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Feeling stuck in your career? Ready for a change? A master’s degree could help you break out of the monotony and open the doors for new opportunities. No matter what industry you find yourself in, there is likely to be a master’s degree program available that could help take your career to the next level or even help you to change your career path altogether.

Not sure whether a master’s degree is right for you? There are some important things to consider, ranging from the benefits of a master’s degree to the potential drawbacks. With the right information and some careful consideration on your part, you can take the next step with confidence.

Why Get a Master’s Degree?

There are many reasons to consider pursuing a master’s degree as the next step in your academic career, with potential benefits ranging from increased earnings potential and career advancement to differentiating yourself from the competition.

Opportunities for Career Advancements

No matter what industry you work in, there may come a point when you would like to ascend the career ladder. In some cases, it may simply not be possible to get to the next rung on the ladder without a specialized degree. Some employers, for example, may only hire for more advanced positions if the candidate has a graduate degree or certificate along with the right kind of career experience.

If you feel like you have hit a “dead end” in your current job, then obtaining a master’s degree could help you pursue opportunities for career advancement, helping you build the advanced skills that you need to move up.

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Stand Out Among the Competition

Even if you are not necessarily stagnant in your current job, having a master’s degree is a way to differentiate yourself from the competition. For example, if you are one of many candidates applying for a higher-paying job within your company, being the only candidate with a master’s degree may help you stand out and give you a better chance of being chosen for the job.

Consider, for example, that about 22 percent of the American population held a bachelor’s degree in 2018 (based on United States census data). By comparison, only 13 percent of the population held a master’s degree or higher. By being part of the smaller percentage of job seekers who hold an advanced degree, you can set yourself apart from other applicants and have more specialized skills to put on your resume.

Build Your Professional Network

Participating in a master’s degree program also allows you to build your own professional network. During your graduate program, you will have opportunities to connect with other professionals and experts in your field through your research and coursework. If you attend industry conferences or events as part of your degree program, this can be a great way to network with others in the field and build meaningful professional relationships.

Having a robust professional network matters because regardless of the industry in which you work, these connections could help you find new jobs or lead you to other exciting career opportunities.

Build Confidence and a Personal Sense of Accomplishment

Completing a master’s degree program takes a great deal of discipline, time, and dedication. It is not a challenge to be taken lightly. By graduating with your master’s degree, you could enjoy the confidence boost that comes along with achieving such a major goal and seeing your hard work pay off. You can then take that sense of accomplishment and apply it to future work in your career.

Does a Master’s Degree Really Increase Salary?

Completing a master’s degree program could increase your earning potential, but this will really depend on the exact degree you obtain and the industry in which you work. According to research by Indeed, the earnings increase between a person with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree is about 20 percent.

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

The length of time needed to complete a master’s degree program will depend on many factors. The first (and most important) is the number of credit hours needed to graduate, which can vary from one program to the next. In most cases, the number of credit hours required for a master’s degree ranges between 30 and 60.

With this in mind, the number of credit hours taken per semester will also impact how long it takes somebody to earn their master’s degree. For a student who is already working full-time and only able to take a class or two toward their degree each semester, it could take a few years to complete the program. On the other hand, a student enrolled in a master’s program on a full-time basis (which is usually about 12 credit hours per semester) could be finished in as little as one to two years.

Graduate programs are generally designed to be completed within two years when a student is enrolled full-time. However, this will vary based on the number of credit hours needed and the student’s course load. The best way to determine how long it will take you to complete your chosen degree program is to speak with an academic advisor.

How Much Does a Master’s Degree Cost?

According to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of a master’s degree in the United States is approximately $62,650. However, these costs can vary based on the type of degree obtained, the school from which it is obtained, and other factors.

How to Pay for a Master’s Degree

Paying for a master’s degree is an obstacle for many aspiring students. The good news? There are some viable ways to offset the cost of a master’s degree and make attending grad school more accessible.

First, explore scholarship and grant options that may be available to you. Though it happens less frequently for grad school than undergrad, some schools offer scholarships directly to incoming students based on merit, so if you had good grades in a previous program, this could work to your advantage. You may also want to research and apply for federal grants, which do not need to be paid back and can be applied directly to your college costs.

Many schools also offer payment plan options with zero interest for a certain period of time. This way, instead of paying in full at the beginning of the semester, you can break your balance up into several payments over the course of the semester.

Some schools offer graduate assistantships that allow students to earn money toward school while working on campus. Assistantships may include work in a research lab, working as a teaching assistant for an intro-level class, or even tutoring undergraduate students. This can be a great way to offset some of your costs while also gaining some valuable experience.

