Q&A: Master’s Degree But No Job Offers

I have a master’s degree and am job searching. I’ve been out of work for two years. No employers in my career will hire me because I don’t have any work experience in the field. Before going back to school I had 10 years of experience in retail management but decided to get my master’s in a new field.

I’m shocked and ANGRY that my past work experience and master’s degree don’t matter to employers. I’m thinking of enrolling in a six-month program so I can work in health care. What do you think my next move should be?

I’ve heard from several people with situations similar to yours – unemployed with a master’s degree and no related work experience.

If you had contacted me while you were in still school I would have advised you to seek out internships and volunteer opportunities before graduation. That’s how you gain experience and find out if the career is a good fit for you.

But hindsight is 20/20, and it doesn’t pay the bills. So, what can you do about your career options today?

 >> Related: Q&A: Job Or Grad School? <<

1) STOP spending money on training or other degree programs until you are certain you don’t want to pursue the career that matches your master’s degree. Going to school is NOT the same as job searching. You need to focus on connecting with employers, not getting more debt from student loans.

2) Make looking for a job using the skills you learned in your master’s program your top priority. I’m sure you are already doing this, but look for work at nonprofits with programs in your field. You will likely only be offered lower positions, but you need foot in the door, real-world experience, and a paycheck.

3) Do informational interviews with people in your chosen field. Talk to people working in the fields related to your master’s degree. Also talk to other people who graduated from master’s programs similar to yours and find out how they are using their skills.

Contact people through professional associations, online professional groups, and your networking contacts. Also do informational interviews with people working in health care. Find out if that health care program is a good fit for you before you spend money on tuition.

4) Go back to the university where you earned your master’s to seek career guidance from your former professors and the career services department. No college will guarantee alumni job placement, but part of your tuition paid for career services, so use it. Even if they only have websites or alumni groups to refer you to, it can help.

5) Have a professional in your chosen field critique your resume. The number one reason people don’t get job interviews is because their resume doesn’t fit employer expectations. You might have the skills employers want, but your resume isn’t showing it. Make sure your resume shows you as a professional, not a student.

6) Look for places to volunteer or create internships for yourself. Let the organizations know you are job searching and the time commitment/schedule you can commit to. Any activities in your field will increase your experience, and expand your network.

Hope these suggestions help. You will likely have to (continue to) look for work in any field as you pursue a “real job” related you your master’s degree. That’s OK. Just get focused and make a plan for yourself.

Keep looking up!

Also from DeniseMpls:

12 thoughts on “Q&A: Master’s Degree But No Job Offers

  1. Im in exactly the same predictament. Been unemployed for over 2yrs, but will have a master’s degree in Human Resource Development next month. I have no experience in the field and this has been my road block to gaining employment. Its very frustrating, and I’m more concerned about the salary I will be offered under these circumstances.

    1. Kyla,

      Be sure to showcase the internships or volunteer work you did and class projects with real-world applications. Employers want to know that, if hired, you understand the workplace and how to do the job. Talk about your knowledge as it relates to business, not to the classroom.

      Every entry-level employee (even those with advanced degrees) can expect low pay. But once you get your door in the door and how what you know benefits the employer, you might move up quickly.

      Keep looking up,

  2. I am from Mauritius. Situation is pretty bad here, I Have my LLB, LLM and I am partly ACCA qualified but tough luck in getting a job. My parents paid up for studies and I did part of my studies in UK. I am looking for jobs since 7 months, I got several interviews till now and no response from the employers. It is very discouraging, working so hard and getting nothing in return. I know of some people who stopped at high school and they are now earning good money at the end of each month, afford beautiful things, buying car and even flat. I feel that I studied for nothing, I did all that effort for nothing because in return I am not getting anything.

    It is unfair to see how employers give opportunity to the ones who have no such qualifications whilst highly qualified people are at home, waiting for such one chance to prove themselves. And I am just one of them. I never though of staying at home and looking for jobs like this, I was a brillant student, always got excellent grades but look where it lead me!

    Sometimes I feel that it would have been better if I had started working immediately after high school, then today I would have been earning good money and enjoying my life, its hard to treat yourself and the ones you love with beautiful things when you are at short of cash!

    In my country, people even not qualified ones end up getting a job through their personal relationship and contacts and those who have potential and are qualified, end up not getting anything. Political affinity and personal contacts in a company give you the job for sure but the one with potential is put behind.

    Despite being so qualified and having so much potential, no employer contacted me again! I know I can prove myself, I just need one chance.
    My sibling told me that he will not pursue with his higher studies once high school is over on seeing my situation.

    He wants to work and earn money. And I can’t say anything because I do not want him to be ME one day, It is so hard. Is this where I am today? Post Graduate Unemployment ?

    I just need one chance, just ONE.

    I do not know who to ask for help, maybe someone of you can lend me a helping hand. I feel so useless and miserable these days, as if I am worthless. . .

    1. I’m sorry to hear about your struggles. I know you are frustrated, but do not give up hope.

      Employment and the economy varies in different countries. Here in the United States, most people need to have some type of education or formal training past high school – this includes a Certificate, Associates or Bachelors degree (undergraduate degrees). It also includes apprenticeships. The need for a graduate degree such as a Master’s or Ph.D depends on the career field.

      You said that people get a “job through their personal relationship and contacts.” In the U.S. this is called “networking” – the more people you know in your related field, the better your chances of getting hired.

