Payoff After Graduate School
One of the most obvious reasons for graduate school is that the degree allows the graduate to perform a job for which she would otherwise be unqualified. For example, a teacher might earn a Master of Education in order to advance to the position of assistant principal or principal. And, with increase in responsibilities, normally comes a promotion or an upgrade in pay.
According to the U.S Department of Labor, bachelor’s degree graduates earned a median weekly salary of $1,156, those with a master’s degree earned an average of $1,380 per week, and doctoral degree graduates earned $1,664 per week on average (2).
Yet, experts caution against assuming that a graduate degree is automatically a ticket to a bigger paycheck. According to Education Dive, an industry analysis organization, the payoff of master’s and doctoral degrees varies widely by profession. Master’s degrees in arts and humanities for example, can potentially yield lower payoff than bachelor’s degrees in fields like business and technology (3). CNBC recently posed the query: “The decision to pursue a master’s or doctorate degree is a significant one. Tuition and fees can translate into high student debt that could take longer to pay off than you think. But on the other hand, it could yield a well-paying job that makes the investment worth it. Which jobs are worth that investment?” The news organization compiled information from Finder.com and LinkedIn to present the top 20 most lucrative uses of graduate degrees, including roles like surgeon, senior corporate counsel and global marketing director (4).
The question of graduate school payoff is like the timeless analysis of the chicken or the egg coming first. “Is it the job that drives the dollars or is it the degree?” Keiffer asked. “A company is not just going to hire you because of your degree. But I really think many of the degrees are mechanisms to get into the next level of jobs. The degree is the entry to that higher-level job. It’s part of the whole picture that a candidate can offer.”
If potential graduate students are counting on a financial payoff for the degree, Aviva Legatt of Forbes Magazine advises them to explore questions like earnings before, during and after graduate school, tuition and education-related expenses, and expected lifetime earnings. “No matter who you are, there will be financial and personal sacrifices you make while in graduate school,” she says. “But the experience itself can be very rewarding and propel you beyond what you thought possible for your own potential” (5).