Master’s Plan
Even in times of economic instability, local interest in post-graduate degrees flourishes
by Theodora Malison

For Stephen Puntillo, the choice was a simple one. After completing his undergraduate studies, Puntillo immediately jumped into the MBA in Finance program at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.

“As a former accounting major, I needed a certain number of additional credits in order to be eligible to sit for the CPA exam,” he says. “Pursuing an MBA allowed me to focus on multiple aspects of business as opposed to being completely focused on one particular subject.

“Overall,” he continues, “it helped prepare me in a more technical way for both my CPA exam and as a competitive edge in my job quest at one of the big four accounting firms.”

As the job market becomes increasingly competitive, thoughts of pursuing a secondary degree become increasingly appealing to prospective students and employers alike. For some, a master’s degree may render a necessary job requirement vital for future success; for others, pursuing a master’s degree might represent a continuation of an educational journey, even a personal challenge.  Regardless of the scenario, many candidates, if not all, enter into the process with a multitude of unanswered questions before taking the plunge.

According to Thomas Delahunt, vice president for enrollment services at La Salle University in Philadelphia, pursuing a master’s degree can reap vital benefits in terms of employment and financial opportunity.

“There are definitely opportunities that people with advanced degrees have, not the least of which is that they tend to earn larger paychecks than those who have only an undergraduate degree,” he says. “They’re also more likely to land a job and less likely to end up in their parents’ basement. When looking at employment statistics, it’s clear that those with advanced degrees have the lowest unemployment rate.”

In some fields, a master’s degree is practically an entry-level credential, according to Terry Jackson, administrative director of the M.A. in counseling psychology and M.A. in policy studies programs at Delaware Valley University in Doylestown.

“The value and necessity of a master’s degree is quite dependent on the industry one wants to enter, any previous professional experience and, ultimately, career path,” Jackson says. “Some careers, it’s a requirement, while for others, it’s necessary to advance beyond an entry-level position. It’s important to consider what you want from a degree and where you expect it to take you. Nonetheless, it’s important to research your industry to see what you need to be successful.”

Most undergraduates, Jackson suggests, go right into graduate school immediately after matriculation to improve their chances of employability.

“The economy, as always, influences trends in graduate education,” she says. “Graduate programs seem to be including more internship and experience-based components into their programs. At Delaware Valley University, we have a strong commitment to integrating theory and practice into each of our programs.”

For those interested in graduate studies but vexed as to which programs will yield the greatest returns on investment, sources such as might provide some insight regarding earning potential throughout all fields.

“For some, earning an advanced degree means more than just an increased paycheck,” Delahunt says. “It’s no secret that some professions pay more than others. Engineering-related programs will often win the contest of who gets paid the most.”

While Delahunt notes that interest in business and health-science programs have traditionally remained paramount among master’s candidates, he also mentions a predominant and rising interest in MBA programs among prospective students.

“Interest in programs often ebbs and flows with the economy,” he adds. “MBA interest has remained high because programs have been able to adapt to changes in our world quicker than select other disciplines. Programs that can include areas such as ethics, sustainability, leadership, technology and globalization, in combination with core areas often succeed very well.”

Demanding but Doable
Despite the rigors of a 9-to-5 job as an assurance senior at Ernst and Young, Puntillo says the coursework during his time in graduate school, though demanding, was doable. Most coursework he received pertained to group projects and individual presentations, while test taking remained a thing of the past. It was his experiences in the classroom, working with a diverse student body, that ultimately helped him in the long run professionally.

“[Making presentations] in graduate school helped me prepare to speak comfortably in front of clients and larger groups of people,” he notes. “The students in the classroom came from many different backgrounds, and working in teams with students of different ethnicities helps open your eyes to ideas and strategies that you may have not thought of initially. Learning like this is important now more than ever as we live in a global economy.

“I believe master’s degrees are becoming more and more necessary as the professional and social world has grown increasingly complex,” Puntillo continues. “Higher education helps train the mind to think outside the box as a result of the interaction with other motivated, intelligent, like-minded and diverse students.”

So what should one ultimately consider before taking the next step? Jackson suggests a few ways in which potential candidates can prepare to make the decision process easier and more efficient.

“It’s vital to establish contact with your prospective graduate-school choices and visit the campuses if you can,” she says. “Ask to sit in on a class. If you aren’t geographically close, then at least establish contact with the school and converse with several people—admissions, faculty or other students. Research your schools thoroughly and don’t rely exclusively on rankings among other external evaluations of programs. Those rankings are not always what they seem. Do your own research and form your own opinions about what is best for you and your goals.

“If you are putting off graduate studies because you think you’ve been out of school too long, don’t,” she continues. “Chances are you will enjoy it and end up very successful.”

Higher Ground
Whether they are fresh out of high school, having just completed their undergraduate studies or established in their careers, local men and women who want to improve their position in the world have an abundance of choices in terms of outstanding colleges and universities. Following are dozens of the leading institutions of higher learning in the Greater Philadelphia Area, from Center City to the surrounding suburbs to across the river in New Jersey and beyond.

Arcadia University
215-572-2900  |

Bryn Athyn College
Bryn Athyn
267-502-6000  |

Bryn Mawr College
Bryn Mawr
610-526-5000  |

Cabrini University
610-902-8100  |

Cairn University
215-752-5800  |

Chestnut Hill College
215-248-7001  |

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania
610-399-2275  |

Curtis Institute of Music
215-893-5252  |

Delaware State University
Dover, Del.
302-857-6060  |

Delaware Valley University
215-345-1500  |

Drexel University
215-895-2000  |

Eastern University
Saint Davids
610-341-5800  |

Gratz College
Melrose Park
215-635-7300  |

Gwynedd-Mercy University
Gwynedd Valley
215-646-7300  |

Haverford College
610-896-1000  |

Holy Family University
215-637-7700  |

Hussian College School of Art
215-574-9600  |

Immaculata University
610-647-4400  |

Kutztown University
610-683-4000  |

La Salle University
215-951-1000  |

The Lincoln University
Lincoln University
484-365-8000  |

Moore College of Art and Design
215-965-4000  |

Neumann University
610-459-0905  |

Peirce College
215-545-6400  |

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
215-972-7600  |

Pennsylvania State University - Penn State Abington
215-881-7300  |

Pennsylvania State University - Brandywine
610-892-1200  |

Princeton University
Princeton, N.J.
609-258-3000  |

Rosemont College
610-527-0200  |

St. Joseph’s University
610-660-1000  |

Swarthmore College
610-328-8000  |

Temple University
215-204-7000  |

Philadelphia University
215-951-2700  |

University of Pennsylvania
215-898-5000  |

The University of the Arts
215-717-6000  |

Ursinus College
610-409-3000  |

University of Valley Forge
610-935-0450 |

Villanova University
610-519-4500  |

West Chester University of Pennsylvania
West Chester
610-436-1000  |

Widener University
610-499-4000  |


Bucks County Community College
215-968-8000  | 

Community College of Philadelphia
215-751-8000  |

Delaware County Community College
610-359-5000  |

Harcum College
Bryn Mawr
610-525-4100  |

Manor College
215-885-2360  |

Montgomery County Community College - Central Campus
Blue Bell
215-641-6300  |

Valley Forge Military College
610-989-1200  |