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Why Graduate School?

October 8, 2020

The Benefits of Having an Advanced Degree

Whether you are a recent college graduate, a seasoned professional or somewhere in-between, you have likely asked yourself the question of whether attending graduate school is right for you. The answer, which may change over time, depends on numerous variables - cost, timing, personal circumstance and economic environment to name a few. For every person there are countless reasons to pursue, or not pursue, graduate degree programs, and many of them are as personal and unique as the individual themselves. 

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As a Jesuit institution of higher education our goal is to help you evaluate your personal circumstance and make a decision on grad school that is right for you. While not the right answer for everyone, there are significant advantages and opportunities for personal gain when you choose to earn a master’s degree. To help guide you, we have highlighted five of the top reasons to consider going beyond a bachelor’s degree and enrolling in a graduate program:

CAREER CHANGE — Are you looking for something new? If so, you’re not alone. Individuals often “fall into” a career as a young adult, pursuing an initial path based on circumstance, rather than passion and interest.  In addition, changing values, the desire for new challenges and job happiness can all prompt the desire to change professions. 

It’s not unusual to question career choices and make changes over time. A 2019 press release issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), indicates baby boomers held an average of 12 jobs from the ages 18 to 52. The trend has continued with more recent generations.  In a recent Gallup survey, 21% of millennials say they've changed jobs within the past year.  The median number of years U.S. workers have been with their current employers is 4.6, according to the BLS.  

Regardless of the reason, pursuing a master’s degree can be highly advantageous if you are a working professional looking to make a career change. You will learn new skills, expand your network and show potential employers your willingness to invest in your future and your commitment to your new career. 

CAREER ADVANCEMENT — Perhaps you are asking yourself “what’s next?” “How do I advance more rapidly and gain a higher-level position?” In a highly competitive job market, a master’s degree gives you a competitive advantage and makes you stand out among your peers.

Employers recognize that graduate school is not easy. It’s a significant commitment of resources, both physically and emotionally, as well as financially. Employers take notice and often reward advanced degree holders, recognizing their advanced skills, commitment and determination. 

GREATER EARNING POTENTIAL — Is money a motivator? Individuals with a master’s, regardless of industry or field, can generally garner a higher salary than those without an advanced degree. According to BLS, employees with a master's degree earned a median wage of $1,497 per week in 2019, compared to those with a bachelor's who earned $1,248 per week.

In the field of education, having a graduate degree is widely accepted as a means by which individuals can obtain a higher salary. Salary.com indicates that public school teachers with a master’s degree earn more than those with only a bachelor’s degree. And, there is an even greater increase when a teacher has a terminal degree. 

2018 Graduate Management Admission Council survey indicated that most business school alumni agree that their graduate management education was personally, professionally and financially rewarding. In addition, a financially rewarding experience was the primary driver of alumni’s retrospective decision to attend graduate school.

Regardless of your industry, having an advanced degree often leads to higher compensation.

NECESSITY — Depending on your career choice, obtaining a master's degree might be necessary for entering a particular industry or field of focus. In “Should I Get A Master’s Degree” the BLS highlights more than 30 occupations that typically require a master’s degree. In addition, a survey by Career Builder indicates that “thirty-three percent of employers are hiring workers with master's degrees for positions that had been primarily held by those with four-year degrees”.  In addition to specific career choices, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that jobs requiring a master’s degree are projected to increase by 18 percent from 2012 to 2022.  In addition, since 2000, the number of people age 25 and over whose highest degree was a master’s has doubled to 21 million. The number of doctoral degree holders has more than doubled to 4.5 million.  In 2019, about 13.1 percent of U.S. adults have an advanced degree, up from 8.6 percent in 2000.  These substantial increases indicate that in order for individuals to remain competitive in the marketplace, a graduate degree may be necessary.

SKILL ENHANCEMENT — In a world where the only thing constant is change, individuals must reinvent themselves and continue to develop professional skills and competencies in their chosen industry. A graduate degree or certificate is one of the primary ways you can become more capable, competent and confident in your performance. As the nature of jobs changes at a rapid pace, “upskilling” matters and is critical to longevity and success in a career.

At the end of the day, you don’t always need a distinct reason to pursue a master's program in a particular field of study. There are many people who have an innate curiosity and desire to learn, making the pursuit of a graduate degree a natural fit. Others have settled on a distinct path and a graduate degree is a steppingstone for getting there. Regardless of your motive, there are significant benefits to pursuing an advanced degree.