Bachelor’s Degree vs. Master’s Degree | What You Need To Know

Bachelors vs Masters Cover
Santiago Mallea

Santiago Mallea

Content Writer At Gradehacker

Higher education is needed for everyone who wants to qualify for the best jobs out there. Even though sometimes getting an associate degree can lead you to good working opportunities, investing in a higher diploma can undoubtedly give you many benefits for your entire life.

However, it’s not always easy to choose which degree program is better for you. Every student ends up asking whether they’ll go for a Bachelor’s degree vs. a Master’s degree.

On the surface, the answer seems easy: A bachelor’s undergraduate program will give you general education, while a Master’s will focus on the specifics of your chosen career field.

While this is true, you should have more key differences in mind before you pick which type of degree you are going to follow.

How much money does each degree program cost? What career opportunities does a Bachelor’s program have? How much time do these types of degrees take? Which opens the door for the most well-paid and advanced positions?

Here at Gradehacker, we have experience helping students like you with both Master’s and Bachelor’s Degrees. We know how they work, what content they teach, and where each advanced degree can take you.

Choosing which college degree you’ll be pursuing is an essential first step to improving your life, and that’s why we are explaining the differences between Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.

Let’s see them!

Bachelors vs Masters

What is a Bachelor's Degree?

It is an undergraduate degree that mainly provides general education and foundational knowledge of a specific area of study. Once you earn your school diploma, you have the required level of education to apply to an entry-level position in your field.

Additionally, a bachelor’s degree is the first step if you plan to pursue a graduate program. Completing a bachelor’s degree program is an admission requirement for enrolling in any Master’s degree. 

Usually, colleges that offer both academic programs build their Master’s curriculum upon the courses covered in their Bachelor’s program and continue teaching from where they ended with more thorough and precise content.

Nowadays, having a bachelor’s degree is more common than it was a few years ago. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of people older than 25 years old with a bachelor’s degree or higher jumped from 29.9% in 2010 to 36% in 2019.

What is a Master's Degree?

It is a graduate-level degree that you can only apply for after earning an undergraduate-level degree. Graduates with this school diploma are recognized as experts in their professional field. And for many industries, a Master’s degree is the highest level of education you can achieve.

Still, it’s beneath a Doctorate, which makes a Master’s degree the second-highest academic credential. Earning one means aiming for higher professional goals and accessing top jobs with higher earnings.

Similarly to Bachelor’s, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 13.1% of people older than 25 years old have an advanced degree like a master’s or doctorate, which is a significant increase from the 8.6% in the 2000s.

What are the Differences?

It is clear that the main difference between the two is that a Bachelor’s degree is an undergraduate diploma, while a Master’s degree is the next step after completing a bachelor’s program and has a more specific and specialized learning experience.

While the first question that needs to be answered is what the other important differences are, there is another critical question we need to address: should you only follow a bachelor’s degree, or is it worth it to pursue a master’s degree?

Let’s review the differences and find out!

Bachelors vs Masters

Degree Designation

In order to pursue one of these academic programs, you first need to choose which major you will follow. There is a program for everything, but according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the most popular fields of study are:

Bachelor's Degree

Bachelor’s degree programs usually consist of two main parts: general education courses and major-specific courses. They generally require students to complete general education requirements, including courses in English composition, math, social sciences, physical sciences, history, art, culture, and foreign language.  

Master's Degree

On the other hand, a master’s program will focus on the different aspects of its field of study, including specialized coursework such as labs, internships, practicums, and field education. For example, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program usually covers general areas of advanced nursing practices in several core courses and provides focused training in one or several nursing specializations, including nurse administration or nursing education.

Requirements

Bachelor's Degree

Most bachelor’s programs require their applicants to:

However, eligibility requirements vary by program. You should always check with the school you are interested in before applying, and if you have any doubts, you can always contact them.

Master's Degree

Some of the requirements that Master’s programs require of their applicants are:

Similarly, Master’s program admissions policies also vary according to the facility.

