Is a Master’s Degree Worth It in 2024?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Use this guide from Coursera to learn more about master’s degrees and whether a postgraduate course may help you meet your career goals. We'll outline the advantages, time commitment, costs, types, and alternatives to a master's degree.

[Featured image] Two Master's degree recipients in cap and gown holding a diploma

Learn more about evaluating whether a postgraduate master's degree is the right decision for your future.

Earning your master’s degree has many advantages. It can lead to higher salaries, advanced career opportunities, higher-level subject knowledge, and a feeling of accomplishment. But embarking on a postgraduate degree takes time and money. 

Whether a master’s degree is worth it ultimately depends on your personal, professional, and educational goals, as well as your financial resources. As you evaluate your options, you should take time to weigh your larger objectives and needs. In this article, we’ll review the reasons why a master’s degree may be a worthwhile investment for your future, and how to evaluate whether it’s the right decision for you. 

Master’s degree: Return on investment 

There are several benefits that usually come with earning a master’s degree, though your return on investment (ROI) will depend on your situation—and your potential industry. 

Increased salary and job stability

Graduates with a master’s degree make £42,000 a year on average and experience less unemployment than those with an undergraduate degree or a diploma. Undergraduate degree holders make £35,000 a year and will land full-time employment at a slightly lower rate (52 percent versus 63 percent for master’s).

Depending on your industry, you could earn significantly more with a master’s degree. For example, the average salary for a Master of Business Administration (MBA) was £46,190 in 2021. Higher-paying jobs also tend to prefer or require an advanced degree. 

Lifetime earnings

While your yearly salary is important, it can help to think about your earning potential over the course of your lifetime. If you plan on working for several more decades, you may be able to add substantially to your net earnings thanks to the higher salaries typically associated with master’s degrees. A study investigating the correlation between education and lifetime earnings found that graduate degree holders saw rising median incomes into their mid-50s—well past the early 40s where bachelor’s degree holders saw their earnings plateau.

Advanced roles and postgraduate courses

While a bachelor’s degree serves as the entry point for many careers, a master’s is a more common requirement for industries such as education, information science, computer science, medicine, and healthcare administration, all of which tend to pay more.   

The following roles tend to benefit a lot from a Master’s degree: 

Job TitleMedian UK Salary
Guidance/career counselor£35,000
Speech-language pathologist£37,890
Physician’s assistant£32,604
Nurse practitioner£34,744

Overall, a master’s degree isn’t a requirement for every senior-level job, but a growing number of professions prefer candidates with postgraduate education. 

Job candidacy 

Between 1991 and 2019, the number of master’s degrees awarded rose by 143 percent—70-percent faster than bachelor’s degrees. Given the growing popularity of a master’s degree as a distinguishing credential, you may be able to stand out from other job candidates after earning one, though experience is still a key component. 

Expanded network

Earning your master’s degree isn’t just about your education (though that’s certainly a critical part); it’s also about the connections you make in your program. Your professors and even your classmates can add to your network and may lead to new opportunities.  

Master’s degrees: Time and costs

A master’s degree can take anywhere from one to three years to complete, depending on whether you attend full-time or part-time. The cost of earning a master’s ranges between £10,000 and £12,000 a year and for MBAs that figure can rise to £11,000 to £30,000 on average in a year. Tuition can vary dramatically between institutions and courses: The least expensive, on average, is £8,925 to earn a master’s degree at Royal Veterinary College (RVC), whereas the most expensive cost is £67,750 at London Business School. 

As you contemplate whether a master’s degree is worth it for you, make sure you spend time researching the cost of each potential program you’d like to attend. Think about how cost factors into your needs: Is it the top priority in your decision-making or is program length, faculty expertise, or another feature more important?  

Is a master’s degree right for me?

To answer that question, it’s good to think about what you hope to accomplish with a master’s degree and the resources you have to get one. 

Questions to ask before starting a master’s program:

  • What are my goals? 

  • Can a master’s degree help me achieve them? 

  • Do I have the time to dedicate to earning a master’s degree? 

  • Am I prepared to take on the additional work of graduate school? 

  • Can I afford the cost of attending a master’s program? 

  • Am I comfortable taking out loans if I can’t cover the cost out of pocket? 

  • Do I have a plan in place to repay those loans? 

These questions will help you assess your specific situation and whether a master's degree is the best decision for your future needs, plans, and goals.


Your time and money are valuable and should be part of your decision-making. You should have some understanding of your finances before deciding whether to apply for a master’s degree. If you’re working, can you take time off to attend a full-time master’s programme, or will you need to continue working? Can your schedule fit the demands of a postgraduate course load, which is 180 credits? 

While your master’s degree can yield higher salaries, it may take some time to move into a role that pays more. Having a plan to pay for your master’s degree beyond student loans can be advantageous because it means you’ll be better informed and better prepared after graduation. 

Which master’s degree is right for me?

You should think about your interests, career goals, and resources as you decide which master’s program to pursue. The three most popular fields of study for master’s degrees are business, education, and health. Over half of the master’s degrees awarded were in those areas, and each shows faster-than-average job growth rates.

There are a number of master’s degrees to choose from, but the most common tend to be: 

  • Master of Arts (MA): A graduate-level degree typically for students interested in the arts, humanities, and social sciences

  • Master of Science (M.Sc): A graduate-level degree typically for students interested in tech, natural sciences, and mathematics

  • Master of Business Administration (MBA): A graduate-level degree for students interested in business and management 

  • Master of Public Health (MPH): A graduate-level degree for students interested in protecting and improving health in communities 

  • Master of Education (MEd): A graduate-level degree for students interested in becoming educational administrators

Unlike choosing a subject for an undergraduate degree, a master’s ideally builds on something you know or want to learn more about. If you’re already in the workforce and enjoy what you’re doing, you can get a master’s in a subject related to your industry. Or if you’ve come to learn about a new area that interests you and want to switch career paths, you can pursue a master’s in a new subject to gain more in-depth knowledge. 

Online master’s degrees

Online master’s have grown increasingly popular in recent years, largely because many students choose to work while earning their postgraduate degrees. An online master’s degree may be a more affordable and flexible option than earning your degree on campus. For example, the average fee for a postgraduate course at University of Oxford is £9,000 per annum.

Other options

If you’d like to bolster your subject knowledge and advance your training, there are other options besides a master’s degree that can add to your ongoing education. 

Earning a certificate

If you want to demonstrate competency in a specific skill set then you might want to consider a certificate. Certificates can be an excellent way to show employers that you have foundational knowledge in a topic, or do you have good skills in your area. For example, you could do the Google Project Management: Professional Certificate or the IBM Data Science Professional Certificate on Coursera.

Free courses: If you’d like to brush up on a topic or learn something new, taking an additional course or a series of courses may be a better option than completing a master’s degree. You can find many free courses in a range of topics from the University of London, IBM, and other providers on Coursera too.

Article sources


Graduate Management Admission Council. "Demand of Graduate Management Talent," Accessed November 1, 2022.

Keep reading

Updated on
Written by:

Editorial Team

Coursera’s editorial team is comprised of highly experienced professional editors, writers, and fact...

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.