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Is a Master's Degree Worth It?

So you're considering getting a Master's degree, but have have some questions you'd like answered before taking the plunge. As a full-time employee approaching the last semester of my Master's degree, I figured that perhaps it would be useful to others if I shared my experience.

Before we jump in, I'll mention that this will inevitably be slightly tailored to technical degrees, as I'm pursuing my Master's in Cybersecurity. Different degrees have different requirements, and my knowledge and thoughts will vary from what may be true for other degrees and programs.

Okay, let's go!

1. So what's the real deal with grad school?

Let's start with the truth.

Grad school isn't easy, and it will take time away from people and activities you love. You will not be working 60 hour weeks to get that promotion, spending enough time with loved ones, traveling as often as you may like, working out every day, and becoming a pro at your hobbies all while getting this degree. There will have to be compromises. Grad school takes time, and it can be frustrating when plans are interrupted by unforeseen issues with a class.

On the flip side, contrary to what you may hear, you can work full time, have a family, have a life, and do grad school (and even get 8 hours of sleep!). But it takes time management. Really, really good time management. I mean the kind of time management that I learned only by my eighth semester of undergrad.

It's up to you whether you take one or two classes per semester, how many classes you take per year, what semesters you take off, and if you take 2 years or 5 years to complete the degree. Those choices are entirely dependent on your goals, both in and out of school.

Personally, I will have taken 2 semesters of 1 course and 4 semesters of 2 courses. While time now feels like it has all flown by, classes have taken a toll on me at times. I cannot stress enough that you need to make choices that fit your lifestyle and goals the best. I didn't want to be in school for 3+ years, so I fast-tracked. While some times have been difficult, I do feel that for the most part I've gotten to experience a great balance between school and life. To me, that's what matters.

2. Do I need a Master's degree?

Honestly, the only person who can decide this is you. But you can make the decision based on your career goals.

There are a few ways in which employers can view degrees:

  • The degree could be required for a given position
  • The degree could count as some respective amount of years of experience, usually around 2-3 for a Master's (this could impact opportunities for promotions and/or salary actions)
  • The degree could mean (essentially) nothing to the employer, and no action is taken specifically due to you having the degree

You should be able to know where a given employer stands by doing research on the company or by asking the company directly. Generally, the government and academia (e.g. universities, laboratories) tend to care more about degrees than other employers, but that does not speak for all companies.

3. What does a Master's degree entail?

For my program, I am required to take 10 classes. To give an example of what the specific class requirements may look like, out of those 10 classes the following must occur for my degree:

  • 3 foundational courses must be taken (or waived, but waiving a class does not lower the number of required classes; another class must be taken in place of the waived course)
  • At least 2 classes must be at the 700 level (course numbers are between 600-800)
  • At least 3 classes must be taken in a specific track (the program offers different tracks)
  • All courses must be completed within 5 years of each other
  • The student can receive 1 C; all other grades must be A's and B's

I'll also include that while my program does not require a capstone or thesis, other programs may.

4. Is the price worth it?

This depends on a few things.

One, how much will it cost out of pocket to you? If your employer will pay full tuition, getting the degree will cost only time to you. How the degree will impact you moving forward (depending on your goals, as mentioned in the first section) is important to consider in this case.

If your employer puts forth a capped amount towards education and training, consider what options you have with that given amount. Perhaps getting a technical certification (i.e. Security+) or taking a certain training would be more valuable to you. Again, this depends on your goals. If you want to take grad classes, look around and compare the cost of different programs. They can vary by significant amounts (e.g. 2k per class vs. 4.5k per class).

Another consideration is whether the employer pays up front or if you will get reimbursed after passing the class. This may affect how many courses you would want to take at one time.

If you would be paying in full for the degree, it is up to you to decide what the investment in your education means to you. Note that there are scholarships that exist for grad students, so definitely look out for those!

5. Is the time worth it?

This is the golden question. And the answer depends on more variables than I can include in a single blog post, less a single part of a blog post. Here's what I can say.

Grad school is an investment in your time and money. It will take time from family, friends, hobbies, and sometimes even work. Some perks of being an adult, like going on vacation at any time of the year, are taken by the fact that in-person classes or lengthy homework assignments and projects can make traveling a potentially stressful choice.

Consider what else you could do with the time you would put into this degree, and then decide if this is your favorite option.


All in all, there is a lot to consider when it comes to grad school. I would recommend taking a serious look into where else the time and money could go (whether towards other types of learning or something completely different). More than anything, learn what the impact of getting the degree will be. Consider the impact from both a personal and career perspective. If no career incentives (i.e. promotion or salary bump) would applicable to you, consider if doing the degree solely for yourself is worth it. For some people, it is. If the time would be better spent with family and friends, or pursuing hobbies, that's okay. At the end of the day, this is for you. Know your goals, and act from there.

Though let's be honest, how do we all really feel about school?

And that's a wrap! I hope this was helpful; please leave comments if there are any more questions I can answer!

Top comments (5)

ajinspiro profile image
Arun Kumar

Question ...
Whats that Mad-max-kind-of-post-apocalyptic-thing-y you are driving in that picture ?
(Yeah, Its not about the post :P )

varcharr profile image

Good question, it's a homemade go-kart!

ajinspiro profile image
Arun Kumar

What's the motor in it? Does it have a transmission ?

themarcba profile image
Marc Backes

I have a masters degree for 8 years now. Nobody ever asked for it 😂 I don’t think it’s necessary to have one. And mine was free (did it in Austria)

varcharr profile image

It's cool that yours was free; that's a nice option to have. It is interesting how different employers can view it so differently.