Is A Master’s Degree Worth It?

Master's Degree

A master’s degree can mean many things for different people. It could denote completing courses beyond the bachelor’s degree in a specific area. It could designate that the student has studied or researched abroad while receiving their bachelor’s, or it could be indicating postgraduate study after another type of program. 

Many people pursue an advanced degree to branch out in a new career direction, attend graduate school for their passions in reading and writing, or pursue a doctoral degree to become a professor at a prestigious university. Others may have the opportunity to study abroad under scholarships previously earned through their bachelor’s program. Many programs offer specific incentives for students who continue on to another degree or form of education following their undergraduate degree.

Cost vs. Benefit

         One question that many people have about pursuing a master’s degree is whether it is worth it financially. Is this extra training going to pay back in additional salary? While there are no definite answers, statistics show that people with master’s degrees tend to make more money than those with only a bachelor’s degree. This trend can last throughout one’s entire life depending on several factors, such as the employer’s financial status, whether they have been in one position after earning a bachelor’s degree, or have had many jobs and promotions throughout their life. 

Whether or not students pursue a master’s degree after their bachelor’s also factors into salary differences. It is possible to make more money with a master’s degree in certain situations. Still, it can be difficult to pinpoint which situations this applies to due to the dynamic nature of salaries.

Degree Type and School

         Another major factor in determining future earnings with a master’s degree is where someone decides to study. The state in which students attend school has an impact on lifetime earnings. In general, graduates from public schools tend to have more success in the long term than those from private schools. For example, over a lifetime, a graduate with a bachelor’s degree will earn an average of $1,470,000 if she attended a public school and only $1,095,000 if she went to a private institution.

         The region where students choose to study also affects post-college earnings. Graduates of the University of California earn an annual salary 14% higher than their counterparts who graduated from private universities over 20 years after receiving bachelor’s degrees. It is worth considering that graduates from major state schools like these tend to be living in large metropolitan areas that typically offer better salaries. On the other end of the spectrum are graduates from the University of Minnesota who earn 15% less 20 years after graduating with an undergraduate degree than those from private schools. Those who attend Montana State University also make slightly less over time, but not enough to be statistically significant.

What About a Doctorate?

         Graduates of doctoral programs are likely to make more money than master’s degrees. According to a study conducted by the Census Bureau, people who hold doctorates tend to make 40% more five years after graduation and 85% more ten years later than those with only master’s degrees. The survey collected data on individuals 25-64 years of age without disabilities or limitations that would prohibit them from working or doing certain tasks. These findings do not consider whether the individuals earning more money worked in positions that required advanced degrees.

Other Factors

         Several factors are involved with whether a person will make more money with one degree over another. One question remains: how can students determine what type of degree to pursue? Part of this decision comes down to personal interests and goals, but there are several other factors to consider. Do students want to work in a specific field, and what kind of education does that require? Is it necessary to hold a doctorate to pursue their desired occupation? How much money can they spend on schooling, and how much will they make with different degrees after graduating? These are all questions students should ask themselves before deciding what degree to pursue.

         It is also worth considering how long it will take someone to finish a master’s degree and whether or not their desired field of work will still be in demand by the time they complete their studies. As with bachelor’s degrees, specific fields will pay more for a master’s degree than others, but these are likely to change over time.

         Another way students can maximize their earning potential with a master’s degree is by going into fields that require advanced degrees. Jobs that ask for a doctorate pay significantly more than those that do not. For example, engineers often need a master’s degree, but if they have the option to obtain a doctorate in their field, they can expect average salaries of $1,000-$2,500 more per week.


         People with bachelor’s degrees still tend to make more money over time than those who never attended college, but this does not mean that getting a master’s degree is not worth it. For people with bachelor’s degrees, pursuing further education can make them more competitive job applicants and make them stand out among their peers. While someone who has only a bachelor’s degree will likely make more money than someone with no degree at all, the difference is not as great as it is for those who have completed a Ph.D. program. With that said, completing further education is an investment that will pay off over time, provided the individual pursues their desired career path.

         Before deciding what degree to pursue, students should ask themselves if they are willing to make the necessary sacrifices to complete their studies, whether it is worth it in their field of study, and whether they have the time and money to further their education.

If you are considering a degree then you should check out this article on Fast-Growing Industries for an idea on what to shoot for.