Master's for hire: Experimental evidence on employers' perceptions of master's degrees from for-profit institutions
Christopher Bennett

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Vanderbilt University

Primary Discipline

Enrollment in graduate degree programs has expanded in recent decades, facilitated in part through for-profit institutions and other primarily online programs. Despite the prominence of such comparatively broad-access graduate degree programs, there is little evidence on the impacts of such graduate credentials on labor market opportunities. To help address this gap in the literature, my dissertation includes a résumé audit experiment that compares employer callback rates for occupations in business and health care, two of the most common fields for master's degrees. For each job opening, the randomly generated résumés vary systematically only by master's degree attributes. Each résumé lists a master's from a for-profit institution, a master's from another primarily online institution, a master's from a primarily on-campus regional institution, or no master's degree (i.e., bachelor's only). The results will provide some of the first experimental evidence of employers' preferences between job candidates who attended various types of broad-access master's programs, and will also facilitate comparisons between candidates with and without master's degrees. Additionally, subgroup analyses will explore how such employer preferences may vary by the applicant's gender and race. Such findings will be relevant to prospective students, universities, and policymakers in their understanding of the potential economic returns to master's degrees. The dissertation also includes two additional papers. One examines predictors of graduate school enrollment using multinomial logistic regression models, and the other features a discrete-time survival analysis of factors associated with unionization efforts among contingent faculty members.
About Christopher Bennett
Chris Bennett is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Leadership, Policy, and Organizations at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College of Education and Human Development. His research examines the ways that higher education policies can influence the trajectories of individuals and institutions, with a particular emphasis on students who have been historically underrepresented in higher education. Primarily using quasi-experimental and other quantitative methods, his current work focuses on issues of college access, graduate/professional education, and labor market outcomes for students. Prior to entering the doctoral program, Chris spent eight years with RTI International, where he served as a research analyst for a number of higher education studies conducted on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education and National Science Foundation. Through his work on several surveys of current and former graduate students, he developed a strong interest in graduate/professional education, which is the focus of his dissertation. He received an A.B. in Public Policy and American Institutions from Brown University.

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