Is the Cost of A Masters Degree Worth It?

Image of a piggy bank with red glasses.

If you’re like 70% of college students, you’ve taken out loans to cover the costs of your education. But despite the burdensome expense, a degree provides an opportunity––we’re talking more jobs, higher lifetime earnings, and an increased ability to weather economic disruptions as seen in 2020. But what about a master’s degree? Does it take the benefits of a bachelor’s degree and multiply it? Possibly! But, like many decisions, it depends on a few different factors.

The Costs

The average salary for someone with a bachelor’s degree is $64,000 a year, wherein, someone with a master’s degree earns an average of $76,000 a year, according to Payscale. In ten years, that’s a difference of $120,000! But just like a bachelor’s degree, they don’t hand these out for free. You’ll need to subtract the total expense it takes to get the degree from the potential increase in salary to calculate your net gain. Since master’s degrees cost an average of $60,000 to $80,000, you’ll have it paid off in a little over a year. That is, if your loan doesn’t accrue interest, you stop eating for a year, and live rent-free. Obviously, this isn’t realistic, so let’s run the math by using a student loan payoff calculator by to get an idea of when you’ll really have your debt paid off:

Assume you have a student loan debt of $64,000 at 5.28% APR. You make $400 monthly payments.

With these data points, you’ll be debt-free in 23 years and have paid $151,941.94 in interest!

As you can see, the interest on your loans makes a huge difference in the actual cost of a degree. While we can all hope the government will forgive our debts, making decisions on the fickle nature of politics isn’t advised. However, there is another strategy you may want to consider to cover the costs of college without loans. There are financial loans and scholarships, but beyond these, you may want to seek out programs offering graduate or research assistantships. These programs may offer a small living stipend or cover a portion of your college tuition! Or consider talking to your employer to see if they will cover some or all of the tuition.


The Jobs That Offer Big Returns

With the hard numbers behind the price of a master’s degree, you may be seeking a job with a hefty return on investment. According to, nursing anesthesiologists with a master’s of science in nursing earn a whopping average of $176,386 each year. Next in line is those in information technology––think, information researchers, software developers, and computer network architects. These folks will benefit from a master’s of science in IT with an average salary of $121,769. And there’s plenty of other examples of professions in the sciences and healthcare sector where a master’s degree can pay off. But, you’d be remiss to ignore the earning potential of a master’s in business administration or finance. Professions with an advanced degree in these fields often pay above $100,000 on average.


Some Jobs Require a Masters Degree 

While some people pursue a master’s degree for the pay increase, others choose it because it’s the only path to their dream job. For example, your favorite librarian likely holds a master’s in library sciences, as it’s a requirement to advance beyond a library assistant or subject specialist. Along similar lines, curators at museums will require a master’s degree in curatorial studies. Another surprise job sector requiring a master’s degree is in nursing. While it isn’t technically required to be a nurse practitioner, it is becoming a major expectation, making it hard to compete without one. Although, that was before the nursing shortage. However, if a nurse practitioner wants to advance to a managerial role, they’ll need a master’s in science nursing.


Weigh It All Out

So, is the cost of a master’s degree worth it? The answer depends on your personal career goals and financial situation. By carefully researching industry expectations, your career path, and your own expectations, you’ll be able to make an informed decision. But if you’re struggling to come to a decision even after you’ve done all this or you’re unsure of the details, you should wait. After all, you have plenty of time to decide. Just ask Brian Lowe, a 102-year-old who received his master’s from Cambridge in 2016.

Want to Learn More? Check out our resource section dedicated to all things related to graduate school or attend one of our upcoming events!

By Thomas Guzowski, U of R Employee
Thomas Guzowski, U of R Employee Assistant Director of Marketing