Hugh Pickens writes "Laura Pappano writes that the master's degree, once derided as the consolation prize for failing to finish a Ph.D., or as a way to kill time waiting out economic downturns, is now the fastest-growing degree, with 657,000 awarded in 2009, more than double the level in the 1980s. Today nearly two in 25 people age 25 and over have a master's, about the same proportion that had a bachelor's or higher in 1960. 'Several years ago it became very clear to us that master's education was moving very rapidly to become the entry degree in many professions,' says Debra W. Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools. 'There is definitely some devaluing of the college degree going on,' adds Eric A. Hanushek, an education economist at the Hoover Institution. 'We are going deeper into the pool of high school graduates for college attendance,' making a bachelor's no longer an adequate screening measure of achievement for employers. But some wonder if a master's is worth the extra effort. 'In some fields, such as business or engineering, a graduate degree typically boosted income by more than enough to justify the cost,' says Liz Pulliam Weston. 'In others — the liberal arts and social sciences, in particular — master's degrees didn't appear to produce much if any earnings advantage.'"