, like Disney, but applied to fields like medicine and defense). And there could be many more, says Patricia J. Bishop, vice provost and dean of graduate studies at the University of Central Florida. “Who knows when we’ll be done?”

While many new master’s are in so-called STEM areas — science, technology, engineering and math — humanities departments, once allergic to applied degrees, are recognizing that not everyone is ivory tower-bound and are drafting credentials for résumé boosting.

“There is a trend toward thinking about professionalizing degrees,” acknowledges Carol B. Lynch, director of professional master’s programs at the Council of Graduate Schools. “At some point you need to get out of the library and out into the real world. If you are not giving people the skills to do that, we are not doing our job.”

This, she says, has led to master’s in public history (for work at a historical society or museum), in art (for managing galleries) and in music (for choir directors or the business side of music). Language departments are tweaking master’s degrees so graduates, with a portfolio of cultural knowledge and language skills, can land jobs with multinational companies.

So what’s going on here? Have jobs, as Dr. Stewart puts it, “skilled up”? Or have we lost the ability to figure things out without a syllabus? Or perhaps all this amped-up degree-getting just represents job market “signaling” — the economist A. Michael Spence’s Nobel-worthy notion that degrees are less valuable for what you learn than for broadcasting your go-get-’em qualities.

“There is definitely some devaluing of the college degree going on,” says Eric A. Hanushek, an education economist at the Hoover Institution, and that gives the master’s extra signaling power. “We are going deeper into the pool of high school graduates for college attendance,” making a bachelor’s no longer an adequate screening measure of achievement for employers.

Colleges are turning out more graduates than the market can bear, and a master’s is essential for job seekers to stand out — that, or a diploma from an elite undergraduate college, says Richard K. Vedder, professor of economics at Ohio University and director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

Not only are we developing “the overeducated American,” he says, but the cost is borne by the students getting those degrees. “The beneficiaries are the colleges and the employers,” he says. Employers get employees with more training (that they don’t pay for), and universities fill seats. In his own department, he says, a master’s in financial economics can be a “cash cow” because it draws on existing faculty (“we give them a little extra money to do an overload”) and they charge higher tuition than for undergraduate work. “We have incentives to want to do this,” he says. He calls the proliferation of master’s degrees evidence of “credentialing gone amok.” He says, “In 20 years, you’ll need a Ph.D. to be a janitor.”

Among the new breed of master’s, there are indeed ample fields, including construction management and fire science and administration, where job experience used to count more than book learning. Internships built into many of these degrees look suspiciously like old-fashioned on-the-job training.

Walter Stroupe, a retired police first lieutenant and chairman of the department of criminal justice at West Virginia State University, acknowledges that no one needs to get the new master’s degree in law enforcement administration the school is offering beginning this fall. In fact, he concedes, you don’t even need a college degree in West Virginia to become a police officer, typically the first step to positions as sheriff and police chief.

Still, Dr. Stroupe says, there are tricky issues in police work that deserve deeper discussion. “As a law enforcement officer, you can get tunnel vision and only see things from your perspective,” he says. “What does a police officer do when they go up to a car and someone is videotaping them on a cellphone?” The master’s experience, he hopes, will wrangle with such questions and “elevate the professionalism” among the police in the state.

These new degrees address a labor problem, adds David King, dean of graduate studies and research at the State University of New York at Oswego, and director of the Professional Science Master’s Program, which oversees P.S.M. degrees across the SUNY system.

“There are several million job vacancies in the country right now, but they don’t line up with skills,” he says. Each P.S.M. degree, he says, is developed with advisers from the very companies where students may someday work. “We are bringing the curriculum to the market, instead of expecting the market to come to us,” he says.

That’s why John McGloon, who manages the technical writing and “user experience” team at Welch Allyn, the medical device company, helped shape the master’s in human-computer interaction at Oswego. He says employers constantly fear hiring someone who lacks proper skills or doesn’t mesh. Having input may mean better job candidates. This summer, Mr. McGloon has three SUNY Oswego interns. “We plug them right into the team,” he says. “Not only can you gauge their training, you can judge the team fit, which is hard to do in an interview.”

While jobs at Welch Allyn may not require a master’s, the degree has been used as a sorting mechanism. After posting an opening for a technical writer, Mr. Mc- Gloon received “dozens and dozens” of résumés. Those in charge of hiring wondered where to start. “I said, ‘Half of our applicants have master’s. That’s our first cut.’ ”

Laura Georgianna, in charge of employee development at Welch Allyn, confirms that given two otherwise equal résumés, the master’s wins. A master’s degree “doesn’t guarantee that someone will be much more successful,” she says. “It says that this person is committed and dedicated to the work and has committed to the deep dive. It gives you further assurance that this is something they have thought about and want.”

