Dr. Ree Langham
September 3, 2018
In a previous blog, we looked at the pros and cons of graduate school and the different graduate degree options, namely specialized career degrees, master’s degrees and PhDs. In this article we explore the pros and cons of a master’s degree and how it differs from other types of graduate degree.
Similar to a specialized career degree, a master’s degree is graduate degree offered in a variety of areas. And, while some master’s degrees are designed to prepare you for a doctoral program, others are “terminal,” meaning that a doctorate or specialized career degree is not necessary. Examples of “terminal” degrees are: Master of Social Work (MSW), Master or Marriage and Family Therapy (MMFT), and Master of Business Administration (MBA). Most master’s degree programs take approximately 2-3 years to complete.
Pros of a Master’s Degree
One of the most noticeable pros of getting this degree is that it will help you advance in your chosen field. What does this mean? It means you will be in the running for better jobs, more opportunities, and a higher salary. It also means that you’ll have more knowledge in you field than someone, who holds a bachelor’s degree in it. In addition, you will gain a title and/or credentials beside your name.
For instance, if you get a master’s degree in social work, you’ll be referred as “Mary Johnson (replace with your name), MSW.” So, as a result, you’ll have clout in your field, which is always a good thing.
Overall, it will feel so good to have those extra letters after your name, which will undoubtedly boost your self-esteem, self-confidence, street-cred, and for many – that’s enough to settle in for the next 2-3 years.
So, now that you know the main pros of getting a master’s degree, what are some of the cons?
As with a Specialized Masters degree, one of the main cons of getting a master’s degree is paying the high cost of attaining it. Therefore, before you enroll in a master’s degree program, research the field and think about whether it’s important (for your career) to obtain an advanced degree, if not, skip it… unless you just have a passion for the field and want to learn more.
For instance, if your goal is to become an English teacher – for high school students, you probably won’t need a master’s degree to get a job in your field. However, if your goal is to teach college students English Literature, you’ll probably need at least a master’s degree, maybe even a doctorate.
And, then there’s the pay and work experience you’ll be missing, while you’re focusing on attaining your master’s degree, therefore, make sure it’s essential for your career and your career aspirations, before you devote your time, energy, and future paychecks to it.
Revisiting the teacher scenario – getting a Master in Education, probably won’t help you make much more money, than if you only have a Bachelor in Education, especially if you plan to teach elementary or high school students – unless your goal is to become an administrator or principal. Pay-wise, however, you’ll probably get paid close to your bachelor-level counterparts, as a teacher. Therefore, it may not be beneficial for you to earn a master’s degree to become a teacher.
And, let’s not forget the thesis paper (a 200-plus page research paper) and stress. Yep, the stress. It takes time to create a study, gather participants, analyze study results, write a 200-250 page research paper with a gazillion references, and defend it in front of a thesis board. So, yeah, there will be some, scratch that, a lot of stress.
However, if you are determined to gain a master’s degree in your field, even if it’s not “required,” then talk to hiring managers and people (with and without master’s degrees), who are working in the field. Listen to them and take into consideration what they share with you, because it will help you better prepare for a career in the field.
Regardless of whether you are getting a master’s degree to advance your current career, start a new career, because you want or need a higher salary, or because you’re simply passionate about the field, you’ll need to enter into it with your eyes wide open.
So, before you enroll in a master’s degree program, thoroughly research the job market, so you can determine if your chosen career field values education over experience. If so, start packing, BUT, if not, maybe you should get your feet wet first in your field, and if you still want an advanced degree, get it once you’ve been in the field for a while.
In the next blog, we will look at the pros and cons of a PhD program.