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Should you consider going to graduate school? Whether working toward a master’s degree is worthwhile is a common question. After all, students who are thinking about grad school know that there’s a cost associated with advancing their education. They may end up taking on tens of thousands of dollars of debt, devoting two or more years to studying and, of course, putting in countless hours of work just to attain their degree. Naturally, a student doesn’t want to take on this burden unless there’s sufficient reason to expect that their investment in a graduate education will pay off in the end.
The Financial Investment of a Master’s Degree
Earning a master’s degree certainly has the potential to improve your financial situation in the long run, especially if you work in an industry that values higher education. Teachers, for example, often see what’s called the “master’s degree bump” when they complete graduate school, sometimes increasing their annual earning by several thousand dollars automatically just by getting the advanced degree. Some of the easiest online master’s degrees you can earn are those that are popular mainly because of how quickly they can improve earning potential.
Overall, workers with a graduate degree earn considerably more than those with only an undergraduate degree. Bachelor’s degree holders earn a median salary of $57,600, while master’s degree holders make a median wage of $69,100 per year, according to The Washington Post.
However, the pay increase alone doesn’t prove that going to grad school is a worthwhile investment. For one thing, there’s a substantial cost involved. The average tuition and fees for a single year of graduate school are more than $16,435, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Some top-tier schools charge far more.
Secondly, not every worker benefits equally from earning an advanced education. Even if master’s degree holders as a whole make more than bachelor’s degree holders, your occupation might be one in which the income increase is marginal, or even nonexistent.
Career Prospects With a Graduate Degree
For some workers, the importance of earning a graduate degree is less about any direct salary increase and more closely related to an improvement in opportunities. For example, earning your master’s degree in business can qualify you for management roles that might not be open to you with just an undergraduate degree. This can equate to a higher salary as well as more prestige, more challenging job duties and other perks. Social workers, too, have to go to grad school if they want to become Licensed Clinical Social Workers and offer counseling and mental health services to patients.
Personal Interests and a Graduate Education
Career growth isn’t the only reason a student might pursue a master’s degree. If you’re passionate about a subject and really want to delve into it and expand your knowledge, graduate school is a great place to do so. You would work with people who have similar interests and have access to research opportunities that you wouldn’t get from simply picking up a book or browsing articles on the Internet. However, there’s still that financial cost of earning a degree to consider. Going to graduate school purely to satisfy your intellectual curiosity can make for an expensive hobby.
Whether earning a master’s degree is worth it depends on why you’re thinking about going to grad school and what you intend to do with your degree. Students should weigh the cost and time of earning a master’s degree against potential career benefits and their level of interest in furthering their studies.