Taking on more school may not be in the cards for you. On the other hand, you may be considering doing a Masters degree, and I am here to encourage you to go for it.
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You may be sitting on the fence on whether to go for more school and what value it may add to you. It has been about 10 years since I completed my Masters degree and I can tell you that the job market has changed quite a bit since then. That being said, some elements remain true and constant.
The numbers don't lie when it comes to doing a Master's degree. The potential value of a Masters degree will vary depending on your field. However across the board there is value that is added by doing a Masters. Here are some tips
1. It will increase your income
Gone are the days when a bachelors degree was sufficient in terms of training. In many fields, you need a Masters degree in order to be competitive in the job market. The good news is that the investments you make in a Master's degree will pay off in terms of your income. A Canadian study on post-graduate earnings found that for most fields, graduate and post-graduate training results in increased income. Similar stats from the U.S. reinforce the value that a Masters degree adds to your income.
Masters graduates generally begin at $65K in Canada and are able to increase their income by about $18k to earn about $83,000. Interesting to note that Masters graduates begin at $65K while PhD graduates begin at $5,000 LESS at $60,000 and after 5 years earn roughly the same as Masters graduates even though they probably took about 7 additional years than the Master's graduate.
In the US, the outlook for PhDs is better than Canada but is not as marked one would think. It would be interesting to see the unemployment rate of PhDs in Canada as I suspect that it is higher than in the US.
2. Career development
As you saw from the stats above, having a Masters helps you level up not just in terms of income (from $65K to $83) but also in terms of position. The rise in income is reflective of the rise in professional level. I finished my Masters during the global recession of 2008. My first job from my masters was at around $43K. About 6 years post-masters and I was in an analyst position at $77K and the income has increased since then. It is important to nuance this both in terms of position and rank. This diagram from the same Canadian study provides you with a little more information on specific masters programs. Business and engineering masters bring in the most but engineers are already at a high income post bachelors degree. Money also isn't everything - career satisfaction is important and a Master's can set you on a path to career fulfilment
3. To reinforce your professional skills
Whether those skills are research skills, or technical skills, a Masters allows you to go deeper and strengthen your skills both as an analyst and as a a researcher. Masters programs that are more research oriented will orient you towards research jobs whether that is clinical research or research in the humanities. A professional Master's degree such as an MBA, a Masters in Engineering, a Masters in Public Health or a Masters in Social Work will orient you towards professional practice or work in that field. These will be useful in your career development and growth.
4. To decide if you're doing a PhD
If you're thinking of a PhD at all, then the Masters would be the way to go particularly if you do a research-based Master's program can give you a taste of what more grad school would look like. This could be a Master of Science (MSc) or a Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of Education (M.Ed.) or a Masters of Philosophy more common in the UK and Europe (MPhil.). These programs usually involve a Master's thesis which requires research in a field of choice. This can also help you focus your research topic for your PhD. These programs generally orient you towards a doctoral degree. You don't automatically have to pursue an academic degree following one of these Master's programs. There are many ways to transition into a more professional practice. That being said, they will help you taste and see if the PhD path is for you.
5. To become a subject matter expert
Finally, a Masters can help you become a subject matter expert and/or a generalist. This paradox is what makes a Master's degree interesting. You learn a number of general and transferrable skills such as research, project management, leading a project, team work. You also go deeper (than a bachelors) in a particular field. Even generalist Master's program such as Public Policy or Public Health can build upon your undergraduate skills and knowledge and allow you to become a subject matter expert as you orient your career towards a path.
Bottom line: in the current economy, a Masters degree is a very valuable degree in positioning yourself to grow and develop in your career. Many programs allow you to work and study at the same time and once you sort out your funding and are not significantly increasing your debt due to the program, they tend to be worth it. The return on investment in a Master's degree in many cases is worth it. Choose your program wisely based on your current skills and choose your program so that it aligns with your current situation.
Have you done a Master's degree? Did you see a return on your investment? Please share your story below OR connect with me on social: FB/IG/Twitter: @careerslaymama