Dean’s Corner: Master’s Degrees Make a Comeback


Dr. Denis Medeiros

Dr. Denis Medeiros

A major concern over the past few years for Colleges and Universities has been the intense recruitment competition for a dwindling number of undergraduate students.  For those who are unaware, the pool size of college-aged students for undergraduate degrees has decreased dramatically.  The financial health of universities and colleges often depends on student enrollment. While novel approaches in recruitment, recruitment of under-represented groups, and course delivery have helped to maintain some stability of enrollment, there could be a demographic that has been ignored or minimized on this issue.

A recent article in the Washington Post and a newsletter put out by the Council of Graduate Schools, reveals that the greatest pool of potential students is for those who wish to pursue a master’s degree.  Doctoral degrees in most cases are not a generator of revenue as they cost more than what they bring in from a revenue perspective.  However, Ph.D. students add to the research infrastructure, a critical mission of an institution such as UMKC.

The number of master’s degree graduates has been increasing steadily and in some cases dramatically for 20 years.  There has been a 63% increase in students pursing a master’s degree from 2000 to 2012. This increase is 18% greater than the output for Bachelor’s degrees.  Forty-two percent of freshmen say they plan to pursue a master’s degree. Long thought to be relegated to a less prestigious credential, the master’s degree in some fields is fast becoming the entry level degree, and/or often garners greater income for the graduate.  Some Universities such as Georgetown and Johns Hopkins enroll and award more master’s degrees than Bachelor degrees.   The interest in emphasizing enrollment in master’s programs should not be driven by the revenue needs of a university, but by the benefits it can produce for the graduates.  Greater earning power is one reason for this surge and another is the opportunity to retrain or to sharpen the tool box for future promotions and growth opportunities.  At UMKC, the number of master’s students has increased dramatically, including the 5 year BS/MS combined program.  According to Dean Truman, students in engineering may select this route as starting salaries with a master’s degree are on the average of $10,000 per year higher compared to a Bachelor’s degree.  This new wave of students will likely require faculty adjust how they teach, making their courses available at convenient times attractive to part-time working students, more on-line courses, and hybrid approaches to teaching.

Another development has been the introduction of a greater type of professional master’s degrees. Colleges of business were the first to embrace this type of degree with the master’s of Business Administration. Colleges of Education are large producers of master’s professional degree programs.  Today there are a growing number of such degrees.  The Council of Graduate Schools has promoted a new master’s degree referred to as the Professional Science Master’s (PSM) degree.  This degree has the core subject matter courses, but includes courses often sought after by business and government such as management, communication and technical writing.  The degree culminates with a field experience at a firm or government agency so the students get real world experience.  Growing areas for professional type master’s degrees involve fields such as biotechnology, bioinformatics and applied statistics, and geographic information systems.  Many traditional master’s programs can be tweaked to offer some other culminating experience in lieu of a traditional thesis.  Degrees in History are no exception to changes in training with some attention directed at internship experiences in museums as an example.

The message is clear: urban higher education institutions are in a prime spot to develop and increase the student size and diversity of master’s degrees.  The University of Missouri-Kansas City, having almost 4,000 graduate students, is positioned to further invest in such master’s programs that are novel and linked with industry and government sectors.  Such programs have advisory boards from industry and government to help assist in advising what real world experience they need as well as providing paths for internships or a capstone experience.  UMKC Graduate Faculty should look around and inventory their master’s degree programs and study employment trends and other venues for employment growth.

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Important Dates to Remember

Saturday, August 27 – Graduate Student Council Picnic, 11am – 12pm                             Loose Park

Saturday, August 27 – Deadline to register for UMKC Graduate Student Writing Groups

Monday, September 5 – Labor Day holiday – University Closed

Wednesday, September 7 – Thesis/Dissertation Formatting Workshop, 5:30 – 7:00pm   Administrative Center- Brookside room

Thursday, September 8 –Thesis/Dissertation Formatting Workshop,   3:30-5:00pm Administrative Center – Brookside room

Tuesday, September 13 – Thesis/Dissertation Formatting Workshop,  10:00-11:00am     Hospital Hill  – room TBA

Monday, September 19 – Last day to apply for December graduation

Friday, September 23 – Proposals due for Interdisciplinary Student Conference

Friday, September 30 – Deadline for Outstanding Thesis & Dissertation Award Nomination from Units/Departments

Friday, October 14 & Saturday, October 15 – Interdisciplinary Student Conference

Monday, October 17 – SGS Awards deadline

Friday, November 4 – Format review deadline for theses and dissertations

Thursday, November 24 – Thanksgiving holiday – University closed

Friday, November 25 – University closed

Friday, December 16 – Defense deadline for theses and dissertations for December graduation

Wednesday, January 4 – ProQuest upload deadline for theses/dissertations

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Register for a UMKC Writing Group with Other Graduate Students

Forty six UMKC graduate writers participated in our Summer 2016 Pilot Writing Group program, and we’re excited to continue this program in the fall, starting September 12 and running through December. “You get to decide the goals of your group…You … Continue reading

