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Do You Need a Master’s Degree?

Is a Master's degree worth it? There is no straight answer to this question, and while it is almost always beneficial for your career, it's important to weigh your options. 

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Is a Master's degree worth it? There is no straight answer to this question, and while it is almost always beneficial for your career, it's important to weigh your options. 

Photo credit: Benzoix

In today’s career world, how much weight does a master’s degree hold? On one hand, you have people who are armed with an undergraduate degree, professional courses, and a wealth of work experience. While on the other you have people who wield a master’s degree in a certain field. Who has a better chance with employers when it comes to recruitment?

Let’s explore the reasons why you should consider pursuing a graduate degree. At the same time, we’ll uncover the instances where getting a master’s degree might draw you back instead of steering your career forward.

To begin with, there are jobs that you can’t get if you aren’t a graduate school alumnus because of the technical expertise needed.:

Here are examples of careers that need a master’s degree as a minimum qualification:


  • Research Associate

  • Marriage and family therapists

  • Expert Macroeconomist

  • Physical therapists

  • Lecturer

  • Economist

  • Historian

  • Psychologist

  • Instructional coordinator

  • Survey researcher

  • Urban and regional planners

… among many others.

There are also organizations that require a master’s degree as a minimum qualification to work for them. These are high-level think tanks and consultant organizations which offer technical support to countries and organizations.


Arguments for a Master’s degree

Positive impact on your career

Once you complete your Master’s degree it opens you up to more opportunities in your career. You can now handle roles and jobs that are of a higher scale and command higher remuneration.

At the same time, you’ll suffer less unemployment compared to people who only have a bachelor’s degree or a high school diploma.

In 2019 the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics revealed that the number of students who enrolled for graduate studies increased by 33%. According to Business Daily, the rapid uptake by students has been caused by the need to acquire formal jobs. The economy currently promotes fewer formal jobs compared to the informal sector.

Another report published in 2012 further indicated that master’s degrees holders earned 20% higher than their bachelor’s degrees counterparts.

A deeper understanding of your field

A bachelor’s degree typically consists of general knowledge in a particular field/industry. But on a larger scale, a master’s degree helps you specialize and gain in-depth knowledge and expertise in that field. According to Seattle PI, at the master’s level, you can pursue more research and explore personal theories and beliefs.

Additionally, you can also get mentorship from professors and partner with fellow classmates on exciting projects that deepen your wealth of knowledge. Hence, this knowledge allows master’s graduates to teach undergraduate students. By this, they practically apply the knowledge that they covered in their master’s program.

In addition to this, master’s programs in humanities and arts offer financial support to students by giving them research assistantships and teaching opportunities. This helps students earn income while pursuing their degrees.


Arguments against a Master’s degree

Even if a master’s degree gives you an opportunity to earn more income and chances of career development, it’s not always ideal. These days many employers place more value on years of practical experience and also past employment. They want to see what you have accomplished outside the classroom.

For instance, if you are an engineer, an employer will hire you based on the quality of your work more than just having a master’s degree. Job experts advise people to pursue alternatives to a master’s degree. These alternatives are entrepreneurship opportunities, continuing education courses, professional workshops, and seminars among many other things.

An expensive affair

Pursuing a master’s degree is an expensive affair. As much as it will lead to earning a higher income, it may require more than you bargained for. The average quality master’s program costs $80,000-$150,000. Many graduate school students opt to borrow money in terms of student loans to make up for the deficit. Different graduate programs usually offer opportunities to teach and also research assistantships. However, the income you derive from them is barely enough to cater to all your tuition expenses and living costs. These opportunities are also rare and highly competitive.

The time needed to complete a master’s degree

When a grad student pursues their master’s degree full time, it takes them roughly two to three years. On the brighter side, that is shorter than the time it takes to complete an undergraduate course. But the downside is that the student loses a lot of professional time that they could use building working experience. Therefore, when opportunities that demand more experience come up, they miss out.

While some grad students prefer to study part-time as they work, it consumes more time and energy. This could leave the person stressed and having low productivity at work and in their academic performance if they don’t have a good plan.


Tips to consider

In many global careers, experience trumps school names. It’s advisable that you look for a master’s program that provides you with the practical experience that your industry needs. This could include internships with major organizations and necessary fieldwork.

In line with this, location has a bearing. For example, there are cities like London, Washington DC, New York, and many others where a lot of global activity happens. There are lots of seminars, workshops and conferences that happen regularly. These are good places to network and build fruitful, long-lasting professional relationships.

Working while studying has advantages

When you study part-time, you can get an income to help you offset the tuition fees. There are also employers who give education benefits that further cover your costs when pursuing a master’s degree.

Another advantage of studying while working is that you’re assured of a job when you complete the program.

Recruiters are impressed by candidates who juggle studies and work because it shows discipline, ability to balance time and life.

Additional degrees after a master’s degree are not so necessary

Experience trumps additional degrees in the job industry. It’s sufficient enough to get your master’s degree and keep working. It will still get you opportunities for high-income jobs. But it’s important to note that many highly technical roles in development organizations such as World Bank, International Finance Corporation, United Nations, University professors need doctorate degrees.



There is no straight answer to the question of whether a master’s degree is mandatory or not. Before you enroll for that master’s program you need to perform a detailed evaluation. Kate Warren of Devex advises that you should be sure that there are opportunities on the other side before you invest time and money in a graduate degree.

Take the reports and statistics from the school on job placement after completing a master’s degree. Additionally, you should talk to experienced professionals and thought leaders about the prospects that will open up to you when you complete your master’s degree.

Weigh your options logically and thoroughly and make the best choice for your future.

Written by

Wahome Ngatia

Peter Wahome Ngatia is an all rounded Marketing Specialist who deals in Graphic Design, Social Media, SEO and Content Writing. My passion is to use my skills and knowledge to help African businesses grow and thrive so that we can create employment for the youth. I also want to churn helpful content that inspires millennials to go hard after their dreams. Mantra: You learn more from failure than success.

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