Grad schools a popular option

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Four years ago, many Ontario students felt the crunch as they battled for admission to postsecondary institutions. Now that graduation has become a reality, those same students are preparing themselves to leap over another hurdle: the entry-level job market.

There’s a growing trend for students to postpone their entry into this market, opting instead for graduate school.

This year, Western, along with the University of Toronto, York University and Ryerson University will add 40 new masters and doctoral programs to accommodate the growth.

“Having a degree alone isn’t enough. Employers these days are looking for people who have demonstrated their leadership and aptitude for the position,” Michael Wolf, a recent management and organizational studies graduate, explained.

One reason many students are opting for graduate school is a credentials-based job market.

“There has been an emphasis on increased credentials for the past several years as a result of a much more complex workplace, and as a result of an abundance of bachelor level candidates,” Sharon Lee, a marketing, events and recruitment coordinator at the Career Centre, explained.

“Employers have increasingly used postgraduate and/or multi-degrees as a screening tool in the hiring process.”

Many students are feeling the crunch in today’s competitive job market.

“The position I’m going for requires me to get a masters,” Lauren Kelly, a fourth-year health science student, said. “A bachelors degree just doesn’t cut it.”

Some feel today’s students aren’t doing enough to make themselves stand out.

“Everyone has the same opportunities. It’s whether or not you make the effort to go out there and get involved and ultimately get what you want,” Wolf said. “[Students] don’t put in enough work.”

For some graduate work is enticing for research and development rather than employability.

“Graduate work, at least in the field of engineering, is specifically oriented towards research rather than actual work,” Anthony Stracuzzi, a fourth-year civil and structural engineer, explained.

This trend can be attributed to the desire of the Ontario population to hold graduate degrees in order to develop a knowledge-based economy.

“The population itself is looking for higher education,” Tony Vandervoort, associate dean of Graduate Studies at Western, said.

“Four years ago, the double cohort had to deal with higher admission averages. Now that they’re graduating, we have the potential for some great scholars, and now they’re encouraged to make that move so that they can come back here to teach at Western.”

Ontario is facing a shortage of professors, with estimates of around 11,000 new positions that must be filled by the end of the decade. The provincial government is set to provide $240 million more a year to create 14,000 new graduate spaces by 2009.

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