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Thinking About Getting a Master’s Degree?

Updated on January 17, 2022
Carolyn M Fields profile image

Carolyn Fields is a lifelong learner, musician, author, world traveler, truth enthusiast, and all-around bon vivant.


Degree Inflation

Everybody knows that having a college degree is important in today’s professional job world. The unemployment rate for people with college degrees is much lower than for those with only a high school diploma. You probably already knew that. What you may not know is that having a college degree has in many cases become the new minimum requirement, even for getting the lowest-level job in professional business situations. That’s what is called “degree inflation.”

What does that mean for you, the Bachelor’s Degree holder? It means that you will likely be able to land a good job, but you will not longer “stand out” as being more highly educated. With receptionists and file clerks holding bachelor’s degrees, to truly stand out as “promotable” – you will need to up your game. And that means a Master’s Degree.

When Should You Get It?

This does not mean that you need a Master's Degree for your first, entry level job. By all means, land that job in your chosen field. Get some work experience. Make some money. Then, when the time is right, plow back into the academic world.

I’ve heard people say that once you leave academia, you’ll never go back. I think this may be true for people who never finished their B.A., but I don’t think it holds for people who finished, and landed a job, and are now seeking to “up their game.” I am living proof of that. After nearly 15 years on the job, I went “back” to school to earn a Master's Degree. My motivation was the constant “downsizings” and “reorganizations” happening at my company. I needed to stay employable.

Apparently, I did the right thing. I not only held onto my job, I was promoted several times before I retired. As so many advertisements say, my case may not be typical. But I think it’s at least food for thought.

To MBA or not to MBA, That is the Question

Before you step on the MBA bandwagon, you should stop to consider your options. Ideally, if you are employed, your company will offer some type of educational assistance. They may even help organize an “on-site” after hours degree program.

I can tell you from personal experience, with a only a Bachelor’s Degree, I was limiting my career potential. I needed a Master’s Degree to get noticed, but all of the quantitative work that went into getting an MBA was simply daunting. The program is typically loaded with courses in Accounting, Statistics, Economics, and Financial Management. That’s fine if your career is in Accounting or Finance, but I was working in Human Resources. So I looked for a more “people-oriented” degree.

Master of Arts in Management

What I found was a Master of Arts Degree in Management at The University of Redlands. The courses were heavy on interpersonal relationships (e.g., Organization Behavior, Human Resources Management, Business Ethics, Diversity, Leadership, etc.), plus the overall length of the program was significantly shorter than traditional MBA programs.

Trust me, when you put “Master's Degree” on your resume, it’s still very impressive to employers and potential new bosses. It gives you that “upwardly mobile” stamp, with fewer tedious quantitative classes. Of course, if you’re into that stuff, knock yourself out. But if you’re like me, a Master of Arts was what I really needed.

Talk to Your Manager

This may sound cliché, but you really should sit down with your manager before you begin any degree program. Get their feedback on the type of degree that would not only help you, but also help the department and/or company as a whole. I made the mistake of plowing ahead with my M.A. in Management, only to be told by one manager that it was "good for me, but not necessarily for the company." I didn't think that was true at the time, and I still don't. But what it does tell me is that I should have made more of an effort to demonstrate the value of my degree to the department and the company, and even "talk it up" to management. Hopefully you can learn vicariously from my situation!

Look Around

Before you sign up, be sure to look around. Depending on where you live, there may be dozens of degree options available. Plus, with the advent of online degree programs, your choices are far greater than ever before. Just be sure to check for accreditation. That’s still important, regardless of whether you are opting for the MBA or MAM program.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Carolyn Fields


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