Is a Masters Degree Worth It?

value of education

Going to school is simple, so to speak. The work itself may not be easy, but the idea of having a set plan that you follow to achieve a goal is attractive. It’s completely different from life, where you’re completely on your own. You want to progress in your career? Good luck figuring it out on your own. You won’t find a pre-written plan that tells you exactly what to do. A formal education environment provides that. It’s easy. It’s comfortable.

It’s that attractive quality that causes many to go back to school for their masters degree. Many think that if they just get their masters that it will improve their career and their earnings. They feel like it’s what they need to progress their career or maybe they feel like the degree will make it easier to get a job. In some cases, that may be correct, but it is not universally true.

How do you know if a masters degree is worth it for your particular situation?


Research Minimum Job Requirements

In some fields, a masters degree is outright required. Take education for example: teaching higher education requires a masters degree at a minimum. That doesn’t mean that you have to spend years upon years in school to get the job of your dreams though. There are a number of online masters programs in education that allow you to work and gain valuable experience while you earn your masters. There are similar programs available for practically every field.

In most fields, however, a masters isn’t required at all. Many areas of business, finance and engineering don’t require any advanced degrees whatsoever. Check job posting for the field that you’re interested in and see if any significant amount require a masters degree.

You can also speak with recruiters in your industry. They are speaking directly with hiring managers at a number of companies on a regular basis. They have a good pulse on what the industry is looking for.


Research Pay Scales in Your Field

If the career you’re seeking doesn’t require a masters degree, research pay scales to determine if those with a masters degree typically earn significantly more on average. In some cases it can vary dramatically. According to CareerBuilder, someone with a masters in the physical sciences will earn more than double that of someone with a bachelors; however, a masters in sociology will earn less than $2k more than their bachelor-holding counterparts. Likewise your arts degree will probably earn you the same amount whether you have a bachelors or a masters.

Consider the area in which you live as well. An advanced degree is worth far less in areas with less competition. At the same time, in large cities where competition for certain positions is fierce, a masters degree may be required to stand out from the crowd.

The particular subset of the field that you’re looking at will matter as well. A web developer won’t benefit much from a masters (and probably doesn’t even need a college degree); however, a software engineer or data scientist in Silicon Valley is likely unemployable without a masters or doctorate degree.


Evaluate Your ROI

With all of this data in hand, you can make an objective decision on whether a masters degree is worth it. Consider the cost of tuition and fees, the opportunity cost of your time, and the impact that it will have on your family. Compare this with your estimated increased earning potential. If the amount you stand to make with a masters is significantly higher than your earning potential now, relative to the cost of the degree, the decision should be clear.

Don’t let the “simplicity” of going back to school cloud your judgement. Collect the data for yourself and determine your projected ROI. Only this can tell you if a masters degree is worth it.

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