Does the Master’s Degree Matter?


Supporting Contributor Post from Jenna

It’s one of the biggest questions job candidates face: how much should a Master’s degree matter? If you’re building your own career or working from home, it seems like your skills and talents should speak for themselves. On the one hand, clients who request Master’s degrees in job listings believe that the requirement will net them highly-skilled, dedicated job candidates. On the other hand, excluding candidates without Master’s degrees means that potential clients often overlook people with equally valid skill sets, even though they learned their skills outside the context of a university classroom.

The question surrounding Master’s degrees is also frustrating for job candidates, many of whom feel that the Master’s degree is the new BA. They’re right to make this assumption; as business CIO Brian D. Kelley explained: “Many entry level jobs today now require a Master’s and virtually all senior management and senior professional positions require a Master’s.”

Here’s what the growing trend towards Master’s degrees means for people who freelance and work at home:

When potential clients ask for Master’s degrees, ask yourself “why?”

Potential clients who use a Master’s degree requirement as a way to cut down on the number of qualified applicants aren’t doing themselves any favors. The best clients, the ones you really want to work with, will understand that there are many ways to get the skills taught at the Master’s degree level, and will leave that requirement off their job requests.

If you’re a freelance writer, web designer, copy editor or work in a similar work at home knowledge based job, be wary of potential clients who demand Master’s degrees. These clients are unlikely to trust your work and are requiring an external signifier of “success” before you even get started.

However, there are certain types of work at home jobs where a Master’s is essential. Social work jobs, as well as nursing jobs, use the Master’s as a credential marker. It is perfectly appropriate for potential clients to ask you to have a Master’s in Nursing or a similar advanced degree before hiring you as a home health care aide, for example. This degree is required to give you the skills and tools you need to perform your job appropriately.

Similarly, if you hope to work as a freelance accountant, you probably need your Master’s. A person with Master’s in Accounting has taken formal classes in GAAP, auditing, taxes, and enterprise systems, among other courses. Having that Master’s helps you prove to potential clients that you have the right skills to handle their finances.

If you don’t have a Master’s, start planning to get one

It isn’t absolutely necessary to have a Master’s before starting your career, but it can increase your marketability and allow you to demand higher pay. Start thinking about how you’re going to combine graduate-level education with your work life and other personal responsibilities. When I started working as a human resource representative in Philadelphia, for example, I made a plan to expand my skill set, earn a MBA, and begin working as a freelance consultant within five years. I researched graduate schools in Philadelphia; like many graduate programs, nearly all of them were designed to meet the needs of the working professional. I took classes in the evenings, got my MBA, and was able to use that degree to move into executive-level business and strategic consulting.

Some people feel uncomfortable about investing in a new degree program when they are still paying off student loans from college, but people with Master’s degrees also often earn more than people without a Master’s, and these earnings compound over a lifetime.

If you do not make a plan to get your Master’s within the first five to seven years after you enter the workforce, you may find yourself passed over in favor of more qualified candidates. Getting a Master’s degree is an asset regardless of industry or job title, so make a plan and start earning those credits.

Does the Master’s degree matter? Absolutely. Should hiring managers understand that a Master’s degree isn’t required for every single job posting? Yes. However, if job candidates don’t take the time to earn their Master’s, they’ll soon find themselves unqualified for the most interesting and lucrative career opportunities.


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