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Is a Master’s Degree Worth It?

A master’s degree is worth it if it can help you reach your personal career goals. Keep in mind the cost, time commitment, industry requirements and your passion level when deciding whether to pursue the graduate credential.
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Understanding the Numbers
When reviewing job growth and salary information, it’s important to remember that actual numbers can vary due to many different factors — like years of experience in the role, industry of employment, geographic location, worker skill and economic conditions. Cited projections do not guarantee actual salary or job growth.

Earning a master’s degree could help you stand out while pursuing an in-demand career or give you the knowledge you need to land a leadership role. But in today’s evolving world of higher education and workplace requirements, is a master’s degree actually worth it?

The value of a master’s degree depends on your career goals, the industry you hope to work in and the type of job you want to have. But there are plenty of benefits to earning a graduate-level credential.

“One thing a master’s degree shows employers over a bachelor’s degree is commitment level,” said Alicia Gagne, '20MBA, a career advisor at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). “Not only did this person make the effort to get into their field, but they went a step beyond to master the material and improve themselves for their career.”

So, is a master’s degree worth pursuing? To make this decision, you’ll need to consider what this credential could do for your personal career aspirations.

What is a Master's Degree?

A master’s degree is a type of graduate-level degree that can help you build advanced knowledge in a field or career path.

Alicia Gagne, a 2020 MBA graduate and career advisor at SNHU

Master’s degrees are typically two-year academic programs that follow a bachelor’s degree and dive deeper into specific subject matter. Master’s degrees may also require you to conduct scholarly research and complete a thesis or capstone project to demonstrate your learning.

In today’s competitive job market, master’s degrees are quickly becoming an in-demand credential that can set you apart from other job seekers, especially in certain industries, said Gagne.

“Many employers require higher education for upward mobility,” she said.* “You can leverage it for higher pay, mobility within a company or competitive offers … It used to be that a bachelor's degree would set you apart from the pack, but now a bachelor’s is often expected, and the master’s is that extra shiny step.”

Explore more about what a master's degree is and the types available to choose from.

Find Your Program

How Long Does It Take to Earn a Master’s Degree?

A master’s degree is typically a two-year program, but the total time it takes to earn a degree can vary depending on the number of credits in your selected program and the number of classes you take each term.

While many traditional campus-based master's degrees have a semester-based schedule, some online schools are term-based, which could help you earn your degree more quickly.

At SNHU, for example, graduate terms are 10 weeks long, with five terms per year. You can take one or two courses per term, allowing you to complete up to 10 graduate-level courses in just one year.

How Much Does a Master’s Degree Cost?

The cost of a master’s degree can also vary. Earning a master’s degree online can be more affordable than pursuing a degree on a university campus, but the total cost will depend on the school and program you choose.

At SNHU's rate in April 2024, online master’s degree courses cost $637 per credit hour, and any required books or other materials are an additional expense. A typical 36-credit master’s degree costs about $22,932 in tuition; however, some degree programs may require additional credits. 

There are some ways you could save money as you work toward your degree. Consider:

  • Scholarships and grants you may be eligible to apply for
  • Transfer credits from graduate courses you've previously completed
  • Tuition reimbursement programs at your work
  • Relevant work experience and certifications you might already have

Hayden Mailloux, a graduate-level admission counselor at SNHUYou can talk through these options with an admission counselor, especially if you think you might have transfer credits or work experience that might be relevant to the degree you'd like to pursue.

Hayden Mailloux, a graduate-level admission counselor at SNHU, said it’s important to consider the cost of a master’s degree and your expected return on investment when deciding whether to pursue an advanced credential.

“Compare the expense of graduate school to your future earning potential, and then determine how much you can afford to spend on your master’s degree,” Mailloux said.*

Is It Worth Paying for a Master's Degree?

Knowing the time and money it takes to earn a master’s degree, it’s normal to wonder if a master’s degree is still worth it. However, data shows that the return on investment of a master’s degree can be significant.

In-Demand Credential

Master’s degree holders continue to be in demand across many industries, said Gagne.*

“Many employers recognize master’s degrees as a significant benefit for their company,” she said. 

