Is an MA Worth the Money?

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A master's degree can expand your job opportunities, helping you get your foot in the door with the employers that require that education level. But with master's degree costs ranging from $30,000 to $120,000, depending on the area of study and the school, it's important to make sure it's worth it. A master's degree can be worth the expense in certain careers, but in some, you won't get as good a return on your investment.

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Financial Benefits of an MA

The biggest financial benefit of a master of arts degree is simply that it expands the possibilities. Some job openings require it. It might also give you an edge when you're applying for jobs. You could beat out someone with a bachelor's degree merely because of your extra education.

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Overall, master's degree holders make more than bachelor's degree holders. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, median weekly earnings for those with master's degrees are ​$1,401​, compared to ​$1,173​ a week for those with bachelor's degrees. That's ​$11,856​ per year, which means a ​$30,000​ degree would pay for itself in less than ​three years​.

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Consider also:Do I Need an MFA to Teach College?

Master’s Degree Viability by Career

The truth is, the increased earning potential of an MA isn't the same across the board. Often, careers that prioritize research will boost pay for those who have advanced degrees. Before you choose your course of study, take a look at the average salaries and career outlook for any occupation you're considering at BLS.gov.

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Here are some occupations where a master's degree will benefit you most.

  • Teaching​: This field is where you'll see some of the biggest benefits of an advanced degree. In fact, many teaching jobs will require a master's degree before you can set foot in a classroom.
  • Engineering​: There are plenty of opportunities for engineers who have a bachelor's degree, but you'll usually need a master's degree to move to more advanced positions.
  • Science​: Scientific fields that lean heavily toward research tend to prefer elevated degrees. If you want to work in a lab, chances are a master's degree will pay off.
  • I.T. Research Specialists​: Although I.T. openings often focus on certifications, if you're going into the research side of things, an advanced degree could pay off. The innovators in the technology space often have advanced degrees, as well as higher pay.
  • CEO​: Heading up an organization brings big responsibility. Pay for CEOs is often in the six-figure range, so a higher level of education, as well as demonstrated leadership capabilities, can pay off.

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If you're looking for other opportunities for advancement or you simply have a quest for knowledge, advancing beyond a bachelor's degree can be well worth it.

Master’s Degrees in Academia

For obvious reasons, education is a priority if you're working in an academic setting. If you're teaching at public schools, a bachelor's degree and certification will often suffice, although teaching at private schools can sometimes require an MA. If you plan to teach special education, whether at a public or private school, you might see that some schools require a master's degree.

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For teaching at the university level, on the other hand, a bachelor's degree might not suffice. In fact, many four-year institutions will require a doctoral degree for teachers, but you can teach at some two-year colleges with an MA. Some higher education teachers also engage in research, which is where advanced degrees come in handy.

If you're thinking about primary or secondary education as a career, a master's degree can bump up your earnings. Data from the National Council on Teacher Quality shows that on average, teachers earn $2,760 in the first year alone with a master's degree. That advantage goes up to $7,358 annually on average at the top of the pay scale for a teaching position.

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Money isn't the only reason to get a master's degree. If you're looking for other opportunities for advancement or you simply have a quest for knowledge, advancing beyond a bachelor's degree can be well worth it. But it can also help to know just how much of an investment you'll have to make and what you'll get out of it to gauge the true ROI.

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