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    Is a Master’s Degree Worth it?

    By Savannah Dawson

    Prior to coming to Scholarships360 for her first internship in 2022, Savannah utilized her campus publications by joining various fashion publications that are offered at Ohio University. One of those publications is Thread Magazine, where Savannah has had the opportunity to work on articles related to world-wide related fashion news and events, as well as articles closer to home, such as a fashion piece on Athens hometown-hero Joe Burrow. This year, Savannah also had the opportunity to be a content writing intern for Aiken House, as well as a section editor for Southeast Ohio Magazine. In 2023, Savannah served as the Chapter President of her sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta. These collective experiences, as well as her experience currently working for Ohio University’s Undergraduate Admissions, has led her to Scholarships360 and aided in her passion for helping students better understand the college admissions process and financial aid. In her free time, Savannah enjoys horseback riding, watching Formula One races, traveling, and spending time with her friends and family. Savannah will graduate from Ohio University in May 2024 with a degree in Journalism News and Information and a certificate in Italian Studies.

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    Reviewed by Bill Jack

    Bill Jack has over a decade of experience in college admissions and financial aid. Since 2008, he has worked at Colby College, Wesleyan University, University of Maine at Farmington, and Bates College.

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    Updated: April 25th, 2024
    Is a Master’s Degree Worth it?

    For many people, a master’s degree is a beneficial next step in their careers because of the opportunities the degree presents,  Career advancement, personal development, and even pay increases are all potential benefits of earning a master’s degree. At this point, you may be asking, “Is a master’s degree worth it?” So, let’s get started to break down why earning a master’s degree might be the right move for some people.  

    Who should get a Master’s degree?

    Let’s get one thing clear before we dive in– for most careers, you do not need a master’s degree to be successful. However, an advanced degree can be a great asset to add to your academic toolbox when applying to jobs in the future. Some careers require that you have a master’s degree for consideration for a particular position.

    Jobs that often require Master’s degrees

    • Education administrator
    • Public health consultant
    • Clinical psychologist 
    • Nurse practitioner 
    • Criminologist
    • College professor (see commentary from former college adjunct below!)

    These are just a few of the careers that require you to have a Master’s degree. For other careers, specialized skills may be required but are able to be taught without the pursuit of the Master’s degree such as on-the-job training or certifications.

    Advice from a former adjunct instructor

    With my master’s degree in English, I was qualified to teach writing at the college level. The most I made teaching per class of 20+ students for an entire semester was $3,000 in 2020. Like most adjuncts, I drove to multiple campuses to teach since there was a limit of two classes per school. Full-time teaching jobs at the college level, even at the first-year level with a Phd, are among the most challenging to secure. Do your research before you decide to take loans for a master’s degree with the idea that you will earn a living wage. I paid for my master’s degrees through graduate assistantships so did not take loans. If you are positive that you want to earn a master’s degree, but need to take loans, think carefully before you do!

    Maria Geiger | Scholarships360 Director of Content, Earned both her BA and MA from Monmouth University as an adult student

    Benefits of having a master’s degree

    Depending on the individual seeking to earn one, there are a number of benefits to earning a master’s degree. We highlight some of the top reasons that people earn master’s degrees below.

    Pay increases

    One of the primary benefits that most people are looking for while working towards a master’s degree is pay increases. When combining all majors, it appears that those with a master’s degree make more than those with a four-year degree. However, significant increases depend greatly on the field one works in. If financial gain if your goal, make sure that you are informed about which fields have a pay increase with a reasonable return on investment (ROI) after paying for a master’s degree. 

    Networking opportunities

    Another huge thing for those thinking about getting their master’s degree is the networking opportunities. There are so many more opportunities for networking in graduate school compared to what you may find during undergraduate studies. This is because for a master’s degree, you are traditionally working closer with professors and instructors who you would normally only talk to in a larger class setting. 

    Additionally, you’ll find yourself in classes/cohorts of people who are coming from various educational backgrounds, a variety of ages, and from a wide range of career paths. You are no longer just meeting people within a particular major. You might meet students who studied psychology in their undergrad and are now pursuing an MA in public health, for example.

    Related: How much does a master’s degree cost?

    Development and growth 

    A master’s degree also sets you up for career and personal development opportunities. Although your career may not require you to have a master’s, it will set you apart from other candidates when a potential employer is looking at your resume and qualifications. If you are the only person in a candidate pool with an MA, you may find that your specialization gives you an edge.

    Paying for a master’s degree

    There are many options when it comes to paying for a master’s degree. As you know, master’s degrees are generally more expensive than a Bachelor’s degree. So, while you may have taken out loans for your undergraduate studies, you might choose not to do so for graduate school because they tend to rack up a bit more quickly

    Scholarships and grants are still an option in graduate school as well. There are many options that vary from major to major, depending on what your career path is. You can also find options that are awarded by your respective college or university. 

    Another option is accepting a stipend from your university. The average graduate school stipend ranges between $13,000 to $43,000, according to Inside Higher Ed. A stipend is available when a student is a part of a fellowship or apprenticeship program, and it is usually meant to cover your living expenses. These benefits usually involve employment with your university. Perhaps you would be required to teach an undergraduate course during your time as a graduate student through a teaching assistant position. 

    Final thoughts for students

    Ultimately, you do not need a master’s degree to have a great career. However, a master’s degree can be a great resource for people who want to advance their careers, enjoy larger paychecks, or receive personal development that they may not have been able to find elsewhere. 

    Also see: Graduate school financing options

    Additional resources

    If you decide that a master’s program is right for you, but you still have more questions, we have you covered. If you are wondering how much a master’s degree costs or how long it takes to complete a master’s degree, we have many tips and tricks to get you started. 

    It may even be that aa master’s degree isn’t for you. That’s okay too! We can help you jump right into your job search with tips on finding your ideal job, and tips for finding a job after graduation. Good luck with whatever path you choose, and make sure that you apply for “free money” scholarships along the way!

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    Frequently asked questions about the value of a master’s degree

    Is a master's degree going to pay over a lifetime?

    It depends. According to a recent large scale study, nearly half of all master’s degrees do not offer a positive return on investment, or ROI. It really depends on the major. For example, a master’s degree in English is not the same as STEM or business related master’s when looking at lifetime ROI.   

    Is a master's degree in the liberal arts worth it?

    That depends on individual goals and finances. It is important to ask why you want to get a master’s degree and take it from there. Will doing so help your career goals or are you unsure of what you want to do and think graduate school is the answer? No matter what, make sure that you do your research before you take loans!

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