Be careful what you study. Going to grad school isn't always worth the time, effort and money.
MBAs: A dime a dozen?
Name: Aaron Fraser, 42
Place: Virgin Islands
I once looked at the MBA as the crème de la crème of business degrees, but now I realize I'm a dime a dozen.
I have an MBA in media management from Metropolitan College of New York and a master's in organizational leadership from Mercy College. I am in debt to the tune of $120,000, and for me, it just wasn't worth it.
After graduating, I applied for jobs in New York for at least a year. In interviews, I was either overqualified, or high risk.
I am high risk, so I'm told, because I have multiple degrees, which means it's more likely that I would pursue other means of employment if I am offered a higher salary.
I'm 42 years old, and I'm competing with 25-year-olds who have MBAs from Harvard. There are so many young people with MBAs from exclusive schools, it's very difficult for somebody like me to compete. Employers don't expect middle aged people to be innovators.
My master's is a joke
Name: Jen Smialek, 31
Place: Boston, Mass.
I work in such a completely different industry, it's a joke amongst co-workers that I have a master's in education.
I completed that degree -- which was my second master's -- in 2010, and taught for a year in Boston. It was the hardest work I've ever done, but I loved it.
A year later, it was first in, first out in terms of layoffs. I didn't have any seniority and I was unfortunately laid off.
I couldn't find another teaching job, so I returned to marketing. I had about $26,000 in student debt from that master's, and I've since paid off most of it (I completed my first master's for less than $500).
If I could go back, I wouldn't earn the education degree again. It was a good personal enrichment activity, but for someone like me who does Internet marketing, my career would benefit more from an MBA.
I work 3 part-time jobs
Name: Nick Hintz, 28
Place: Kansas City, Mo.
When I graduated from my undergraduate program in 2008, I had a bachelor's degree in psychology, which was too general to get me a job. I wanted to go into business, so I decided to earn a master's degree in human resources at the University of Minnesota.
At the time, it was rated as the number two HR school in the nation, and it cost a lot to go there. I took out $120,000 in student loans. The economy was unraveling at the time, but I hoped that over a couple years, the job market would improve.
Instead, things got worst. I graduated in 2010 at the bottom of the U.S. job market. At the time, only about half our class found jobs.
Now it's been more than two years, and I'm competing against fresh grads for entry-level positions and leadership training programs. A career counselor told me I missed the boat on getting a solid return on investment for my master's.
I have three part-time jobs. I am an unpaid volunteer in a local hospital's HR department, I'm a content manager for a video game website, and I clean typewriters... yes, typewriters.
I'm stuck with a large amount of debt, I have this fancy master's no one cares about, and I can't get the experience I need. I'm really at a loss of what to do.
My master's wasn't worth the debt
Name: Daniel Snyder, 38
Place: Chicago, Ill.
I've always been in tune with other people's emotions, so I studied psychology, hoping to be a clinician or a therapist.
I earned a bachelor's and then master's degree in clinical psychology, but at the end of my final internship, I became ill and was hospitalized for a few days. I still graduated from the program, but because I had not finished my internship, I was unable to get a license to practice as a psychologist.
I was told I could return in a year to re-start the internship process. In the meantime, I hoped I could still get a job, applying the degree to other fields that don't require a license. I sent out more than 300 applications.
It's been almost a year and I have not been able to apply my degree to any jobs in human resources, psychology consultation or even restaurant management. I am just starting school again, now for a master's degree in human resources. I've been living off credit cards essentially, acquiring about $25,000 in debt. And that's in addition to the $60,000 in student loans I acquired in grad school.
I had to sell my car. It got so bad that some points, my phone or power would be shut off.
Not only was my first master's not worth the debt, it wasn't worth the emotional journey of going through a program that requires such introspection and self reflection. If I had to do this all over again, I probably would have just gotten an HR degree instead of a social science degree.
I want to use my degree
Name: Mary LeMay, 47
Place: Stevens Point, Wisc.
After working 18 years in financial counseling, I went back to school in my 40s to earn a master's degree in community counseling.
I had always aspired to be a school counselor, but when I started the program, I was informed there were very few job openings in schools. I chose community counseling instead, because I was told it was a larger umbrella with more opportunities.
After graduating in May 2010, I knew that most counselor positions would require certification as an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor). In Wisconsin, that would entail an additional two years and 3,000 hours working under the direction of someone in the field. I didn't know how difficult it would be to obtain that certification.
I've been looking for those positions, but it seems there are so few job opportunities for someone to become a counselor-in-training. Very few employers are willing to supervise you.
Why do graduate schools keep churning out counselors when there are so few jobs or opportunities for certification?
I funded my masters degree with $20,000 in student loans. I'm still looking forward to being able to use my degree, but I'm just wondering if that's ever going to happen.
Name: Sean Padden, 42
Place: Providence, R.I.
I have more education than I know what to do with, and I am one of the long-term unemployed who have given up hopes of finding a job.
After a double major in chemistry and microbiology as an undergrad, I earned a master's degree in molecular biology and gained teaching experience in cellular, micro, molecular and plant biology.
I thought this wide array of experience would at least get me interviews. After hundreds of applications over the past four years, I have had less than five interviews.
My solution has been to try and employ myself. I resorted going back to a high school hobby, as a job.
I'm working on starting a woodworking business that makes canes, using a special kind of diseased wood. Basically, I'm using my chemistry background to create functional pieces of art.