Best and worst master's degrees for jobs today

WATCH: Not every graduate degree is worth the extra time and money, according to career experts.

It’s not surprising that in the increasingly competitive job market, more people are pursuing graduate degrees. According to the 2011 National Household Survey, 29.5 per cent of adults in Canada aged 25 to 64 held a university degree (which includes bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees), compared to 22.9 per cent in 2006. Half of the university degree earners were women, and 58 per cent of degree holders aged 25 to 34 also had a master’s degree.

That may sound impressive, but in reality, although Canada leads in tertiary education rates (ahead of Japan, the U.S. and U.K.), according to recent statistics released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, we actually lag in graduate degree holders.

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But how important are master’s degrees today? While having more education is widely believed to lead to better job prospects and a higher salary, not all master’s degrees are worth spending the extra time or money. But knowing which ones are worth it requires research.

“It has to do with the projection of an industry,” Arturo Gallo, content manager at Monster Canada, says to Global News. “If a sector is booming, it’s a good indication A few years back we could only talk about the oil industry, and now it’s not as profitable. It’s a roller coaster, and it’s hard to predict which industry will have the highest salaries.”

There are some obvious ones, however. In particular, Gallo points to anything in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) field as the “hot potato” of master’s degrees.

“I wouldn’t say there are any ‘worst’ master’s degrees because education is always valuable,” he says. “But it has been said that a master’s in architecture is the most time-consuming, and considered undesirable because of the length of the program and the internship requirements.”

He also says graduate degrees in social work and counselling do not offer a competitive salary, therefore people pursuing jobs in this industry should think twice about potentially putting themselves in deep debt to earn these degrees.

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In the non-STEM field, an MBA has long held appeal as a desirable degree. But as with most industries, today it helps to bolster the education with specialized skills.

“MBAs have replaced the value that bachelor’s degrees used to hold. However, they’re no guarantee of greater marketability in the workforce,” Cindy Schwartz, a recruitment supervisor with Quantum Management Services, said to Monster. “You need relevant experience coupled with the right education to stand out among the competition.”

The factors that go into determining the appeal of a master’s degree and its ensuing employment also include development opportunities, job satisfaction, and stress. In fact, for millennials, a larger paycheque pales in the face of these other qualities. According to a 2016 survey conducted by Fidelity, millennial respondents said they’d be willing to forego an extra $7,600 for a better workplace environment that included career development prospects and better work-life balance.

“Millennials are changing the workspace and the HR spectrum,” Gallo says. “They’re definitely pushing more toward job satisfaction than anything else. And I wouldn’t say that a master’s degree will definitely determine job satisfaction.”

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According to a recent report from CIBC World Markets, the following graduate degrees will result in a higher salary.

Best master’s degrees

  • Medicine/physician
  • Dentistry
  • Accounting
  • Law
  • MBA
  • Public administration
  • Education

Although there are no Canadian statistics on which master’s degrees are the least financially rewarding, Forbes recently published a list based on data provided by compensation website PayScale. The rankings are based on factors like early career and mid-career pay, pay growth, job satisfaction, stress and meaning, and job-market projections provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics. Based on this information, the following would qualify as the worst master’s degrees for 2017.

Worst master’s degrees

  • Graphic design
  • Interior design
  • Early childhood education
  • Human services
  • Writing
  • Pastoral ministry
  • Library science

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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