Is Higher Education Worth It?

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Your aptitude for a career as well as your talent and abilities should be the primary factors in determining what degree you take in college. However, Fox Business reports that as of 2012, two-year master's degree programs can cost from $80,000 to $120,000. So the salary that you expect to earn compared to the investment you make in your education must also come into play.


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary in 2012 for bachelor's degree holders was $55,432 per year. For master's degree holders, the median wage was over 20 percent more at $67,600 annually. Compare these amounts to the median for all workers at $42,300 so you can see the value of the more advanced education. As an aside, the highest pay went to those with professional degrees at a median yearly $90,220.


Pay varies according to specific degrees. The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reveals the starting salaries for bachelor's and master's degrees of the class of 2012. A bachelor's degree in business administration shows an average $56,000 per year, with the lowest quartile making under $43,200 annually and the highest quartile receiving over $66,600. MBA holders make over a quarter more at an average $70,400 per year, with a range of $55,600 to $80,700.

Humanities and Social Sciences

In the humanities and social sciences, political science and government majors have the highest starting pay for master's degrees. They receive an average $53,200 per year, with a range of $41,400 to $62,300. This is an increase of over 26 percent over the bachelor's degree starting salary, which is a mean $42,100 per year, with a range of $33,500 to $50,200. The lowest starting salary for master's degrees goes to sociology, averaging an annual $43,200, with a range of $34,600 to $48,800. Compare this salary to the $37,000 yearly earned by bachelor's degree holders in the same subject, with a range of $29,500 to $43,500.

Science and Engineering

In science and engineering, computer science boasts the highest pay of $73,400 for a master's degree, with a range of $57,400 to $83,900. This is only a 14 percent increase over the bachelor's degree starting pay of $64,100, with a range of $49,800 to $75,000. Electrical and electronics engineers with a masters beginning with $66,500 per year, and a range of $52,100 to $78,200. A bachelor's degree for the same subject gain $62,500 yearly, with a range of $50,200 to $74,700.


The highest paying position for master's degree holders is that of computer and information systems manager in the information industry. The average starting salary is $92,400 per year. That position is not offered to bachelor's degree holders in the same subject. However, the lower degree can result in a software developer job, which averages a yearly salary of $69,000, less than 75 percent of the master's degree wage.
Whether the typical 25 percent bump in pay for a master's degree is worth the extra time and money is something you have to ultimately decide. However, higher-level positions are often unattainable without the higher diploma, and such positions also produce better pay.