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Bachelor’s Degrees vs. Master’s Degrees

Depending on the career path you have chosen to pursue, you may be exploring your options or, in some cases, requirements for higher education degrees. It can be difficult to figure out if you should pursue a Master’s degree following your undergraduate degree, or if your Bachelor’s will be enough to land you in your career of choice. On top of that, if you do decide on graduate school, it is important to understand how it will differ from your undergrad experience. Read on for the key differences between earning a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s.

Cost of Attending

The cost of attendance for college varies from school to school, depending the location, size, and ranking of school. This applies for graduate schools also, but one thing you can be nearly certain on is that your Master’s degree will come with a higher schedule of fees and tuition than your Bachelor’s. Like an undergraduate degree, however, there is financial aid available in the form of state and federal loans and grants as well as scholarships from a number of sources.

It is key to remember, however, that your Master’s degree – in most cases – will increase your earning potential and generate more income. Also, graduate assistantships and fellowships available to graduate students may help lighten the financial burden, as well as stipends or tuition reimbursement options from your full-time employer. While earning your Master’s degree certainly will not be cheap, there are plenty of options, just as in undergraduate school, for lessening the cost.

Time Commitment

While on the path to your Bachelor’s degree, you will have to take a number of classes outside of your major and department. These general education requirements (GERs) take up a good chunk of time, and are partially responsible for the traditional four-year college path to a BA or BS degree for students who attend school full time. The goal is to give your education a sturdy basis and create a well-rounded knowledge foundation that will serve to contribute to your major field and offer perspective.

In graduate school, your focus is much different, as well as your time commitment. You can kiss those GERs goodbye, but be prepared for much more intensive work for your classes. For your Master’s degree, your education will be much more streamlined and will target your specific field of choice, but you are now learning to be an expert in your field. Research paper requirements will increase in size and quality and will demand more of your attention and concentration. As far as length of the program, most Master’s degree students average two to three classes per semester over five to six semesters. Depending on whether or not you work full time, you may find it in your best interest to elongate or shorten this term.

Earning Potential

The difference between a Bachelor’s degree holder’s income potential and that of a Master’s degree holder varies greatly from field to field, industry to industry. What also varies is the necessity of each degree. Some industries require only an undergraduate degree to reach the highest level, and some require a Master’s degree to even enter the field. To be sure which applies to your specific situation, research and communication with your advisors and professionals in your field is key.

In nearly all cases, though, applying to a position as a graduate of a Master’s program comes with the ability to demand a higher salary. It can also help you move more quickly up the ladder with the company for which you already work, even surpassing co-workers at the same level of experience but with less educational credits. But on the flipside, some companies and industries prefer applicants without degrees just for that reason, in order to keep costs at a minimum. Knowing your industry and career path will help you determine which track is best for you.

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