Perhaps you are reflecting on your career, considering your level of education and wondering if enhancing your credentials with a master’s degree program, meaning a time investment of one to three years, will be worth it. Of course, when you ask that question, there is actually more than one way to look at the value that comes from a master’s level program—as discussed below. Given the amount of time and money involved, is pursuing a master’s degree a worthwhile endeavor? Only, are you really sure how much a master’s is going to cost you?
Dealing With the Cost Issue
When early or mid-career folks start thinking about a master’s degree, the conventional assumption is they are considering that wildly popular program called the Master of Business Administration (MBA). This is only one of many master’s programs, however. Will an MBA further your current career path? Perhaps you have been thinking about moving into a more specialized field, such as non-profit management, that would be enhanced with a different type of master’s. Regardless of the type of degree you pursue, there are wide ranges in their cost and you may be surprised at their affordability. Many programs are also underwritten by grants and scholarships specific to an institution that can lower your costs. Most programs will list what percentage of their tuition is typically covered by financial assistance.
Counting the Dollars and Percents
A recent article from CNBC covered this topic in a fairly negative way. Interestingly, using the very statistics mentioned in the document, one can draw a very positive conclusion about the worth of a master’s degree. For instance, those with a graduate degree typically make about 19% more than those with only a bachelor’s. The average pay for new bachelor’s grads is $64,000 and master’s is $76,000. Having a master’s degree increases your chances of being hired by about 3%, which turns out to be a nice boost when you are competing against others for the same position who do not have credentials on par with yours. Perhaps the most telling statistic reported in the article was that enrollment in master’s programs across the nation is increasing annually by more than 4% at a time when undergraduate enrollment is decreasing by as much as 3.5%.
Understanding the “Higher” Part of Higher Education
For a moment, try to set aside the value of a master’s degree by the career advancement and additional funds it will bring you. That will happen. Instead, consider the intrinsic worth of building your base of knowledge. Dr. Theocharis Kromydas, a researcher from the University of Glasgow, has written a densely reasoned article for Nature about the shift in degree focus from strictly an educational viewpoint to a financial viewpoint. He asserts that, while it is essential today to place an economic value on higher education, much is lost if the student does not recognize the overall human benefit of deepening your education.
Gaining a master’s degree, from this viewpoint, is a win-win. There are both considerable financial and personal benefits.