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5 Best Reasons to Go Back to School Now

5 Best Reasons to Go Back to School Now

In today’s increasingly competitive job market, the question often arises: How can I stand out from other candidates vying for the same position? One way to distinguish yourself is to have a master’s degree benefitting your chosen career path.

Interest in graduate programs has dramatically increased in recent years; in fact, studies show that more than 16 million people in the US — about 8 percent of the population — now have a master's, a 43 percent increase since 2002.

This growth is due in part to the ever-changing demands of employers. According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, 38 percent of employers have raised educational requirements over the last five years.

But impressing future employers isn’t the only reason to invest in higher education. From increasing your earning potential to developing invaluable skills and qualifications, here are five reasons you should consider going back to graduate school.

1. Career Growth

A graduate degree can help you move into more advanced roles, including management and leadership. In the field of education, for example, elementary teachers can expect to make $39,932 to $55,568 with a master of arts in education degree while those who hold a bachelor's degree make $31,249 to $43,499—a difference of about 25 percent.

Some high-paying education careers often requiring a master’s degree include School Principal ( $90,410 per year), Chief Administrator ($88,580 per year), Academic Dean ( $83,515 per year), or University Professor ($72,420 per year).

Overall, data from the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau show that the unemployment rate for holders of master’s degree is 3.5% compared with 4.5% for those with only bachelor’s degrees, while unemployment rates among those with doctorates (2.5%) and advanced professional degrees (2.1%) are approximately half that of those with only a bachelor’s degree.

2. Develop New Skills

With advanced education and training, you inevitably develop a unique set of skills that will easily transfer into the workplace. By the time you graduate, you’ll hopefully have developed the interpersonal communication ability, analytic expertise, time management capability, and organizational skills needed to help you thrive professionally.

Earning a master’s degree not only allows you to develop valuable, transferable skills in your field of study, it helps you hone your critical thinking skills.

A report from the Review of Educational Research, a journal of the American Educational Research Association found that over the last 48 years, most students have learned critical-thinking skills in college, whether or not their programs emphasized critical thinking in coursework. Another study reported that of all occupations, 96 percent require critical thinking and active listening to be either “very important” or “extremely important to success.”

An advanced degree also contributes to personal growth; a recent study from Pew Research found that a large majority of Americans seek extra knowledge for personal and work-related reasons. In total, 73 percent of Americans consider themselves lifelong learners, and 74 percent have participated in an activity over the last year that developed their lifelong pursuit of knowledge.

3. Networking Opportunities

There may be some truth to the old saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” when it comes to career growth and development. According to research, a staggering 85 percent of all jobs are filled through networking — so being highly networked is essential for the job seeker.

Graduate school provides an enhanced network of connections that will benefit you down the road. Earning an advanced degree allows you to collaborate with peers from different professional backgrounds and learn under professors who may share both their knowledge and their networks.

4. Marketability

There’s no denying that earning a master’s degree helps you improve your relative standing in a competitive field and a challenging job market.

According to statistics, the number of occupations that typically require a master’s degree has increased by nearly 20% between 2006 and 2016 — and there will be 55 million job openings in the economy through 2020. Of those, 24 million will be from newly created jobs, and 31 million openings due to baby boomer retirements, according to research.

In today’s ever-changing job market, a master’s degree helps give you job security and significantly increases your marketability. By gaining specialized knowledge in your industry, you’ll become an invaluable asset to your employer.

Simply put: An advanced degree on a résumé speaks to an individual's work ethic, determination, and dedication to their chosen field. Whether you’re a nurse, educator, or graphic designer, you’ve proven you have the ability to be a capable, independent worker thanks to the rigors of graduate school.

5. Increase Earning Potential

Earning a master’s degree can significantly increase your earning potential. According to statistics, employees with bachelor’s degrees earn $2.27 million over their career, while those with master’s degrees can earn up to $2.7 million.

Similarly, a recent report from the Pew Research Center shows that earnings of young workers with advanced degrees have grown even more than the earnings of those with bachelor’s degrees. The median monthly earnings of young adults with master’s degrees rose 23% from 1984 ($3,875) to 2009 ($4,772).  

According to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some industries that offer significantly higher salaries for those with a master’s are:

  • Information Security Analysts: $85,000 versus $100,000—an 18 percent increase
  • Medical and Health Services Managers: $70,000 versus $90,000—a 29 percent increase
  • Marketing and Sales Managers: $80,000 versus $110,000—a 38 percent increase
  • Financial Managers: $90,000 versus $170,000—an 89 percent increase

More data about wages by degree within occupations are available from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

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