It’s Okay to Ask if More Education Makes Sense for You

When it comes to advancing your career or transitioning into a totally new path, you may have asked:

Is a master’s degree really worth it?

Well, it’s absolutely okay to ask this question!

A graduate degree is a significant academic, time, and financial commitment.

At CSU, we encourage everyone to think critically and question the status quo.

It’s normal (and smart) to second guess a master’s degree

A student checks her email on her phone

Many people have concerns about earning a master’s, and rightfully so. It’s a big investment. Plus, not all institutions and programs offer the same level of academic quality.

The learning experience at two seemingly similar schools can be vastly different. Some provide academically rigorous curriculums, filled with career-applicable knowledge. 

Others, not so much.

Even if you enroll in a top-rated college or university, advancing your education doesn’t guarantee you’ll get a better job or earn more money. So, always take time to explore an institution’s post-graduation career placement statistics, available career services for students, alumni support, and other programs.

Do people with a master’s really earn more money?

According to the US Social Security Administration, there are big differences in lifetime earning potential when you factor in educational attainment.

On average, people with a bachelor’s degree can expect about $765,000 more in median lifetime earnings (MLE) compared to people with just a high school diploma. People with graduate degrees earn, on average, about $1.3 million more in MLE than people with no higher education. 1

However, keep in mind that these numbers don’t fully account for some socio-demographic variables.

Regression estimates showed that people with degrees would still make more than $550,000 in additional MLE compared to high school grads.1

The SSA also measured the lifetime returns of educational attainment, factoring in the discounted present dollar value and applying a four-percent annual real discount rate.

In that case, the net present lifetime value at age 20 of a master’s degree relative to a high school diploma is about $355,000 on average.1

Estimated lifetime earnings by educational attainment (in millions of dollars)

Estimated lifetime earnings by educational attainment chart


Unfortunately, there is still a significant gender pay gap in the United States, a complex issue that some institutions like CSU have been working to address.

Money isn’t the only factor

Although you can usually pursue more lucrative career opportunities after earning your master’s, you surely have other considerations.

  • Is the time investment manageable with your current life circumstances?
  • How will you finance your education?
  • Should you enroll in a traditional on-campus program, a fully online program, or a hybrid option?
  • What academic program is right for your career goals?

With all these questions and more on your mind, the process of enrolling in and hopefully completing a master’s can seem daunting.

A master’s isn’t your only option for continuing education

If you’re not quite ready to jump into a full master’s program, consider looking into a graduate certificate. These programs offer a selection of the same advanced courses you would take in a full degree program, but with a more specific focus and less time commitment.

Certificates also serve as a great entry point into graduate studies.

If you end up really loving grad school (as many people do), you may be able to transfer some or all of your certificate credits into a related master’s program. For example, all 12 credits of CSU’s online Business Application Development certificate can be applied toward earning a Master of Computer Information Systems degree, if you decide to continue on.

Positive student outcomes are our #1 priority

At CSU Online, we encourage every prospective student to seek answers to their questions and really investigate if continuing education is the right choice before committing to a program.

This stands in contrast to some other institutions, which go out of their way to assure students that they absolutely need to earn that degree to compete in the current job market or achieve their goals.

That simply isn’t true for everyone.

At CSU Online, we’re committed to having an honest, open conversation with prospective students about their goals, financial situation, personal situation, and other factors.

Our goal is to help steer you in the right direction and provide resources.

Once you’ve explored CSU’s online degrees and certificates, we encourage you to schedule a call with one of our Student Success Coaches to chat about how we can help you access higher education resources, assuming that is the best choice for you.

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