Pursuing a master’s degree is now easier than ever because of the options available to working adults.  There are part-time, evening, weekend and online programs available, so you can still earn a salary while continuing your education.

chart of income based on education

While a master’s degree may not be required for your chosen career, there are a few compelling reasons to earn one:

Greater Earning Potential:  Statistics show that your earning potential rises for each level of higher education obtained.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fall 2010 average annual income for someone with an advanced degree (master’s or professional degree) was $69,472.  The income for those with a bachelor’s degree was $59,540.  On average, those with a high school diploma earned $32,292.  If you do the math, someone with a master’s degree will earn almost $38,000 more per year than a high school graduate.  If you multiply that over a 40 year career, you could potentially earn over $1.5 million more in your lifetime.  In an article published by World Wide Learn, most graduate students admitted that they pursued a master's degree to land a higher-paying job.

Increased Job Competitiveness: There was a time when a bachelor’s degree would pretty much guarantee you a full-time job with a decent income, but in today’s tough economic times, this isn’t necessarily the case.  As employers scale back on their hiring and job competitiveness increases, having a master’s degree could give you the edge over your competition by making you more marketable.

Not only can a master’s degree help you obtain new knowledge and advance within your current career field, but it can also aid you in changing careers, by allowing you to pursue a new field of study.  A survey completed by QS, a leading global career and education network, found that “in some specialized areas where technical skills are particularly significant, the benefit of a master’s degree can outweigh that of up to four years of work experience.”

Lower Risk of Unemployment:  As unemployment rises, having a master’s degree improves the likelihood of keeping your job.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate in July, 2011  was at 9.1 percent but the unemployment rate among college graduates was less than half that number at 4.6 percent.

Earning a master’s degree requires an investment of time and money, but in the end, you will see a return on your investment.  Set your sights on the long-term rewards: greater earning potential, more career options, and lower unemployment.

Is an MBA Right for Me?

There is no doubt that the Master of Business Administration (MBA) program is one of the most popular graduate degrees today.  According to the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, nearly one in five students pursuing a master’s degree is working toward an MBA.

An MBA, a graduate degree in business/commerce, is often thought of as a professional degree, meaning that it can help you transition into or advance in a particular career field.  This degree focuses on the different aspects of business, including: accounting, economics, marketing, human resources and management strategies.  Typically, MBA programs combine theoretical learning with applied learning (learning by doing) and are designed to help you grow both professionally and personally.  Throughout the course of an MBA program, a great deal of emphasis is placed on strategic thinking and developing leadership and analytical skills.

How do you know if it’s the right fit for you?  If you answer “yes” to any of the questions below, then you may want to seriously consider an MBA program.

Are you or do you see yourself having a career in management?

Are you interested in starting your own business?

Do you already own your own business and need a credential to lend validity to what you do?

Do you want to become a manager in your current career field?
Will an MBA benefit you at your current company or at the company you’re interested in working for?

Do you have a technical undergraduate degree and want to obtain a business qualification?

Are you looking for opportunities to develop personal skills like communication, creativity, collaboration and cooperation?

According to the Association of MBAs, career advancement is the number one reason people choose an MBA program.  But, if you don’t see yourself on the path to management or becoming an entrepreneur, then you may not want to invest your time, money and energy into a program where you may not see any rewards.

There are many different types of master’s programs available; you just need to have a clear idea of your career goals and future aspirations.  For example, if you are in sales or information technology and you’d like to hold an executive level position in your organization, the MBA would be a good choice.  Conversely, if you are in the medical field and would like to become a hospital administrator, you may want to look into a Master of Healthcare Administration program.

The MBA is a well-rounded master’s program and is a great option for someone who is interested in pursuing a management career or for someone who would someday like to be his or her own boss.