      I suggest that you contact the school(s) that you graduated from to ask for job search help, or find a career/employment counselor in your community to help you with your job search.

      Keep looking up,

  3. The first thing everyone needs to understand is that our educational system is a business just like any other and they’re out to make money. It does not matter if you study butt scratching or chemical engineering… They want your money! And guess what, you’re willing to pay them for an education which you think holds value to employers. Well for some that’s true, however, for others they just have SUCKER stamped on their foreheads and our colleges and universities know this!

    It matters not to your educational institution whether or not you are gainfully employed after the completion of a program. All that matters is tuition to keep their good thing going.

    Anyway, I thought my pursuit of education would open doors and increase my potential but all I’ve truly increased is my personal debt (and don’t let anyone tell you student loans are good debt, no debt is good debt).

    One final thought! I’ve applied at Kraft, ConAgra, and other consumer packaged goods companies without receiving so much as a phone inquiry. So, myself and some other students who found themselves out of work and experiencing similar frustrations are boycotting products from these companies. I would urge all who experience similar to do the same! Why should I purchase products from companies that won’t even consider the time and effort I put into educating myself while working a full time job??? BS-

  4. I received my MA in 2003. When I had straight As since High School, Undergrad and Grad school. I succeeded and excelled academically and socially and fulfilled every task set before me that was to set me on the road to a better future.

    It is now 2012, I have yet to find anything other than temp work. Honestly, I made more money working as a hotel desk clerk than I do as a teacher.

    I am also bilingual, which used to be considered a major plus. Now it is only considered a plus if you have a degree in business or social work, no one cares about your foreign language studies or any quality control over your actual ability to speak another language.

    On top of that I am now 40. I have no hope left whatseover of ever having anything more than minimum wage jobs (I currently work 3 jobs, and still cannot afford to pay my basic bills). I never go out and have not taken any vacation time since 2003. I even had to continue to work while having pneumonia, as taking time of to be sick would have cost me my jobs (yes, they told me I would be fired!).

    I really wish I had just dropped out of high school, then I would still have the same income as now without all the debt of having gone to college.

  5. I googled this topic, and found this site as I am also in a similar situation. I finished graduate school, received my masters degree but could not work during the last few years as I had to take care of my mother and brother who were extremely ill. I am now looking to get a job, but I have realized over the years that I am no longer interested in the field that I studied. What are steps I would need to take in order to enter a different industry? I understand that internships are valuable, but most (if not all) of these internship positions are “for credit” positions– ie. must be enrolled in school to receive school credit (as most internships are unpaid). My resume contains 6 internships that I did during college and graduate school, but all are within the field that i no longer want to have a career in. What can I do now?
    any advice would be much appreciated!
    (To add– I have to debt, no student loans, I do not need health insurance. I really am just a hardworking person who wants to have a job, and after much heartache taking care of ill family members, I just want to be productive again.)

    1. Hi Lu,

      Sorry to hear that your chosen field is not currently viable. This happens to many people. It’s possible that the lack of hiring is temporary, but in the meantime it’s smart to lee to see where you can use your skills elsewhere.

      Before you get an internship or invest in a new career path, first confirm what new field you want to go into. Start by going to mySkills myFuture (http://myskillsmyfuture.com/) or use another assessment to find out which careers match your current skills.

      After you find a career you are interested in, look further for the training/degrees that needed to enter that field. You also want to look at the pay and the job growth (to make sure there will be openings).

      After that, contact professional associations related to the field and/or do informational interviews with people working in the career to get the inside scoop on what it’s really like to work in the field and find the best ways to start your career.

      Keep looking up,

  6. Fellow Readers it is not easy – Look I owe a lot of money also and I am concerned- Rather I say if You pump your self up to get through school- The Job search must be no different- I have over five years working experience in Case Management- Went to be a College Student Affairs Professionals- I needed to to see the end at the start – I am glad I have the Masters Degree rather I want to just make monies over 75 k and that is the challenge so I am doing some soul searching….. I will meet my passion with my education with my income positive thoughts are key

  7. Hello sir/madam,
    My name is Moses. I have been selected by one of the top IT company for IMS [INFRASTRUCTURE MANAGED SERVICES] & 24*7 Support projects (Including night shifts) with 2 years BOND on bases of BCS(Computer science).
    I had given all the rounds but didn’t got the offer letter or any confirmation.So i took admission in MCA(under science faculty) PUNE and now after one month of my college started I have got the offer letter by the company in which i am placed in its pune branch. What should i do?, there are some of my college friend who are working and come to college only Saturdays.


    What does IMS [INFRASTRUCTURE MANAGED SERVICES] & 24*7 Support projects (Including night shifts) means?.
    WHAT will be my role at the job?
    After completing my MCA(under science faculty) with IMS experience is there scope for this?
    What staring package will i get after MCA(under science faculty) with IMS experience?


    Moses Gangipogu

  8. Denise, excellent advice. Internships and volunteer opportunities are great ways to build experience.

    Many people also turn to college or stay in college during a bad economy. Without a well thought out combined education and career plan, you can be wasting time and money, as well as educating yourself in to protracted unemployment. In my college planning consultations with clients (high school students and adults considering returning to college) I discuss the client’s career goals and find out what research, if any, the client did on the job trends in the intended field. This helps the client to determine if the plan is realistic or needs to be tweaked. A well developed education/careet plan reduces the chances of being overeducated and under-employed. http:www.headforcollege.com.

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