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Without having that data, it's hard to draw conclusions, says Robert Reich, a former U.S. secretary of labor who is currently a public policy professor at the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California—Berkeley. Still, the numbers look "reliable," he says.
"I'm struck by how little the increase has been between 2011 and 2012," he adds. "Adjusted for inflation, [it's an] almost zero increase."
But others more readily drew conclusions from the NACE survey. "Maybe staying at Troy University after [graduating] isn't such a bad idea! Master's degree means higher salary payoff," Tweeted the career services office at Troy University in Troy, Ala.
Sam Smith, a first year student at the Law Center at Georgetown University, says as a full-time student, he is not aware of salary trends for graduate alumni. But grad school is a large investment in terms of time, money, and lost wages, so he's excited to see that the NACE study indicates that the investment pays off.
"The skills gained in graduate programs often provide for a more critical professional outlook, and in my experience, the career services support that I have found in graduate school has been much more accessible and forthcoming about opportunities and the job market than those I found in undergrad," he says.
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The NACE average salary numbers also sound accurate to Lauren Hudgins, a second-year M.F.A. student at Portland State University. But Hudgins, who graduated from college in 2006 and has never earned more than $25,000 per year, questions the degree to which the study takes into account the "months many graduates spent unemployed."
"I would be curious to see the medians and means including people who are employed part time, because they cannot find full-time work," she says.
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