Advantages of a Master's Degree Vs Bachelor's Degree
What benefits are there to earning a master's degree after a bachelor's? Are there reasons someone might not want to? Read below to learn about the advantages and disadvantages to each educational choice.
Comparing Master's Degrees to Bachelor's Degrees
When it comes to degrees, it's easy to assume that the higher level a degree is, the better it is. An individual with a graduate degree likely does understand their field better than someone with an undergraduate degree, as upper-level courses delve more deeply into topics. Individuals who hold master's degrees also tend to earn more than those with only undergraduate degrees, compensating them for their greater investment of time and money to obtain the degree.
None of this means, however, that master's degrees are inherently better for every field. Fields like education, healthcare, and business are particularly well known for placing a premium value on graduate degrees, and workers in these industries may be wise to invest in their education as a result. Other fields, such as the arts, could see much less benefit to earning a higher degree in the same field. In those cases, however, it may still be advantageous to pursue a master's degree in another area, such as business administration, to help those individuals learn to take the skills developed in their undergraduate studies and profit from them.
|Bachelor's Degree||Master's Degree|
|Duration of Study||4-5 years||1-3 years beyond bachelor's|
|Degree Content||General education, dedicated studies in area of major||Advanced-level studies in area of major|
|Prerequisites||High school diploma||Undergraduate degree, work experience sometimes required|
|Median Weekly Salary* (2018)||$1,198||$1,434|
Source: *US Bureau of Labor Statistics
The Pros and Cons of Earning Only a Bachelor's
Earning a bachelor's degree is the first step in postsecondary education for most, particularly if they plan to obtain a graduate degree. As noted above, not all academic disciplines see a significant benefit from pursuing a graduate degree, and in these cases, it may be best to transition into the workforce after earning a bachelor's degree. Many positions require only a bachelor's degree, and a great number of jobs are open to applicants who have a bachelor's degree in any field, even if it is unrelated to the work.
Leaving college after earning a bachelor's may also be beneficial in other ways. Graduate school can be difficult to get into, and expensive to pay for, so earning a master's may not be a viable option immediately after graduating. In situations such as these, gaining income by working for a few years in order to pay for additional schooling or obtaining work experience in the field may be necessary before returning to attempt to earn a master's degree. Many positions that require master's degrees are also leadership positions, so individuals who are not confident in their leadership abilities or who do not wish to take on major responsibilities could see little benefit in earning a higher degree.
The Pros and Cons of Earning a Master's
Job growth among careers requiring a master's degree is quite high, projected by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics at 14% between 2018 and 2028, as opposed to an 8% growth for occupations typically requiring a bachelor's degree for entry. Businesses and other organizations have also raised their expectations in recent years, requiring master's degrees when previously only a bachelor's had been needed, so the value of master's degrees is certainly on the rise. Master's degrees are also commonly seen as an affirmation of quality, since only the most dedicated can see graduate school through. Individuals who hold master's degrees also have lower unemployment levels than those with less education and higher weekly earnings.
With the advent of the internet and distance learning technologies, master's degree programs have become much more available, offering alternatives to the full-time study programs that previously dominated. Accelerated, part-time, executive, and online programs are all available to varying degrees, depending on the exact field of study, and make for convenient options for those who wish to earn a master's but can't afford to stop working entirely.
Graduate school admissions are highly competitive, so students will need to perform exceptionally well in their undergraduate courses, maintaining a high GPA and perhaps even garnering recommendations from professors. Graduate school also tends to be expensive to pay for.