A master’s degree shows a high level of mastery of a particular subject and typically takes two years of full time study to complete. Some people acquire a master’s degree to gain a pay raise or to change career fields. A master’s degree also makes it easier to obtain a management position. Some jobs require specialized knowledge gained from an advanced degree program.
Often an advanced degree allows a person to bypass entry level jobs in their chosen career field; they begin at a higher paying, rewarding job. Most senior management and senior professional jobs require an advanced degree.
According to The Economic Benefit of Postsecondary Degrees, A State and National Level Analysis, December 2012 report provided by the State Higher Education Executive Officers, Americans with a only a high school diploma have a median income of $29,423, Americans with a bachelor’s degree $50,360 and those with a graduate degree have a median income of $68,064.
The United States Census Bureau reports individuals with a master’s degree make on average $2,834,000 during a 40-year time frame, individuals with a bachelor degree make on average $2,422,000 million during a 40-year time frame, whereas people with only a high school diploma on average make $1,371,000 during a 40-year time frame.
Graduate degrees providing the highest earnings increases are shown below:
- Health and Medical Preparatory programs: 190%
- Miscellaneous Social Sciences: 134%
- Zoology: 123%
- Molecular Biology: 115%
- Public Policy: 107%
- Biology: 106%
- Biochemical Sciences: 101%
- Chemistry: 93%
- Pre-Law and Legal Studies: 81%
- Physiology: 78%
(Source: What’s it Worth? The Economic Value of College Majors provided by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce)
Federal data shows from 2000 to 2012 the yearly production increased 63 percent, increasing 18 percentage points more than the production of bachelor’s degrees.
2010 – 2011 total: 512,618
2010 – 2011 Master’s degrees awarded by broad field:
- Education: 105,086
- Business: 95,329
- Health Sciences: 40,100
- Engineering: 34,547
- Other fields: 31,310
- Social and Behavioral Sciences: 30,063
- Public Administration and Services: 24,325
- Arts and Humanities: 23,440
- Mathematics and Computer Sciences: 18,183
- Biological and Agricultural Sciences: 12,596
- Physical and Earth Sciences: 6,363
(Source: CGS/GRE Survey of Graduate Enrollment Degrees)
A Master’s degree is a graduate level education program which allows students to focus on specific areas of their career. Master’s programs include demanding coursework, research, an internship, comprehensive exams and possibly a thesis or a capstone project. Some programs allow students to take written comprehensive exams or other types of writing projects instead of providing a master’s thesis. Typically students in an advanced program may select an area of concentration. Often classes are conducted as seminars, which include a substantial amount of discussion. In service oriented fields such as a social work, programs typically include a practicum or an internship. Programs typically provide valuable networking opportunities with peers, professors and experts in a specific field. Typically students need from 30 to 54 semester credits to obtain a master’s degree.
Individuals interested in enrolling in a master’s degree program need a bachelor’s degree. Usually students don’t need a bachelor’s degree in the area they desire to study at the master’s level. However, some programs require candidates to complete specific undergraduate prerequisite courses. Many schools require candidates to send their transcripts (with grades), provide an essay, take the GRE or GMAT exam and have an interview. The GRE tests basic knowledge, it includes a math, a verbal, analytical and an experimental section. Many business schools prefer the GMAT exam. The GMAT exam includes a math, verbal and an analytical writing section.
Typically colleges and universities provide a Master of Arts degree or a Master of Science degree, however many schools provide discipline-specific master’s degrees such as a Master of Social Work degree. Post-graduate master’s degrees are designed for people with a bachelor’s degree. Business or management master’s degrees include several types, some of these do not require professional experience. Some of these programs are designed for people with an academic degree in a social sciences field. Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees typically require at least two to three years of professional experience. MBA programs are typically available to people with an academic background in any field. Executive master’s degrees are designed for executive professionals. Integrated programs are undergraduate programs which include a master’s year. The first three years of an integrated program are typically the same as a bachelor’s degree. Students study at a master’s level in the final year of the program. Accelerated programs typically allow students to complete the requirements for a bachelor degree and a specific master’s degree in less time than traditional sequential enrollment. Accelerated programs are sometimes called five-year programs or combined programs. Some of these degree programs include 150 credits. Some courses may count toward the bachelor’s degree and the master’s degree in a student’s senior year. Accelerated degree programs save students time and money. Typically, accelerated programs have tough admissions standards.
The average cost of a master’s degree is between $30,000 and $120,000. The cost varies on the degree program and the school providing the degree. The average cost for an MBA degree is $40,000 per year or $80,000 for two years. Typically, a student can pay less if they pay in-state tuition at a public university.