Of course, there is always the option of taking out loans to pay for your graduate program. While financing a master’s degree with student loans may not be the ideal solution, they can be a viable way to cover the expenses that grants, scholarships, assistantships, and other financial aid do not. Plus, it can be helpful to consider the return on investment of a graduate degree. Your earning potential with a master’s degree could be higher, so you may be able to more easily pay off loans after you graduate.

What Can You Do With a Master’s Degree?

There are a number of things you may be able to do with a master’s degree that you would have a more difficult time doing with a bachelor’s degree or no degree at all. However, the specifics will depend on your industry and area of study.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Depending on where you are currently working, obtaining a master’s degree may make it possible to advance to the next level of your career. For example, if you are currently working as an elementary school teacher with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, you may have aspirations to someday hold a job as a school principal.

By obtaining your master’s degree in education administration, you could gain the skills and qualifications needed to be considered for a principal position or similar role.

Career Change

If you are unhappy in your current career, you may be thinking about changing your path altogether. A master’s degree could help make this possible. For example, if you already have your bachelor’s degree in human resources and have been unhappy with your line of work, you might consider pursuing a Master of Business Administration (MBA). An MBA could help you gain valuable leadership and operational skills to move into other business roles or leadership positions.

Disadvantages of Getting a Master’s Degree

While there are certainly a lot of advantages associated with earning a master’s degree, there are some potential drawbacks to consider before you enroll in a graduate program as well.

Taking on Additional Debt

Consider, for starters, the additional debt that you may need to take on to obtain your degree. Master’s degrees are not cheap—and if you must take out loans to finance your graduate education, you could be stuck paying those back for a decade or longer.

Sacrificing Time and Energy

Master’s degree programs are also incredibly time-consuming. Even if you enroll full-time, it could take two years to obtain your degree. This can be especially draining if you already work a full-time job, have a family, or have other important life obligations.

Possible Issues with Prerequisites

Some master’s degree programs require certain prerequisite classes. If you did not take these classes in a previous degree program, you may have to complete these courses before you can even enroll in a graduate program. This can add to the expense and time needed to obtain your degree. In some cases, you may be able to test out of a prerequisite class—but only if you can pass an exam the first time around.

Alternatives to Getting a Master’s Degree

If you decide that a master’s degree is not the right path for you, there are some alternatives to consider that may help you build upon your skills and improve your opportunities for career advancement without the cost or commitment of a graduate degree.

Professional Development

Depending on your industry, you may be able to find opportunities for continuing education or professional development in the form of classes, seminars, and workshops. These tend to be less intensive than a degree program but can still look great on a resume and help you learn some valuable skills that can set you apart in the job market. In some industries (such as education), you may be required to complete a certain number of professional development hours each year to remain in good standing or maintain licensure/certification.

Certificate Programs

Completing a certificate program is another viable alternative to a master’s degree. For example, you could consider pursuing a graduate certificate in marketing instead of a full-on master’s degree program. Generally, certificate programs take just a fraction of the time (and credit hours) to complete and can still be a great way to build your resume and set yourself apart from others in your field. Plus, because these programs require fewer credit hours than a master’s program, they tend to be less expensive and may also be easier to squeeze into your busy schedule. Some schools may even offer certificate programs that are entirely online for your convenience.


In some industries, completing a mentorship or apprenticeship can provide you with real-world experience and training that a classroom setting simply cannot replicate. Plus, working with a mentor can be a great way to build connections and meaningful professional relationships in your field.

Time to Pursue a Master’s Degree?

So, is a master’s degree right for you? Ultimately, this will depend on many factors, including where you are in your current career and what your long-term goals are. Likewise, you will also need to consider how comfortable you are taking on additional debt and setting aside the time and resources needed to focus on your graduate studies.

If you are interested in enrolling in a master’s degree program, make sure you choose a school and program that will support you every step of your academic journey. At Post University, we offer dozens of different online master’s degree programs and graduate certificate programs to accommodate our students’ busy schedules.

Learn more about our program offerings or reach out to our team for further support. We would be happy to answer any questions you may have and help you get started with your application!

Thank you for reading! The views and information provided in this post do not reflect Post University programs and/or outcomes directly. If you are interested in learning more about our programs, you can find a complete list of our programs on our website or reach out directly!

Please note jobs and/or career outcomes highlighted in this blog do not reflect jobs or career outcomes expected from any Post program. To learn more about Post’s programs and their outcomes, please fill out a form to speak with an admissions advisor.