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Undergraduate graduation may not be the final step before obtaining a job. An honors and business graduate looks at the stage during the fall undergraduate commencement ceremony at Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Georgia, on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018. The University of Georgia welcomed 1,575 undergraduates and 1,224 graduate students during its fall 2018 commencement ceremonies. (Photo/Rebecca Wright)

There are approximately 17 million students enrolled in undergraduate programs nationwide – and the number is expected to increase 3 percent by 2027. With an increasingly college educated crowd, an undergraduate degree may not be enough to break into the job market and attain higher career goals. 

Depending on the industry, a master’s degree can significantly elevate  employment prospects and credibility. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the top fields for a master’s degree are business, education, health care, engineering and computer sciences. Depending on the industry, a master’s degree can significantly elevate employment prospects and credibility. 

The number of students enrolled in a post-baccalaureate degree has been increasing for the past 10 years and is projected to increase another 3 percent by 2027 as well, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. 

The fast-evolving workforce demands people update their knowledge and skills frequently, and many are relying on their higher degrees to advance their careers. But what happens when a bachelor’s is no longer enough to do this?

Prospective employers are more likely to hire professionals with a master’s degree since the program is a more valuable in-depth study of fields and demonstrates expertise. In a difficult job market, it can help distinguish those worth hiring. 

Professionals with a master’s degree earn about $20,000 more in their career fields and are more likely to transition into senior positions. Most importantly, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 18 percent of jobs will require a master’s degree by 2022.

The American Association of University Women reports America’s student loan debt just hit $1.4 trillion, largely due to rising college tuition. Going for a master’s degree includes about three times the amount of student loans than the typical undergraduate student. 

Despite not every job requiring a master’s, and while a master’s degrees include three times the amount of student loans than the typical undergrad student, the trend shows that a master’s will benefit potential job seekers. 

Thankfully, there is more than one way to obtain a master’s degree. Online master’s programs are cheaper and more convenient for working professionals. Some universities offer an accelerated master’s programs, like University of Georgia’s Double Dawgs program, that can be completed  in one additional year along with a bachelor’s degree, which cuts down on time and cost. 

The possibility of furthering student debt would be worth the master’s. The amount of employers who include “master’s degree preferred” on their listings are expanding and many entry-level jobs will require a higher degree. 

Undergrads should use available opportunities in their prospective careers and decide if a master’s degree can help them achieve their goals. For a majority of young professionals, the master’s degree is quickly becoming the once coveted bachelor’s degree to obtain their ideal jobs. 

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