Extra level of achievement helps job applicants stand out and gives employees a competitive edge

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 53 million working adults in the U.S. have bachelor’s degrees. With so many people who have bachelor’s degrees competing for the same jobs, it can be difficult to stand out.

Standing out is one of the major benefits of obtaining a master’s degree or higher.

In fact, more and more in today’s competitive workplace, it seems that master’s degrees hold the same status bachelor’s degrees used to hold: No longer just a nice-to-have, a graduate degree is increasingly being seen as a must-have. In many cases, master’s is the new bachelor’s.

You may have wondered once, twice, or possibly multiple times whether completing a master’s degree would be worth it or is even pertinent to your career development and advancement. You’ve probably seen that with most institutions, the price you pay for a master’s degree is steep, and the thought of additional school debt may be discouraging. Working a full-time job and having a family could also make finding time to return to school seem like too big of a task.

Here are some ways a master’s degree could help you advance your career.

Information Technology

A master’s degree in the IT field is typically required for anyone looking to obtain a management-level position. In 2014, the median salary of IT managers in the U.S. was $127,640.

Jobs a master’s degree in IT could qualify you for: IT manager, IT project manager, software engineer, senior database administrator, senior software engineer, web developer, IT specialist, etc.

Business

A survey conducted by Accountemps, a global temporary staffing service for finance and accounting professionals, found that 80 percent of the surveyed executives said a graduate degree in business is important to obtain senior management positions with most companies. And while an MBA remains an outstanding option for graduate-level business studies, it’s not the only master’s degree available in business. Others include M.S. Management & Leadership, M.S. Integrated Healthcare Management, or M.S. Accounting, as well as MBAs with specializations like IT management or health care management.

Jobs a master’s degree in business could qualify you for: upper management in business, nonprofit, or government, including c-level positions; accountant; financial analyst; management analyst; compliance manager; auditor; risk analyst; tax examiner; revenue agent; etc.

Health Professions

A master’s degree in nursing and health care-related areas enables you to increase your level of responsibility. If you have been working the floors for many years and are looking for a change, a professional with an MSN degree tends to qualify for more flexible work schedules and higher pay. You have the opportunity to work in administrative and management roles or become a nurse educator, which may mean better schedules and more leadership opportunities. Completing a master’s will help you qualify for higher-paid administrative and management roles.

Jobs a master’s degree in health professions could qualify you for: nurse educator (faculty member in a nursing school or teaching hospital), nurse manager, advanced care specialist, healthcare administrator, care manager, home healthcare, general medical and surgical hospitals, independent practice, schools or universities, chief nursing officer, chief executive officer, chief operations officer, chief administrator, provider network executive, home health agency president, health system vice president, ambulatory services executive, department or division director, behavioral health director, clinical director, managed care analyst, etc.

K–12 Education

If you already hold a teaching license and currently teach, you may wonder how you could benefit from a master’s degree. Completing a master’s program as an already-licensed teacher makes it possible for you to become an expert in your preferred subject matter, or it could qualify you for educational leadership positions such as principal or vice principal. Business Insider reported that elementary education is one of the “10 Most Useful Graduate Degrees,” along with special education.

A master’s degree will help you specialize and adjust lessons to address the needs and unique learning styles of all your students, which could likely lead to greater success.

If, on the other hand, you aren’t a licensed teacher – but want to become one – and you already have a bachelor’s degree in another field, an MAT degree, or Master of Arts in Teaching, is a great way to earn a teaching license through a graduate-degree program.

Jobs a master’s degree in K–12 teaching could qualify you for: principal, vice principal, assistant principal, teacher, special education, curriculum developer or specialist, specialized teacher in a public, private, or charter school.

WGU Washington is an online, competency-based university designed to expand access to higher education for Washington residents.