Deciding whether or not to go back to school for a graduate degree can be a complicated decision.
Rising tuition costs and having to put a career on hold to return to school can be a deterrent for many. However, in the professional world, it is becoming increasingly evident that advanced degrees make a significant difference, and could be necessary in the future.
There are numerous ways that a graduate education can help advance your career and secure a future job. Some of the most common reasons for going back to school include maximizing your earning potential, increasing the likelihood for a promotion, enhancing career relevant professional skills and growing your professional network.
Let's talk about how a master's degree helps people like you advance their careers!
1. A master's degree helps lead to an increase in salary.
Apart from increasing your knowledge base, the potential for increased earnings is one of the most common reasons individuals are drawn to graduate programs. According to one study, on average, employees with a bachelor’s degree earn a median annual income of $61,000 over the course of their career, while employees possessing a master’s degree earn $78,000 per year.
When looking at earnings over a lifetime, a master’s degree makes an even more pronounced impact. According to a study done by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, employees with bachelor’s degrees earn $2.27 million over the lifetime of their career, while those holding advanced degrees can earn over 30 percent more — up to $3.65 million.
While the cost of attending graduate school is a concern for many, the data suggests that having the advanced degree will pay for itself several times over.
2. Possibility for promotion is greater with a graduate degree.
An advanced degree not only increases an applicant’s chance of getting hired, but it increases the probability of a promotion. 36 percent of employers reported that they would be unlikely to promote someone who doesn’t have a college degree, and 27 percent of employers are seeking candidates with a master's degree. Advancing your skill set through continued education and ensuring that you are among the most experienced candidates will help you stand out when an opportunity for advancement arises.
In some career fields, such as higher education administration, public affairs and social services, a master's degree is almost universally required for employment. This is a drastic change from 20-30 years ago, when an undergraduate degree was sufficient. In fact studies have shown that 61 percent of employers have raised educational standards over the last several years, with 41 percent of companies are sending their employees back to school for graduate degrees.
In career sectors where a graduate degree is not required for an entry level position, having this degree can open doors to more senior level jobs, with higher paying salaries, more responsibility and a greater opportunity for management.
3. Continuing your education helps strengthen desirable professional skills.
Graduate school is not all about book knowledge, but also an opportunity to develop personal and professional skills that will serve you throughout your career. Skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, communication and technical skills that are honed at the graduate-level are increasingly important to employers.
Work experience such as internships, externships, work-study and TA positions, as well as research, writing and public speaking are all traditional skills that a graduate education will enhance. However, employers are also interested in the soft-skill an advanced degree offers such as time management, collaboration, creative thinking and problem solving, organization and self-starter skills.
Graduate school also shows future employers that you have a strong work-ethic, initiative and perseverance. Employers are looking for leaders who can work as part of a team and who can collaborate with others — graduate school experience can translate to these desired skills on a resume.
4. A graduate degree will grow your professional and social network.
Networking, or making meaningful personal connections through new or existing relationships, is the avenue through which many professionals create long-lasting relationships — in turn, opening up additional career opportunities.
Everyone you encounter when pursuing a graduate degree, becomes part of your professional network. Your professors, classmates, study group, TA, mentor and thesis advisor — all these individuals provide connections to new employment opportunities and avenues to advance your career.
Working opportunities in graduate school such as assistantships and fellowships, give students the chance to work for accomplished professionals who teach at your university. Not only does this experience provide you with concrete, hands-on knowledge, but it also significantly boosts your resume.
Networking is not easy, and promoting yourself can be awkward at times. However, the long-term benefits of networking greatly outweigh the costs. Graduate school classes tend be highly specialized, and you'll work intimately with peers, professors and some of the most well-respected minds in your field. These collaborations can lead to professional connections, positioning you to enter your career field in a more senior position.
- Take advantage of the seminars held on campus or sponsored by your department. Attend industry seminars. Show up to every seminar prepared and ten minutes early, and stay through the end. Don’t be afraid to proactively introduce yourself to the seminar speakers and presenters.
- When meeting other professionals, be sure to collect business cards and jot down quick notes on the back, then follow up with a phone call or email in the week after the event.
When is the Best Time to Go to Grad School?
Not only can a graduate degree increase your chances of being hired, it also decreases your chances of being unemployed.
Attending graduate school is one way to ensure stability in your career and to make yourself an indispensable member of your company.
If you are putting off graduate school because of time or money, don’t wait any longer! Your investment in an advanced education can lead to a higher paying career, a more rewarding position, increased job security, a stronger network and greater professional fulfillment.