I give as a follow-up to my first question, a more reality-driven premise and question. I ask: Is a Masters degree in a high-paying employable field worth it?

Say you need 4 pre-Masters (aka post-bacc) courses to be accepted into a Master's program. Each course costs $3,992. Tuition for a Master's is $51,288. Total graduate school costs: $67,256.

The average salary, as of 2019, for someone with a Master's in this field is $100,000.

As of Jan. 1, 2019, private loans with Variable Interest Rates: 4.49% - 13.49 % APR and with Fixed Interest Rates: 5.99% - 13.99% APR.

Say you take a Fixed Interest Rate private loan, and you manage to find one at 5.99%.


Say, in my state, my take home pay with my new cushy post-Masters job would be: $5,997.


What if you wanted to pay off that loan more aggressively budgeting your monthly salary something like this:

enter image description here

And that benefits your loan repayment plan to look something more like this: https://edfinancial.com/TOOLS/Loan-Repayment-Calculator

I know this hypothesized future is oversimplified/has to assume many things/doesn't account for many things. But it seems that this is the best-case scenario for taking out a loan on a graduate program. And even in this best-case, it would take 6.9 perfect, no unexpected hardship years to pay off that loan?? It does not seem worth it to me. There are too many risks, uncertainties. Are graduate schools only made for the children of well-off families? And yet, after receiving my undergraduate degree, I see students who went to my school left and right determined to get a graduate degree... any graduate degree. It touches on what @Steve said in my last post: Think of it this way, a Masters is the new Bachelors. A lot of my educated friends hold the opinion that people without at least a Master's degree aren't educated.

  • 1
    What's the average starting salary for someone in the field with a masters? How many years before retirement? How much more is 100k than current salary? Also, 7 years of payback could certainly be reduced if living frugally rather than $3k rent/utilities and $650 of "fun" or reduced savings while in payback mode.
    – Hart CO
    Jan 17, 2019 at 18:57
  • @Hart CO You're right about frugal living during "payback mode". I kind of googled some averages for spending in my city on those things and adjusted just slightly. I'm guessing, you'd lean towards worth it as opposed to not. The answers to your questions: The average starting salary is 76,789. 33 years until retirement. 100k is 39k more than current salary (I used the avg. salary for a bachelor's degree).
    – jed
    Jan 17, 2019 at 19:05
  • 2
    There are other considerations, does the income in this field scale evenly for those with masters and bachelors, or does the gap narrow with years of experience? $40k * 33 years is significant and sounds like it's worth 80-90k in education expense, but it's hard to say. I personally am in a technical field and would not go back for a masters degree because I don't think I would get enough benefit to justify the cost.
    – Hart CO
    Jan 17, 2019 at 19:13
  • 2
    Something we can't answer is also the relative enjoyment of current vs potential career prospects. If the Masters opens you up to better working environments / commutes / benefits / on-the-job-activity, then that should be considered in addition to the just the money. Jan 17, 2019 at 19:16
  • 1
    A well, consider what you would be doing financially in the next 10 years, with / without Masters. If you would want to have a kid this year, or buy a house next year, or make some other financial commitment, whether it 'pays off' in the end may not matter. Jan 17, 2019 at 19:17

2 Answers 2


You are ignoring that a degree opens the door to significantly higher salary, interesting jobs, international travel, etc.

Money is not the only consideration, some people would find it boring to spend their life flipping burgers, even if it would be financially advantageous.

Overall, if a degree is a hard fight for someone or annoying work, it's probably not a good investment; that person might not enjoy the work afterwards either.
If you enjoy learning, and are confident that you can make a good degree, it is probably the better choice.


Rule of thumb: in the USA, a student who's qualified doesn't pay (other than time and effort) to receive a graduate level degree. (This does not consider "professional" degrees such as JD, MD, OD, DDS, etc)

The mechanic by which the degree is actually paid for is pretty different between Masters and PhD.

Masters degrees are paid for (perhaps not at 100%, but a majority) by the student's employer. The student collects a full-time salary and earns the degree part-time. Probably takes 3-4 years instead of 2-3 semesters. And the education benefit typically requires you to pay it back if you leave the company.

PhD degrees are paid for by fellowships -- either budgeted in research grants or teaching fellowships.

If you're in the USA, and no one is willing to pay your graduate school tuition, the message they're sending is "we don't think you can finish the degree".

Also, $51k for only the tuition component of a Masters is stupidly high. You don't go to an Ivy League school if you're paying out of pocket, when you can get the same degree from a public university. Sure, the top 5 programs at elite schools are better than the top 5 state school programs in the same field. But the top 5 state schools are better than the median elite school, and cost a lot less. And either program is only as good as the effort you put in.

Besides all that, your math is waaaaay off. You're expecting to average an extra $40k/year, gross. Deducting taxes (at the marginal rate), your take-home increases by $25k/year. Put all of that into paying for your degree, and your loan is gone in less than three years.

The new career is worth it for you, but that has more to do with switching fields than earning a masters (there's no $40k pay difference between BS and MS in the same field).

What I recommend you do is look for entry-level positions in your new field. Since your training for it is only a handful of electives, not the focus of your BS, you'll likely be well under average pay for a computer scientist -- so you probably won't see any pay bump yet. But a company hiring CS people is going to be far more willing to pay for a MS in CS than the typical employer hiring your old major. (Naturally, you should inquire about tuition benefits before taking the new job, as not all employers value continuing education equally)

  • Lots of good points in here. My employer paid 100% for my masters degree in Applied Mathematics. In tech fields these days, it's very possible to find employers who will pay for masters, or even in some cases PhDs.
    – jaypops96
    Jan 18, 2019 at 4:08
  • Key take-away for me: (there's no $40k pay difference between BS and MS in the same field). In essence, its fair game to use a MS to switch fields or direction within the same field but getting one just for the sake of it is hardly worth it(knowledge wise or salary increase wise)...
    – Leon
    Jan 18, 2019 at 10:39
  • @Leon: An MS can be worth it, but you shouldn't be spending $67k for it as OP proposes. Both the risk and return should be substantially lower than the scenario in the question.
    – Ben Voigt
    Jan 18, 2019 at 15:06
  • It's worth commenting that some positions such as scientist, if we're thinking about career ladders, require a master's degree or higher by convention. Otherwise, the highest you can be promoted might be RA III or some sort of specialist. This isn't the case for all fields.
    – CKM
    Jan 18, 2019 at 15:17
  • @CKM: Nothing changes just because your desired position requires a masters. You still look for someone else to pay for it (effectively, a formal acceptance letter that doesn't include funding and isn't covered by an employer education benefit should be treated as a rejection)
    – Ben Voigt
    Jan 18, 2019 at 15:23

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .