Is A Graduate Degree Worth The Major Cost?

Many students think that a graduate degree will help them become better earners. Is that really the case?

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Is A Graduate Degree Worth The Major Cost?
Is A Graduate Degree Worth The Major Cost? - Credit: Shutterstock

A 2017 study by Sallie Mae of about 1,600 graduate students, “How America Pays for Graduate School” suggests that most students believe so. Sallie Mae is currently one of the largest student loan lenders in the U.S.

In fact, nine out of 10 people who participated in the study think that earning a degree means increased earnings. And about two-thirds of those who responded to the survey believe a graduate degree is the new minimum requirement for professional careers, according to the study. The report suggests that the average amount a student spends on a graduate degree equals approximately $24,812 in which 77 percent of those costs are paid by the student. Most students use loans to pay for college, about 53 percent borrowed, the study suggests. Nearly a fourth of students were able to pay for graduate school through their current earnings.

Most students felt that getting a degree was worth it. Many believed that their salaries would increase after obtaining a graduate-level degree. However, it could depend on the major and type of degree a person chooses to pursue.

“Among currently employed graduate students who expect a salary increase, 58 percent expect the increase to be substantial, $20,000 or more after graduation,” the report suggests. “Only 8 percent of employed students don’t expect their salary will increase, while 5 percent aren’t sure. Employed medical (16 percent) and arts and humanities (11 percent) majors are the most likely to say their salary won’t increase.”

Most of the people who choose to go to graduate school, 40 percent, choose to do so within one year of obtaining their bachelor’s degree. Interestingly, three-fourths of humanities and art majors choose to obtain a graduate degree within one year of obtaining a bachelors, 73 percent of engineer majors, 71 percent math and science majors, 55 percent of health-related majors and 54 percent of education-related majors. “One decision to be made is type of degree to pursue,” the report suggests. “Professional requirements can dictate a specific degree type, but for many potential students, the choice is based on which type is more likely to offer opportunities they are seeking. A linked consideration is time to completion: master’s degree programs are typically of shorter duration than doctoral programs.

Among this study’s respondents, 72 percent are enrolled in master’s degree programs and 28 percent in doctoral degree programs.” Grad school is a big decision for students to make and an investment that can potentially double their earnings. Depending on the type of degree, most students felt that getting a graduate degree was worth it. For the student making choices about their next career move or going back to grad school, it depends on the field they want to go into and if they want to commit time to receive their degree.

“While they may feel some pressure to earn an advanced degree because it is perceived to be the new normal for professionals, they take ownership of their decision to attend, of their responsibility to figure out how to pay for it, and of their choices in paying for it,” the report suggests. “The majority of graduate students seem to have based their degree and university choice options on performance outcomes, to have created a plan to pay before enrolling, and to feel confident that they made the right decisions.”

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