Advanced Degree, Cost to Benefit Analysis

At some point, we’ve all been told that we have to earn a college degree to get a good job. Following that same logic, earning an advanced degree opens doors to even better jobs, career advancement opportunities, and higher incomes. It is true that an advanced degree can do just that, but the benefits you will earn from your advanced degree depend largely on the career field you will be entering.

Not only is gaining admission into an advanced degree program a competitive and time-intensive process, but completing your degree requires a major financial and time commitment. Advanced degrees can cost as much as $100,000 and take two to six years to complete. To ensure you are making a wise investment, choose to become an expert in your prospective career field by researching projected job growth, salaries, and career advancement opportunities and speaking with professionals in your particular career field of interest.

Forbes conducted a study of the master’s degrees providing the greatest career employment, advancement, and income opportunities. At the top of their list were information technology, physics, physician’s assistant, electrical engineering, and finance degrees. Somewhat surprisingly, a master’s degree in business administration fell outside the top ten of this list. Although certain individuals with an MBA are able to earn a six-figure income, business administration has a much lower job growth outlook than industries such as information technology, health, and the “hard” sciences.

Furthermore, if you are simply looking to enter a career field in which you have little to no work experience, an advanced degree may make you less competitive than other candidates with more work experience and less education. Employers may find that candidates with more work experience and less formal education require less job training and are willing to accept lower salaries than those with advanced degrees.

Tips for Doing the Research on Your Potential Career Field:

  • Use LinkedIn to look up occupations of interest and see what types of degrees people in these positions hold.
  • Look up job postings for careers you are interested in to see how much work experience is required for these positions. You may benefit from gaining work experience before enrolling in an advanced degree.
  • Use to look up prospected job growth, earning potential, and educational credentials held by individuals currently working in your occupational field of interest.
  • Network: connect with people currently in the profession you wish to enter and set up a time to discuss with them their career path, educational requirements, work experience requirements, and opportunities for advancement/employment.

Questions you should answer before choosing an advanced degree:

  • Why are you considering a graduate degree?
  • When should you consider obtaining a graduate degree?
  • What is the best graduate degree for you?
  • What is the best graduate school/program for you?
  • Can you afford graduate school?

To summarize, choosing the right advanced degree begins with having a clear objective for earning an advanced degree, having a thorough understanding of the job market for your particular career field, and finally, doing the research to identify which degree/program/school is right for you.