The exposure to workplaces, and those doing the hiring, makes master’s programs appealing to students. “The networking has been unbelievable,” says Omar Holguin. His 2009 B.S. in engineering yielded only a job at a concrete mixing company. At the University of Texas, El Paso, which is offering a new master’s in construction management, he’s interning with a company doing work he’s actually interested in, on energy efficiency.

There may be logic in trying to better match higher education to labor needs, but Dr. Vedder is concerned by the shift of graduate work from intellectual pursuit to a skill-based “ticket to a vocation.” What’s happening to academic reflection? Must knowledge be demonstrable to be valuable?

The questions matter, not just to the world of jobs, but also to the world of ideas. Nancy Sinkoff, chairwoman of the Jewish studies department at Rutgers, says its master’s, which starts this fall, will position students for jobs but be about inquiry and deep learning.

“I would imagine in the museum world, I would want to hire someone with content,” she says hopefully. “To say, ‘I have a master’s in Jewish studies,’ what better credential to have when you are on the market?”

“This will make you more marketable,” she is convinced. “This is how we are selling it.”

Whether employers will intuit the value of a master’s in Jewish studies is unclear. The history department at the University of South Florida has learned that just because a content-rich syllabus includes applied skills (and internships) doesn’t mean students will be hired. “Right now, yes, it’s very hard to get a job” with a master’s in public history, says Rosalind J. Beiler, chairwoman of the history department, noting that the downturn hurt employers like museums and historical societies.

The university is revamping its master’s in public history, a field that interprets academic history for general audiences, to emphasize new-media skills in the hopes of yielding more job placements. “That is precisely the reason we are going in that direction,” she says.

“Digital humanities,” as this broad movement is called, is leading faculty members to seek fresh ways to make history more accessible and relevant in their teaching and research. A professor of Middle Eastern history, for example, has made podcasts of local Iraqi war veterans in a course on the history of Iraq.

It may be uncomfortable for academia to bend itself to the marketplace, but more institutions are trying.

In what could be a sign of things to come, the German department at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is proposing a Ph.D. aimed at professionals. Candidates, perhaps with an eye toward the European Union, would develop cultural understanding useful in international business and organizations. It would be time-limited to four years — not the current “12-year ticket to oblivion,” says John A. Stevenson, dean of the graduate school. And yes, it would include study abroad and internships.

Dr. Stevenson sees a model here that other humanities departments may want to emulate.

It does, however, prompt the question: Will the Ph.D. become the new master’s?

Laura Pappano is author of “Inside School Turnarounds: Urgent Hopes, Unfolding Stories.”

Monday, July 18, 2011


9.2% Unemployment? Blame Microsoft.

Posted by Gene Marks

I was in a Rite Aid pharmacy the other day and about to pay for my stuff at their new bank of automated self-check out kiosks. I heard one woman behind me say to her friend, “Oh, I would NEVER use those things. They take jobs away from people.”


What’s that? You’d like to work for my small business? I appreciate your interest. And I, like so many others, feel terrible about how long you’ve been unemployed. We would like to do something about the situation. We’d like to help you. But there’s something you (and the woman from the Rite Aid) need to know. I’m not sure how to say this kindly so it’s best I just say it: many of us don’t really need more employees.

Of course the fact that you’re out of a job has a lot to do with the state of the economy. Growth is anemic. The uncertainty in the current business environment is holding a lot of us back from making the investments that we’d like to make. And regulations and the prospect of more regulations, let alone higher taxes to pay for our country’s deficits, are giving many of us pause for concern. For that we can certainly blame many: our politicians, the government, the banking system, the media…even ourselves.

But it’s not just that. In fact, one of the biggest reasons why you don’t have a job (and the prospects of finding a job are not encouraging) can also be blamed on someone else: Microsoft. And other technology companies like them.

Because there’s something else going on in this economy. Just look at the below chart. It shows that our country’s Gross Domestic Product, while growing at a painfully slow pace, is now higher than it was before the 2008 recession. And yet it’s common knowledge among those who track these things that there are more than seven million people without jobs than there were at the start of the recession. Which means that businesses are producing more products and services than ever before…but with seven million less people. And by the way…corporate profits are at an all-time high too.

