Do Graduate Degrees Pay Off? [Infographic]
Should you go to grad school? Do graduate degrees pay off? Check out Saint Leo's infographic, What's the Value of a Graduate Degree?
Over the last decade, the number of people in the United States with doctor and master's degrees grew at higher rates than any other degree – 45 and 43 percent respectively, compared to 31 and 25 percent for associate and bachelor's degrees.
The reasons so many busy adults – many raising families and all with professional and personal commitments and responsibilities – are making the time to pursue advanced degrees vary.
For some, like Marine Corps veteran and Saint Leo student Tito Williams, it's a professional requirement. Resolved to help people facing difficult challenges in life move forward and create better futures, Williams knew that to become a licensed social worker required a master's degree.
For Saint Leo alumnus Jonathon Zemke, a federal officer with the Naval Amphibious Base living in Virginia Beach, Va., a graduate degree was a personal goal, as well as a way to advance his career. Earning a master's degree in criminal justice with critical incident management specialization in made him eligible to become a lieutenant captain in the field.
Others see a graduate degree as a way to differentiate themselves in a competitive job market by acquiring new knowledge and skills.
Trying to recoup from the blows the economic downturn had dealt to her 10-year career in radio sales and advertising, Albertus Barnes of Charlotte, N.C. was looking for career security when she decided to pursue an online MBA degree with Saint Leo. Not only has her career rebounded, but she now preparing to teach undergraduate business courses, as well.
Attending graduate school is much different than earning an undergrad degree, says Joshua Stagner, director of graduate admissions at Saint Leo University.
"Students who enroll in graduate degree programs usually have a specific purpose and motivation behind enrolling. Whether it is a requirement for a job they want to achieve, a component of a career field that leads towards certification, increasing their knowledge base in a subject matter, or just making themselves more marketable in the job market, a graduate degree can really help an individual take that next step professionally."
Since a graduate degree is a significant investment of time and money, there are also a number of reasons why pursuing a graduate degree might not be the right answer.
A student should only attend grad school when they have a desired outcome that they could accomplish by earning a graduate degree, says Stagner.
"There is a lot of time, money, sweat and tears that goes into advanced education, so the commitment should be one based upon desire, motivation and personal improvement.
Graduate school should not be considered a way of extending college or preventing an individual from transitioning into the workforce. In fact, many graduate programs require a level of professional work experience in order to admitted into the program. Saint Leo University's MBA program, for example, requires two years of professional work experience in order to be admitted.
So when is the best time to start graduate school?
Stagner feels that too often people put off what they want to accomplish because of self-imposed barriers. Not having the time, money, resources or support are often factors that play in an individual's decision to not go back to school.
"The simple answer to any of those concerns is, 'What will change if you do nothing?' The answer is to that question is generally eye opening," he says.
"The time is always right to continue to develop and expand your knowledge and skill sets. The only question is which school is the best fit for what your needs, goals and motivations."
Are you thinking about earning a graduate degree? What questions do you have?
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