Master Mercenary

Masters Degree

I can barely afford the cost of college. Is a master’s degree worth the investment?

Over 500K students are awarded a master’s degree yearly. Perhaps each one is asking the same question: with college costs mounting, is the extra time and money for a master’s degree worth it? Many experts say it's not just about the money, and students should be aware that the pay-scale pendulum for those with master’s degrees can swing widely. Although there is an intense amount of work, most agree that the benefits extend far beyond monetary value.  

In the past 30 years, a master’s degree has emerged from being a runner up to a doctorate to a valuable credential as viewed by employers. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills are vital to the workplace, and these are developed during your master’s course to a level way beyond your bachelor’s. Up to 20% of job positions now require a MBA and colleges have responded with new types of degree programs, many of them online.

Access to postgraduate education is evolving into a hybrid of online and on-campus study programs. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are also emerging as a path to gain credits towards a master’s degree.

According to research, students with a masters can expect to earn significantly more than those with just a bachelor’s degree. However, studies discovered that pay scales vary, with a median salary for a mid-career professional holding a master’s in electrical engineering around $120K while a counselling degree only yielded an average salary of $53K. The Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that business MBAs were awarded the most, indicating that finance, sales, and business careers offered the best salary packages and increases. "With the world’s stock markets now rising rapidly, we cannot attract enough MBA talent", reveals Val-Chris Investments. "Training in other degrees does not equip our new staff with the knowledge gained from an MBA."

Some of the top master’s degrees by pay scale are finance, chemical, civil and electrical engineering, economics, and computer science. These can all command a salary over 100K. Surprisingly, fine art galleries have attracted MBA talent, says 1st Art Gallery.  Artwork is following the stock market trend upward and buyers see this as an investment. On the lower end of the scale are social work, music, education, and counselling.

Besides the bucks, there are a lot of other considerations to make before embarking on a master’s program. Will the degree be closely tied to the job you want? Studying for your masters often involves highly specific and specialized materials, so you need intense interest in your field otherwise it will be a struggle.

Grad school also enables you to change your career path. If your bachelor’s degree has not led you to a career you want, a master’s provides the opportunity for change. There will be fewer students so better interaction with professors, and you will be surrounded by aspiring professionals. Also, a large number of grad students work while they are studying to get the best of both worlds.

The economic benefits of earning a master’s degree are important but there are also societal and personal benefits you will gain from furthering your education.

Travel is the best and probably cheapest graduate school you can buy - Tom Freston.

(Martin J. Young is a former correspondent of Asia Times).



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