The masters that give the most salary increase – up to 87%
In September 2020, the National Student Clearinghouse estimated that while undergraduate program enrollments for associate and bachelor’s degrees declined 9.7% from 2019, enrollment in master’s programs increased by 6 %. The most recent counts for the spring quarter of 2021 revealed that while undergraduate enrollment has declined 4.9% since 2020, graduate enrollment has increased 4.6%.
But even as master’s enrollments have exploded, borrowers, activists and journalists have drawn attention to the student debt crisis – and the role master’s degrees play in total student debt of $ 1.7 trillion. dollars of the country.
However, the cost – and benefits – of a master’s degree can vary widely.
As part of its annual salary survey, the National Association of Colleges and Employers recently analyzed which master’s degrees created the biggest increase in earnings for graduates, known as the differential. They found that in 2021, a master’s degree in biology creates the biggest differential, with graduates earning about 86.5% more after graduating from graduate school.
In contrast, NACE found that a master’s degree in social work resulted in an average 36.7% increase in earnings.
“If someone gets a master’s degree just for potential purposes, I would look at that particular career path to understand if the payoff is there,” says Shawn VanDerziel, executive director of NACE. “And to understand if the differential and the starting salary are worth it.”
The cost of a master’s
EducationData.org estimates that the cost of a master’s degree is typically between $ 30,000 and $ 120,000 depending on the school, major, and length of the program. For example, a Masters of Education typically costs $ 55,200, a Masters of Arts typically costs $ 72,800, and a Masters of Science typically costs $ 62,300.
According to the College Board’s 2020 Trends in College Pricing Report, the average cost of one year of a master’s program (including tuition, fees, room, and meals) is approximately $ 19,630. for state students in public institutions and $ 42,030 for private not-for-profit organizations. establishments.
And recently, expensive programs that burden graduates with significant student debt without preparing them for profitable professions have come under intense scrutiny.
In one case, the Wall Street Journal highlighted how recent graduates of Columbia University’s film program with federal student loans owed $ 181,000 on average, however, two years after graduating, half were earning less than $ 30,000 per year.
The advantages of a master’s degree
Certainly, obtaining a master’s degree has always been linked to higher earnings.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, those with only a high school diploma earn an average of $ 746 per week, while college graduates earn nearly 1,248 per week, and workers with master’s degrees earn. almost $ 1,500 per week.
And workers with higher degrees have been significantly less affected by the economic fallout caused by the pandemic. The Pew Research Center has found that since the start of the pandemic, highly educated workers are significantly less likely to have lost their health insurance or have struggled to pay their bills. And data from the Federal Reserve shows that the unemployment rate is twice as high for high school graduates as it is for those with a master’s degree.
However, the magnitude of this benefit varies depending on the type of master’s program.
For example, data from the National Center for Education Statistics suggests that at the master’s level, the greatest number of degrees have been awarded in the fields of business and education: two fields with very different earning potentials and with very different student demographics, especially when it comes to gender.
While women make up around 39% of MBA applicants, they make up almost 77% of those with a master’s degree in education.
“Especially for men, graduate degrees bring a huge increase in income, this is less true for women,” Anthony Carnevale, economist, professor and director of the Georgetown University Center on Education previously told CNBC. and the Workforce. The example Carnavale gave as to why women with master’s degrees tend to earn less is that they are more likely to earn degrees in lower-paying fields like education and social work.
However, research has shown that women, and especially black women, often need to earn an additional degree in order to increase their income.
“African American women with graduate degrees always earn less than white men with just a college degree,” Make It Persis Yu, director of the borrower assistance project, told CNBC previously. of student loans from the National Consumer Law Center. “Because of the way the job market is set up, women, people of color, and especially women of color, really need to earn this degree to be competitive in the job market.”
In this way, potential students must balance several considerations at once, including their passions, personal situation, and financial forecast.
VanDerziel adds that individuals should also assess whether they will need to earn a master’s degree to enter their chosen field as well as any potential for lifelong earnings that might not be factored into the statistics on. starting salaries.
“You always have to consider your career as a whole,” he says. “Not all master’s degrees are so successful in terms of the pay differential. But you also don’t know how the market is going to fluctuate from year to year. Employers may be willing to pay a premium now, but it may not be. in five years.
“We just don’t know. “