With the economy in its current state and the job market suffering, an increasing number of recent college graduates are turning to graduate school and masters degree programs as a way to help promote their career options while avoiding the down market. But is getting a masters degree the right choice? Are they improving their career options, or just going into needless debt? What is a masters degree worth these days, anyway? There are a number of different answers to this question, depending on a number of different personal factors. Read on to see if a masters degree is the right choice for you and your career goals.
In the world of college degrees, a master’s degree is the second highest qualification you can acquire. Only a doctorate is more prestigious, and students who earn a masters degree often do so only after around six years of post-gradeschool education. Most masters degree programs require that students already have a bachelor’s degree, and require an additional 1-2 years of studying along with a thesis or some sort of final degree project, depending on what the degree’s focus is. Some programs, like the Peace Corps’ Masters International program, require additional work or participation in a broader project as part of the degree process, which is a much more hands-on approach than most purely academic institutions take.
There are some careers where a masters degree will help you far more than in others. The most common masters degree earned across the United States is the MBA, or Masters of Business Administration. This degree is so popular because it is seen as a prerequisite for anyone who wants to become a member of upper management for any of the big countries in this country, including the fortune-500s. In fact, many people think that not having an MBA is the only sure-fire way to avoid promotion in the business world; thus, it comes as no surprise that it’s the most common masters degree awarded.
Psychology is another field that awards lots of masters degree. This is because while a bachelor’s degree in psychology can qualify students for a number of different careers, it cannot qualify them for a career as a psychologist. Getting a masters gets you closer, qualifying you for assistant positions in labs and other related jobs, but most people with masters in psychology degrees go on to earn doctorate degrees so that they can open their own practices.
Anyone interested in becoming a teacher or professor will also have to seriously consider getting a masters degree. While teachers are always in demand, it’s becoming harder and harder these days to get teaching jobs without a masters degree either in education or in the field that you wish to teach. This is indicative of the increasingly high academic standards being applied in this country, and it also makes a Masters in Education one of the most commonly awarded masters degrees.
There are many other common masters degrees that can help you in your field of choice. Engineering, computer science and health care masters degrees are all also very common, and carry with them some of the highest starting salaries available. If any of these careers is of interest to you, a masters degree could be a good investment.
It’s important to know what your career goals are before earning a masters degree, no matter the field. It’s a huge commitment, both in time and in money, which means that if you pick the wrong focus, you could really hurt yourself and your job prospects by removing yourself from the market and putting yourself into unnecessary debt. For example, while an MBA is practically a prerequisite for being in the upper-management of a corporation, the majority of CEOs these days, especially in .com startups, don’t have them. That’s because they’re entrepreneurs, and most entrepreneurs don’t do well in structured environments like graduate school—they prefer to do things their own way. This sort of person would only hurt themselves by working through a masters degree, because they’d be wasting time they could spend working on their own company. That’s why it’s so important to know what you want out of your degree before you commit to a program.
If you do decide that a masters degree is the right choice for you, that’s when it’s time to start thinking about what sorts of programs are best suited to your learning style. Online options are great for self-motivated learners, particularly those who don’t have a whole lot of time to spend commuting to campus, but it’s important to be honest about your learning style. If you need to be pushed, you should stick with traditional programs, and you’ll be on your way to your career in no time.