What Is a Master’s Degree?

Education is the ticket to a better life. The question is: How much education do you need to get that better life? In the 1920s, a high school diploma was worth a lot. In the 1950s, a college degree became essential to most career paths. Now, more and more, the answer is a Master’s degree.

Steps to A Master’s Degree

Before one can get a Master’s Degree, the student must have completed a Bachelor’s Degree. The next step is proving worthiness for a program by taking a standardized test such as the Graduate Record Exam. Some graduate programs require some experience in the field before returning for a graduate degree.

The Master’s Degree

Only fifty years ago, a master’s program was an academic exercise to prepare its students to be professors in a particular field of study. As a wide body of knowledge in other fields such as education, the sciences, and business expanded, these degrees became training fields for the most advanced skilled workers. The coursework can require from two to six years to complete, depending on difficulty and prior knowledge. A person with a master’s degree can truly demonstrate that they have a mastery of a professional subject area. These days that means that they can think critically and apply that thinking to real world problems.
More Likely To Be Employed
Even in a poor job economy, it appears that having a Master’s Degree remains a safer bet than just an undergraduate degree. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor¬†reveal that a Master’s Degree helps protect a person even in a recession. In 2012, those with a Master’s Degree were unemployed only at a rate of 3.5 percent compared to those with a Bachelor’s who were unemployed at a rate of 4.5 percent. This figure jumped for high school grads whose employment topped 8.3 percent.


The U.S. Department of Labor statistics also show how the average Master’s Degree earner can make an average of $250 more per week. That means $1000 more per month. The 2012 figures showed a Master’s holder earning $1300 per week while a bachelor’s holder earned $1066. In an interview on National Public radio, the director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce stated that the average earnings over a lifetime could amount to $400,000. Certainly some degrees are more beneficial than others, as discussed in this Forbes article, but the upshot is that the individual with a master’s degree can command more respect and thus a better job and more money.

Skills Matter

Three decades ago, very few jobs involved computers on a daily basis. Now even menial jobs often require the use of computers. As the job level rises, the use of computers becomes more specialized. So too, the knowledge for doing the job also rises. Clearly the job market has become very technical and very specialized. Employers are demanding that employees have more skills and a greater level of specialized knowledge. A Master’s degree is the logical answer for many workers who want to get ahead.