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A Master's Degree Can Significantly Impact Your Career

By Vera Marie Reed

While an undergraduate degree may help to open up doors and get you job interviews, a master’s degree will give you more upward momentum as you enter the workforce.

One report from last year noted that 16+ million people in the United States -- approximately 8% of the country's population -- have earned a master's degree. Therefore, having a graduate degree will help you to differentiate yourself from peers who only have an undergraduate degree.

Adding a master’s degree to your curriculum can significantly impact your career. Read on to find out more.

Job Opportunities

Statistics show that you’re more likely to find employment if you have a master’s degree than if you only have an undergraduate degree. This is especially the case if prospective employers, drowning in job applications, shortlists candidates with graduate degrees. As well, you’ll do better when looking for work if your graduate degree is related to the job you’re applying for.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a master’s degree is required for entry level jobs in some sectors. So if your career focus is healthcare; social services; STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics); business; or education, your bachelor’s degree might not be enough. In such cases, you’ll have to pursue an advanced degree to kickstart your career.

Meanwhile, a GMAC graduate survey of the class of 2013 found that 77% of MBA and other business-related master's students reported the following:

  • 77% felt that their education introduced them to new career opportunities
  • 81% felt empowered to take control of their employment success
  • 85% felt that their graduate management education afforded them a competitive advantage in the job market
  • 60% of employment seekers reported getting a job offer at the time of the survey

As you can see, there is evidence that a master’s degree can help you when it comes to job opportunities, and it’ll be up to you to make the most of those opportunities.

Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the median yearly salary for full-time employees who are at least 25 years old and whose highest level of scholastic achievement was a master’s degree was $68,000. This compared to $56,000 for workers whose highest level of education was an undergraduate degree. The $12,000 gap in salaries for full-time workers with M.A.s and full-time workers with undergraduate degrees shows that adding a master’s degree to your curriculum can significantly impact your career.

Moreover, Study.com states that your starting salary after you get a graduate degree will largely depend on the sort of degree earned. For instance, your starting salary will more likely than not be higher if your master's degree is in computer science than if it's in sociology.

Drawing on research from PayScale, Fortune Magazine notes that degrees in the STEM fields come with a median, mid-career wage of some $131,700. That doesn't mean, however, that STEM is the only area where you can get a significant pay hike over what you'd get with only an undergraduate degree.

It can actually cost you between $36,000 and $63,000 annually to earn a graduate degree, according to an article to the same magazine. This means that it makes sense to look into which master’s degrees are actually the most lucrative in terms of potential salary down the road. Money isn’t everything, but you don’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars per year on a graduate degree that won’t help you to recoup the money you spent anytime soon.

Personal Satisfaction

Earning a master’s degree will leave you with a sense of accomplishment -- and this benefit is not the intangible that you might think it is. If you’re content in the effort you’ve taken to better yourself, it will have a trickle-down effect that will manifest itself inside and outside of work. You’ll be more content, more productive, and generally more capable, which will potentially lead to more job opportunities, higher pay, and the sort up career development that you want.

Job opportunities, higher salaries, and personal satisfaction are just some of the things you’ll benefit from with a graduate degree. And these benefits will certainly have a significant impact on your career. In this day and age, an undergraduate degree is sometimes not enough. So figure out what you want to do with your career, and determine whether or not a graduate degree is a must.

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