6 Things You Need to Know About Obtaining an Advanced Degree - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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Continuing Education
February 26, 2018

6 Things You Need to Know About Obtaining an Advanced Degree

Making the decision to pursue an advanced degree is a big one — maybe one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. It sets you on an entirely new life track that blesses you with long-term gifts and tests you with short-term challenges. Here are six of the most common things to bear in mind as you consider earning a master’s degree.

1) It’s the perfect way to let your light shine more brightly.

Drilling down deep into a field of study that calls to your heart is the perfect way to make the absolute most of your God-given talents and passions. As you broaden your knowledge and refine your skills, you’re equipping yourself for even more meaningful service in the world that brings glory to God.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

2) Your relationships may suffer.

Most master’s programs require two years of study for completion. Whether you opt for an on-campus experience or choose to enroll in a 100-percent-online degree program, your “free time” may be very limited.

It’s important to let parents, siblings, friends, and children know of your plans to return to school early on in your process and enlist their support. Reassure them that even though you might not be as available to them for a while, it is in no way a reflection of your love for them. Communicate how much you need and appreciate their help and understanding during this period.

3) You’ll probably incur debt.

Although the cost of tuition and fees of graduate degree programs varies greatly depending on the school and academic program, “on average, annual tuition at public colleges and universities totals nearly $30,000 and at private schools nearly $40,000,” according to Peterson’s. This doesn’t include books, supplies, or transportation.

U.S. News & World Report cites a study from New America, a non-partisan, nonprofit think tank, which found “the median debt for someone earning a Master of Arts rose from $38,000 in 2004 to $59,000 a mere eight years later.” It’s imperative that you explore all of the financial aid options available to you as well as any special scholarships, awards, fellowships, and grants you may be eligible for.

Does your prospective school offer any kind of tuition waivers, on-campus employment, or teaching assistantships to help you offset your tuition costs? If you’re currently working, look into employer-sponsored tuition reimbursement benefits.

4) A master’s degree will often boost your earning potential.

When calculating the financial pros and cons of an advanced degree, spend some time researching the salaries for the occupations you’ll qualify for once you graduate. Although a master’s degree is not a guarantee of greater marketability, certain advancement, or higher wages, there are many professions for which the return on investment is high.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports some of the career fields in which you’ll enjoy the biggest financial boost from a master's in terms of increased earnings over a candidate who holds just a bachelor’s include:

  •    Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents, many of whom hold a master’s degree in business administration (MBA), had the biggest wage premium of all occupations. Workers who had a master’s degree earned a wage that was nearly 90 percent higher than that for workers with a bachelor’s degree. The median annual salary for this group in 2016 was $67,310.
  •    The fast-growing fields of health care and social service include many occupations with wage premiums for a master’s degree. Physician assistants (PA) with a master’s degree had a median wage that was 44 percent higher than that of workers with a bachelor’s degree. A PA’s median salary in 2016 was $101,480.
  •    The payoff for earning an advanced degree in education is usually relatively high, according to the BLS. Education administrators had the highest percentage wage premium, with 44 percent higher wages for master’s degree holders and a $92,510 per year median salary. The BLS states, “the wage premium for preschool and kindergarten teachers was nearly as high, at 43 percent.”
  •    Many STEM and math-related occupations reward master’s degree holders with higher salaries, including computer programmers and computer systems analysts. The BLS reports statisticians and mathematicians with a master’s degree had a 33 percent higher median wage at $81,950 in 2016.

5) You’ll have to up your time-management and organizational game.

If you’re not an inherently organized person, you’ll need to find some strategies to help you become one. U.S. News & World Report advises, “a student should expect to spend six hours a week on coursework for every course credit.” If you sign up for three courses during a session worth three credits each, plan to spend up to 54 hours a week on your studies.

6) It improves your self-discipline, so you’re more “disciple-like” in every area of your life.

Pursuing an advanced degree will force you to stay focused and make every hour count. You’ll have to stick to a rigorous schedule in order to stay on top of your studies, allocating time for reading and assignments, family and friends, prayer and worship, exercise and rest.

This self-imposed, short-term discipline in pursuit of a long-term goal will surely spill over into other areas of your life. It will benefit you even after you graduate, serving as a source of pride and supporting excellence in all of the good work you go on to do.

If you’d like to learn more about professions that enable you to serve wholeheartedly and faithfully in your life’s work or want to learn more about a biblically based, Christ-centered education at Geneva, we’d love to introduce you to Christian perspectives at work in any field of study. For more information on how Geneva College can help you pursue your ministry goals, please phone us at 855-979-5563 or email web@geneva.edu.