It’s the same headline again and again—tuition (undergraduate and graduate) is on the rise, meanwhile more people are attending college. In today’s job market a Bachelor’s degree has become a baseline, an expectation, and it’s no longer enough. This wasn’t the case in years past. (Think Truman, Jobs or Gates). Now employers are looking for more. A Master’s degree, experience in Teach for America, the Peace Corps, and years spent abroad all qualify as ways to make resumes stand out. But if tuition continues to rise, is the Master’s degree worth the cost?
Many think so.
Many students have high GPAs, leadership positions, internships, recommendations, connections, and a Bachelor’s degree. (And if you don’t, good luck.) But how do students make their cookie cutter presentation look different to future employers, especially in the increasingly competitive job market? Having a Master’s degree in your field of study is one way.
A New American Education March 2014 study shows the rising debt in graduate education and that many Master’s degree seekers do not receive financial aid from mom and dad. Yes, the cost is something to seriously consider, but with scholarships, assistantships or part-time jobs, affording education is much less burdensome. Finding a graduate program is also a mutual decision—students pick the school, but the school also picks the student. If courted by the right school, some students may not even have to pay for tuition at all.
Individuals with any sort of college degree are less likely to be unemployed than those without a degree. But those with Master’s degrees have an even lower unemployment rate. Master’s degree seekers also wager they will earn more salary in the long run, making their bet a safer one. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
In a 2012 Fox Business article, Fox reported that those with a Master’s degree earned a 30 percent higher salary. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median annual salary for someone with a Master’s degree is about $12,000 more than those without.
In general, people who obtain a Master’s degree are better off in the job market. But it is important for students to be wary of the field of study they are to obtain their Master’s in. Depending on the subject area, some careers almost require a Master’s, while others prove to have little payoff.
For recent college grads and job seekers competing with candidates just like them, a Master’s degree might be the only way to stand out.