Before we talk about the benefits and perks of earning a master’s degree, let’s get real. If you’re worried about money, ask yourself one thing: Do I need this degree to get where I want to be professionally?

If the answer is yes or probably, then pursuing a master’s degree is something you should look into. Here are just a few benefits you’ll earn along with your degree.

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1.) Professional Development

Earning a degree shows a commitment to learning the latest in your field and prepares you to move up the ladder in your career. In many fields a master’s degree is more than a preference for advancement, it’s a requirement. Going back to earn a master’s degree also gives you a chance to network with professionals in your field who are committed to learning more.

2.) Learn More About Your Passion

Earning a master’s degree lets you learn more about your passions! Maybe there was a subject in undergrad you loved and now want to learn more about, or maybe you’ve discovered a new field of interest during your career. Either way, you get to learn in-depth about it while contributing to your credentials.

3.)  Job Security

People with degrees historically fare better during recessions. During the height of unemployment in 2010, those with some college and no degree had an unemployment rate of 9.2%, and those with an associate’s degree had a rate of 7%. In contrast those with a bachelor’s degree or higher had an unemployment rate of 4.7%. The difference in unemployment between a master’s degree holder and a bachelor’s degree holder is usually within 1% of each other. Although this difference is small, master’s degree holders still have higher earnings in comparison to bachelor’s degree holders. That extra income can make all the difference.

4.) It’s Different than Undergrad

The best part about earning a master’s degree is being able to apply the latest information to your current career. A lot of undergrad is preparing you for a future career field you’ve yet to enter, while in grad school you’re likely working in the field you’re studying. You have the opportunity to take what you learn in the classroom and immediately apply it to real-life situations. This not only deepens your understanding of concepts, it can help you stand out at work.

5.) Affordability

All this sounds great, but how do you pay for it? Look into programs your employer offers to further your education. Some companies offer to pay for part or all tuition costs when you earn a master’s degree related to your field. If you don’t have a program currently in place, try asking what other opportunities the company may have. Even if there’s not an established program, if you can show how earning a master’s degree brings value to the company you may be able to get assistance. Southeast also offers more than 1,500 endowed scholarships that could help cover your tuition and other costs.