Manufacturers are leading the charge. Just look at how manufacturing productivity has risen over the past thirty years in this country while the number of people employed to make stuff has decreased.

I know you need a job and I know this is a very difficult situation. And I don’t want to sound cruel because I’m trying to help you. And to get help with a problem the first thing we have to do is diagnose the problem. So here’s the cold, hard truth about why you’re unemployed: most businesses don’t need you any more. We can do just as much, if not more, without you.

Over the past twenty years, the technology industry, led by companies like Microsoft, have given us powerful databases, operating systems, networks and software applications that have made it easier for us to accomplish more tasks than we did before with less people. And it’s not just Microsoft who you can blame.

Blame Sage, who makes Enterprise Resource Planning and Customer Relationship Management software that has enabled businesses to automate their marketing campaigns, build workflows for alerting managers when inventory needs to be replenished and generate workorders and invoices that are immediately emailed without employing teams of people.

Blame Rackspace and Amazon and other cloud based infrastructure providers, who allow us to host all of our business applications on their servers, thereby eliminating many in our information technology departments and cutting back on wasted time from downed computers and security flaws.

It’s true that the costs of healthcare and other regulations have discouraged many of us from hiring full time employees. But at the same time we’ve come to realize that maybe we don’t need as many full time employees as we used to. And because technology has advanced so much, even over the past few years, we’ve seen an explosion of outsourcing among businesses, both small and large.

For little cost, companies like mine can easily setup systems for external access and collaboration. We use remote desktop services (again from Microsoft) , but also from companies like Citrix Online and LogMeIn so that our contractors can access our networks to do their work. We use cloud based applications like Box.net, Basecamp, Salesforce.com and NetSuite to manage projects, share data and schedule tasks with both employees and approved outsiders wherever they are. Thanks to Microsoft, Google and companies like Zoho and Dropbox we can now easily put out entire office in the cloud – documents, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, projects.

And we can communicate with our outsourced help, wherever they are, more quicker and easier than before. We make free phone calls using Skype and inexpensive mass calls (or texts) using products like VoiceShot. We hold free conference call sessions using Freeconferencecall.com. We share our desktops using Glance and Join.me. We hold training sessions using Webex. We use video tools like Oovoo to virtually meet face to face.

And finding outsourced help is easier than it’s ever been. That’s because we can search sites like Craigslist, Elance and Guru. And when we find qualified people to accomplish specific tasks for us we can use these sites to set our relationships, manage our payments and communicate our needs.

Which is why so many of the tasks once done by companies are now being outsourced to individuals and other companies who can, using their own internal technology, perform these same tasks with so many less people. Most of the clients I work with outsource their payroll to companies like ADP and Paychex. Many outsource their bookkeeping needs to firms that do nothing else, but do it more efficiently. Most companies now have internet based phone systems where an automated attendant re-directs calls to people’s cell phones and voice mail messages are sent to them via text with no humans in the middle.

No humans.

Are you starting to see the picture? I know you want to be hired full time by me. And I want to be doing my part. But please understand: I’m running a business. I want to make profits. And these tools are letting me make more profits by employing people only when I need them rather than carrying them on my payroll.

It’s not all Microsoft’s fault. What they’re doing is nothing compared to what’s happening on the shop floor. Because, quietly and without fanfare, companies like the Oystar Group are making machines that fill tubes faster than before, requiring less shifts of people to complete an order. And equipment from Keller Technology enables cosmetics and pharmaceutical manufacturers to produce more product with less people. And software and consulting firms like Intuitive ERP and Epicor are helping manufacturers change their internal processes to create more products from less space and using less resources, particularly people.

We know this is true in our own lives. Things are lasting longer and working better. We’re keeping our cars well beyond 100,000 miles. We’re letting our fridges and toasters and kettles do their jobs well beyond the lifespan that our parents did. New developments in flooring, painting and construction are resulting in longer use of our homes. Because technology is better. Have you ever had a TV repairman to your house? How many times has your washing machine broken down over the past twelve years and thousands upon thousands of cycles? Because of technology, there are less people needed to manufacture and service the durable equipment that we use because this stuff is working better and for a much longer period of time.

