Your browser is not supported. We do our best to optimize our websites to the most current web browsers. Please try another browser.

Should You Go to Grad School? Almost Half of all Master’s Degrees Have a Negative Return on Investment: Study

Young woman studying in a library
Getty Images

If you’ve finished an undergraduate degree and you’re wondering about continuing with higher education, a new study might convince you to hit pause on starting your applications for grad school. According to research from the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity (FREOPP), 40 per cent of master’s degrees and 14 per cent of advanced degrees have a negative financial return.

In the report, there is an assessment of the increase in lifetime earnings minus the costs of attending school for almost 14,000 graduate degrees, looking at master’s degrees, doctoral degrees and professional degrees. The results show that only certain fields eventually pay off — students thinking of continuing school in areas such as computer science, engineering and nursing tend to do well, with most master’s degrees in these field offering a return of investment above $500,000.

Related: Jobs with the best starting salaries in Canada.

Unfortunately for those with a passion for the arts and humanities, those degrees had a median return of negative $400,000. However, it’s not just the arts degrees that aren’t paying for themselves in the end — surprisingly, getting a Master of Business Administration might not be as lucrative as you’d expect, with over 60 per cent MBAs and other business-related master’s degrees having negative ROIs.

Not so shockingly, doctoral and professional degrees in areas such as law or medicine have a high ROI, so if you’re dreaming of becoming a lawyer or practicing as a physician or dentist, you’ll likely be OK.

Related: This is how much money you should be saving every month.

The report also adds that “individual financial returns are by far the biggest concern for most students considering graduate school” in part, because graduate degrees are “almost always viewed as an investment in future earnings capacity.” So if you’re passionate about pursuing a master’s degree in archaeology or doing a PhD in film studies, just know that you likely won’t necessarily see your earnings ballooning in the future.

At the end of the day, deciding to go to graduate school is a personal decision, and depending on your career path, it might be the right move to help you land the job of your dreams. Plus, there are always options such as certificate programs that might help you acquire some of the skills you’re looking to add to your resume, without requiring the same financial and time commitment of grad school.


See also: Sign up for the Slice newsletter.

Latest News

This content is restricted to adults of legal age.
Please enter your birthdate to confirm.
Date of Birth