A graduate degree is often touted as the new bachelor’s degree…a critical distinction in a crowded pool of candidates. But is more education always the answer? What benefit can you get from a graduate degree, other than more debt? Here are some (possibly surprising) benefits of obtaining a master’s degree, and which fields offer the greatest return.

Ability to focus on one subject.

An undergraduate degree provides a small window into a subject, and it has a stronger emphasis on developing graduates into a well-rounded professional. A graduate degree zeroes in on one area of expertise. The coursework can be more intense and stressful than your undergraduate days; however, the opportunity to enjoy your field is greater.

Career change opportunity.

Graduate studies can be a springboard into another career. Whether you simply want to realign your career with additional expertise or knowledge or you want to switch gears, a graduate degree provides the opportunity to strengthen or change career options.

earned Respect.

There is a quiet respect for individuals who have a graduate degree, and without being arrogant about it, there is pride in accomplishment and the letters that are added to your name. Of course, the letters alone will not maintain someone’s respect…it takes actual real work to do that.

Intellectual growth.

After being in the workforce for a bit, focused educational efforts provide intellectual stimulation and increased cognitive development. The brain is a muscle that can be trained and exercised. If you work your body to increase your strength, you can work your brain to increase your intelligence.

More job opportunities and more money.

In many fields, graduate degrees provide more opportunities for job growth and salary increases. If your current organization doesn’t offer increased responsibility and salary for your degree, start searching ClearanceJobs.com for positions that will appreciate the benefit of an employee with a graduate degree. By spending the time focusing on a field that you like, you can narrow down your job search.

While it may be beneficial to your career to take your degree status to the next level, sometimes, you cannot easily measure the return on investment. In other words, your paycheck may not always reflect the value you gained from a graduate degree. While money was a large component of a Forbes study to determine top and worst graduate degrees, job satisfaction and meaning were also measured. Here are the top five graduate degree options (bonus of all degrees is that they are highly useful in the cleared world):

  1. Biomedical Engineering (BME)
  2. Computer Science (CS)
  3. Physics
  4. Masters of Business Administration (This one showed up six times in the top twenty list, with the highest return on investment on a focus in corporate finance.)
  5. Mathematics

Key takeaway is that a graduate degree is beneficial to your career, but some careers would be better served with target training and not a full-fledged graduate degree. Consider your options carefully, and if your interests are in STEM or business, consider taking the graduate degree plunge.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.