Russia's higher education has recently moved from a two-level (specialty and postgraduate) to a three-level system of bachelor's, master's and doctoral studies. It is expected that only the best universities, including federal-level and national research universities, will be allowed to offer master's graduate and postgraduate doctoral courses. However, the effects of the new system, including the benefits of each study level for students and their prospective employers, have not been researched in practice.
Roshchina examined the benefits of obtaining different types of degrees, including salary expectations and students' motives for pursuing bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degrees. She also analysed whether the type of degree held by a job applicant makes any difference for prospective employers, the expected premium for continuing one's studies after spending four years on a bachelor's course, and whether it makes more sense to continue studying for a second degree in Russia or at a university abroad.
The author presented her findings in the report ‘Factors Influencing Russian Students' Educational and Employment Plans' at a seminar in the 'Sociology of Markets' series hosted by the HSE's Laboratory for Studies in Economic Sociology (LSES).
The study is based on data from the HSE's Monitoring of Education Markets and Organizations and from surveys of more than 11,000 students of public and private Moscow-based and regional universities and 1,000 employers in various sectors (transport, communications, construction, etc.)
According to Roschina, having a second bachelor’s degree, a master's degree, or a Ph.D. brings noticeable advantages—such as a higher salary and wider career opportunities. Even though few Russians have so far received master's degrees, they can expect a 30% premium on their starting salary compared to those with a lower degree; moreover, a second bachelor’s degree can still increase the starting salary by a third. Salaries normally paid to employees with master's and Ph.D. degrees are approximately equal; having completed a specialist course in addition to a basic university degree increases one's salary by 10%, while having taken a postgraduate course without obtaining a Ph.D. does not make much difference to one's salary.
Despite the fact that employers did not see much difference between bachelors and masters (at the time of the survey in 2012, 73% had no employees with master's, and 68% had no employees with bachelor's degrees), they were prepared to give preference to holders of master's and Ph.D. degrees and to offer them higher managerial positions. Roshchina concludes that the benefits of holding a master's degree already exist and will only increase.
As for students, their motives for continuing their studies are not limited to the desire for a higher salary or greater knowledge, but also involve factors such as personal characteristics, family and financial situation, and the educational level of their teachers
Good academic performance in general school and during their undergraduate studies, attending extracurricular classes and sports clubs, and having parents with university degrees all increase the likelihood of a student pursuing a master's or a Ph.D. degree.
Women are more likely to pursue a second graduate degree, while men are more likely to choose a postgraduate course; both genders are equally likely to continue their studies abroad.
Having teachers with academic degrees who engage in research and are fluent in foreign languages also motivates students to pursue further studies.
However, earning a master's degree or a Ph.D. does not necessarily mean having a career in the same profession—even though in many cases it does, particularly for men, graduates of private universities, and medics.