Bachelors vs Masters

Length

What defines the approximate length of each degree program is the number of education credits each one requires. Still, how much time it can take you to complete them will depend on whether you are a full-time or part-time student.

Bachelor's Degree

For a Bachelor’s degree, the average number of credits is 120 hours, which could be equivalent to 40 courses. Still, this number varies depending on the college, as some may ask you to complete up to 150 credits.

Students who pursue this degree on a full-time schedule take between three to four years, while part-timers can study for five or even six years. This is only one of the many differences between full and part-time students, and if you want to learn which the other ones are, don’t miss our blog about it!

Master's Degree

Master’s degrees usually have fewer courses and credits and therefore take less time to complete. The number also varies according to the program and area of study, but generally, they require around 30 to 60 credits.

While full-time students can finish their degrees in one to three years, it can be less depending on the student’s level of professional preparedness and the field of study. For example, if you already have a bachelor’s degree in accounting, it’s likely that you won’t have to take introductory courses included in the Master’s curriculum.

Cost

Now, we’ll answer one of the key questions that pop up: How much does each degree program cost?

Bachelor's Degree

According to EducationData, the average cost of college for a bachelor’s student is $35,331 per year, including books, supplies, and daily living expenses. Nonetheless, this number depends on which facility you choose.

Average cost of Bachelor's Degree per Institution

An interesting fact you should have in mind is that if we consider student loan interests and loss of income, a bachelor’s degree can cost more than $400,000.

Master's Degree

Depending on the school, the major, and the length of the program, a Master’s degree can cost between $30,000 and $120,000. According to EducationData, the average cost is $66,340, with $54,500 being the average in a public school and $81,100 in a private school.

But in this case, the tuition fee changes depending on the field of study.

Average cost of Master's Degree per Field of Study

Salary Outlook and Job Opportunities

It’s a lot to pay, but luckily by having one of these degrees, you can access many job positions where you can get your money back, making your investment worthwhile.

Bachelor's Degree

The salary you can earn with a Bachelor’s degree mainly depends on the field you’ll be working in. But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of someone with a bachelor’s degree is $66,612 per year.

Here are the median annual wages for the most common jobs you can access by getting a Bachelor’s diploma.

Master's Degree

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual salary with a Master’s degree is $81,068. But in the same way, how much you earn can vary depending on the major.

The median salary for the most common specialized master’s degrees according to PayScale are:

Bachelors vs Masters

Is it Better to Earn a Bachelor's Degree or a Master's Degree?

The truth is that both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree can open the doors to rewarding and well-paid career opportunities.

But to be sure whether a bachelor’s degree is enough or if you want to get a Master’s too, you first have to think about your needs and personal goals. Once you know what you want for your future and what resources and time availability you have, you’ll have to review what each degree program offers.

Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree

Undergraduate Degree

Graduate Degree

General Education + Major Specific Courses

Only Specific Courses in The Field of Study

The Average of Credits for Completion is 120

The Average Credits for Completion ranges between 30 - 60

Takes Between 3 - 4 Years

Takes Between 1 - 3 Years

The Average Tuition Cost is $35,331 per year

The Average Tuition Cost is $66,340 per year

The Average Annual Salary is $66,612

The Average Annual Salary is $81,068

There is no easy answer as to which degree program is better for you.

Maybe you can barely afford a Bachelor’s degree, and you know it will take more than four years because you have no other choice but to study part-time between your work obligations and family. As for now, an undergraduate degree is the best, and in case the future finds you in a better position, you can then follow with a graduate diploma.

Or perhaps you already have a Bachelor’s diploma, but as part of your career goals, you want to find a better job; however, you can only access it by having a Master’s. Pursuing it would be expensive, but it’s an investment that would shortly be profitable.

Know where you are standing, and analyze how you can get to where you want to be.

Now you know how each academic degree works, their differences, and what type of job opportunities you can apply for with one of these diplomas.

If you start your new journey into a better life and feel like you need extra help, you can always get in touch with the Gradehacker team to help you with your assignments. We’ll be happy to help you with any of our services.

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