Is grad school worth it? The return on higher education

Rogan Stoops
Rogan Stoops

We are in a world of change, in both our personal lives and in the evolving job market. With the change in external forces, individuals are now more than ever seeking ways to enhance their skills and stay competitive. While a master’s degree can offer a solution to that need, the right master’s program will also cultivate critical thinking, problem-solving, and offer the skills that today’s employers are seeking. 

From an employer’s perspective, with tuition reimbursement programs on the rise in efforts to remain competitive, there is great interest in understanding the intent and potential return of these graduate programs. 

If you are reading this and contemplating a graduate degree, or perhaps sending your employees on to their graduate journey, it’s often viewed as a significant monetary investment. As such, it is very important to evaluate the Return on Investment (ROI) of the time committed to complete a master’s degree. 

The right graduate program will consider both employee and employer interests—providing enhanced career mobility, increased earning potential, and professional networking opportunities that make the investment of both time and money worth the commitment. 

Enhanced career mobility

One of the benefits of investing in a master’s degree is the expanded career opportunities it can unlock. Not too long ago, the four-year degree was considered a differentiator, and that population was often hired or promoted before those without that degree. Those times have changed, as the four-year degree is now often a minimum requirement when seeking employment in today’s professional environment. From that perspective, holding a master’s degree is often what sets a candidate apart during the early stages of the hiring process.

Employers often view master’s degrees as a demonstration of a candidate’s commitment, expertise, and ability to tackle complex challenges. Those degree-holders are more likely to meet qualifications for leadership roles, managerial positions, or specialized roles within their chosen field. This expanded career direction is an outcome that contributes to the overall ROI for the employee. 

Increased earning potential

While the upfront commitments of a master’s degree can be substantial, the long-term benefits often outweigh them. Statistics support the position that individuals with master’s degrees earn higher salaries than those with a bachelor’s degree. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (2023), the median earnings of master’s or higher degree completers were 21% higher than the median earnings of bachelor’s degree completers in 2021 alone. It is important to understand that while the increased earning potential is statistically accurate, that is only achieved through a successful hire or promotion. The right program will position their students to practice and master both hard and soft skills that today’s environment requires for success. 

From an employer’s perspective, the enhanced knowledge and skills gained through a master’s program can aid in creating an optimized and efficient working system. Employers understand that the right master’s program will produce a high-performing employee or candidate and are therefore willing to compensate individuals with advanced degrees for their expertise and contributions to the organization.

Networking opportunities

Another aspect contributing to the ROI of a master’s degree is the value of networking opportunities. Good graduate programs bring together individuals with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and aspirations. Building a network with fellow students, instructors, and industry professionals often opens doors to new opportunities, collaborations, and mentorship.

Networking is a powerful tool for employers, as it can help prevent industry isolation. A well-designed master’s program provides an environment to explore best practices in other industries, with a focus on continuous improvement. Alumni networks and industry events associated with the program can continue to provide support and opportunities. The relationships formed during this time can contribute significantly to company growth and overall success. 

The right fit

At Mount Mercy University, we are working to evolve our Business & Leadership Graduate Programs to meet current employer needs and tackle new challenges. Our program offers master’s degrees in the following disciplines:

We focus on serving our student population by ensuring our programs are relevant, efficient, and intentional. We believe this is what it will take to provide our learners with the education today’s businesses expect. 

There will be investments of both time and money, but in return, our graduate programs offer perspectives and methods that will help reduce waste, create efficiencies, increase personal and professional networks, and enhance the way we approach situations or events. These all lead to a higher quality of life-work balance for the individual, as well as continuing benefits for their employer. 

To hear more about our programs and our approach, contact Rogan Stoops, Business & Leadership Programs Director, or Jorie Dillman, Graduate Recruiter.