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Announcements: New Deadline for SGS Awards

School of Graduate Studies changes Deadlines for Award Applications and Community of Scholars Celebration Breaking from past years, the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) is having its Community of Scholars celebration in February as opposed to April.  April has notably … Continue reading

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Staff Spotlight: Peggy Ward-Smith

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Dr. Peggy Ward Smith holds a bachelor, master’s, and doctoral degree in nursing, as well as a master’s of counseling psychology. She currently serves as the Faculty Fellow for the School of Graduate Studies, the Director of UMKC’s Faculty Center … Continue reading

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Faculty Spotlight: Joe Parisi

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Professor Joe Parisi plays multiple roles within the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance. Along with being a Professor of Instrumental Music Education, he is also the Chair of Music Education-Music Therapy and the Associate Director of Bands. He first … Continue reading

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Student Spotlight: Xiaomei (Grazia) Xiong

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Bloch student Xiaomei (Grazia) Xiong is working on her degree in Accounting, an area she terms “the Language of Business.” “On top of my existing three language skills of English, Italian and Mandarin Chinese, my Master’s degree in Accounting will … Continue reading

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Alumni Spotlight: Ben Wilson

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Dr. Ben Wilson, a 2015 graduate of the Interdisciplinary Ph.D. program, is now an assistant professor of economics at State University of New York, College at Cortland. He has also joined the team of Research Scholars at the Binzagr Institute … Continue reading

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Dean’s Corner: Read this Article if you are Interested in a Successful Career!

Dr. Denis Medeiros

Dr. Denis Medeiros

I hope this title caught your attention. You might think there is not much that you can do right now to help yourself in the search for a position upon which to build your career once your degree is conferred; or is there?

During my graduate education I thought that my major adviser was the one who also trained me on the nuances of navigating the maze to obtain that perfect position. While my adviser was helpful, in reflection, I used what I call the “brute force method.” In other words, I found my way to a career by learning all the job-seeking strategies myself, which was a lot of trial and error and not an effective use of my time.

When I was a graduate student, there were Career Service centers on my campus. However, being the mighty graduate student, I thought that was just for undergraduate students. I never thought that Career Services had anything to offer graduate students. Part of this is the notion among many students that Career Services only exist to link up potential graduates with those firms or entities hiring at that time for a particular occupation or skill set. This is only one aspect of Career Services. As Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, I have urged graduate students to use our Career Services center; but my wisdom has not had a far-reaching impact based on data collected by Career Services here at UMKC.

Why visit UMKC Career Services? The first and most important reason in my opinion is the development of a compelling resume or curriculum vitae (CV).  Many students produce a resume, with good intentions, that is based on self-taught strategies or from examples of others.  While this is not a complete waste of time, there are professionals in Career Services who can give you that extra edge. I recently learned that the first half of the resume is an important part that can be adapted for each application—feature your background and skills that match the positon to which you are applying. Gone are the days where a resume started with a general “career goal” statement. Bring in a draft resume to the Career Services center and have them review it for you. You will be surprised at how this will help your job search.

Another aspect is knowing what strengths you have to promote in your application. Don’t know your strengths? Then take the StrengthsQuest test for a nominal fee ranging from $12.50 to $20.00. This will list your top 5 talents, enabling you to play upon these strengths. Graduate students also can take the free Sigi3 or Journey online career assessments. Knowing your strengths is much more important and productive than spending time trying to change your weaknesses.

Learn how to write a compelling application letter. Don’t rehash what is in your resume. Emphasize transferable skills or those top skills from your StrengthsQuest results and tell your prospective employer how you can help their organization rather than how they can help you! Click here and scroll to the “Job Search Process” section on the Career Services website to see two sample CVs that include transferable skills.

Once you get your foot in the door, the journey to that first position is just the start. What about the interview? In my own experience of hiring people, I find the interview the critical aspect of success. Stated another way, some who do not have an offer or a second interview may have made critical errors in the interview process. Career Services offers mock interviews that all graduate students should experience BEFORE setting out on your own. Setting up an appointment with Career Services to practice interviewing helps you develop professional skills, soft skills, better communication, and most of all, develops your confidence in convincing a prospective employer that you are a good match.

Career Services is located on the second level of the Atterbury Student Success Center; phone number 816-235-1636. Looking back during my graduate student days, I wish I had known to use my own Career Services center. I encourage you to schedule an appointment to prepare now for your future career.

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Important Dates to Remember

Fri., June 17 – Last day to apply for summer graduation

Fri., July 1 –  Format review deadline for theses and dissertations

Mon., July 4 – University closed

Fri., July 29 – Defense deadline for theses/dissertations for July graduation

Fri., August 12 – ProQuest upload deadline for theses/dissertations

Thurs., August 18 – IGTA Cultural Orientation – Student Union Theatre

Sat., August 20 – SGS IPhD Orientation – Administrative Center Conference Center

Mon., August 22 – First day of Fall classes

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