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How to Earn a Master's Degree

Updated on January 26, 2013
A meeting of doctors - from around the time Magister (Masters, most places) and Doctoral degrees came about.
A meeting of doctors - from around the time Magister (Masters, most places) and Doctoral degrees came about. | Source

The Importance of a Master's Degree

Lets face it, its getting harder and harder to get jobs. For years standards have been climbing for even entry level jobs. Though this may change, once you have any degree your level of proficiency and desirability do not. By type of degree comes an almost exponential raise in pay and possibilities. There are always caveats and exceptions, but a master's degree will always be an important achievement.

I myself have slowly but surely been climbing my own academic ladder - for the last 7 years I have been a student. Having completed my bachelor's degree a while ago I have been working on the random requirements graduate school comes up with, and should complete graduate school within this next year.

Know What You Want

Most master's degree programs are hard. Even if they are not they still take an enormous amount of time from you - the masters of education program usually takes a year of more than full time classes. You must know that you enjoy a subject or line of work before getting into your degree program or else you will waste a lot of time and money by realizing that you really don't want to do this for the rest of your life.

My advice is to do a work study, internship, or volunteer job to see if you like the chosen field. I have been volunteering at a low income tutoring program since last year to make sure that I enjoyed working with that age group and found out everything I needed to know about that field of work before I ran into it. You can often find at least volunteer jobs in a lot of fields, but may need to apply to an internship for more technical pursuits.


Be Ready To Spend

Degrees are not cheap. This is why you need to know what you want before you go into it. For me, the masters in education will cost about 25,000 when I am done with the year of study. Other programs cost more or less, especially depending on the length of the program.

However as the old phrase goes: it takes money to make money. Think of it as an investment. According to this website, here are some nice things to know about degree differences and how much you can earn.

High school graduates can expect, on average, to earn $1.2 million in lifetime income.

Bachelors degrees get you $2.1 million over a lifetime. That's almost a million dollars and a great investment.

Masters degrees get you $2.5 million over a life time. Sure, its not as big of a jump nor return on investment, but what it doesn't mention is job security and marketplace advantage.

Doctoral degrees get you $3.4 million! If you are willing to take the time and money, its the best investment.

Of course, field of study determines pay grade. "Those working full time in engineering earned the highest average monthly pay ($4,680), while those with education degrees earned the lowest ($2,802) in 1996." Not the best thing to hear as an education major!

Cover All Your Bases

To get a masters degree you really have to be prepared. Firstly, you need to apply to as many programs as you can. The first year I applied I only tried one location and did not get in. It would have been much better if I had applied to all the schools around me and gotten into another one rather than having to wait another year for the one I wanted. Second, you have to make sure that you know exactly what each program you applied to is looking for. There are sometimes unwritten prerequisites that you need to fill. Talk with people who are in the program, office staff, and anyone you can about the program to find out if there are any hidden requirements.

A Georgia Tech Graduation
A Georgia Tech Graduation | Source

Get Ready to Work Hard!

Masters degree programs are usually rigorous - so be ready to work hard. Even before getting into the program you will have to go the extra mile. In some cases there is money available to help you, but not nearly as much as there would be for your bachelors degree. Check with advisers and online about scholarships that you qualify for and would be willing to agree to.

Good luck!


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    • Danieljohnston profile image

      Daniel Johnston 5 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      It is true that you might not get something you are qualified for. In fact most people are underemployed unless they work at getting a job. I have a BA in History and have been unemployed and underemployed. Just takes work.

      Thank you!

    • Nan Mynatt profile image

      Nan Mynatt 5 years ago from Illinois

      Good Hub, most people don't know the cost of education. It is costly and takes a lot of dedication, and time to go to school and study. You may not get the job you are qualified for with your education, so you have to be patient. I marked you up!