Do You Need an Advanced Degree to Get a Great Job?

How necessary is a master's to career success?

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Lindsay Olson
If you have a bachelor's degree, you've probably toyed with the idea of going back to school to get a master's to help you on your career path. But is an advanced degree really necessary?

Not always, especially if you've got experience. Degrees matter the most when you're fresh out of college and have little to no experience in the industry in which you want to work. As you move up the ladder, that experience grows, as does your hireability.

Here are a few situations where you would want that advanced degree:

  • You want to work in a field that requires it, such as law or medicine
  • You want to work for a company that has strict education requirements for positions, like a government agency or university
  • The only way you will get a promotion or raise is with higher levels of education
  • You want to move into a new field in which you have no experience
  • If spending a year or more earning another degree isn't in the cards, here are things you can do to make up for not having one.

    Look at Certification

    Graduate school isn't the only form of education that can make you more hireable. Look at certification programs and online training that can provide you with new job skills and add a little more meat to your resume.

    Learn New Skills

    And identify the ones you have. Sometimes you overlook all the amazing skills you've picked up along the way simply because you're so used to them. Make a list of all the tasks you do on a daily basis, and make sure your resume reflects them and highlights the impressive ones.

    Top universities across the country are offering free online courses to the public. Coursera.org is a site that partners with universities such as Princeton, University of Virginia, Stanford, among many others, to offer online classes for free. This is an excellent way to learn about new subjects, or to deepen your knowledge in areas of interest.

    Use your job as the opportunity to learn new skills. Get involved in extracurricular work projects. Buddy up with a co-worker and teach each other a skill or two in which you excel. Attend any free training sessions you can find that relate to your job. Take it after hours by attending local seminars and conferences for that same purpose.

    If You Decide on Graduate School...

    If you decide on graduate school, be very clear with what you expect to get out of it. Do you want to bone up on a new field? Are you looking for a way to get that next promotion? Whatever your objective, make sure investing in years of school will actually help you achieve it. 

    Many companies pay for part or all of an advanced degree, so before plunking down the investment to pay for your classes, check if your company offers tuition reimbursement.

    Finally, look into online and evening classes so you don't have to quit your current job to earn your advanced degree.

    Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.