If you listen to the economic “experts” on the value of getting a master’s degree you will hear two sharply divided opinions: 1) Master’s degrees are an essential stepping stone on the road to a higher-paying career and more job satisfaction. 2) Master’s degrees are a waste of time and money that do not give nearly the return on investment that they promise.
Recent college graduates and young professionals, understandably, are confused by this conflicting information. Going to graduate school, after all, is a big investment of time and money, and it is not a decision that can be made lightly.
In truth, the answer to whether a master’s degree is “worth” it depends on a number of factors, including your field, the amount of debt you need to take on, and whether a degree will actually help you reach your goals.
Some Degrees Are More Valuable (Earnings-wise) than Others
If you are currently considering the graduate school option, it would be well worth your time to research average salaries for bachelor’s degree grads as compared to master’s degree grads. Some professions, engineering and computer science among them, pay those with advanced degrees, on average, significantly higher salaries than those who have only completed an undergrad education.
Humanities and liberal arts, on the other hand, may only offer a pay increase of a few thousand dollars a year. When compared to the cost of getting a graduate education—a two-year master’s degree often costs $40,000 or more—the payoff may not merit the expense.
Another part of the equation for whether a graduate degree is a good investment is the fact that many professions now require them. In fields like journalism, public health, and social work, there are generally more applicants than there are jobs, and many employers are using higher education as a requirement for landing a position.
If your dream is to work in one of these fields, then, a master’s degree could serve to help you get closer to your goal. It may be “worth” it for you, even if the potential salary increase is not large.
Making Graduate Education Feasible
Fortunately for students who feel they need to take the step of earning a graduate degree, there are several options that can make the process and the investment more feasible.
Distance education is one such option. An online master’s degree program is often more affordable than traditional in-classroom education, and it usually allows for more flexibility in scheduling study time. This means that students can continue working and avoid amassing large student loans.
Other options include night classes or for-profit universities. These non-traditional methods of gaining an education are becoming more respected in the job market and are good options for students who want to get ahead with a graduate degree.
So, ultimately, there are both drawbacks and benefits to getting a master’s degree. Whether getting a graduate education is right for you is something you should consider carefully.
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