I partially disagree with the below post. No one should make "options" the sole component of their decision, but definitely they should consider it as part of their decision process. For example, if I want to do research on ecology, the job prospects for a pure ecologist versus an environmental scientist can be night and day (EVS being much better). The dissertation and research components may be essentially identical. Certainly their are examples in other fields. In fact, the reason so many PHDs are unemployed/underemployed may be traced back to this problem. When I did my MS, I based my entire education on what I was interested in. I graduated and was basically unemployed for several years. I returned to get a PHD in a marketable field that encompassed my passion. I walked out of my PHD into a tt academic job with a prestigious postdoc offer as an alternative. I am not saying I did it right, but I am saying I thought it through ahead of time and it worked. Still, I had some 20 pubs upon graduation through great fortune, so some things fell my way outside of my control. Keys to getting an academic job in the sciences are simple: publish frequently, propose fundable research, present at scholarly meetings, and participate in organizations. Oh yeah, you have to show success in the classroom as well!
Its all hard work, and eats at your gut, but the formula is simple. Determining how you will solve this equation leading to your employment in a good position is not so simple! I hope you all find the positions you are wanting!
Something's been bothering me about the question that starts this thread, and I finally figured out what it is.
No one should pursue a graduate degree because it gives them options. They should pursue the appropriate graduate degree to give them the training they want for the job they want. If a student comes to me and says she wants to be a lawyer, or a biologist, or a high school principal, I don't tell her she should go to B-school instead because her options and earnings will be better. I tell her to go to law school to be a lawyer, or go to grad school to be a biologist, or get her secondary teaching certification to be a principal.
Some college presidents have MBAs, some have JDs, some (most, I think) have PhDs, some have EdDs. That tells you only that there are many paths to the presidency. It doesn't tell you which one you "should" have if you want to be a president. A PhD will be one kind of president, an MBA will be another kind. Which kind do you want to be?