Money cost saving for goal and success in school, education concept : US USD dollar notes or cash, graduation cap, a text book, a certificate / diploma on basic wooden balance scale. Green background.

Professionals pursuing a graduate degree have been on the rise in recent years, and you might be wondering: is graduate school worth it? You may have worked with many people who have a master’s degree already. Perhaps you are an undergraduate student trying to decide if you will enter the workforce or continue with higher education. Either way, pursuing a graduate degree can be an exciting but difficult decision. While there are many benefits, there are also lots to consider, such as funding, the type of degree, and the return on investment. In this blog, we will help you uncover if a graduate degree is right for you! 

Types of Graduate Degrees 

There are many types of post-undergraduate degrees, some of which are specific to industry and job title. There are 3 most common types of graduate degrees: 

Master’s degree.

  •  A master’s degree can be pursued after an undergraduate degree. The length of these programs can be only one year, like WPI’s BS/MS programs, or several years longer, depending on how frequently classes are taken. Master’s programs offer advanced education and training in a specific area of study beyond what is typically covered in an undergraduate degree. They often include coursework, research, and sometimes internships or practical components.  

Doctorate Degree (PhD).

  • A Doctorate, commonly known as a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), is the highest academic degree one can earn in most fields. It is typically pursued after completing a master’s degree, although some programs accept students directly from undergraduate studies. PhD programs are research-focused and require students to conduct research in their chosen field and write a dissertation or thesis. The duration of a PhD program varies but often takes around three to six years to complete. In addition to research, PhD students usually undergo rigorous coursework and may also engage in assistant teaching or other forms of academic work. 

Graduate Certifications.

  • Unlike degrees, which require a broader curriculum and often include research components, certifications are typically shorter and more focused on developing specific skills or knowledge in a particular area. They are often pursued by professionals seeking to enhance their expertise or credentials in a specific field without committing to a full degree program. While not as comprehensive as degrees, graduate certifications are valued for providing specialized training and can enhance career opportunities and professional development. 

At Worcester Polytechnic Institute, we have over 50 graduate programs, including online degrees and certificate courses. For more information, view our program highlights

Graduation, hug and students with diploma from college for success, celebration and support in education. Certificate, happy and friends hugging after achievement at graduate event at a universityCost of programs 

The cost of graduate programs can vary greatly. If you choose to attend on-campus classes, you may need to factor in the additional costs of housing, whether you choose a dorm lifestyle, or an apartment off-campus. If you already live within commuting distance of the school, you may not need to worry about housing or campus meal plans. Living with roommates near campus can also reduce your housing expenses, as you can share the rent with multiple people. 

If you have access to a kitchen and grocery store, you may be able to save money grocery shopping, instead of purchasing a meal plan or eating out. You will have more flexibility to budget when doing your own shopping.  

The length of your program will impact your costs as well. For example, many schools give discounts to students if they pursue a 4+1 plan. Called by many names, a 4+1 plan basically means that undergraduate students are offered the opportunity to pursue a master’s in a smaller amount of time and cost, than if they waited to pursue a graduate degree.  

Paying for Graduate School 

Paying for graduate classes can be a pain point for many people. There are many solutions available and unique to your situation:

1. Employer Tuition Benefits.

If you are currently employed, you might want to reach out to your company to see if they offer tuition benefits or reimbursement. Your employer may be willing to pay for all, or part, of your graduate degree. This is a great opportunity to take advantage of and can likely increase your salary after graduation! 

2. Student Loans.

For students who need additional financial assistance beyond what their means can cover, student loans are a common option for funding graduate education. Federal student loans, such as Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Grad PLUS Loans, are available for graduate students. 

3. Scholarships.

Scholarships can be a great way to pay for graduate school. Scholarships may be granted based on academic performance, field of study, or research. Some scholarships can be awarded based on ethnicity or background. They may be offered by your chosen institution, local organizations, religious institutions, and more. The US Department of Education has suggestions for finding scholarships on this web page

4. Financial Aid.

Depending on your school and your citizenship status, you may be able to apply for financial aid. Some financial aid is need-based, with your financial situation considered with how much you will receive. There are several forms you may need to fill out, and not every school or graduate program offers financial aid. Check with the bursar’s office at your chosen school for more information. 

Asian women counting college savings fund, tuition fee for student loan with calculator.What can I gain with a master’s degree? 

The benefit of a master’s degree varies from industry to industry, job to job. However, being a grad student does come with great perks and opportunities:

1. Internship and research opportunities.

Being in grad school puts you within reach of lots of professional opportunities. Your professors, university, and even fellow students may have connections that can put you on the fast track for exciting jobs and research-based work. You will expand your professional connections through your school and colleagues!  

2. Higher starting salary.

If you have not yet entered the workforce, holding off for a year or more to earn your graduate degree can hasten your rise in the industry. Getting a masters in a chosen or relevant field shows employers that you have drive and passion for your industry. You have also learned valuable skills that you can bring into the job market, making you a valuable asset.  

3. More opportunities for advancement.

If you are already in the workforce and looking to move up in your company, a graduate degree can speed up that process significantly. By acquiring specialized knowledge and advanced skills through a graduate degree, you not only demonstrate dedication to your field but also position yourself as a prime candidate for promotions and leadership roles within your organization.

4. Become published in your field.  

PhD programs give students access to grants and research. While earning your degree, you can be (and likely will be) involved with research through your university. You might have an opportunity to publish scientific journals and articles about your work, which is a great thing to stand out on your resume!

5. Be exposed to a greater worldview.

Most graduate programs welcome students from around the world. You might be in the same program with people from all walks of life, backgrounds, experience, and world view. You will broaden your horizons and may change the way that you see problems. 

6. Meet interesting people. 

Not only will you meet people with different backgrounds, but you will also encounter people with similar backgrounds. You will have the chance to network with people who are just as passionate about your field of study as you are! 

Businesspeople handshaking after deal or interview

Graduate degrees can not only be a lucrative next step in your career but can also be a great way to network and develop your skills. At WPI, our focus lies in getting you real-world experience led by established industry experts. View our full list of over +50 graduate programs!