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Stay relevant in the ‘new different’

by Monica Smith

Dec 22, 2021, 12:00 PM.

Upskill or re-skill with a master’s degree from FIU.

It’s been said the best outcomes are the ones you prepare for. As we all work on our ability to build resilience for what’s to come, reports show that a large number of professionals are applying for graduate degrees to upskill or reskill. Many experts agree that earning a bachelor’s degree used to be enough to be established in your career; however, new statistics indicate a rise in the number of people who are pursuing their master’s degrees. 

According to reports, the surge in applications for graduate school is influenced by an economy weakened by COVID-19, the fact that people are re-evaluating priorities, and because professional burnout is growing. All business sectors are also experiencing what’s been termed the “2021 Great Resignation.” In sum, there is great movement in all areas of commerce as people make decisions about their future careers, life-work balance and life-long goals.

Top reasons to upskill or reskill

  1. Higher Pay
  2. Career advancement/longevity
  3. New skills
  4. Better research
  5. Technological skills
  6. Job stability/security
  7. Career change
  8. Marketability
  9. Life-work balance
  10. Mobility

Future-proof your career

There are many reasons to consider upskilling or reskilling. For one, a graduate degree can offer greater earning potential according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The agency’s most recent study shows that workers with graduate degrees had the lowest unemployment rates and highest earnings. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) confirms this with its own 2021 Salary Survey numbers: “the new average is 2.5% above the average starting salary of $53,889 for the Class of 2019 and a gain of 8.5% from the Class of 2018’s final average starting salary of $50,944.”

Satisfy personal and professional needs

Along with job stability and security, professionals with graduate degrees can also become more mobile. Those with greater education may have more ease in obtaining work in places they prefer to live, as opposed to accepting a position in a place with an abundance of jobs. 

Along the same lines, a degree can facilitate career changes within a field of interest or even help transfer you to an entirely new industry. A master’s degree can help you thrive in today’s market as demand for new knowledge like data analysis and interpretation grows instep with technology use in every industry.

New skills

Over the last five years, every industry has experienced a technological revolution. COVID-19 contributed greatly to the technological push as many industries found new ways to keep consumers safer with contactless service. This is certainly true for the hospitality industry, says hospitality management graduate student Brandon Russell, who received his bachelor’s degree from FIU in ’21. 

“A lot of businesses have had to change their business models,” Russell explains. Currently a restaurant operations manager for Tap 42 in Midtown Miami, he notes that in the future, organizations will work to marry pre-pandemic face-to-face practices with the best of technology to make the industry even more efficient, and he’s learning a lot about this firsthand with his job and through his graduate degree.

Stay competitive

Industry changes, like those experienced by Russell in the hospitality industry, have created opportunities and challenges for the workforce that now must keep pace to remain competitive. In response, new digital analysis tools introduced in the last few years provide a greater vision for organizations to balance the ebb and flow of markets. Going back to school to upskill or even to re-skill in the new software programs and benchmarks for your own industry can offer career longevity.

Specialized knowledge

Today, students can earn a master’s degree in just about anything, and experts agree that a master’s degree is still worth it; however, their advice is to look at careers with longevity.

In tech careers, a long career only occurs when you stay relevant as new technology is introduced. The growing proliferation of the internet of things is beginning to saturate our daily lives, states Alexander Perez-Pons, associate professor,  Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He notes that the explosion of digital devices offers new avenues for cyber threats and those in computer engineering need to stay aware of the new threats. 

“These devices make our lives easier, but how can security now not be a major factor?” he says.  Many of Perez-Pons’  students are professionals already working in the computer engineering field, and acquire  high-demand positions in network security. These students, he says, pursue their master’s degree looking to add specialized knowledge for an “uptick” in their careers.

Better research

Universities offer students the best preparation for their future careers as they teach methods to accomplish research and frameworks to enact innovative plans. In fact, many students at FIU partake in research in tandem with and guided by professors like those within the fully online M.S. in Research Design and Analysis degree program. 

According to Mido Chang, professor of counseling, recreation and school psychology for the College of Arts, Sciences and Education, with all the resources we have, we still need a framework to understand and interpret the data to provide sound direction for organizations. 

“We’re training students to be data masters who can apply their skill set to any area,” she adds. Chang explains that there is a shortage of professionals who can provide direction on small, medium and big data. These types of skills can make you more valuable to organizations and competitive in your chosen industry. Best of all, the program is just a year and fully online.

Online learning

Necessity is the mother of invention, and this could not be truer with online learning. To stay relevant, adult learners are turning to online learning, which offers asynchronous learning for greater schedule flexibility

“I have a full-time job and young kids and I want to be an active parent and husband. My program offers me that flexibility to do things on my own time,” asserts current higher education administration graduate student, Mario Sanchez.

Whether your aim is to level up to become more competitive, marketable or relevant, devising a plan to pursue your master’s degree is a worthy exercise as education is an investment that can help recession-proof your career.

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