Is a Master's Degree Worth It?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

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

[Featured image] A young graduate learner wearing a white button-up shirt and glasses stands with both arms crossed in front of an office.

As technology helps increase access to higher education and areas of study abound, “Is a master’s degree worth it?” is a valid and justified question. Things have changed a lot for today's learners and job seekers. Career options are expanding as are the qualifications needed to apply.These days, one can become an expert in almost anything. 

Master's degrees require investments of time and money, so deciding if and what area of focus to pursue are crucial considerations.  

Whether you will benefit from a master's degree depends on your personal and professional goals. This article will review the reasons why you should or should not go for a master's degree and how to evaluate whether it's the right decision for you. 

Master's degree return on investment 

The following factors outline the potential benefits of earning a master's degree.

Increased salary and job stability

Depending on the field, you may earn a higher salary with a master's degree and earning potential throughout your life also typically increases with a master's degree. Some industries give more importance to experience over education while others give importance to education over experience. The average base salary of a graduate in India is approximately 7 LPA [1], whereas an MBA in India can earn anywhere between 10 LPA to 20 LPA [2] depending on the specialization and college. 

Advanced roles

In some fields, you may be more likely to land a management or leadership position with a master’s degree. Some of the industries where a master's degree can help are education, information technology, medicine, and computer science.

Jobs that typically require a master’s degree:

Job titleMedian annual India base salary
Counselor3 LPA
Librarian3.3 LPA
Speech-language pathologist4.3 LPA
Economist11 LPA
Physician’s assistant3.1 LPA
Nurse practitioner3.5 LPA

*All India average base salaries sourced from Glassdoor March 2023. 

Expanded network

Pursuing higher studies expands your knowledge and creates an opportunity to connect with a variety of people. You get to meet new professionals in your field, and connect with your professors, which can open doors for new opportunities and experiences. 

Master's degrees: Time and costs

A master's degree requires time, money, and effort. Completing a master's program can take anywhere between one to three years, depending on your specialization. 

A master's degree in India can cost anywhere between 2 LPA to 3 LPA depending on the college you choose and whether it's a private or public institute [3]. Public institutes cost less than private ones but are highly competitive. Preparing for the entrances also requires material and coaching costs and sufficient time investment. 

Apart from the financial cost, there's also opportunity cost involved. On average, a master's degree takes two years to complete. That two years can also be utilized to gain experience and upskill. Determining which option is best depends on your field and personal and professional goals.

Assessing your financial situation before going for a master's degree is a must. If you'll attend a full-time course, it is also crucial to figure out your living cost (if it's in a different city), transportation means and cost, and the opportunity cost of leaving a job or not working while you pursue your master’s degree. 

Is a master's degree right for me?

To answer this question, first, determine your career goals. Some of the questions you can ask yourself before you decide to pursue higher education are:

  • What are my professional goals?

  • Will my field benefit from a master's degree?

  • Is experience more important in my field than education?

  • Do I have the time and energy and financial capacity to earn a master's degree? 

  • Am I comfortable in taking education loans, and do I have a good plan to repay them in the future?

  • Are there specific short-term courses that would give me the same benefit, if not more, than a master's degree?

  • Am I keen on learning and expanding my knowledge? 

Which master's degree is right for me?

There are many areas of focus to consider. Some of the most common choices include: 

Specialized and professional master's degrees in India

  • Master of Arts (MA)

  • Master of Social Work (MSW)

  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)

  • Master of Computer Applications (MCA)

  • Master of Engineering (ME)

  • Master of Philosophy (MPhil)

  • Master of Science (MSc)

  • Master of Technology (MTech)

Online master's degrees

Online degrees are getting more popular in India, in part due to the pandemic. Online master's degrees may cost less and could require less time investment. You can also often manage an online degree with a job or other responsibilities.

Other options

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

Certificates: Rather than enrolling in a two-year program, consider a certificate a faster way to learn about a specific subject or skill. A certificate is evidence of education and can be added to your resume to validate your qualifications in a subject area. It’s also a great option if you’re looking to change career paths and need to gain foundational knowledge of your new field. On Coursera, you can earn a Professional Certificate in a number of in-demand careers taught by industry leaders: Google Project Management, IBM Data Science, and Meta Marketing Analytics

Certifications: If you work in tech or project management, a certification may help boost your career without the time commitment and cost of a master’s program. A certification shows employers that you have met an industry standard in a specific area, typically by passing an exam. Professional organizations, such as the IT-focused ISACA or CompTIA, offer a range of certifications. If you’re interested in learning more, search for certifications in your industry or field.  

Additional 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 better than completing a two-year master’s degree. You can find many free courses in a range of topics from Stanford, Yale, University of Michigan, and more.

Get started with Coursera

Some of the courses you can take online include MBA in Business Analytics, MA in International Relations, Security, and Strategy, and MA in Public Policy offered by O.P. Jindal Global University on Coursera.

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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.