A graduate degree refers to a master’s or doctoral degree. These are degrees people earn beyond the traditional four-year undergraduate degree. People go to graduate school for a variety of reasons, but it is important to compare the benefits of doing so against the costs of tuition and fees. Some employers do pay for part or all of employee tuition.
Getting an advanced degree typically increases your value to an employer or your qualifications for certain types of jobs. A finance employee, for instance, may qualify for a finance manager position if he earns a master’s of business administration, or MBA. In some companies, managers visit with employees about training and development tied to career goals. If it is agreed that an evening or weekend graduate program would benefit you and help you grow internally, the company may pay for school.
In some cases, you can go through a graduate school program for a career change as opposed to completing a parallel undergraduate degree. Many graduate degree programs don’t require your undergraduate degree to be in the same field. A social worker looking to get into business management, for instance, can often get into an MBA program by performing well on application essays and the Graduate Management Admission Test. Additionally, people in many fields return to school for a Ph.D. because they want to get into academic work, such as research and teaching.
Graduate degree holders commonly earn more money than workers in the same field who only have an undergraduate degree. The level of pay differential varies by industry, though. In some careers, pay schedules dictate that you earn more money with advanced education. Teachers, for instance, typically earn annual raises for experience but can also boost their pay by moving from a four-year degree to a graduate degree.
Obtaining a graduate degree in your career area may help you to increase your knowledge base as well as the breadth and depth of your job skills. This makes you more valuable to current and prospective employers if you want career flexibility. Additionally, you can use the skills you gain in other areas of your life. Finance and accounting coursework can help you in entrepreneurial pursuits or in preparing financial reports and taxes.
According to Peterson's, typical tuition for a graduate degree at public schools is nearly $30,000, and at private schools, nearly $40,000. This doesn't include additional school fees, books and supplies. You may be able to offset costs by getting scholarships or working as a research or teaching assistant. The University of Ohio State Graduate School indicates that 55 percent of its students finance some of their tuition through graduate associateships or fellowships where they work directly with college professors and receive tuition discounts and monthly stipends.