“If you want to get ahead, you need an advanced degree.”
In today’s competitive job market, job seekers often hear proclamations about what they need to do in order to land top positions, or in some cases, just get their foot in the door. One of the most common pieces of advice is to seek some type of higher education, usually in the form of a master’s degree.
While grad school applications continue to pour in at record levels, there are some who claim that earning a master’s degree is a waste of time. They argue that getting a master’s degree is expensive, and that people in the early and middle stages of their careers would be better off investing their time and money in building their skills in other ways, such as work experience.
However, despite those claims the truth remains: getting a master’s degree is worth the time and money. In fact, there are at least five good reasons to consider earning your own advanced degree.
Improved Job Prospects
While you can certainly find a job with only a bachelor’s degree — or less—studies show that those with master’s degrees are more likely to find work faster than those who have lower level credentials. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the unemployment level among master’s level workers is lower than that of bachelor’s-only candidates, and more and more employers are specifically seeking employees who hold a master’s or above. Putting the work into an advanced degree levels the playing field for you from the moment you start looking for work, and while nothing can guarantee that you will get a job, you have a much better shot at getting your dream gig once you have a master’s.
Greater Earning Potential
Everyone wants to earn more money. Earning a master’s degree helps you more effectively tap into your own earning potential. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, someone with a master’s degree can earn as much as 20 percent more than someone with only a bachelor’s right out of the gate. As you move through your career, that disparity grows to 30 percent, meaning that there’s a pretty good chance that you will earn back the money you invest in your graduate education.
Specialized Career Preparation
One of the primary differences between working toward a bachelor’s and working toward a master’s is that master’s programs tend to be specialized and designed for those who want to work in a specific type of job. While you’ll certainly gain some advanced knowledge in the fundamentals of the field, the vast majority of your coursework and experiences will be focused on specific occupational skills. These skills are often valued by employers, especially when you can bring something unique to an organization.
Improved Networking and Experience-Building Opportunities
When you attend graduate school, you meet fellow students from all over the world, many of whom become lifelong friends, or at the very least, valuable members of your personal network. You also have the opportunity to work with professors and instructors who are among the leaders in the field and have the chance to work with others who could prove helpful to your career and work down the road. Not to mention, many graduate level curricula include experiences, projects and internships that you would not have access to otherwise. It’s a comparatively low stakes environment in which you can experiment with ideas and principles, giving you a valuable perspective throughout your career.
Greater Personal Fulfillment
While gaining specialized knowledge and better employment prospects are enough to sway many potential graduate students, the value of personal fulfillment cannot be overstated. There’s much to be said for achieving a personal goal and putting in the hard work necessary to earn a degree. For some students, that sense of achievement is reason enough to work toward a degree.
For all of the positives associated with earning a master’s degree, there are a few times when prospective students might wish to hold off for a few years, in order to get the most from the experience. Grad school is not a substitute for getting a job, for instance, and it isn’t a substitute for gaining experience in the field. If you do not have clear and specific goals for your career, earning a specialized degree might not be the best use of your time, so before you begin looking at programs, know exactly what you want to do and where you want to go in your career.
Earning a master’s degree can give your career a major boost while also giving you a sense of accomplishment and ride. If you know exactly where you want to be a few years from now and you’re willing to put in the work, do yourself a favor and look into graduate programs in your field.