Getting a master’s degree may seem like a surefire next step if you are looking to break into a career or wanting to advance your stock in your current field. Factoring in the cost and the time that it requires, however, pursuing further education may not be your best choice given your circumstances.
The pros of getting a master’s degree
There is a litany of reasons to consider pursuing a master’s degree in a desired field. While a sense of personal fulfillment and achievement is not the least of these reasons, you’d most likely undertake more studies to make yourself a more attractive candidate in your professional field. In some fields, it may even be mandate: The New York University Graduate School of Arts & Sciences writes that the number of jobs requiring a master’s degree for employment rose approximately 20 percent between 2006 and 2016.
Per data from the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau, a higher degree of education means a lowered likelihood of unemployment, so having a master’s degree increases your odds of being gainfully employed in some form or fashion.
What’s more, when you begin in a new job after acquiring your master’s, the U.S. Census Bureau suggests that you’ll make around 30 percent more than you would with a bachelor’s degree — per 2012 data, individuals between the ages of 21-64 with master’s degrees or higher pulled in an average salary of $55,242 versus $42,877 for people with bachelor’s degrees. This increase in wage means that you could potentially recoup the cost of a master’s degree in as little as two or three years of work.
You may also be considering a master’s while already involved in your field of choice, in which case you may be able to apply for specific grants or even earn tuition reimbursement from your current employer. In cases where your employer encourages you to further your education, you will also have less to worry about in terms of balancing your workload with your education.
When not to get your master’s degree
The biggest disadvantages of getting a master’s degree are the costs in terms of time and money. Christina Nicholson, owner of public relations firm Media Maven, writes for Inc.com that you may instead be better suited furthering your education outside of a time-consuming, two-year program by taking online courses specific to your focus. This is particularly advantageous if you are already underway in your career or have a growing family — you won’t have to put your life on hold for two or more years for your academic pursuits.
Getting a master’s degree is also a major investment monetarily speaking. According to Franklin University, the average master’s program starts around $30,000 to $40,000 for an accredited public school and can go as high as $100,000 for more elite schools. Even positing itself as a lower-cost alternative, a master’s degree at Franklin University ranges from an average $19,770 for accounting to $26,360 for computer sciences. This is a significant amount of money to spend, particularly if you are already paying for a family, a vehicle, a mortgage or have other outstanding debts.
Ultimately, the choice to pursue a master’s degree comes down to you and your specific situation. Weighing all of the applicable factors allows you to make the most informed choice and puts you on a better path to success.