The value of a Master’s degree, in relation to a Bachelor’s degree is very well documented. One study after another and even census data supports higher earnings levels for those who hold a graduate degree. In the mid 1990’s there was even a study discussed in the Wall Street Journal that showed the only way for the current generation enjoy a higher standard of living that previous was to have a graduate degree. Notwithstanding the financial reasons for pursuing a graduate degree, there are other incentives and those can be just as powerful.
Individual Needs Determines Direction
While the number of people who graduate with a four year degree is incredibly high it also makes the level of competition to land a job or enter graduate school very intense. For some, the right path is from college to the workforce. For these, some will find meaningful and rewarding work with just their 4 year degree. In time however, some will see the need to learn more or be struck by the desire to either expand on what they learned as an undergraduate or concentrate on a new field related to their chosen profession.
For others, the path to the Master’s degree will begin immediately upon graduation. Some students even engage in 5 year programs where the student is allowed to take both undergraduate and graduate courses in the senior year of college and then graduate with a Master’s degree in the 5th year. Regardless of the path chosen it is important to finish the program in order to reap the rewards of having the graduate degree.
Recognition of Achievement
While universities and family are equally proud of those who graduate with a Master’s degree, there are also those who do not hold it in very high esteem. Most of these people have either foregone a formal education altogether or saw their need fulfilled with the undergraduate degree. In either case, one should never let another’s disdain from inhibiting further growth and development. Beyond recognition, the single most important thing about earning a Master’s degree is the sense of achievement.
Regardless of the particular graduate degree, the sense of accomplishment is one of the most pure reasons to pursue a Master’s degree. It could be an MBA, an MS or an MA and while many people pursue a graduate degree in order to help their career progression, there are others that do it just so they can have the knowledge and that sense of accomplishment. A lawyer in Boston displays her MA in History, acquired after her law degree as prominently as her law degree and speaks higher of it than the law degree. A small business owner and Naval Reserve officer in Virginia Beach spent many hours earning a Master’s degree in National Security form the Naval War College for no other reason than to say that he did.
The reasons to earn a Master’s degree are many and for every individual the exact reason or reasons may be as unique as the person involved. Career progression, opening doors, sense of accomplishment and the pure joy of learning are all reasons to pursue a Master’s degree. Each reason is correct for the person involved and there are many ways to satisfy the desire to learn.
Author’s Note: I wrote this article from the perspective of a person who has earned two Master’s degrees, an MBA and a MS in Quality Assurance. Beyond the pure joy of learning, I also was able to advance my career with the MS until the economy tanked and then reinvented myself with the MBA to earn a Presidential Management Fellows appointment in addition to a part time job as a college professor. The great thing about teaching is the interaction with the students and then they pay me for have such a wonderful time!