Please Think Twice Before Getting Your Master’s

You read that right.

If you pursue most master’s degrees (with the exceptions of the nearly always reliable MBA, which I personally don’t have, and some other degrees listed below), do it because you simply must quench the thirst of your passion and go even further with subject mastery. Or because you want to be the first in your family to get a master’s. Or because learning is its own reward (no irony here – that much is indeed essential). There are many excellent reasons to pursue an advanced degree that are not rooted in salary. (Let me say that again for extra clarity: there are MANY excellent reasons to get a master’s degree that are not related to salary.)

It turns out that’s a good thing because, on average for the nearly 80 fields we examined, there’s almost no additional money to be had from getting one. At least, not in an amount significant enough to be your primary motivation for spending two years of slog to get that degree.

How do I know?

For the last two years, my company – Reputation.com – has been analyzing millions of online resumes, job profiles and salaries, using our patented technologies. And while this research is STILL PRELIMINARY, I’m going to share some insights as we’re refining them (your thoughts welcome!).

At this stage, our research tells us that for recent graduates, the estimated average bump in salary from a non-MBA master’s degree is less than $2,000 a year.

For 26 of these areas of specialty, we found zero measurable financial increase (think public administration, history, English, journalism, architecture, social work and education).

So if you want to add a financially valuable, non-MBA master’s to your swelling resume, what does make sense?

Our research says the top-earning, non-MBA master’s degrees accelerate the career advancement of degree holders by approximately 15 percent above the average. They include:

  • Economics
  • Marketing
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Industrial Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Chemical Engineering

What’s also interesting – if you hold an undergraduate degree in that field or a closely related subject, the 15 percent gain you see from a master’s in the same area is significantly reduced on average, which means if the master’s is discernibly different from your undergrad (let’s say, an Economics master’s on top of a bachelor’s in Biology), the value actually goes up.

If you’ve gone for a master’s, what’s been your experience? Has it improved your career, in terms of salary and responsibility trajectory? Would you do it again, with the benefit of hindsight to guide you?

Posted by:Michael FertikMichael Fertik
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