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Many students considering graduate education have two questions: “Will I get a job?” and “How much debt will I acquire?” There is no doubt that these are important questions, and I want to share some important facts to inform the answers.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated that the number of jobs requiring a master’s degree will increase by 18 percent, and the number of jobs requiring a doctoral degree will increase by 17 percent between now and 2018. Indeed, jobs requiring master’s degrees are increasing so fast that many wonder if the master’s degree will soon be the new bachelor’s degree in our information-fueled economy.

UNC-Chapel Hill recently implemented two new master’s programs, called professional science master’s degrees, that combine in-depth technical and business knowledge. These degree programs, administered by The Graduate School, feature the collaboration of several UNC-Chapel Hill schools and a number of industry partners in Research Triangle Park, and they are led by our University faculty.

We are preparing graduate students for a wide variety of professional opportunities. Are they finding jobs? Each graduate degree candidate completes an exit survey as a graduation requirement, and we have gained very valuable information from what they’ve told us.

Data from our exit survey indicate that 47 percent of our master’s degree students either have a position or are negotiating a position at the time they graduate. Nearly one-half of these students will work outside of any educational institution, and 25 percent will work within education. Forty-two percent of our graduating master’s degree students are actively looking for a position and in most cases will have a job within three-to-six months of graduation.

Nearly 75 percent of our doctoral students either have a position or are negotiating an offer when they graduate. Almost 70 percent of these students find employment within education, followed by nearly 30 percent who will work in private industry or the government. An additional 17 percent are seeking a position, and a small fraction intends to continue their education.

Carolina graduates get jobs and represent our University around the world.

Now let’s turn to the issue of debt. Data compiled by the Council of Graduate Schools indicate that, nationwide, the median amount that master’s and doctoral degree recipients borrowed in 2011-12 was $36,000. This can be compared with the median amount borrowed by law degree recipients ($122,406) and medical degree recipients ($135,000). Graduate student borrowing increased 23 percent from 2003-04 to 2011-12, as compared to an increase of 29 percent for bachelor’s degree recipients.

Fifty percent of Carolina’s doctoral degree recipients surveyed said that they graduated with no debt, as reported in the National Science Foundation-administered Survey of Earned Doctorates. An additional 30 percent indicated that they graduated with less than $30,000 in cumulative undergraduate and graduate debt. In fact, since 2004 the fraction of our graduating doctoral students reporting no debt has increased.

We can attribute these positive statistics to several factors. First is the ability of our faculty to compete for and win externally funded research grants and contracts. UNC-Chapel Hill faculty brought in $792.7 million in research contracts and grants in fiscal 2014, up $14.9 million from a total of $777.8 million in fiscal 2013. These grants help to fund our students and reduce the amount they would otherwise borrow to finance their graduate education. Second, we continue to receive generous support from the state of North Carolina to recruit the best and brightest students from around the country and the world. Third, the generous support we receive from alumni and other friends helps to support graduate education in the form of fellowships, dissertation completion grants and other vital graduate student needs. And finally, our students themselves compete for and win external grants to support their scholarship. Last year, nearly 400 students won externally funded awards.

Our students are doing well, and I am very proud of their accomplishments. Thank you for all you do to make Carolina one of the leading research universities in the world. Please consider supporting Carolina’s graduate students, if you are not already doing so. Together, we can help our students accomplish so much as alumni.

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