And with all that, we still need you. Don’t believe me? Look at last month’s Monster Employment Index or read Gallup’s recent Job Creation data. Both surveys find that job availabilities are at their highest level than before 2008. But these are not same the jobs that existed before 2008. That’s because we don’t need as many receptionists, clerks, cashiers, bookkeepers, inventory stockers and maintenance people as we used to. Technology has helped us cut back on all of that. Go to your local supermarket (or Rite Aid) and you’ll see what I mean.

But we do need programmers. And experienced customer service people. We need engineers, scientists, high end equipment operators, nurses, lab technicians and (very soon) capable construction workers too. In other words: people with skills. As a business owner it’s a no-brainer to me that if I can profit from your skills I may very well be persuaded to hire you. What expertise can you bring to me that a machine can’t do for much less? I have to meet that challenge with my own customers. That’s the challenge that we all face.

Of course, all economies are cyclical. And more jobs will be created once the economy again begins to grow. No one knows when this will happen and right now, in our current political environment, many aren’t feeling too confident that this will happen anytime soon. But even in a growing economy will we ever see 5-6% natural unemployment again? This may never happen. And if it doesn’t, please don’t just blame the politicians. Blame Microsoft. And other tech companies like them. It’s because of them that I’m not hiring you.

Besides Forbes, Gene Marks writes weekly for The New York Times and frequently for The Huffington Post and American City Business Journals. He runs a ten person consulting firm outside of Philadelphia and can be followed on Twitter.

Friday, July 15, 2011


What to Expect When You Leave College and Begin Working 9-5

1. You will, somehow, start eating at Subway all the time.

2. There will be a growing pains period when your friends constantly text you at 2 p.m. saying, “We’re at the beach! Come!” and you will sit and get disproportionately mad, thinking thoughts like, “Don’t they know I’m at work, wtf,” and “Who the hell is free at 2 p.m.?”

3. You will suddenly need to “buy stamps.”

4.Welcome to college loans. Despite the fact that your university job made you a piddly $400 per pay period and you now make significantly more, you will envy and be mystified by the days when you could afford $80 worth of art supplies/ shoes/ whatever per month.

5. You’ll get a little fat. Once you work full-time, you’re sitting at a desk 8-9 hours per day and guess what, there are free cookies and pies all the time. There just are.

6. Say a tearful goodbye to Regis and Kelly, or whatever guilty daytime TV you used to love but are too embarrassed to Tivo.

7. Slowly, you will start to become a normal person again. You will go to bed before midnight. You will wake up early and read the newspaper, no hangover in sight. You will join a gym and think about volunteering. You might even bike with your colleagues on the weekends.

8. Your friends will describe your clothing style on the weekends as “work appropriate, minus the sweater” and on the weekdays as “weekend clothes, covered up for work.”

9. Since most of your friends are either still in college/ bartending/ working in retail, the rest of your life does not quite match that of your settled down co-workers, who will inevitably find pictures of you mock kissing a girl in a pool while smoking and holding a beer, or find a tweet of you talking about your roommates doing acid.

10. You will be constantly sleep deprived. You’re still not sure how to not watch Netflix until 2 a.m., but you also become miraculously trained to wake up at 7 every morning. This also means that your weekends involve you waking up amongst party peers/ boyfriend, whoever and reading several magazines while everyone leisurely slumbers till 11.

-Becky Lang

Monday, July 11, 2011


Jumaane Williams, the newly elected Councilman from Flatbush, is used to standing up for himself.

Newly elected Jumaane Williams didn't let Tourette's stand in his way-now wants to help others

Flatbush community organizer Jumaane Williams - who toppled incumbent City Councilman Kendall Stewart in last week's primary - is used to standing up for himself.

Williams was diagnosed with Tourette's syndrome as a teenager growing up in Brooklyn and spent years battling school bureaucrats who wanted him out of gifted classes and into special ed.

Now Williams, 33, wants to draw from the experience to help others.

"Especially as a kid of color, if my mother hadn't been so involved I would have been in special ed," said Williams, who tested into the Philippa Schuyler Middle School for the Gifted and Talented and Brooklyn Technical High School before attending Brooklyn College, where he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees.


Friday, July 8, 2011


Jobs report disaster

Unemployment rose to 9.2 percent and the U.S. economy added a pathetic 18,000 jobs. Time for more spending cuts?

My review of Secrets of a Buccaneer Scholar

Secrets of a Buccaneer Scholar: How Self-Education and the Pursuit of Passion Can Lead to a Lifetime of SuccessSecrets of a Buccaneer Scholar: How Self-Education and the Pursuit of Passion Can Lead to a Lifetime of Success by James Marcus Bach

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Taking Back Control

Self-education in this economy is necessary for success, but self-education is most often discouraged within the education system. In my own self-education, I came across this book and many others that are helping steer me in the right direction. One could say the only thing I really needed to learn in school was how to read, how to write, and how to check out a library book. Everything else was superfluous.

