4 Ways to Make Your Master’s Degree Worth the Money

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Read these smart tips from Savvy Sugar to find out how to get the most of your graduate school experience.

Going back to school is looking more attractive with a growing number of employers requiring a master’s degree. Apparently, an undergraduate degree just isn’t enough these days.

But it’s dangerous to assume that advanced degrees are a guaranteed ticket to cushy jobs. Not so much. The tale of the Starbucks barista with a JD is unfortunately all too common. If you decide to take the plunge and enroll in higher education, follow these four tips to make your grad school education worth its while:

Build Ties With Faculty

It’s important to get to know your professors, because some of them may have job leads and can take a central role in your professional development. “Students need to talk to faculty. I hear about jobs all the time that I wouldn’t put on the listserv, because I want to make sure that I connect my source with an appropriate talent. I don’t want either party coming back to me later complaining,” says Marcel Pacatte, professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. “All Medill graduates have things they’re good at, but not all Medill graduates are good at the same things. And that’s important to realize.”

Make Your Master's Degree Worth the MoneyTry New Things

Take advantage of your time in grad school to explore new things: It may even result in a new career path. “While you’re in grad school, I think it’s important to sample everything it offers. One student came here and had never held a video camera—never even entered his consciousness—and because of his Medill experience, he’s now a documentarian,” Pacatte says. Picking up a broad array of skills and experiences will make your résumé look less cookie cutter, which is to your advantage.

Be Honest With Yourself

Take the time to figure out what you’re interested in and attempt to do that by talking to different people, taking classes and participating in various activities. “I think the trick is to be genuine. Do the stuff that excites you. By doing the stuff that excites you, you will actually be going down the right path,” says Stanford Business School graduate David Rogier, who is currently working with Michael Dearing, a prominent angel investor. “If I knew from the first day of school that I wanted to be in marketing, I would change what I would do. I would take a bunch of marketing classes, I would join the marketing club, I would organize events about marketing.”

Find a Good Internship

This is probably the best value your school has to offer you, so make sure you take advantage of it. Start your search early and pad your résumé with activities and projects so you’ll be a more attractive internship candidate. It’s a chance to test out a new industry and to try out unfamiliar companies. Rogier said, “It’s good to do an internship in an area that you haven’t been in before. It gives you a safe way to try something you’ve never done before. It’s like sampling a new flavor at a frozen yogurt shop—you can always go back and get the safe choice later.”

To read this post in its original form, head over to Savvy Sugar

  • http://mischievouskitty.blogspot.com Stephanie

    I’ll personally attest to the importance of finding a good internship and trying new things/being open-minded!! 

    I have a Masters degree in library and information science, and as soon as I got into grad school I picked up a paid internship at a local library.  I’m still just working part-time at that library (though now making a librarian’s hourly wage) and even after you subtract my student loan payments I’m making $6000+/year more than what I’m putting into my education costs.  If I hadn’t bothered snagging that internship right away, I may not have been able to get my foot in the door anywhere since I graduated right before the economy crashed.

    Plus, I was able to use my MLIS as a selling point when I applied for an auditor position with my full-time employer, because my coursework actually gave me a bit of an edge when it comes to learning data analytics software.  I’d still love to work full-time in a library, but most of the time I genuinely enjoy my full-time job, which is more than a lot of people can say. :-)

  • Greta

    Right now, I’m trying to decide on whether to pursue a Masters degree in Communications with a Public Relations concentration, or to become certified in Public Relations. Graduate school is a great accomplishment. However, as your article stated, “it’s dangerous to assume that advanced degrees are a guaranteed ticket to cushy jobs.”  I’m just curious to know your thoughts on receiving a certification instead of a Masters degree? Your future financial earning potential may be the same depending on the industry.

    • http://senseofcents.blogspot.com/ Michelle

      I’m not sure about a certification in Public Relations, but I know that in the financial services industry, a CFA is considered more highly than an MBA, because when you have a CFA, your employer or interviewer knows exactly what you went through, whereas not all MBAs are the same.

  • http://www.bmwysp.deviantart.com Jennifer Megan Varnadore

    I’m actually getting my Associate’s Degree right now. It’s in Criminal Justice. I took two years of JROTC in high school too, so that definitely is a good degree of experience with stuff. I want to add in a bunch of volunteer work and community service, but a lot of that I’m not sure where to go for stuff like that. I know I can volunteer at my library, and I did a couple times, but it interfered with the amount of work I got done around finals. I stopped for a while, and haven’t gotten back around to starting up again… Ya’ll should do something on Community Service stuff and volunteer work. :3

  • Anonymous

    I would tell everyone out there to work on your basic skills, that seems to be where America is lacking educationally.  Also, minoring in a subject that you are interested in can be very useful.