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by SixFigureStart | February 09, 2009

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Recently, The Wall Street Journal profiled Chad Smith in its Main Street Journal series about how residents of an Illinois town are dealing with the recession. After losing his job at the Chrysler plant, Smith decided to enroll in college rather than look for another job. And he's not the only one choosing that path. As jobs in the manufacturing and construction industry disappear, many now-unemployed workers across the country are going back to college. Pre-professional programs are particularly popular, as they offer students hands-on training to prepare them for a new career. But many wonder whether being a newly trained worker in one industry will be any better than being an experienced worker in another. A good rule of thumb is that more education is more. A newly-trained worker will eventually become an experienced worker, but he or she would never get there without the education.

Going back to school isn't just for nontraditional undergraduates (students not in the "traditional" 18 to 22 age range are generally considered "nontraditional"). Many unemployed people with undergraduate degrees are looking to law school, business school and other graduate programs as a way to weather the economic storm for the next two to three years. In the case of MBAs, many worry that they will be in the same place they started when they graduate given the outlook for financial services. Luckily, there are options out there for the unemployed analyst. Vault talked about the value of the MBA on its CNBC blog, Executive Careers in October. Phil Stott and Stephanie Myers suggest "getting a master?s in science, engineering or even geography or computer science" instead of an MBA, as it "may just give you that all-important competitive advantage, especially when a recruiter ends up with a pile of near-doppelganger resumes on her desk, all touting their fresh-out-of-school MBAs." In a column on MSN, Can an MBA let you down?, Christina Couch argues that getting an MBA can be a great idea in this market. Yours truly even weighed in on things MBA students can do to help make the postgraduate job search easier. Sending in the application is the first step.

--Posted by Carolyn Wise, Vault Senior Education Editor

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