Benefits & Costs

Depending on the field of study, your graduate degree can be another significant “investment” in your education. The first step of your planning should be to consider the costs, the benefits and the potential return on investment (ROI).


Give due diligence to considering your motivation to pursue a degree. Motivations range broadly with objectives including:

  • Increased depth of knowledge in your field
  • Meet requirement for entry-level positions to realize career goals. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) a Master’s is required for occupations like Economist or Mental Health Counselor, and a PhD of course is required to become a physician
  • Increased marketability or job stability
  • Advance in salary and/or rank in your chosen field


The costs of a graduate degree include money—and time!

The time amount and value varies widely by individual, but the ranges include:

  • Entrance test exam time: 1-3 months of prep and test completion
  • Program completion time: 1-7 years depending on program and whether attendance is full or part-time

The cost varies widely as well, but you should consider testing, tuition and cost of living:

  • Entrance test exam prep: $99 - $1,299
  • Tuition and cost of living includes can run anywhere from $20K to as high as $300K depending on the program and its length. When estimating this amount for your scenario, you should also consider costs like healthcare insurance as appropriate


Data on the value of attending graduate school is available from a number of resources. According to a 2015 update from BLS, “Those with a master’s degree had an unemployment rate of 2.4% (even lower for professional degrees and PhDs), compared to the national average of 4.3%.”

In 2015, Business Insider published two articles analyzing data from the 2015 "Hard Times" report from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce: The 10 most useless graduate degrees and The 10 most useful graduate degrees.

More recently, Forbes ran an article Best and Worst Graduate Degrees for Jobs in 2016 which reported that STEM degrees topped the “best” and degrees in Education were strongly represented in the “worst.” These results reportedly focused on three criteria: growth outlook (BLS statistics based), median pay, and job satisfaction.

So take the time to jot down your “benefits” or pros, “costs” or cons and review those factors in light of current job market conditions and other factors that drive your motivation and calculate your projected ROI. If the math works for you, read on!