The Real Difference Between a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree


As a college student, you must decide what avenue to pursue as far as a career is concerned. Once you know your career path, you can then decide if you will be pursuing an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree. Depending on the program you choose, earnings potential can be greater as well as the potential to move up within the career field based on your educational background. It is recommended that you learn everything you can about the career field you wish to pursue in order to find out about educational requirements you will need in order to be successful. While one career path may only require a bachelor’s degree, another may pay better and offer more advancement opportunities if you have a master’s degree. Learn more about the difference between the two and when it is best to continue with your education. Doing this allows you to make the best decision about your education and finances before starting a new career.

Time in School

The first factor that differentiates a bachelor’s degree from a master’s is time. When attending college to earn a bachelor’s degree, four years of schooling is usually required. For a master’s degree, a bachelor’s must be obtained and then two additional years of school completed, for most programs. This means you would have to attend school for a total of six years in order to obtain a master’s degree. Many individuals will choose to complete college and earn a bachelor’s degree, then move on to work on their master’s while employed in their given career field. This way, the individual has gained experience in the field and can move up to a higher paying position once the higher degree has been obtained.

Tuition Cost

A big contributing factor on whether to pursue a bachelor’s degree or continue with a master’s is tuition costs. The cost of tuition is based on a number of factors including where you attend school, if you live on or off campus, and other factors. You already know that you will be paying for a total of four years in school to earn your bachelor’s degree. Will you be able to handle two additional years of college expenses? It is important to weigh the cost and if you would be able to earn more with a master’s degree. If so, then the money you make with an annual salary will easily outweigh the total cost of your tuition after working on your master’s.

Career Opportunity

Another factor to consider when weighing a bachelor’s degree against a master’s is career opportunities. Depending on the career path you choose, there will be certain opportunities available. With a bachelor’s degree, you can get your foot in the door but with a master’s degree you might be able to earn more money and receive a higher position within a company from the beginning. The type of career you are interested in should help you to decide which educational path to take. While having a bachelor’s degree is a requirement for many career fields, a master’s degree gets you noticed. If you want to be noticed by employers and earn more money, then spending the additional two years in college most often will pay off in the end.

Not a Requirement

A master’s degree is not a requirement, depending on the industry, but will help you to further pursue your career goals. One way to help make the decision is to search for employment positions in your career field. Do a quick search online for your career choice and see what requirements are needed. Do you see listings for positions that require a bachelor’s degree? Do any of the listings mention a master’s degree? If you find that most employers require a bachelor’s degree and make no mention of a master’s,6 then you could go straight to work. However, if you find that your career path offers opportunities for those with a master’s degree, consider your options to pursue the higher degree level.

Weigh the pros and cons. Will you earn a higher salary with a master’s degree? Will you be able to pay off tuition for two additional years of schooling? Make a list of the pros and cons for completing just your bachelor’s and and one for pursuing a master’s degree. Which option makes more sense to you? If you want to pursue a career where you can continue to move up the ladder of success, then a master’s might be needed depending on your career path.

If you decide to complete your bachelor’s degree and forego the master’s, you can always go back to school at a later date. An additional two years of school is a big commitment, and if it is not required for the career you wish to pursue, then you should really consider the cost in both time and money. If you are not ready, take a break. The classes will always be there and once you establish yourself in a career field, you will be able to determine if earning your master’s degree is worthwhile.