This however, is a list of invaluable information I gleaned just from Bach's book:

1. Education can only happen in an environment in which people feel respected, and that their learning is necessary. They need love and encouragement from their teachers to succeed, not by way of high marks, but by formulating a personality that comes from knowing things and the curiosity to know more.

2.In school, and even in the working environment, most often others succeed when they have a sense of uniquely belonging. They want to be apart of something, but they want to bring to that something their own unique contribution. This is necessary in the classroom to a student who wants to learn, but doesn't simply want to follow along in the textbook, and regurgitate facts. Think of a pack of wolves rather than a school of fish. We want children and adults who devour their own sought out information, not passive fish who glean what they "can".

3.Criticism and intimidation are not the same thing, but in the school system are hand-in-hand. Most people who are "bad" at science and math, say it is because they are intimidated by numbers. People who are "bad" readers say they are intimidated by words. Numbers shouldn't be threatening, and speed reading should be discouraged. Criticism should be healthy, and failure should be funny.

4. People should be encouraged to take pride in what they can uniquely do, which encourages them to be successful at it, and other things. They should be encouraged to learn outside of school, and for that learning to count.

5. Adults in the workforce need to enrich their lives by continuing to learn. Learning after college, in the workplace, should always happen! Experts know that being an expert means knowing who to ask. Create your own syllabus of books to study. Create a syllabus of questions to spark your curiosity. Don't ignore your curiosity. Learn, explore. Know that you are smart, and no matter what your vocation, become a professional intellectual.

As a graduate do you have all the information you need to succeed in the working world? Of course not, no one does. I especially do not, that is why I am continuing to learn, and doing so for free. I may not have the degree but I will know as much as someone who does. I am taking control of what I am learning. I am in the driver's seat again. Are you in the driver's seat of your education?

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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My review of DIY U

DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher EducationDIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education by Anya Kamenetz

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I think this book is an excellent example of the great divide between generations. Now, much larger than a gap, this "new" divide is between those who are still pursuing education/information/reason, and those who are clinging to it with the last breath in their ancient body.

It is a wonder that already intelligent, free-thinking individuals find themselves caught holding a very empty bag. Well, actually, that bag is not quite so empty as it is filled with the surmounting debt required for this "education".

Bottom-line, those same students have the power of language and a love of knowledge and want more control over the process of attaining more and pursuing their highest self. This was once the purpose of a higher education. Unfortunately, the purpose of higher education now is to line the pockets of higher-up administrators, politicians, and lobbyists. Often villainized, tenured professors only see a fraction of that payout.

It comes nowhere near the grubby little hands of undergrad students, destitute grad students, and hopeful yet slighted non-tenure track profs and adjunct faculty. In this economy one can't afford to go into the red for the job they will never find with the help of their college or university. This book encourages the self-reliant, like a dissatisfied customer, to take their business elsewhere.

This book continues to fight that good fight against that sad, pathetic problem in higher education, festering and growing by the day.

And to that I say: "God Bless, America!"

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Being "Educated" Doesn't Mean You're Exempt From Being Polite

The best way to deal with being told to quiet down and watch your language on the phone while riding the rails is probably not to n pull out the "I'm educated so I'm not doing anything wrong" card and continue to yell and disrupt the rides of others. One woman did just that last week on a Metro North train out of New York City.

In a video posted by another rider last week (which has since been taken down from YouTube but is still viewable on Gawker), a train employee is berated by the passenger, who, according to the uploader, had been swearing loudly on her phone and disturbing other passengers.

It's especially fun as the woman seems to have adopted some sort of "I'm very posh" accent, as she yells things like, "Do you know what schools I've been to? How well-educated I am?" and "I'm sorry do you think I'm a little hoodlum?"

She also asks for her money back repeatedly, before the employees walk away from her. The person who uploaded the video adds that the train conductor then chimes in on the loudspeaker, reminding passengers to keep it down, "especially those people who went to Harvard or Yale or are from Westport."

It is a little known fact that if you went to college, you are allowed to be rude to anyone you want to, even if you're at fault. Oh wait, that's not true at all.

Woman says she's too 'educated' to be kicked off New York train [Yahoo News]

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