Degrees Defined: How a Master Degree Can Increase Both Your Salary and Job Prospects

What Is a Master Degree?

A master degree is typically the first degree you can earn after obtaining a bachelor degree. It's also known as an advanced degree or a graduate degree. The two most common types are a Master of Arts and a Master of Science; however, there are also professional master degrees such as the Master of Business Administration (MBA). This degree typically takes two years to complete, although different master degree programs can take more or less time. You can earn a master degree through a campus-based or online education program.

Do Employers Require a Master Degree?

Certain careers often demand advanced education, such as finance and law. In other professions, a master degree can help you advance to a supervisor position or help you obtain a raise, but isn't an official requirement.  In today's tough economic times, more experience and training can improve your chances of finding a job. For instance, in 2008, high school graduates had an unemployment rate of 5.7 percent, while those with bachelor degrees had an unemployment rate of 2.8 percent.  For those with master's degrees, the unemployment rate was only at 2.4 percent.

What Master Degree Programs Are the Most Beneficial?

Some of the fastest growing careers in the U.S. today that may require a master degree include:

  • Clergy
  • Counselors (particularly for marriage and family, mental health, rehabilitation, and education)
  • Mental health and substance abuse social workers
  • Physical therapists
  • Physician assistants

Why Get a Master Degree?

The number of students pursuing master degrees has nearly doubled in the past few decades, both through online master degree programs and at traditional campuses. A master degree can help you compete for some of the most sought after jobs and can certainly help you earn a higher salary. While those with bachelor degrees had median weekly earnings of $978 in 2008, those with master degrees earned $1,228.