Is a Master’s Degree Worth the Investment?
Few would debate that doing a master’s degree involves significant sacrifices, difficulties, time, money, and effort. The burning question is, is it worth it?
A ‘one rule fits all’ answer just doesn’t exist; there are too many variables, such as, age, stage of career, subject area, personal interest, as well as marketplace trends/demands and industry/career requirements etc. The value of post-grad studies depends on each individual who should research and weigh up these factors for themselves before deciding. However, advice from tech and business industry experts and current employee insiders, will help you crystallize and clarify some of these issues.
What do tech business insiders think?
A scan of different perspectives shared in online business platforms reveals a list of useful, generic pros and cons regarding post grad studies in computer science and technology-based industries. The following is a summary of these:
1) You can indulge your passion while giving you more in-depth knowledge:
You will get more of an understanding of your field of study; it’s an opportunity to explore your subject passion further so that you’re more prepared to successfully enter the workforce; it’s an opportunity to learn as much as you can, as deep as you can, which is vital for success in the dynamic, constantly developing fields of technology where it’s essential to keep updated and relevant. The latter is especially true for those considering a Master’s after years of working in their field.
2) It can give you more hands-on experience:
Depending on your subject area, a Master’s can offer you more of a hands-on focus E.g., in Computer Science post-grad studies you’ll have more projects and assignments rather than theory-based classes.
3) There’s a potential to earn money while you study:
You can earn while you study by going freelance and offering your services locally E.g., as an IT support, or in web development etc.
4) It’ll expand your professional network:
You will meet like-minded students, researchers and professionals which will grow new opportunities for employment, business, research and collaboration.
5) It’ll help you take the next step in your career:
It’s a chance to explore new career paths and progress your career.
6) You will have a higher starting salary:
An OECD national average report (www.vanna.com) indicates that those holding a post-graduate degree will be paid a salary 27% higher than undergraduates.
7) It will give you an edge when applying for management positions in your career field:
Doing your Master’s will provide you with more specialized skills and experience, such as, in management and leadership making you better positioned to take advantage of these career opportunities as they come up.
8) It can open doors to different career opportunities within your industry:
A Master’s is likely to open-up new additional areas of the industry over what you did in your undergrad degree. You may find you have more of a passion and/or skillset for one of these new niche areas.
1) It’s not financially worth it:
Although your starting salary might be higher, people who work for a year instead would probably have been given a raise anyway and would be at the same level as you when you start. The financial costs of a Master’s will probably never be recouped during your career, so don’t study for the money.
2) Work experience is valued over academic qualifications:
Senior management consulting executives say academic qualifications count more than zero experience. However, work experience is valued more than academic qualifications if the basic university graduating requirements have been met. Employers want ability, not just education.
3) You can learn the skills without doing a Master’s:
You can learn more on the job than in an academic setting, E.g., you can learn FIX, SQL, XML without a Master’s.
4) It doesn’t guarantee you a job:
It may be true that more knowledge makes you more employable generally. The OECD national average report shows that those with Master’s degrees have 5% more likelihood of being employed over undergraduate degree holders. However, once you get an interview in a computer science or technology-based field, everything is skills-based and not founded on academic qualifications.
5) You won’t see an immediate shift in career progress:
It won’t be possible to make an abrupt shift from E.g., IT to join a data analysis firm. Instead, be prepared to transition slowly by learning and working at the same time. Keep an aim in mind, like building Facebook’s user visualization and learn data science to achieve it.
Key questions to ask yourself before signing up for a Master’s course.
1) Why are you considering a Master’s?
It isn’t a comfortable waiting room while you decide on a career path or simply want to avoid joining the workforce. It should bring you closer to your pre-determined career aspirations.
2) If you got a better paying position in a more stimulating role, would you still want to do a Master’s?
Do you need this degree to be successful in your field? Would getting more hands-on experience get you the same outcome?
3) Is a Master’s degree something YOU want, or something others want for you?
This needs to be your decision based at least on your passion for the subject.
4) How will this degree influence your career and future?
Post-grad studies require a plethora of sacrifices and confront you with just as many difficulties, such as, loan debt, working while studying or studying without an income, personal pressures, workload issues etc. Your decision to do a Master’s, needs to withstand this onslaught. It needs to be clear and intentional, not a ‘I’ll figure it out later’ one. It needs to get you closer to your dream career.