Do you really need a masters degree to succeed? Well, that really sort of depends on what you mean by “succeed”, doesn’t it? There are most certainly careers that may require a masters degree, while there are many more where getting a masters would be an incredible waste of time and resources.
Knowing when to attempt to get a masters degree is not always completely obvious. The first thing you have to do if you are thinking about going to graduate school is to ask yourself what your long-term career goal is. Getting a degree just for the sake of the degree is often a path to spending many miserable years in school. As a general rule, only try for a masters degree if the career you are looking at requires one to get in the field.
If you are an entrepreneurial type personality and plan on opening your own business, getting a masters degree in just about anything may be a total waste of time. Some people may find an MBA to be useful, but there are lots of successful business persons who never bothered to get one. They just go out and DO it.
Many hard science fields are not a particularly great field to waste your time on a masters degree with. All the really good, high-end jobs in fields like chemistry and biology are going to require a PhD. Now, may have to get a masters in order to move on to the PhD program, but often this is not required. A masters can be an intermediate step that often isn’t needed.
If you are planning on becoming a doctor or lawyer, I’d say that a masters degree is a complete waste of time for about 99% of people. In rare cases a person will want to focus on something like public heath and could find a masters in that field to be useful, but it’s really not necessary. A simple MD (as if those are simple) will get you a start in something like public health without a masters.
Academic and teaching positions are some of the few areas where a masters can be a good idea. Most University professors are going to need a PhD, but teachers at lower levels can often benefit from a masters degree.
Again, the best thing to do before applying to a masters program is to find out what sort of jobs you can get with the degree that you couldn’t get without it. Of course, this isn’t always the easiest thing in the world to accomplish, and the answers can be frustratingly ambiguous sometimes, but making an attempt to do this research is a good idea. Best of luck in your search for a graduate program!