According to Gagne, earning a master's degree can equip individuals with:

  • A high depth of knowledge
  • A mindset that is well-prepared for the complexities and challenges of today's working world
  • Sophisticated research and critical analytical abilities
  • Strong devotion to their subject area

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs requiring a master’s degree is also on the rise.* Jobs requiring a master’s degree are projected to grow 11.3% between 2022 and 2032, according to BLS data, while jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree are expected to grow 6.7% over the same period.*

Higher Earning Potential

According to BLS data, master’s degree holders also have a higher earning potential than workers with a bachelor’s degree.*

The BLS reports that in 2022, workers with a master’s degree brought home median weekly earnings of $1,661, compared to $1,432 for bachelor’s degree holders.* This results in a median annual pay gap of about $12,000 between master’s degree holders and bachelor’s degree holders, per BLS data.*

Lower Unemployment Rates

Earning a master’s degree can also give you more job security.* According to BLS data, the unemployment rate for master’s degree holders in 2022 was just 1.9%, lower than the average for bachelor’s degree holders (2.2%).*

Personal and Professional Growth

Kathy and Marco Mota, 2023 master's graduates from SNHUEarning a master's degree can expand your career and earning potential, but it can also help you grow as a person.

Kathy Mota '23G and Marco Mota '23G both earned online master’s degrees from SNHU while working full-time jobs and parenting their three daughters. The married couple said that while their graduate degrees in psychology and business administration will help them advance in their careers, one of the biggest benefits was showing their children the power of hard work and determination.

“It gives them a sense that they are able to do whatever they want at any time of their lives,” said Marco. “Just try and do your best, and as long as you do that, that’s all that matters.”

What Master’s Degrees are Most Worth It?

Whether a master’s degree is worth the investment can depend on the type of job you want and the industry you’re working in.

According to Gagne, master’s degrees are often more critical in industries such as healthcare and teaching. Many businesses also prefer candidates with a master’s degree for leadership roles and executive-level positions, she said.

But Gagne said that while master’s degrees are in-demand in some fields, having this credential on your resume doesn’t automatically make the degree worth the time and cost.

“The degree that is most worth it is the one that you are passionate about, because you will put in the extra work and effort to make it into something lucrative no matter the field,” she said. “Choose the degree most worth it to you, and make yourself most worth it to the employers.”

Is a Master’s Degree Right for Me?

A master’s degree can give you a leg up when applying to high-level jobs or seeking a promotion. But it’s important to explore how a graduate program can help you reach your personal career goals.

There are several factors to consider when determining whether to pursue an advanced degree. According to Mailloux, these include:

  • Costs of a master’s degree program
  • Time commitment
  • Industry requirements for the career you want
  • Your passion for the field

Gagne said she encourages students to speak to someone already working in the job they want to see what kind of training is recommended.

While a master’s degree can be critical to advancement in a field, some careers offer in-house training or certifications and may not require a graduate degree at all.

“Individuals should ask themselves if the degree will get them to that next step, if they have the time to commit to it and if they will see the pay-off of their efforts,” Gagne said.

If you do decide to pursue a master’s program, the technical knowledge and soft skills you gain can have a lifelong impact on your career, said Gagne. Gagne has seen this effect in her own professional life after earning an MBA from SNHU.

“Graduate school taught me to think on a bigger scale,” she said. “Even if you end up in a different field from the degree you pursued, any area of education has transferable skills and can open doors for you.”

A degree can change your life. Find the SNHU master's degree that can best help you meet your goals.

*Cited job growth projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth. Actual salaries and/or earning potential may be the result of a combination of factors including, but not limited to: years of experience, industry of employment, geographic location, and worker skill.

Danielle Gagnon is a freelance writer focused on higher education. She started her career working as an education reporter for a daily newspaper in New Hampshire, where she reported on local schools and education policy. Gagnon served as the communications manager for a private school in Boston, MA before later starting her freelance writing career. Today, she continues to share her passion for education as a writer for Southern New Hampshire University. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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About Southern New Hampshire University

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SNHU is a nonprofit, accredited university with a mission to make high-quality education more accessible and affordable for everyone.

Founded in 1932, and online since 1995, we’ve helped countless students reach their goals with flexible, career-focused programs. Our 300-acre campus in Manchester, NH is home to over 3,000 students, and we serve over 135,000 students online. Visit our about SNHU page to learn more about our mission, accreditations, leadership team, national recognitions and awards.