Graduate School: Why a Master's Degree is Worth the Investment

Pursuing a master’s degree is a significant investment of time, energy, and money. However, the return can far exceed the investment, especially when you add in the perks that often come with jobs further up the career ladder. Here’s how.

1. Easier Entry into the Job Market

For many jobs, graduate school is required. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), at least 33 occupations require a master’s degree even for entry-level positions—everything from economists and statisticians to sociologists and therapists. And that number still doesn’t count those that require professional degrees, such as medical doctors and lawyers.

That means a master’s degree opens up doors to careers that others can’t. Even for careers not on the BLS list, employers often prioritize candidates with graduate degrees. A 2021 CareerBuilder survey showed that 33% more employers require a higher education than five years ago. Furthermore, an equal percentage are hiring people with master’s degrees for positions previously held by those with four-year degrees.

That may be why the BLS shows that people with a master’s degree have a lower unemployment rate than those with a bachelor’s degree. Statistically, it’s easier for people with graduate degrees to get jobs.

2. Higher Salary, Better Benefits

Financial compensation isn’t all that matters for career satisfaction, but it certainly helps. With a master’s degree, you’re likely to earn a higher salary: people with a graduate degree make more than $300,000 more over their lifetimes than those with only a bachelor’s degree. Weekly income for those with a master’s degree is also more than $250 higher than those with a bachelor’s degree.

Master’s-level jobs also often come with more benefits—including better health insurance, more paid vacation time, profit sharing and stock options, promotion opportunities, and financial support for continuing education and personal well-being. Taken together, they significantly enhance the full financial package of a master’s level job.

3. Quicker Road to Promotions

No single characteristic will guarantee you a promotion, but many of the most important reasons people get promoted can be enhanced through a graduate degree. For example, most experts believe that growing a professional network can help you get promoted. Graduate school regularly puts you around people in your field who can be peers—even supervisors—later in your career. You also get access to faculty with professional experiences and connections that can help you take the next step in your career.

Also, employers promote people who are self-starters and are looking to grow. They want to know you can effectively tackle the complex challenges that come with higher positions. Success in graduate school shows you’re ready to make the investments necessary to handle tomorrow’s challenges.

4. Specialized Skills

By nature and design, undergraduate programs take a broad, introductory approach. Many undergraduate students only take around a third of their coursework within their major. That’s why English majors still take a few math classes and vice versa.

Graduate school sharpens focus and digs deeper into your field. Master’s studies involve in-depth research, practical application, and key connections with experts in the field—professors included. You’ll also get the chance to conduct personal research projects designed more specifically around your own professional focus and personal interest. In short, a master’s degree transforms you from a generalist to a specialist.

Path to the Future

No career path is ever straight or smooth, but a master’s degree can better prepare you for the journey and provide help along the way, with higher salaries, better benefits, specialized skills, and connections to employers.

Learn more about Azusa Pacific University’s more than 75 graduate-level programs.