Is Studying a Master’s Degree Worth It?

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Santiago Mallea

Content Writer At Gradehacker

A Master’s degree is often seen as something only highly educated professionals should pursue. However, with the rise of online education, many students are taking advantage of these graduate programs to gain valuable skills and knowledge to achieve their career goals.

And while earning an advanced degree online has never been easier, it’s also true that many students spend years studying for a graduate degree only to find themselves with little to show for it.

So that ponders the question, is studying a Master’s degree worth it?

Because committing to a Master’s program can be both time and money-consuming, and earning that diploma doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get a job that will pay you back for all those years of hard work and effort.

And it’s even worse if you finish college with a mountain of debt to pay!

But truth be told, earning a Master’s degree certainly increases your chances of reaching better career opportunities with higher salary expectations.

Here at Gradehacker, we are the non-traditional adult student’s most trusted resource. We have helped many graduate students with their essays and classes to accelerate their college journey, and we understand how important it is to know you are making the right choice.

If you’re constantly asking whether earning a master’s degree is worth it, here is everything you need to know to make up your mind!

Is Studying a Master's Degree Worth It?

Benefits Of Earning a Master's Degree

Let’s begin on a positive note and list all the advantages the average American adult has with a professional degree.

Median Salaries

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released data about how much people are paid based on their education level. While there’s no doubt that college graduates earn more than high school grads, it turns out that the gap isn’t quite as large as many people think.

According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual wage for Master’s degree holders is $66,908, with salaries as high as $140,500 and as low as $25,00.

In comparison, the average annual salary for someone with other degrees is:

While it might seem like college graduates are getting more money over time, the number of college grads also continues to increase.

Job Stability

In addition to earning more money, people with a professional degree have a better chance of finding employment after graduating.

And that’s because educational attainment and employment rates are strongly correlated. According to Education at a Glance, the likelihood of being employed significantly increases for every additional year of schooling.

Is a Master's Degree Worth It

What You Should Ask Before Enrolling In a Master's Program

Now, while earning a graduate degree lets you access better job opportunities and higher salaries, enrolling in a graduate degree program means starting a process where you’ll have to give a lot of your time and money.

Can I Realistically Afford to Pay for a Master's Degree Program?

Graduate school is a huge investment. 

According to Education Data, the average cost of a Master’s degree is $66,340, a number similar to the average annual wage for professionals with this diploma.

Now, of course, there are some programs with lower or higher tuition. The average tuition in a public school is $54,500, while private colleges charge, on average, $81,100 per year.

Tuition also changes depending on the field of study you choose:

If we include the additional fees and consider that these graduate programs take two years to complete, the average final cost of earning a Master’s degree is around $140,000.

Is a Master's Degree Worth It

Are Student Loans Necessary To Study For a Master's Degree?

Considering the average annual wage for Bachelor’s holders is $58,400, enrolling in a Master’s program means that most people would have to save for years or request a student loan.

No wonder student loan debt has risen consistently over the last three decades. In 1986, federal student loans amounted to $10 billion; by 2022, that number has increased to more than $1.748 trillion, with 43 million borrowers, according to Education Data.

Since graduate programs rank among the most expensive, Master’s students are not exempt from the loan issue.

On average, graduate students hold $46,798 in student loan debt and carry 26% more debt than Bachelor’s degree holders. Plus, they have 21% more credit card debt and hold 31% more personal loan debt than the general public’s average.

So, if you’re planning on attending graduate school, you’ll want to make sure you can afford it.

The good news is that there are ways to pay for graduate school without borrowing too much money. For example, many universities offer scholarships to students based on merit. And most schools allow you to take out federal loans to help finance your education. 

You’ll also want to consider whether you’d rather attend a public or private university.

Public institutions tend to cost less per credit hour, but they often don’t provide as many opportunities for networking. Private schools usually charge more, but they typically give you access to better resources and career support.

Is a Master's Degree Worth It

Which Are The Master's Degrees With Higher Salaries?

Ideally, you should choose a field of study that matches your desired career path.

But if you are more interested in following a profession that will give you a return on investment and rank you among the highest annual wages, these are the graduate-level jobs with higher salaries, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Jobs With Annual Wage Higher Than $80,000:

Jobs With Annual Wages Between $60,000 to $79,999:

How To Choose a Master's Degree Program And Pay Less

So, if we take into account the facts we’ve just shared, it’s safe to say that studying for a master’s degree is worth it since, in the long run, it lets you access higher-level position jobs with better-paid salaries.

The problem is that the cost of tuition for a graduate-level degree program is so expensive that most prospective students need to plan out how they will pay for it before enrolling.

If you are a non-traditional student, who has a busy schedule, family, and job responsibilities and is thinking of going back to college for a graduate degree, we highly recommend enrolling in an online degree program.

First of all, it will save you the time of going to campus and being present in-class lectures. Plus, most online colleges have asynchronous courses, meaning you can manage your study hours and assignments as you wish!

And secondly, online Master’s programs can be more affordable!

While it depends on your chosen grad school, online tuition costs are usually cheaper since you don’t have to pay additional expenses like campus maintenance or other student fees.

If you are looking for schools with affordable tuition, you can find the best institutions for you by checking our list of colleges with the cheapest online Master’s degrees

However, if you already have some professional experience in the career field you are applying for, you should definitely consider enrolling in a competency-based program

In a nutshell, these are online courses where you get all the reading material and assignments from the start so you can prove your knowledge as soon as you want and save valuable time. And because these programs usually have flat-rate tuition that work as a subscription, you can fit as many classes in one term and pay much less for your Master’s degree.

You can learn more about competency-based programs in our video!

Is a Master's Degree Worth For You?

Now you are ready to answer that question. Whether it’s worth it or not depends on your goals and how much you are willing to invest.

Clearly, earning a graduate degree is worth it if you want to focus on your career advancement. But you need to know beforehand that enrolling in a Master’s program will require a considerable time and money investment from your end.

If you are a non-traditional adult student, remember there are many scholarships you can apply for that can alleviate some of the expenses. And to save more and finish college faster, you can enroll in a competency-based program.

And remember that if you want to earn your degree even faster, you can always count on Gradehacker. Whether it’s a one time-help with an essay or one of your classes, or you would like a long-term relationship where we help you accelerate your degree, we’ll be happy to have your back!

Are you looking for more tips on planning your next steps in college? Then check out these related blog posts:

Picture of Santiago Mallea

Santiago Mallea

Santiago Mallea is a curious and creative journalist who first helped many college students as a Gradehacker consultant in subjects like literature, communications, ethics, and business. Now, as a Content Creator in our blog, YouTube channel, and TikTok, he assists non-traditional students improve their college experience by sharing the best tips. You can find him on LinkedIn.