Why Pursue a Master’s Degree?


Many GSAS students have more than a single reason for considering graduate studies at the master’s level. Students often enter master’s degree programs:

  • To start a new career in a chosen professional field

  • To prepare for graduate study at the doctoral level

  • To expand their knowledge of fields related to their current areas of professional specialization

  • To study a field they love and to explore future employment in a related area

  • To acquire skills in new technologies and methods that have developed in their fields

  • To improve their relative standing in a competitive field and a challenging job market

  • To prepare for entrepreneurial projects that require expertise in a specific field of study

  • To gain access to the professional resources available in New York City

  • To take advantage of the outstanding resources available at a world-class research university

  • To gain recognition and credibility

  • To get out from behind the desk

Benefits of Obtaining a Master’s Degree

Securing Your Career

  • In the highly competitive global marketplace, a master’s degree sets you apart from other job candidates.

  • With a master’s degree, you’ll be eligible for more jobs. The number of occupations that typically require a master’s degree will increase by nearly 20% between 2006 and 2016. In many career sectors, such as higher education administration, public affairs, and social services, a master's degree is replacing a bachelor's as the minimum requirement for employment. With a bachelor's degree in the 1980s, one could secure an entry level position as an admissions counselor, academic adviser, or student services coordinator. By the 2000s, applicants for these same entry-level positions were not even considered unless they held a master's degree. While holding a graduate degree is not a guarantee of ultimate success, it certainly opens many more doors for employment.

  • A master’s degree helps give you job security. Data from the 2012 U.S. Census Bureau show that the unemployment rate for holders of master’s degree is 3.5% compared with 4.5% for those with only bachelor’s degrees, while unemployment rates among those with doctorates (2.5%) and advanced professional degrees (2.1%) are approximately half that of those with only a bachelor’s degree.

Professional Development

  • Master’s degree programs are increasingly becoming professionalized, with a new focus on preparing graduates for careers in business, government, and non-profit settings. 

  • For graduate degree holders, the numbers are favorable: U.S. workers between the ages of 21 and 64 with a master's degree or higher earn an average annual salary of $55,242, versus those with a bachelor's degree whose average annual salary is $42,877, according to the United States Census Bureau. That represents nearly a 30 percent difference in average annual salary—and offers clear evidence that completing a graduate degree can make a positive impact on one's financial situation.


  • Master’s degree programs combine discipline-specific, advanced coursework with skills like critical thinking, analytic ability, and time management that are easily transferred if your career path changes.

  • Earning a graduate degree is evidence of persistence, determination, intellectual prowess, and the ability to handle challenging environments—all of which are sought-after qualities for individuals filling manager and director positions. An employee who has demonstrated success in a long-term situation that requires stamina, discipline, leadership, and the ability to work well with others is going to be in line for growth opportunities within his or her organization.


  • Employer Incentives: Some large corporations have funds set aside that will pay partial or full fees for qualified employees.


Personal Development

  • A master’s degree not only deepens your education, but also allows you to contribute out of the classroom. 

  • Demand for services in education and not-for-profit sectors continues to grow and, as a highly-skilled master’s degree recipient, you’ll be able to fulfill those roles.

  • Choosing to pursue a master’s degree takes initiative and commitment. The same traits, along with your newly gained knowledge and skills, will make you a successful leader and innovator when you complete your degree.


  • Enjoy travel opportunities. Some programs, such as archaeology, require studying abroad for research purposes. For those who like to travel, this is a bonus.


  • Be part of a chain of knowledge. Just imagine that the knowledge handed to you by your professor came from another professor who learned it from someone who learned it from a famous scientist or philosopher. You become part of a chain of knowledge.


  • Greater recognition and credibility: There are countless numbers of graduate degree holders who have gone on to accomplish great things, and who are afforded the respect and recognition they deserve and have earned. Unquestionably, an advanced degree makes a difference on a résumé. It says something about who you are and the dedication you have to your chosen field.


  • Sense of accomplishment: The effort put forth to complete your studies, despite moments of doubt and uncertainty, will stand as a central character-building life experience.



Updated on 05/04/2015