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Graduate Degrees, Income, and Employment Rates


Once upon a time, a bachelor’s degree could almost guarantee you a full-time job with a decent income and steady advancement opportunities. Today, this is only a fairy tale for many people.

For people currently serving in the United States military, career advancement opportunities can improve with higher education. A graduate degree can assist with an advancement in rank, which will put you in a better financial position when you are ready to retire.

Once out of the military, as civilian employers scale back on their hiring and job competitiveness increases, a master’s degree could give you the edge over your competition by making you more marketable. A survey completed by a leading global career and education network found that “in some specialized areas where technical skills are particularly significant, the benefit of a master’s degree can outweigh that of up to four years of work experience.”


What Are Your Options?

Enrollment in graduate programs is on the rise, so which are the most popular? According to the Council of Graduate Schools, the top 5 programs are:

  • Education
  • Business
  • Health Sciences
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Engineering

While education and business degrees are by far the most popular with about 50 percent of enrollments, the most potential career growth can be found with a degree in engineering, health sciences and computer science. In fact, many of the Bureau of Labor Statistic's top 15 fastest growing careers fall within these areas.

However, if you want to earn an MBA, all is not lost. According to the Association of MBAs, career advancement is the number one reason people choose an MBA program. And, an MBA is widely considered to be the most financially rewarding graduate degree. Those attending a part-time MBA program saw their average salary increase by about 55 percent after graduation, according to the Graduate Management Admissions Council.

There’s no doubt that earning a master’s degree requires an investment of time and money, but in the end, you will see a return on your investment.


Why an Advanced Degree Matters

Statistics show that your earning potential rises for each level of education obtained. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2010 average annual income for someone with master’s degree was just over $12,000 more per year than someone with a bachelor’s degree. Over a 30 year career, you could potentially earn $400,000 more with a graduate degree. Plus, unemployment rates go down proportionately as education levels go up.

Doctorate

  • Average Annual Income: $80,600
  • Unemployment Rate: 1.9%

Master’s

  • Average Annual Income: $66,144
  • Unemployment Rate: 4.0%

Bachelor’s

  • Average Annual Income: $53,976
  • Unemployment Rate: 5.4%

Associate

  • Average Annual Income: $39,884
  • Unemployment Rate: 7.0%

Some College

  • Average Annual Income: $37,024
  • Unemployment Rate: 9.2%

High School Diploma

  • Average Annual Income: $32,552
  • Unemployment Rate: 10.3%


Contributed by Johanna Altland, Grantham University

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