From 2000 to 2012, the annual production of master’s degrees jumped 63 percent, federal data show, growing 18 percentage points more than the output of bachelor’s degrees. It is a sign of a quiet but profound transformation underway at many prominent universities, which are pouring more energy into job training than ever before.Some universities around Washington, including Georgetown and George Mason, now award more master's degrees than bachelor's. Meanwhile, more and more employers are asking for an MA, on the theory that people with BAs don't really know anything. Within my own field the need for a MA has steadily crept down the ladder. When I started only the principal investigator needed one, but now most places want a field supervisor to have one, too. Many nurses now get an MS in nursing, and it is even possible now to get a Ph.D. in nursing, confusing everyone to no purpose.
The master’s degree, often priced starting at $20,000 to $30,000, is seen by some universities as a moneymaker in a time of fiscal strain. It is seen by students as a ticket to promotions or new careers. For them, the lure of potentially increasing their salary by many thousands of dollars a year outweighs the risk of taking on large tuition bills and possibly debt.
Our country has gone mad for credentials. To get a job you have to have more years of school, more certifications, and more experience than in the past, even when this has nothing to do with how you will perform on the job. There was an ad that flew around the web last year for a position as an assistant manager at a McDonald's, requiring a BA and four years experience at managing a McDonald's. The education field has been shaken up by the discovery that although schools pay teachers more for having a master's degree or being certified or having decades of experience, these things have no impact whatsoever on how much their students learn.
Thinking about the future, I imagine this will only get worse. It is the almost inevitable outcome of our steadily bureaucratizing, ever more anonymous world. We don't know or trust each other any more, we just read each other's resumes. We don't want to train people, for fear they will just take their training and go elsewhere. We don't judge each other's skills or evaluate each other's work or figure out what other people are capable of doing -- that would be too much trouble. We just demand a master's degree.