What Is the ROI of Graduate School?

Furthering your education carries a host of benefits, from deepening your knowledge in a field of study you’re passionate about to greatly expanding your professional network and opportunities for personal and career growth.

But what kind of return on investment can you expect from graduate school? Is the investment worth the potential debt and sacrifice of salary (and free time)?

Overall, the numbers say yes. With an advanced degree, you could have:

  • A substantially higher salary: Advanced degree holders typically earn a salary 35 percent higher than those with a bachelor’s degree alone, according to the State Higher Education Executive Board.
  • More job options: By 2022, 18 percent of all jobs will require a master’s degree, according to a 2013 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Of course not all master’s degrees are created equal. Some might give you a deeper knowledge of an area of study that you love, and a modest salary bump, while others that are flexible and transferable to multiple industries, such as project management or leadership, offer more “bang for your buck.”

For example, a degree in the life sciences, such as biotechnology and informatics, can boost your salary by an average of 101 percent, according to Georgetown’s Center on Education and the Workforce, while a degree in computer science can give you a raise of 31 percent. Even the arts, which at 23 percent have the lowest ROI for a master’s degree, can boost your salary enough to add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime.

Why else should you get your master’s? Aside from the hard numbers, there are several other ways a master’s degree can provide a great ROI.

Benefits of Earning a Master’s Degree

It Sets You Apart

Let’s face it: a college degree isn’t what it used to be. As Forbes puts it, the college degree is the new high school diploma. The number of advanced degree holders has risen substantially in the past couple of decades. With a larger talent pool to choose from, employers are seeking out those candidates with advanced degrees, even in professions that haven’t historically required them.

It Expands Your Knowledge and Skills

Maybe you have your undergraduate degree in programming but aren’t sure if that’s your long-term career path. Earning your master’s degree in project management or leadership can help you gain valuable specialized knowledge that can be used across numerous industries.

It Expands Your Personal and Professional Network

How many jobs, internships, and other opportunities have come to you through friends, family, colleagues, and other contacts? Having a large network is important no matter where in your career path you happen to be. When you become a grad student, you are exposed to a network of peers who are successful in their field and learning from professors with relevant industry experience.

At Northeastern, students gain access to more than 3,000 employer partners and 230,000 alumni—a network that will create contacts to help you at every stage in your career.

But most importantly, find the school that’s right for youROI will be a moot point if you decide not to complete your degree. Decide what you need most from a school, and make sure the programs you’re considering offer the features that work best for you.