Sunday, March 18, 2018

Was your graduate degree worth what it cost?

That was one question asked in a Gallup poll which was reported on February 16, 2018 in an article by Zac Auter titled Few MBA, Law Grads Say Their Degree Prepared Them Well. I was interested, because it also mentioned PhDs and I have one.

A table (click on it to see a larger, clearer view) presents their results for that question and another (my graduate school prepared me well for life outside it). What could we do with that data for a presentation?

One silly thing would be ‘press release journalism’ – completely ignore the real article and instead just talk about one result a news article had focused on, like one at CNBC by Abigail Hess on February 21, titled Only 23% of law school grads say their education was worth the cost. That is what Jane Genova did on February 22, 2018 in a post at her Speechwriter-Ghostwriter blog titled titled Law Degree – Maybe investing in Bitcoin is smarter. We might even put it in a graphic with silly clipart icons, as shown above.   

How would we organize that data for a presentation? We might put it either into Microsoft Excel or PowerPoint, sort the percentages from largest to smallest, and plot those results in some sort of chart. There are lots of bad choices though, like the three-dimensional “rainbow” column chart for the first question shown above. The 3d layout makes it hard to read the exact percentages (so data labels are mandatory), and the reader must lean his head 90 degrees to read the vertical axis (the Goren lean). A 2d chart is better, but the column labels still are somewhat disconnected from the data. But it is clear that a majority of PhD (64%) and MD (58%) holders felt their education was worth it, compared with a minority of MS (49%), MA (45%), MBA (42%) and JD (23%) holders.

As shown above, a horizontal bar chart does a better job of showing those poll results. For the other question, whether school prepared grads for life outside there were lower percentages – 50% for MD, 30% for PhD or MS, 24% for MA, 23% for MBA, and just 20% for JD.

The poll asked three other questions. One was about whether they had a mentor who encouraged them. As is shown above 54% of MDs, 49% of PhDs, 29% of MSs, 27% of Mas, 19% of JDs and just 14% of MBAs said they did. A second question asked whether professors cared about them. As is shown above 37% of PhDs, 35% of MDs, 34% of MAs, 32% of MSs, 24% of JDs and just 19% of MBAs said they did. A third question asked whether students had a job or internship that allowed them to apply what they’d learned. As is shown above 58% of JDs, 53% of MDs, 47% of MAs, 45% of MSs, 40% of PhDs and 36% of MBAs said they did. This last question was the ONLY ONE where the JDs came out on top.   


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