How a Master's Degree Can Help Your Career

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To go to grad school or to not go to grad school? To help you answer that question, we've pinpointed several careers where it may pay off.

By Tony Moton

If you're thinking about earning a master's degree, you're probably wondering if all that talk about it replacing the bachelor's as a staple degree is true...

Before you dismiss the notion, consider this: A 2012 report from the Council of Graduate Schools and the Educational Testing Service found that master's degree holders will be needed to fill the growing number of in-demand jobs in coming years.

In fact, the report, titled "Pathways to Graduate School and Into Careers," found that the amount of jobs requiring a master's degree will increase by about 22 percent between 2010 and 2020.

Suffice to say, there are actually quite a few careers out there where a master's degree might be worthwhile.

Intrigued? Keep reading for some cool careers where earning a master's degree just may be worth the effort.

Career #1: Medical and Health Services Manager

Medical and health services managers can be found at hospitals and other types of health care facilities, ensuring the delivery of health care services runs efficiently.* If this career sounds like a good fit for you, then this is an instance where you might want to consider earning your master's in health care administration.

Why Grad School? While a bachelor's degree can get you in the door, the U.S. Department of Labor says earning a master's degree in health care administration, public health, or related majors might be required to advance into positions with more responsibility and higher salaries. In other words - it may be tougher to run the show here without a master's degree.

That's because earning a master's degree in health administration could help provide a better understanding of complex laws, regulations, and health care issues, says Lauren Johnson, internship coordinator for career services at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

Click to Find the Right Health Care Administration Program Now.

"A master's degree (program) is going to help you learn about insurance and health care laws," Johnson says. "As a health care manager, you are going to want to know about things like the importance of confidentiality and dealing with insurance companies."

Median Annual Wage: $86,400**
Average Annual Wage for Workers in the 90th Percentile: $147,890
Average Annual Wage for Workers in the 10th Percentile: $52,730


Career #2: Financial Analyst

Financial analysts are essential in helping businesses and people make sound investment decisions, assessing stock performance, keeping an eye on economic trends, and more.

Why Grad School? While it's true that a bachelor's could be sufficient for entry-level positions, the U.S. Department of Labor says that employers often require a master's in business administration (MBA) or a master's degree in finance.

Click to Find the Right MBA Program Now.

According to Johnson, earning an MBA could play a significant role for someone who wants to work in higher level management in the finance sector.

"You are going to learn much more challenging aspects of finance, like trying to figure out budgets, with an MBA than you are with a bachelor's degree," Johnson says. "If you want to become a senior financial analyst for a big firm, you'll need a master's."

Median Annual Wage: $75,650
Average Annual Wage for Workers in the 90th Percentile: $145,580
Average Annual Wage for Workers in the 10th Percentile: $46,300


Career #3: Public Relations Manager

In public relations, image is everything and your job is making sure the public sees your client often - and always in a favorable light. Sound like the career for you? Then you may want to consider getting your master's.

Why Grad School? The U.S. Department of Labor reports that one-fourth of all public relations managers had a master's degree in 2010.

Click to Find the Right Marketing Program Now.

The Department of Labor also notes that work experience over several years, combined with a master's degree, could help improve chances of managers advancing into positions as directors in upper-level management.

And here's another reason to consider a master's: A 2011 study presented at the Annual Meeting of the Public Relations Society of America Foundation showed that a master's degree also opened doors to those seeking research-based positions at public relations firms.

Median Annual Wage: $93,310
Average Annual Wage for Workers in the 90th Percentile: $176,400
Average Annual Wage for Workers in the 10th Percentile: $50,360


Career #4: Career Counselor

Career counselors mentor others as they make important decisions about their professional lives. Sound good to you? Before you can start advising others, you'll have to make an important decision about your professional life - since career counselors typically need a master's degree.

Why Grad School? For starters, per the U.S. Department of Labor, a master's degree in school counseling (or a related field) is generally required for you to work as a career counselor in most states.

Additionally, "In a master's degree program, you learn how to counsel people and what approach to take," Johnson says. "The master's gives you the extra skills and research you need on different approaches to counseling."

Click to Find the Right Counseling Program Now.

Median Annual Wage: $54,130
Average Annual Wage for Workers in the 90th Percentile: $87,020
Average Annual Wage for Workers in the 10th Percentile: $32,130


Career #5: Financial Manager

You might be wondering how this career differs from a financial analyst, but hear us out. While analysts study trends and financial statements, financial managers are the ones who actually manage the financial information. In fact, they're the ones who ensure legal requirements are met while helping upper management make financial decisions.

But as is the case with analysts, you may want to consider a master's if you want to pursue financial management opportunities.

Why Grad School? A bachelor's is considered the minimum education for a career as a financial manager, says the U.S. Department of Labor, which also reports that a master's degree in majors such as business administration and finance are now required by many employers.

Why? The Department of Labor notes that master's programs might help the student sharpen analytical skills and develop stronger methods of financial analysis.

Click to Find the Right Finance Program Now.

"You've got to know a lot about different computer systems and accounting methods, and this is why a master's degree is beneficial," Johnson says. "You might take an entrepreneurship class that tells you all the different things you need to look for as a financial manager."

Median Annual Wage: $107,160
Average Annual Wage for Workers in the 90th Percentile: $187,199
Average Annual Wage for Workers in the 10th Percentile: $58,120

*All career responsibilities courtesy of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition.
**All wage information comes from the U.S. Department of Labor using May 2011 data. Salary for Public Relations Manager refers to data for Public Relations and Fundraising Managers. Salary for Career Counselors refers to data for Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational Counselors.


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