Saint Leo University currently offers students a number of different ways to earn their degrees. Whether this involves learning on campus, taking classes online, or attending one of our more than 35 Education Centers (or some combination of these three), our number one goal is to help students obtain the knowledge and skill set they need in order to have the career of their dreams.

Yet, one question that seems to come up quite often is whether students should stop with their bachelor's degree or continue working toward their master's. Maybe you're wondering this too?

Certainly, this is a personal decision that every student must make on his or her own, taking into consideration their individual situation, circumstances, and goals. However, if you're struggling with whether or not you should go for your higher degree, here are a few factors you might want to consider.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Depending on what field you're in, a master's degree may be necessary for career advancement opportunities. So, one question you should ask yourself is where you want to be at the end of your career. Based on that answer, do you need a higher level of education?

For instance, if you have a bachelor's degree in social work, the Bureau of Labor Statistics explains that you're qualified for entry-level administrative positions and "direct-service positions such as caseworker or mental health assistant." But what if you want more?

Maybe you've always had it in your heart to spend your days as a Substance Abuse Counselor, School Social Worker, or Clinical Mental Health Social Worker. When seeking clinical positions like these, a master's degree is a must, making the decision to pursue it easier because it's a necessary step to getting where you want to go.

Other careers that typically require a master's degree include:

  • Postsecondary art, drama, or music teacher
  • Education administrator
  • Historian
  • Librarian
  • Nurse anesthetist, midwife, or practitioner
  • Occupational therapist
  • Political scientist
  • Speech-language pathologist

Higher Salary Potential

Earning a master's degree also often means that you'll have a higher salary potential. In fact, did a salary comparison and found that, in many cases, having a master's degree resulted in a higher annual wage.

Sometimes the difference was a few thousand a year. This was the case for those who majored in Mass Communication ($2,700) or English Language ($2,200). Elementary Education was a little higher ($6,500), as was Human Resources ($8,800).

In other degree areas, the salary differences were in the tens of thousands annually, a couple of which included Business Administration ($11,600), Computer Science ($19,500), and Marketing and Sales Management ($30,000).

If you could earn thousands more per year, over the course of a 20-, 30-, or 40-year career, this amount could really add up. Even if you save it all and invest it in your retirement, it could help you better fund the life you want once you decide to hang up your work shoes.

Personal satisfaction

Statistic Brain reports that, while the top New Year's resolution for 2017 was to lose weight and eat healthier, the second most common goal—one that is set by approximately 12.3% of the U.S. population—is self or life improvement. Some of the other goals that made the top 10 included learning something new on their own and finding a better job, two goals that could also be achieved by advancing to a master's degree.

Let's face it. Sometimes going for a master's degree has nothing to do with career goals or the amount of money you stand to earn with a higher level of education. Sometimes it's just about doing something that makes you feel good about yourself. It's about becoming more satisfied with your life.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Deciding whether to pursue a master's degree is a big decision, one that can ultimately affect you for the rest of your life. To help you determine what the right option is for you, it may help to ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I where I want to be career-wise? If not, in order to move up in my field, is a master's degree required?
  • If I'm happy in my current position, would masters-level classes help me become more efficient and/or effective, potentially putting me in line for more promotions or more satisfying work?
  • What is the salary difference between my current position and the work I could be doing with a master's? How much money does this equate to over time? Is it worth it to me?
  • What would it mean to me to earn a master's degree? Would it raise my self-worth? Would it help me achieve a higher level of life-improvement?

The answers to these questions can help you determine the right path for you. If that's sticking with your bachelor's degree, that's great. You're all set and ready to go.

However, if you think that a master's degree is more in line with what you want out of life, then that may be the better route for you as it may just help you reach your personal and professional goals, making it more than worth the time and effort to attend graduate school.