In a just a few decades, Dr. Gregg Keiffer, assistant professor of management in HBU’s Archie W. Dunham College of Business, has witnessed increments of changing thought adding up to big ramifications for education, and to its application within the business environment. “The idea of education has changed,” he said. “It used to be that a high school education was the baseline degree in the professional workforce. It’s changed now – an undergraduate degree is the baseline education.”
Keiffer worked for more than 20 years in data processing for a global company before earning his doctorate and entering academia. “Most of what we saw when I was first getting into corporate America was that they preferred for employees to have an undergraduate degree, but it was not necessarily a requisite,” he said. “When I was leaving corporate America, it was required for all new employees to have an undergraduate degree. So, the next thought is, ‘How can they differentiate the pool of candidates?’”
To the chagrin of many freshly minted, bachelor’s degree-carrying graduates, many starting-level jobs request additional qualifications to make the cut. “Organizations are fairly confused about what degrees mean today,” Keiffer explained. “Even entry-level job screeners often want several years of experience or the equivalent years of education, in addition to a bachelor’s degree.”
Hence, candidates are finding ways to set themselves apart – one of those ways is obtaining a graduate degree. “The pyramid gets narrower at the top,” Keiffer said.
Linda Abraham, founder and CEO of Accepted, a Los Angeles-based company specializing in helping college applicants optimize their application materials and enrollment process, has seen an uptick of students looking to get into graduate programs. “Our graduate business has been growing,” she said. “You see this trend that more and more degrees are required.”
In some careers in which an associate’s degree has traditionally sufficed, like nursing, now a bachelor’s degree is widely preferred. In other fields in which a bachelor’s degree was common – like social work – now a master’s is becoming standard. In areas like research, a doctorate, rather than a master’s, has become the expected degree.