What is the Value of a Master’s Degree?

mastersdegreevalueFor students who are finishing up four years of undergraduate education, and anticipating beginning to make student loan payments, the time and money necessary to continue to Master’s program may not seem worth the end result. Students may find themselves questioning if a Master’s degree is a valuable educational achievement.

The truth is, the job market is currently incredibly competitive, and being able to attract employers with the specialized skill set a Master’s degree provides may be an asset to succeeding in your chosen field. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that between the years 2012 and 2012, the occupations requiring a Master’s degree for employment will increase an additional 18%.

About Master’s Degrees

For many, pursuing a Master’s degree is the first step in continuing their education after completing an undergraduate degree. Master’s degrees typically take an additional two years of coursework to complete when attending school full-time, reports Psychology Today. Most programs use a combination of classroom time, independent research and internship hours to equip students with the advanced skills needed to succeed in their chosen field.

Weighing the Cost of a Master’s Degree

When students are considering pursuing a online Master’s degree, money is often at the forefront of their mind. Most students are finishing up their bachelor’s degrees with students loans, and may feel unsure about the added cost of a graduate degree.

According to a report by Kiplinger, the median student loan balance of an individual graduating with Master’s of Arts is $66,335. While that number may seem alarming to some, the benefits of a Master’s Degree may still outweigh the cost.

According to a recent study by Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, as summarized by the U.S. News, there can be a significant increase in income for students who have earned a Master’s degree. The median incomes of 15 occupations researched were an average of 38.5% higher for those who had a Master’s degree compared to those who only had earned a Bachelor’s degree.

However, these students found that great variation existed between different Master’s degrees. For example, biology Master’s degree earned students an average of 70% more than a biology bachelor’s degree while a journalism Master’s degree only resulted in an average of a 19% increase in income.

When weighing the value of a Master’s degree, students should extensively research the tuition cost while applying for programs. When speaking with Fox Business, education consultant Danielle Babb explained a simple way to determine if the increase in income is worth the cost of a Master’s degree:

“Calculate the projected difference in salary and determine how many years it will take to recoup that cost, and it may help you make a solid decision,” she explained, “Taking on debt in this economy is not wise unless the payoff is significant enough to take the risk.”

Weighing the Time Needed to Earn a Master’s Degree

Money is not the only factor which should be taken into consideration when trying to determine if pursuing a Master’s degree is right for you. Earning a Master’s degree takes time – up to 2 years to complete when attending school full time. Full time students often find they are unable to work while attending school. Because of this, they are faced with the decision of quitting their job or cutting back on coursework and lengthening the time it will take to earn their Master’s degree.

How do you know if the time it takes to earn a Master’s degree is worth it? It seems that the determining factor is anticipated length of career. If a student has 40 years of career still ahead, the choice seem obvious, according to Fox Business, However, in occupations such as teaching, length of career can be as short as five years, reports  U.S. News.

Additional Benefits of A Master’s Degree

There is no question that earning a Master’s degree can be an expensive and time consuming endeavor. Still, for students considering a graduate education cost and time are not the only factors important in making this decision. There are many additional benefits to those who have earned a Master’s degree, including:

Career Advancement

For some individuals, career advancement or a promotion may be dependent on further education. Understanding what exactly what your goals are for your career and education needed to achieve that is helpful in determining is a Master’s program is right for you.

Career Change

In many cases, a career change requires additional education. Thorough research can help individuals determine what type of education and training they need to make their desired career change.

Societal Benefits

Earning a Master’s degree doesn’t just benefit the student. According to Sean Gallhager of Forbes, individuals with graduate degrees have been found to be more involved in their communities, more likely to contribute to the well-being of society, and help to stimulate the economy in their area.

Higher Employment Rates

A graduate degree increases a student’s chances of avoiding unemployment, a very real problem in today’s economy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment rates in 2014 for individuals with a graduate degree are 2.8% compared to 3.5% for those with a bachelor’s degree.

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Improve Skills

Graduate study provides students with the opportunity to diversify and improve their skill set, making them more valuable in their workplace and to their employer. This skills are not necessarily job specific. In fact, individuals with a Master’s education have improved critical thinking skills, technical skills, and problem-solving skills, according the Forbes.com.

Conclusion

Master’s education is a quickly growing field, and it seems this is for good reason. For many, a Master’s degree is vital to their success in their chosen career. When determining if the value of a Master’s degree is worth the time and costs, the answer seems to be yes, the majority of the time. Of course, there are many factors to take into consideration such as earning potential and cost of the program.

Additionally, some career paths may not benefit from further education or some employers may prefer experience over education. Because of this, decisions concerning graduate school should be made on case by case basis, carefully weighing any variables. Some may find resources which outline the anticipated income and time to pay off student loans, such as this report by Kiplinger, to be incredibly helpful in making their decision.

Ultimately, the benefit of the Master’s degree is heavily dependent on each individual’s career goals. Still, carefully weighing the cost, time, and benefits is very helpful in determining just how valuable a Master’s degree can be.