Pros and Cons of Getting a Master’s Degree

Mar 27, 2019 by

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The value of education has changed drastically in the last few decades. What’s interesting is that there are several schools of thought in terms of the true importance of a college education, or further. Obtaining your high school diploma used to be sufficient for finding work, but that quickly faded. Most employers wouldn’t even consider your resume if you didn’t have at least some college coursework listed. This pushed thousands of high school students scrambling to enroll in ivy league colleges and universities in hopes of landing a high-paying job after graduation. The problem? Soon, a bachelor’s degree was no longer good enough. Obtaining your master’s degree or continuing on for additional certifications became mandatory if you wanted a six-figure income. Higher education meant higher pay and more notoriety. But it also meant exorbitant student debt. In fact, the average college student (and their parents) owes between $25,000 and $40,000 in student loans. A more staggering statistic is the fact that Americans currently owe over $1.56 trillion in student debt, which is $521 billion more than national credit card debt. And that’s not counting education beyond a four-year degree.

So, what does all this mean for you? It doesn’t mean to swear off education completely. But it does mean you should stop and think before entering a master’s degree program. Does an additional degree always mean greater success? And what sacrifices will you need to make? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of obtaining a master’s degree in today’s economy.

Pros

There are plenty of benefits to furthering your education. Personal growth alone is a rewarding, somewhat priceless reason to attend college or a certification program. But is it enough reason to pursue a master’s degree? Let’s take a look.

Employment Potential

This is the main reason someone aspires to get their master’s degree in any subject. Listing a master’s degree on your resume puts you in a different bracket than those candidates who only have a bachelor’s degree. Not only does it show a greater understanding and expertise in your niche, but it shows drive, determination, and tenacity. Finishing a master’s degree program isn’t easy. When employers see you’ve done it, it not only tells them about your educational background but your work ethic as well. Online MBA programs take a certain level of dedication and time management skills but are perfect for most individuals seeking a master’s degree while currently working or pursuing other avenues.

Higher Pay

Having more prospects during your job hunt isn’t the only reason to obtain a master’s degree. You may actually be offered more money based on your educational background. When companies are looking for someone highly educated and skilled in a specific area, a master’s degree is an indication of just that. The pay scale of some careers is based solely on education. Having a master’s degree may put you into an entirely different pay bracket than someone with only a four-year education. Here are a few of the highest paying jobs for those with a master’s degree:

  • General Management (GM)
  • Graphic Design
  • Software Engineering
  • Financial Advisor
  • Web Design
  • Education

Although there’s no guarantee, many of these jobs will pay (on average) between $10,000 and $20,000 more annually for employees with a master’s degree. Just keep in mind that the degree needs to be in that field of study. A website software company won’t pay extra for candidates with an MFA (Master’s in Fine Arts).

Specified Career Path

If you have your eyes on the prize and that prize includes a job that requires a master’s degree, then you should most definitely pursue one. Positions in nursing, human resources, and social work are just a few of many careers that require candidates have a master’s degree. Most universities and colleges will higher individuals with a master’s degree to act as adjunct professors. These are professors who only reach one or two courses on campus but are non-tenor. If you have a master’s degree in a certain subject, but no formal teaching background, you can still be considered for a professor position.

Professional Skills

While expanding your educational portfolio is one of the main reasons people pursue a master’s degree, it’s not the only one. A master’s degree program equips you with countless new skills that better prepare you for the working world. Whether you attend a local university or opt for an online program, much of the work is done independently. This means you need to have exemplary time-management skills. You also need to be self-directed and an independent learner and thinker. Since the average graduate student is 33 years old, it means that they’re no longer a child, minor, or typical student. Graduate students are responsible, self-disciplined, and driven adults. And professors will treat you as such. Graduate school is often a choice, not a requirement, which means most students choose to be there. And are doing so for all the right reasons. Having this sense of trust and capability helps prepare you for taking on more responsibility at work and becoming a self-starter and leader.

Deeper Understanding in Your Field

Most students entering college are undecided about their major. In fact, 80% of college students change majors at least once. But when you finally land on a subject you enjoy and excel at, all the pieces seem to fall into place. And while four years of focused learning on that topic makes you a pseudo-expert, there’s always more to learn. If you truly want to become an expert in your field, continued education will get you there. Many master’s degree programs are geared toward a very specific subject or niche, even more so than undergraduate programs. For example, if you majored in writing in college, you can get your master’s degree in creative writing, non-fiction writing, poetry, play-writing, and even children’s writing. Master’s degree programs offer two years of highly-focused and specially designed instruction on the subject you’re most passionate about.

Prepare for Your PhD

If you’re extremely ambitious and plan to get your doctoral degree, you’ll need to complete a graduate program first. For these individuals, getting a master’s degree isn’t optional — it’s required for acceptance into a PhD program. When most people hear “PhD” they automatically think only medical doctors can get one, or need one. But this is far from the truth. Many people benefit from getting their PhD including clinical psychologists, computer engineering, computer science, and some professors. Anyone can get a doctorate in most subjects, but it’s not often required. Some people choose to do it for clout or recognition. Whatever your motivation for obtaining your PhD, you’ll need a qualifying master’s degree first.

Cons

More money, more knowledge, more opportunity — what more could you ask for? While obtaining your master’s degree opens many doors, there are a few things to consider before enrolling.

Cost

Money is the root of evil in many ways. And when it comes to getting a quality education, everything has a price tag. If you thought getting your bachelor’s degree was expensive, graduate school will run you about the same amount. On average, graduate school is $40,000 per year. Most graduate programs run for just two-years, making the total just under $100,000. Add this to previous student loans you might have and you’ll need a high-paying job lined up almost immediately. But don’t let these figures intimidate you yet! Not all graduate programs are this expensive, so be sure to shop around. One comparison some students fail to make is between how much grad school costs and how much it’ll be worth. Will the job you want or plan to get more than compensate for the cost of graduate school? If so, getting your master’s degree is a no-brainer. If you can make significantly more once you have a master’s degree, making it simple to pay down debt, then go for it! But if you’re future is uncertain, it may be best to forgo another $80,000 in student loan debt and find a more secure, stable job with your bachelor’s degree.

Workload

While the freedom to work independently has its perks, the workload of graduate school is a different animal compared to a bachelor’s program. After all, the program is only two-years long verses four and there’s an equal amount of information to learn, if not more. Think of a graduate program as a bachelor’s degree squished into two years. That means more work, tighter deadlines, and higher expectations. Not only do you need to attend class, check in online, and complete assignments, but most of it is done on your own time with little input from the instructor. If you’re currently working too, take this into consideration before applying.

As you can see, the pros far outweigh the cons when it comes to the benefits of a master’s degree. But for many people, it’s all about the time and money. Are you willing to put in the time it takes to obtain your master’s degree? And if so, will it be financially worth it in the end? Only you can answer those questions for yourself.

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