Choosing to invest in a master’s degree is a big decision – it’s more than just a financial investment. With the sacrifices that pursuing a master’s degree requires, one may ask whether it’s truly worth it.

The return on investment (ROI) of graduate school is more than a number. To truly determine the ROI of earning an advanced degree, the understanding of both financial and emotional worth is critical. When comparing debt and income in the decade after graduation, professional degrees are the most financially beneficial on average. In addition, jobs that require a master’s are experiencing high growth with anticipated increases of 18 percent over the past decade, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Keep in mind, however, that emotional worth is as important to consider in your decision to pursue a master’s degree, as it includes factors like usefulness, personal value, and self-esteem.

According to Paul Thagard, professor emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Waterloo, “There is empirical evidence now that, beyond a certain amount, money really doesn’t buy happiness – whereas good relationships are a crucial part of living, having a sense of accomplishment and achievement are a crucial part of living.” It is imperative that the decision to enroll in graduate school strikes a balance between the tangible and intangible.

When calculating the true cost of an advanced degree, it is essential to do research into discounted tuition rates like employer tuition assistance, partnerships, and graduate assistantships. While it is difficult to project an exact figure to your earnings in the years post-graduate school, using online services like or can help you make a conservative estimate for your calculations. The next step is to use these figures to narrow down your list of possible institutions. For example, if your debt is higher than your first-year salary out of graduate school, then the price of your total education may not justify the cost. On the other hand, graduate school has many benefits that are not quantifiable. These advantages include additional skills and knowledge gained, new acquaintances from your studies, alumni connections, and increased marketability.

It is the recommendation of Thagard to employ a strategy called cognitive-affective mapping that takes into account your economic and emotional well-being. This map visualizes your emotional response to the potential outcomes of a decision by linking positive, negative, and neutral elements. Through this process, you can more easily identify what you actually value versus what you want to avoid and come to a resolution. While it is critical to figure out if the program is financially beneficial for you, it is also vital to weigh the qualitative and quantitative together. By fully understanding the various elements of your investment, your ROI for a graduate education can be determined.

Stevenson University Online provides career-focused bachelor’s, master’s and certificate programs in convenient, 8 week sessions to meet the needs of working adults. Engaged faculty and staff deliver one-on-one attention that embodies Stevenson University Online’s commitment to student success.