With an undergraduate diploma in hand you face the world. Should you turn back and rejoin academia for another two or three years? It depends on what you want.
If you want to avoid entering the workforce and you can convince whoever is paying for your education to let you do it, more power to you. You may or may not gain anything worthwhile in the job market. Still if you find something you really want to study and work hard at it, the personal satisfaction may sweeten you attitude towards work a bit. And you never know. A teacher or colleague might suggest a field that is perfect for you.
If, however, you have chosen a field, or hope to advance in the career you have, you need to find out how much good a master’s degree will do you. The price of two more years in school should probably have more to justify it than impressing people at parties. Your professors and advisors are a good source, but here is brief run-down on what the odds are at present.
Education Loves Masters
Professional education is almost certain to honor your master’s degree with a better position and higher pay. A master’s in your chosen subject is required to teach any level above high school. In some states even this degree will only get you as far as junior college. In these state universities only PhDs teach, or in some cases they are the only ones who can obtain tenure, that is, a permanent position. Other states and private schools vary, but all call for at least a master’s. A degree in administration may assist you if your goal is a job as a superintendent or even a high school principal. There are usually a plenty of jobs in education depending on your location and your own standards.
Progress in a related field, library science, is also dependent on a degree. Before you dismiss this idea, consider that librarians do more than just check out books and tell people to shush. Lots of places have libraries including museums, law firms, non-profit organizations and government departments. Their librarians catalogue books, papers, artifacts and even archaeological finds. They do research, create and streamline computer cataloging systems, and analyze data.
Specialization Makes the Master
There are also many jobs in the health professions besides a doctor or a nurse and for most you need a master’s. Specialists such as audiologists, speech therapists, substance abuse counselors, physical therapists and health educators all have post graduate degrees. Workplace health and safety educators have theirs as well. Majors in science and engineering need to check with prospective employers.
Political science majors need an advanced degree for jobs in political analysis, campaign planning, speech writing, foreign diplomacy and most others in that discipline. You should probably hike back to the campus if you are interested in city planning, statistical analysis, or computer programming related to business concerns. Degree holders are also hired to coordinate large masses of material, from educational curriculum to all of a company’s locations to political or industrial policy-making.
The Other Side of the Coin
So who does NOT need an advanced degree? Unless you are going to teach, a master’s in the liberal arts will not net you much financially. If you are a liberal arts major you probably already know that. The social sciences are not usually worth the upgrade, either.
A degree that teaches you how to do something better, such as counseling, bridge building or business administration probably pays off best. On the other hand if you already know how to do something (sales, management, accounting, computer programming) and can get employment doing it, your best bet is to find a company that allows you to advance by learning on the job. Time spent seeking to learn more about the job you have often results in knowledge and more important, contacts that you would never find in a classroom.
Remember advanced education usually involves going into debt. It is not wise idea to put money into a static or depreciating asset in the job market. There should be a payoff. It is up to you to decide which speaks louder, your mind or your pocketbook.