Very often, at the threshold of professional life, people feel the need for more definition. The student years in the Bachelor’s degree have already shaped learning habits, overall educational profile, and a final idea of the career of choice. The logical continuation of this process is often enrolling in a Masters degree. But is a Masters worth it?

Why would one want to study for yet another qualification? The pursuit of a Masters degree is driven by the desire to take advantage of all the benefits it offers. Masters programmes tend to make graduates more employable by giving them the practical knowledge and vocational expertise needed to pursue the career of their choice. It also improves their marketability by helping them stand out from the crowd. Networking is believed to be more closely associated with the MBA and Executive MBA programmes, but Masters programmes are by no means inferior when it comes to offering networking opportunities. Networks created during Masters studies are lifelong and graduates can rely on them throughout their careers. The Masters degree can also help one move in a new career direction. These are just some of the reasons why Bachelor’s degree holders would consider the Master’s degree to be the next logical step. The benefits outweigh the drawbacks by a wide margin, and the obvious boost to one’s career cannot be overlooked.

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A bridge to a successful professional career

Unsurprisingly, the higher the qualification, the higher the chance of landing a job in today’s world. A survey by CareerBuilder of 2,300 HR and hiring managers published in 2016 shows a gradual trend of employers boosting their educational requirements over a five-year period. Almost a third (32%) of them have increased their requirements for hiring, 27% even acknowledging that they are taking on people with Masters degrees for posts previously filled by Bachelor’s degree holders. The 2017 Corporate Recruiters Survey by GMAC also serves to encourage potential aspirants to consider a Masters degree, especially a business one. It found that, overall, a greater percentage of employers planned to hire business Masters graduates in 2017. Globally, 59% of companies planned to hire recent Master in Management graduates in 2017, up from the 50% that hired them in 2016.

Like it or not, regardless of how many training courses companies organise or send employees on, the Masters degree keeps reasserting itself as a pass to better career prospects. It has turned into a measurement of value the job market uses. Steff Young, an MA literature student (at the University of East Anglia), believes that the Masters degree improves skills such as time management, self-discipline, and working to deadlines. She told the Independent: “It develops a new form of maturity. You are no longer a student to the teacher. Rather, you and your peers are fellow researchers working in the field. This creates a whole new dynamic and mode of conversation, and confidence, which enable you to walk into a workplace as a professional, rather than as a graduate or intern.”

Choosing a path ahead

When choosing a Masters degree, some students may prefer to combine “opposites”. A Bachelor in Economics and a Masters in Philosophy or Sociology, or vice versa. “Undergraduates may realise that their favourite subject as a teenager is not as closely aligned with their long-term goals as they once thought,” Eric Meyer, Director of Graduate Studies at the Oxford Internet Institute, told the Guardian.

The versatility that goes with changing study fields is significant. Of course, it should not come at the expense of depth and specialisation. Again, the need for a truly universal, preferably all-encompassing education comes as natural. The Humanities and the Social Sciences give the opportunity to research interesting historical episodes or dissect the sociological aspects of society. This would be the choice of those interested in gaining a deeper cultural understanding of the value of human life and civilisation. However, if you are more interested in Business than in the branches of knowledge preoccupied with human thought and culture, the Masters degree has plenty to offer.

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The generalist Business Masters programmes are in Management and International Management, and specialised programmes are in Finance, Marketing, Accounting, Business Information Technology, Data Analytics, Entrepreneurship, and Supply Chain Management. The latest technological advancements have significantly changed the Business Masters field. Tech and IT companies around the world are on a constant lookout for talented individuals, which has fuelled interest among candidates in Business Information Technology and Data Analytics.

It should be pointed out that the profile of the Business Masters student differs from that of the MBA student. Unlike MBA aspirants, the rule of thumb here is that Masters applicants do not have professional experience. With a median age of 23, most of them are single, do not have children, and are not home-owners. The majority come as undergraduates from Business and Economics majors (74%), 26% have a STEM background, and 19% have Bachelor’s degrees in Humanities or Social Sciences.

Among the major reasons for the sustainably high interest in Business Masters degrees is the bright remuneration prospects for graduates. People in the US with Marketing degrees were expected to have earned the most in 2017, a Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC) survey shows. They were to receive a median annual remuneration of USD 95,000. In second place came Masters in Management graduates with USD 92,500; in third were Masters in Data Analytics graduates at USD 86,500; followed by Masters in Finance graduates with USD 80,000; and Masters in IT/Sys graduates with USD 80,000, according to the 2017 Corporate Recruiters Survey Report.

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In terms of format, the non-standard Masters degrees, such as those that are part-time or online, have gained much more recognition in recent years. Back in the day, “you would see a degree from online and kind of toss that resume in the trash,” says Angela Gray – vice president of Accounting at PioneerRx Pharmacy Software and head of the Human Resources department. “That’s just not what’s happening in HR these days. They are becoming widely accepted, especially from established schools,” she said in an interview with U.S. News & World Report. Still, most candidates (84%) who prefer a Business Masters degree (as opposed to an MBA) chose the full-time programme formats, and 15% preferred part-time programme formats, according to another GMAC survey.

It should be clear by now that getting a Masters degree will benefit your career. Going back to school is an important decision that has to be planned thoroughly, though. Depending on your age, personal circumstances, and professional aspirations, your degree could turn out to be the ace of spades in a deck of cards.

This article is original content produced by Advent Group and included in the 2018-2019 annual Access MBA, EMBA, and Masters Guide under the title “Master Your Professional Life”. The latest online version of the Guide is available here.