Today’s post is on why I do not recommend getting your master’s. I got my master’s degree since I finished my bachelor’s degree so quickly, in two and a half years. And because I was given a four-year scholarship, I asked the university (and by “ask”, I mean “aggressively argued” because they were trying to make me double major instead!?!) to let me use the rest towards pursuing further education.
However, if the above were not the case, I would tell my younger self to not get my master’s and instead go into the workforce or pursue my doctorate’s. Of course, this is a case by case basis and a master’s very well might be good for some people. I will give you some pros and cons for why to/not do a master’s degree.
Why I Do:
More recruiting time/opportunities
For myself, this would have been the biggest reason for me to still get my master’s. When I finished my bachelor’s, I was barely 20 years old. To give up being a student/child to so quickly become an independent full-time young adult in the professional world at such a young age is a lot of pressure.
Furthermore, though I already had a job lined up at a huge corporation, I was looking for something else. Doing your master’s will give you an extra couple of years and recruiting opportunities to land your dream job (hopefully). During my master’s program is when I was offered one of the best jobs I could ask for.
The graduate network is invaluable. Again, it can help you land jobs because the graduate students get separate recruiting events and many graduate professors have exceptional connections. It also gives you other opportunities, such as doing research with a graduate professor or even teaching the undergraduate students!
A master’s is obviously good for increasing your knowledge in terms of breadth and depth – this is the main reason why people pursue their master’s degree. This of course can increase your marketability. You can choose to pursue a master’s in a specialized niche of your undergraduate degree, which will leverage you when applying to specific jobs. For example, I did my bachelor’s in accounting but then specialized in accounting information systems for my master’s. This gives me an edge and makes me a great hybrid and candidate for accounting technology positions.
Alternatively, you can choose to pursue a master’s in an entirely different field from your undergraduate. This makes you diverse and gives you the opportunity to apply for jobs that you would not otherwise be eligible for. For example, I know many people in my graduate program who have their bachelor’s in something else (i.e. psychology, business administration) and pursued a master’s degree in accounting, which makes them perfectly qualified (if not more so than accounting bachelor graduates) for accounting positions.
While pursuing a graduate degree is credible and challenging, in many cases it is actually easy. You may have already heard people say that a doctorate’s program is actually much easier than you think – you have almost no homework assignments, you have your own schedule, and you have so much free time. It’s a similar situation for a master’s degree.
There is significantly less homework assignments. I found that the undergraduate courses have SO much tedious readings and assignments. In the graduate program, it is much more no-nonsense. You’ll have only a few assignments that, though bigger and arguably more difficult, will in the end will take less time (in my opinion).
On that note, there is a lot less reading (hallelujah!). This is because in the graduate program, you’re expected to already be very knowledgeable in your subject. Since you already “know it all” your assignments will be just applying what you already know.
Why I Don’t:
Pay won’t be worth it
Yes, you will get a pay raise for having your master’s degree. For many companies, it is a standard rate and it might be less than expected. For example, you might earn an additional $5k from the base salary. If you go to an expensive master’s program, it’ll take you a long time to breakeven.
Secondly, much like why it is financially beneficial to finish school early, pursuing your master’s degree has the opportunity cost of whatever salary you could be making. Instead of doing a master’s for two years, you could instead have received $120,000 (for example, two years of a $60k salary).
It depends on your industry
A master’s degree is not as highly regarded in certain industries. For example, in my industry of accounting, a master’s is actually not very valuable. Instead, companies are looking to see if you got a CPA license. A CPA license is often considered more valuable than a master’s degree in accounting.
Side note: With the 2014 law change for the California CPA requirements, a master’s is actually NOT required to get your license (unlike what most people think). The law change does require you to have 150 units, and as a result, many people pursued their MSA to fulfill the educational requirements. It is, however, not necessary. For example, I already had so many units that I didn’t need to get my master’s. Alternatively, you can also just enroll in the additional courses you need at a community college!
Real world experience is more valuable
I think that experience is the most valuable thing for your professional well-being. I don’t want to stereotype, but a lot of graduate students surprisingly do not have much work experience because they are full-time students. As a result, a lot of them are very sheltered individuals. The ones who I found to struggle the most were those who did not have work experience. I found that many of them haven’t yet fully acquired the ability to independently critically think or how to apply things in a business situation. So I highly recommend getting at least a part-time job simultaneously to make your graduate learning the most efficient and effective.
Do your Doctorate’s
If I could go back in time, I would forgo the master’s degree and do my doctorate’s instead. It’s just an extra two years. It’s the highest academic title you can get. And best of all, you get paid while you do it! And, you can become a professor which I personally would love to do.
Remember, it is always on a case by case basis and I am just sharing these tips to help you come to the decision on whether or not to pursue graduate learning. Going to graduate school is a great accomplishment and you learn a lot. But the biggest thing that I took away from graduate school was the relationships and experiences shared with professors and classmates.