The Pros And Cons Of Getting A Master’s Degree: Is Grad School Worth It?

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First, they told you that a bachelor’s degree was the way to a higher salary.

Now it seems that graduate school is the new destination for job seekers aiming for that corner office.

But does a master’s really open up better job opportunities?

Getting a graduate degree used to be viewed as a prequel to a doctorate, but now getting a master’s has become an attraction in itself.

Professional-level education has gained new merit and is being recognized by employers and job seekers alike. In fact, Statistics Canada reported a 36% increase in graduate school enrollment between 1994 and 2003. According to the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS), this trend was driven by the demand for highly-skilled grads in professional industries like architecture and engineering.

CAGS compiled years worth of education and demographic statistics into one master document profiling graduate education in Canada. What they found was that the majority of students take time off between undergrad and grad school, indicated by the fact that majority of the grads were between 25 and 29.

But more important than the demographics of the people going into grad school are the job prospects of those who are going out and into the job market.

Based on the CAGS report, the following costs and benefits should be considered for job seekers considering graduate school:

The costs of a master’s degree

Bad news first: grad school costs money – and we’re not just talking tuition. The one to two years of grad school is one to two years that you could be working full time.

The upside is that, compared to undergrad students, grad students have much better access to scholarships and other funding opportunities. Also, many grad studies departments make research assistant and teaching assistant positions available to master’s students to give them an opportunity to earn while they study. As a result, the CAGS report found that on average master’s students graduated with less debt than undergraduate students.

Aside from lightening your cash load a bit, grad school, like anything, is not a sure bet. CAGS noted that sometimes very specific training programs that are designed to fit a perceived need in the community or industry end up producing grads that are trained for a role that isn’t yet recognized by employers.

The benefits of a master’s degree

When carefully considered, grad school earns you more than just another fancy paper to go on your wall. CAGS found that master’s-level graduates earned 25% more than their bachelor’s counterparts.

According to the report, “in general, master’s degree holders entering the workplace have a substantial advantage over those who only hold a bachelors degree.” Graduate school provides professional development, networking opportunities, and provides chances to build up your CV – all things that can lead to a higher pay grade and more employment opportunities.

If you’re looking to earn some serious cash monies after grad school, the report indicates that it’s all about choices. Professional programs are designed for students who want to enter a field right after graduation and, according to the report, these types of programs are increasingly popular worldwide. In 2003, 70% of Canada’s programs were professional in nature versus the more general liberal arts or science degrees.

According to Forbes, the best master’s degrees to get jobs include physician assistant studies, computer science, civil engineering, economics, mathematics  environmental science, nursing, physics  occupational therapy and political science.

Tell us what you think: Is a master’s degree worth it?

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