To go back to school, or not go back to school, that is the recessionary question. I recently lobbed that toughie at economist Peter Morici and he handled it deftly--if somewhat painfully for this reporter.
His advice: if you're a youngish person who was planning to go back to school anyway--do it now, while the market is poor and the opportunity cost is lower. Do it now and do it smart, as in, get a degree that will pay off in a real, substantive way at an institution that has brand loyalty among the employers you intend to work for. Think degrees in accounting or finance--or schoolwork that will move you toward a useful certification or licensure. If you want to be a teacher, this may be a good time to go get a master's, Morici says. If you're a teacher already, this may be a good time to get an administrative degree.
What degrees are poor investments? "You want to avoid a masters in Journalism," Morici says. ("Whoops," goes this reporter.) Remember, too, that there are plenty of poor MBA degrees. The goal is to find a degree with obvious payout.
For older people who cannot, or do not want to, go back to school, the trick is to be flexible and find a job that utilizes your generic skills, he says. The job you find now may very well be a lower-paying fallback job--it may not be exciting, but its purpose is to pay the rent until the market rebounds.