For many, education is a big question in terms of finances. Can one afford it in the first place? What about loans and the return in investment in terms of career salaries? And what on earth should they go for? Maybe an Associates, Bachelors or even Graduate or Post-Grad degree? Here, we take a look at the salary earnings averages across the board for Masters and other Graduate school, well, graduates. If you’re interested in our article for new college grads (bachelors) feel free to take a look here.
Average Salary for a Graduate Degree – $70,000
The average salary for someone who has passed through a graduate program is around $70,000 but this comes with many, many caveats. First of all, we are casting an incredibly wide net from social worker master’s degrees (which typically go lower than most in salary) to MBA’s and Law degrees which make considerably more on average. For our calculations we left out Medical School graduates simply due to how skewed the numbers would become, and we already featured their salaries in our article here. Now, in terms of maximizing earnings, there are several factors one has to consider. The most obvious and the biggest influencer of salary is of course what you’d like an advanced degree in. Aside from the MBA and JD mentioned above, advanced degrees in engineering fields, chemistry, and intelligence or policy fields. The second factor is of course, where you go to school. It’s not surprising that the top 10 earners out the gate for Graduate salaries are big names like Harvard, Emory, UCLA and Columbia. That being said, just because you didn’t get into a big name school (or are not looking to apply to one) in most cases, the difference can easily be made up with some internship and work experience to round out your knowledge base. Lastly in terms of determining your pay would be where you work. Keep in mind that some lower paying jobs do have some great benefits, such as when working with governments and 503c organizations. Both of these jobs look good on a resume and can lead to fulfilling careers on their own, or if you’re pretty deep in loan debt, you can work for these organizations for a set amount of time to have loans forgiven (in many places, this is around 5-10 years). This value can’t quite be calculated into a salary determinant, but is handy, also keeping in mind that once you hit that 10 year mark, most individuals with advanced degrees are comfortably over $100,000 a year in salary. Now that we’ve covered earnings, let’s see how you can get into a program, graduate, and start making a decent salary.
How Do You Become a Graduate?
To graduate from a graduate program is a long and often winding road. However, it’s not impossible, and not for just the most elite of students (though being a good student can save you time and money). So before we go through some of the more advanced choices you’ll have to make, let’s rewind a bit and see some starting choices.
So, before you get into a Grad School in the first place, you have to attend University (and may apply to the same one later) and to do that, of course graduating high school is needed, or a GED. It is my personal opinion that, unless you are granted a scholarship for grades in high school, are accepted into an Ivy League school or are getting funding from the Military as a part of the GI bill, starting out at a community college is probably your best step after high school (with AP and Dual Enrollment being great choices while in high school).
Now, after enrolling in either community college or University, it’s time to find something that you can see yourself doing as a career. Some people say follow your dreams, some people say follow the money, but I take the middle path. Do something you don’t hate, but also something that pays decently enough that you can afford a life outside of work full of other things you also enjoy. Keep in mind that early major changes are not a sign of failure but just re-evaluations of what you want. That being said, you should try to keep to a major after your first or at most, second year. This will minimize the amount of loans tacked onto your tuition (or just the cost). During your time here, try to reach out for internships and jobs related to your field. An example of this was that at one point in time, I actively worked in a psychiatric clinic that catered to poorer, inner city patients and did research in Human Computer Interaction while studying for an Undergraduate degree. These would later come in handy when applying to a Master’s program in Public Health.
So you’ve made it mostly through University, maybe with some experience under your belt, and hopefully a decent GPA. Most schools have a 3.0 minimum for admission, though some schools do allow for 3.0 within the last 60 credit hours for those who had a rough first year or so. Now, time to start looking at related Master’s programs. Depending on what you want to do, there may be one or several exams you can take to qualify for the advanced degree. These include the MCAT, LSAT, and GRE in many cases. Each of these exams test what you should have in terms of knowledge before entering into a Health or Medicine program, Law, or tests several key components on a major-related basis. For prospective MBA applicants, you can expect to study for the General GRE which includes Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Analytical Writing portions, while say a Biology Grad prospective applicant would have to study Cellular and Molecular Biology, Organismal Biology, and Ecology/Evolution sections. Most schools have a minimum required score per test or section, but the higher the score, the better the application. After the results are in, all that’s left to do is apply.
We’ve finally made it to graduate school. Now, we have yet still a few options to choose from. We can essentially repeat the method we did at university (in fact, many graduate schools require the internship aspects), and if we’re ambitious, take on a Thesis track. This can be great for later advancement into academia or a Ph.D. program, but depending on your degree it can either be critical or a footnote. Also, many schools have the options of attending in person or online, so that those individuals who are already in a career field can keep working and get significant promotion, or those who need a bit more research experience can get it in person. Either way, just as in university it’s a good idea to keep your grades up so as to keep your options open. Lastly, keep in mind that some programs have certification or exit exams, so keeping notes and studying on topics that may be presented in the program exam may prove to be essential. After passing that, having your Thesis published (if you had one) and graduating, you’ve made it. Now to find a job, hopefully one that pays better than average.