Graduate students at commencement.

10 Reasons a Graduate Degree Pays

Are you considering getting a graduate degree? Whatever your reason is for deciding to hit the books again, you should know that there are several benefits of a graduate degree. As you consider a master's or doctorate degree, here are 10 reasons why pursing a graduate degree is beneficial.

1. Practical, Relevant Skills

This first benefit is probably the most obvious. Master’s degrees are specialized programs of study. A master’s degree will help you develop advanced, field-specific knowledge, skills, and training, which can help you progress within your current job or make you a more attractive hire to future employers.

2. Competitive Edge in the Job Market

A graduate degree may give you an advantage over other job applicants or land you the job itself. Back in 2016, the Harvard Business Review announced that according to a Career Builder survey, 27% of organizations are hiring only those with master’s degrees. That is, some positions, which previously required only a BS, may now demand an graduate degree. Along with thorough preparation, of course, additional knowledge from advanced education might help you succeed in one of the most stressful of situations: the job interview.

3. Increased Earning Potential

Having a graduate degree can significantly raise your salary. According to the Salary Survey of the National Association of Colleges and Employers, some master’s degrees lead to significant salary boosts, with business management and administration being included in the top four. 

4. Mobility in Your Current Career

Supervisors appreciate employees who challenge themselves and who develop expertise that adds value to their organizations. A graduate certificate or degree may move you to the top of an internal candidate list.

5. Leadership and Management Roles

The specialized training, critical thinking, and focused skills developed with a graduate certificate or degree may qualify you to direct more complex projects. And many graduate programs, prioritize real-world professional skills, such as teamwork, management, and leadership. These aptitudes give you confidence to take on more responsibilities in the workplace while signaling to employers that you are definitely management material. Also, employees who excel at representing their companies often get more chances to travel.

6. Networking Opportunities

Graduate programs create learning communities; students build relationships with fellow students, professors, alumni, and other disciplinary experts. The professional connections, friendships, and networks you establish during graduate school can help you further hone your skills and grasp relevant opportunities. For example, Michigan Technological University alumni, some 70,000 strong, have access to many helpful resources and services.

7. Career Change

12.4: That’s the average number of times a person changes jobs in their lifetime, according to one career expert website. Maybe you’ve been on the job for two or even 10 years, but your interests have changed and you are seeking a new direction. A graduate degree may allow you to develop your previous education and/or capitalize on your professional experience, granting you more versatility (and options) on the job market.

8. Intellectual Growth and Transferable Skills

Despite the saying about the difficulty of teaching old dogs new tricks, you’re never too old to learn. Pursuing a graduate degree means you get to dive deeper into a subject that you love, or perhaps one that has haunted you from your early undergraduate days. You are going to develop competitive transferable skills that you'll be able to leverage throughout your career. Transferable skills are skills you can use in any professional setting to add to your career toolbelt such as project management, working with people, planning, developing processes and timelines, and organizing a team, volunteering, coding, freelance jobs, etc.

You’ll satisfy your love of learning and the goal of mastering a tricky subject while getting smarter. Yes, smarter. A recent study even found a correlation between achieving a higher education and warding off the effects of age-related cognitive decline. So you’ll grow your brain while contributing to the world’s bank of knowledge.

9. Increased Emotional Intelligence

Additional education also makes you smarter in other less obvious ways. Advanced education, when it improves your interpersonal, communication, and conflict-management skills, will enhance your emotional intelligence. Earning a graduate degree might help equip you with the traits of the most emotionally intelligent leaders.

10. Personal Satisfaction

Last but certainly not least, by earning an advanced degree, you’ll receive a sense of accomplishment from pushing yourself. Or, if life got in the way the first time around, you’ll gain the peace of mind of finishing something you started. Achieving a demanding goal brings increased self-esteem, which is not only one of the best advantages of completing graduate school, but also one of the biggest gifts you can give to yourself.

Master's vs. Doctoral Degree

Deciding between a master's or doctoral degree is a significant step in one's academic and professional journey. We've highlighted key differences between the two options, helping individuals navigate their choices effectively.

Depth and Breadth of Study

Master's and doctoral degrees vary significantly in the depth and breadth of study they entail. Doctoral programs typically require a deeper exploration of a specific subject area, with students expected to make original contributions to their field through extensive research. Master's programs focus on building advanced knowledge and skills within a particular discipline without the same level of original research expectation.

Research Emphasis

One of the primary distinctions between master's and doctoral degrees lies in the emphasis on research. Doctoral programs prioritize research, often culminating in the completion of a dissertation or thesis that contributes new insights to the field. While master's programs may include a research component, it is generally less extensive and may not always be mandatory for degree completion.


Master's degrees typically take 1-3 years to complete, whereas doctoral degrees require a more significant time commitment, often spanning 4-6 years, depending on the field of study and individual progress.

Autonomy, Independence, and Scope of Work

Doctoral programs typically grant students more autonomy and independence compared to master's programs. Doctoral students are expected to work more independently, take ownership of their research projects, and explore their research interests in depth. Doctoral programs encompass a broader scope of work. In addition to coursework, doctoral students may be required to pass comprehensive exams, engage in teaching assistantships, and conduct independent research. Master's programs may focus more narrowly on coursework and a final project or thesis.

Career Paths

While both degrees can lead to advanced career opportunities, doctoral degrees are often necessary for certain professions, particularly in academia or research-intensive fields. Master's degrees may suffice for other careers or serve as a stepping stone to further education, including doctoral programs.

Whatever your motivation, if you’re ready to consider a master’s program and Michigan Tech is your school of choice, check out our Graduate School, which offers more than 99 certificates and programs.

We are a diverse, inclusive community of scholars, rising to society’s challenges in Michigan, the US, and the world. Students, faculty, and staff work closely across departments and colleges. If you are a prospective student, we invite you to further explore our PhD, MS, and certificate programs. Our combination of unique and exciting research opportunities and proximity to the beauty and wildness of the Upper Peninsula and Lake Superior provide a stimulating place to do what graduate students have always done—learn more, ask questions, and take on new challenges.

Michigan Tech’s Global Campus offers more than 40 in-demand online programs.

If your life circumstances prevent you from attending on-campus programs, know that there are flexible education options that let you work around your schedule. 

Pursue an advanced education without stepping too far away from your life or from your job. Many of our online certificates may be completed in as few as two semesters. Michigan Tech’s online degree programs offer the same excellent education no matter where you are. Our online courses offer the same rigorous, research-based curriculum as our on-campus programs. You receive the same degree and diploma. There's no difference.