Working Professionals and the New Geography of Master’s Degrees

By 2022, according to the executive summary of research by the Education Advisory Board (EAB), “master’s degrees will account for nearly a third of all degrees awarded.” Where will that growth come from? Primarily, say experts, from professional master’s programs.

These professional programs focus on teaching specific job skills that do two things: help a student land a job or advance in the job already held. Yet, they point out, this will be a different kind of degree from the MBA, JD, or Med — which are experiencing slower growth due to falling demand — but rather in far more specialized programs. Consider the “master of laws,” the LLM, or a master’s in finance; these programs build on rather than devalue existing disciplines like business and law, but while making use of already existing resources.

Still, the experts contend that the fastest rate of growth will happen even outside those traditional disciplines. Though business, law, education and health care account for 62 percent of all graduate degrees awarded, only health care is a growing field. It’s niche programs that are appealing to young people and the market: cybersecurity, data analytics, health informatics, EAB says. And those niche programs are intimately tied to professional opportunities.

Many of these programs are decidedly regional, and so demand may be entirely geographical. What can attract students to these programs is micro-targeting, “a specific need in a specific industry to a specific student segment.” This, of course, is what we do at Capture Higher Ed.

How can we reach working professionals, which include groups as diverse as not only career starters, but career changers, career advancers, and career crossers? For the college, it’s about customizing offerings toward “flexible delivery, stackable credentials, practical experience, accelerated format, interdisciplinary pathways, and professional development.” For us at Capture, it’s all about that micro-targeting. And while a master’s program spends its time customizing those offerings, we’ll spend our time finding the people within what could be a highly specialized geography.

By Sean Hill, Senior Content Writer, Capture Higher Ed