Many people around the US and the world weigh the costs and benefits of earning a master’s degree. After the last recession, many professionals have serious concerns about staying employable, and getting a master’s can increase one’s marketability and salary. But at the same time, they want to ensure they are getting a strong ROI and their level of debt is reasonable.
Statistics suggest that there will be plenty of demand for master’s degree holders in the coming years. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found recently that the number of jobs that will require a master’s degree will increase by 22% by 2020. This rate is higher than the overall job increase rate of 14% in that same time period.
Some of the jobs that are going to see rapid job increase require a master’s degree, such as:
- Physician assistant: 30% increase
- Nurse practitioner: 35% increase
- Physical therapist: 37% increase
- Audiologist: 36% increase
- Mental health counselor: 36% increase
- Marriage and family therapist: 41% increase
Overall, there are many good reasons to earn your master’s degree, which are outlined in the article below.
#1 Earn a Larger Salary
Usually at the top of the list for earning a master’s degree is to earn more money over one’s career. Generally, it is true that getting a graduate degree means more money: The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the median salary in 2015 for those 25 and older with a master’s was $68,000, while it was $56,000 for those with only a bachelor’s.
Federal Reserve research states that most of the growth in wages in the last 10 years comes from those with master’s degrees or higher.
However, before signing up for a master’s degree program, remember that some industries pay more for a master’s degree than others. Below is more information about major industries and salaries that often result from a master’s degree:
More professionals earn master’s degrees, particularly MBAs, than in any other industry. According to 2013 data, business, financial and sales jobs had some of the largest wage premiums for workers earning their master’s. In particular, securities, commodities and financial services agents with their master’s earned a salary that was 90% higher than for those with a bachelor’s degree.
With a bachelor’s these workers earned $90,000 per year; with a master’s, the median salary was $170,000 per year. Financial managers went from a median salary of $78,000 to $110,000, and marketing and sales managers went from $80,000 to $110,000.
Approximately one out of of five master’s degrees was given for education in 2013. The payoff for a master’s in this field varies a great deal by position.
Education administrators had among the highest wage premium, going from a median of $52,000 to $75,000 per year. However, many other workers in the education field see relatively small premiums for getting a master’s.
For example, a postsecondary teacher who earns a master’s degree only sees a wage premium of $6200, going from a $43,800 salary to only $50,000. Teachers who earn a master’s in a liberal arts field, such as English, also see a relatively low ROI.
Many healthcare occupations have a substantial premium for earning a master’s degree. The healthcare field is one of the most rapidly-growing in the United States, so there is much demand for highly trained healthcare professionals with a master’s.
Registered nurses who earn their master’s degree may go from a median salary of $63,000 to more than $75,000. If the nurse decides to become a nurse practitioner, this salary can eventually top $100,000 per year.
The physician assistant field with a master’s degree offers a median salary of nearly $100,000 per year. There is no equivalent occupation for workers with only a bachelor’s degree.
Medical and health services managers can increase their median salary from $70,000 to $90,000 with a masters.
Science, technology, engineering and mathematics also see many master’s degrees awarded each year. The demand for technology professionals generally is high, so there is often a substantial wage premium for earning a graduate degree.
Mathematicians and statisticians can increase their salary from $60,000 to $80,000, while information security analysts can go from $85,000 to $100,000 per year.
#2 Better Employment Opportunities
Many fields are now requiring a master’s degree as the minimum requirement degree to be considered for a position. Some of these fields include public affairs, higher education administration, and social services. In the healthcare field, most of the high-paying positions are reserved for those with a master’s, such as nurse practitioner and physician’s assistant.
Also, recent research shows that the unemployment rate for those with a master’s in 2013 was only 3.5%, while it was 6% for all workers.
#3 Faster Career Advancement
Getting your master’s degree suggests you are determined, persistent, smart, and can handle many challenges at once. All of these qualities are much desired for people hired for management and director roles. Any employee who has shown they are successful in graduate school is often in line for higher level management roles in many companies.
#4 More Job Security
When times are tough, managers and directors tend to stick around in an organization more often than lower level players. This is because higher level people are needed to supervise other workers and to manage or direct various departments and programs.
Earning a master’s degree can provide you with a higher level of job security.
#5 Get Your Degree While Still Working
Professionals today have the option of earning their master’s degree online while they continue to work, sometimes even full time. Earning an online master’s degree allows you to take many of your classes on your own schedule, which makes it easier to keep up with work and your family life.
Online master’s degrees can usually be earned in two years full time, and sometimes less. The best online master’s programs typically are offered by traditional, nonprofit universities with a regular campus-based program as well. As you consider various online master’s programs, be sure that the school is regionally accredited by a respected accreditation body. The best programs also have specialized accreditation from a respected body in the field, such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) for MBA and other graduate business programs.
#6 Strong Sense of Accomplishment
There is a strong level of personal accomplishment by earning a master’s degree. The effort that it takes to complete your studies is tremendous, especially if you were working at the same time. Many professionals who earn their master’s find that this gives them a great sense of accomplishment and confidence that helps them throughout their career.
Research shows that earning a master’s degree in most fields is often worth the financial and time cost, in terms of job availability, salary, and other benefits. But it is up to you to carefully judge how much the degree will cost, and what your potential salary will be. With that information, you can then decide if a master’s degree in your specialty is worth it.
- Should I get a Master’s Degree. (2015, September). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/careeroutlook/2015/article/should-i-get-a-masters-degree.htm
- 6 Reasons Why Graduate School Pays Off. (2012, June 29). Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/articles/2012/06/29/6-reasons-why-graduate-school-pays-off