You’ve graduated college and feel pretty good about your accomplishments, but now another question looms. Should you continue your education and get an advanced degree?
For some, getting a master’s or doctoral degree is a requirement for their chosen profession. For others, going to school for an advanced degree is usually part financial decision and part personal decision. With college tuitions on the rise, it’s worth asking, what will those extra years of schooling get me?
Understand your “why”
Attending graduate school is a big decision, so you should ask yourself what your motivation is for getting an advanced degree.
If you’re thinking about additional education because you don’t know what you want to do with your future or because you’re avoiding the job market, take some time for internal reflection first. That’s a lot of time and money to spend on something that you’re not sure about.
Gaining additional education may be just the thing to help you determine your career and life passions, but doing a little bit of career exploration can help to confirm your decision to pursue your career path and provide any needed motivation.
Here are some ideas to help you feel more confident about your continuing education choices:
- Try some online assessments to discover the right career for you and how a graduate degree might help you to be more successful in that field.
- Conduct an online job search to identify positions available in your area that interest you, taking note of the educational requirements listed.
Some professions actually prefer experience, or at least field experience before going on to get a master’s. So, before you decide to get your master’s degree, you should know specifically what career you want afterwards to maximize the value of your degree. After all, a degree in a field you decide you do not want to work in won’t be very useful.
Though extra schooling may mean extra student loans, it is likely you will bring in a higher salary with a master’s degree depending on which field you choose. A 2011 Census report revealed that over a lifetime of 40 working years, the earning potential with an advanced degree is about $400,000 more than with a bachelors. On average, individuals with a master’s degree make $17,000 more annually.
There are some exceptions, however. Research suggests that those with an advanced degree in business, finance and engineering fields will see greater increases in pay than those with a master’s degree in the arts or psychology fields.
Keep in mind that education alone doesn’t guarantee you’ll find a job or make a set amount of money. Earnings and employment vary by occupation, industry, geographic location, and experience, among other factors.
Stand out in a crowd
While there’s no guarantee that an advanced degree will net you more money, it will make you employable. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 18 percent of all jobs will require a master’s degree by 2022. A master’s degree can make your resume stand out, improve your odds of landing a job interview and provide you with leverage as you negotiate employment terms such as salary and benefits. It says something about who you are and the dedication you have to your chosen field. Having that advanced degree can give you a greater sense of confidence, mastery and understanding in your field. This experience, as well as the enhanced networking opportunities that come with participating in an advanced degree program, can make it easier to land the job you really want.
Love of learning
A graduate program will offer a more concentrated look at topics that are of particular interest to you and often involve a direct application to your chosen field. Many students enjoy the chance to pursue their undergraduate subject at a more advanced level. There’s also nothing to say you can’t follow a subject you love and enhance your job prospects.
Earning a master’s could also help you network with others in the field as well as offer more research opportunities and the ability to study abroad and work on advanced projects. As a graduate student, you are connected to numerous professionals—many of whom are successful in their careers. You also study with professors who are industry leaders, providing real-world knowledge with valuable networks
A master’s degree is not solely designed for young people with limited professional experience. It can also serve as a lifeline to experienced professionals pursuing a career change. With the advent of online classes, it’s even easier now to work full time, have a family and get an advanced degree.