Going on to get a master's degree can be more than just a shelter from the harsh job market. Locally at least, master's degrees in science and areas that are perceived to be more technical, such as business, are in high demand.
Probably due to the recession, enrollment in graduate studies is pretty steady, said Peter Kasvinsky, dean of graduate studies and research at Youngstown State University. In addition to being an option for those coming out of undergrad programs, individuals who have lost their jobs are now also considering continuing their education.
In this area, degrees in nursing and physical therapy are in demand, Kasvinsky said. "There is a huge vacancy in the general population of people with those degrees," he said.
Engineering and math degrees are highly sought after, as well. Still, Kasvinsky and Tina Weintz, director of graduate admissions at YSU, spoke of the importance of a master's degree in any area of study.
The recession may also play a role in the rise of technologically-based degrees.
Often, when jobs are in demand, "folks will turn to more technical disciplines," said Mark Kretovics, associate professor in higher education administration and student personnel at Kent State University. Those with a master's degree in business administration, technology or accounting, for instance, get jobs quickly.
Kretovics, who was previously a career counselor for about 12 years, said those degrees that are perceived to be more skills-based - technology, accounting, business, computer information sciences, even counseling and education administration - are popular with employers.
Kretovics also said that KSU has noticed an increase in enrollment. While many programs already closed admission in January, before the most recent recession, Kretovics said he talked with colleagues across campus who say that inquiries about programs are on the rise. In many cases, these are from students with bachelor's degrees who are finding it difficult to find jobs after graduation.
Paul Whorten, 23, of Austintown, said the economy was probably "40 percent" of his decision to attend grad school. Whorten, who is attending Youngstown State University for an MBA in business management, doesn't have to worry about the debt that sometimes piles up when pursuing a higher degree.
"I've had a pretty good road, through," he said of his financial situation. With most of his undergrad tuition paid for through a scholarship, Whorten also landed a grad assistantship this year, which gives him a stipend and covers most of his tuition.
While Whorten said he would like to stay in Youngstown, he admitted that he would search elsewhere for jobs "as a last effort." He's confident about landing a job, he said, since a master's degree will increase his chances of being hired.
The job market was also a factor in Josh Rasmussen's decision to continue his education. Rasmussen, 23, considered a master's degree his senior year after a friend decided to do it. A teaching assistantship, which helped Rasmussen continue his education debt-free, was also a deciding factor.
"Now it seems that in order to succeed, you need to get that master's degree," said Rasmussen, a communication studies major at Kent State University.
Though the master's degree is a way for him to delay his job search a bit, Rasmussen, originally from Nebraska, said he's fairly confident about finding a job after graduation, even if the initial job might not be his ideal one. A doctorate might also be an option someday.
Other students also seem to possess confidence in regard to job prospects.
The economy had nothing to with Kat Golsan's decision to go to grad school. The 23-year-old, also a communication studies major at KSU, plans to pursue her doctorate and become a professor.
While she admits that landing a job in academia "depends on how you network," on a 10-point confidence scale, Golsan puts herself at about a seven.
Ben King, a 22-year-old attending YSU for a master's degree in computing and information systems, has the goal of working for the FBI as a field agent or a technical specialist. While the minimum requirement is a four-year degree, King, of Austintown, thinks a master's degree will help his chances at landing a position.
King, too, is confident about the job market in general, adding that he is willing to leave the area if necessary.
"If you're willing to get out there and find a job, then you'll get one," he said.