4 1 Masters programs are worth it

Master - yes or no?

Is the master worth it? Are there salary differences between bachelor and master graduates and do employers even expect a master’s degree? You have to consider these and other questions when deciding between a master's degree or a job.

Whether the master’s degree is worthwhile depends on your professional goals and the industry you want to work in. A bachelor's degree is sufficient for some areas, a master’s degree is a must in others.If you already know that you want to sit in the executive chair later, you should add another four semesters to it. Because no matter where you want to work, you normally only reach management level with a second degree. And the master’s degree has something else positive with it: If you have a master’s degree, the companies reward this additional effort from the start. Graduates with a master’s degree receive 13 percent more wages than their fellow students with a bachelor’s degree. The comparison portal “Salary.de” has analyzed over 14,000 starting salaries of Bachelor and Master graduates and found that graduates with a Master’s degree earn an average of 45,000 euros a year, while Bachelor graduates have to be content with 39,840 euros.

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Master's advantage: the higher starting salary

There are three reasons for the difference in pay: Masters graduates know more, have greater specialist knowledge and often have initial work experience.

  1.  Higher level of knowledge: While basic knowledge is imparted in the bachelor's degree and a holistic overview of a topic is obtained, the master's degree is designed to specialize in a specific direction.
  2. Greater expertise: The duration of the course is also decisive in terms of salary. Companies prefer to hire young applicants, as they have a reputation for being ambitious and flexible, but at the same time value professional experience, such as internships, and sound training. With a master’s degree, a graduate has both basic and specialist knowledge and has ultimately invested two years more in training than a bachelor’s graduate and foregoing a quick salary. This commitment is also rewarded by employers in terms of remuneration.
  3. More work experience:In the most recent case, a Bachelor graduate is 21 years old and has little or no professional experience. In most cases, the course is very well planned and offers little scope for internships, unless mandatory internships are planned. After the bachelor's degree, the time until the beginning of the master’s course can be used for orientation through an internship. Due to the longer study period, the students also have more time to gain practical experience. Further education master’s courses even require a certain amount of professional experience, usually at least one year.

Bachelor vs. Master: The industry makes the biggest difference

But not only the degree has an impact on the salary - the size of the company, the location and the industry play an equally important role. The bigger and more urban the company, the more likely you have a chance of getting a high starting salary. In some industries, higher starting salaries are paid on average anyway, such as in the electrical engineering industry. According to Salary.de, engineers with a bachelor's degree in this industry earn around 42,000 euros gross per year. In the area of ​​advertising and PR, the starting salaries are already significantly lower - even a graduate with a master’s degree receives an average of only 33,900 euros per year. If you believe the StepStone salary report 2017, then the chemical and pharmaceutical industries as well as the automotive and banking industries are financially the most lucrative with a starting salary of around 50,000 euros. If you join a management consultancy or auditing company, you can expect an average of 46,000 euros. At the lower end, in addition to the media, there are also advertising & PR as well as service providers and the public service. Here the starting salaries for university graduates are between 33,000 euros and 39,000 euros. In addition, your function in the company is also decisive for the level of the starting salary: On average, the Research & Development division is at the top of the payroll, followed by the areas of purchasing, sales, IT, manufacturing and finance. The bottom line here are the beginners in marketing and personnel.

Salary differences

Under Insider you will find experience reports on salaries in top companies and you can write a salary report yourself.

Conclusion: A good starting salary is also possible with a Bachelor's degree

What is certain is that a graduate with a master’s degree in the same position earns a higher starting salary than someone with a bachelor’s degree. But you shouldn't forget one thing: Masters graduates tend to earn more, but they have also completed longer and more expensive training. This difference is difficult to prove in purely mathematical terms, but it can be quite high, especially if you are studying for a master’s degree at a private university. When comparing the individual industries, it is also noticeable that, for example, a master's graduate in a position in the media industry earns significantly less on average than a bachelor's degree who has found a job in the chemical industry. If the focus is on the question of salary, then not only the academic degree is decisive for the amount of earnings, but also the choice of industry and function in the company.

Does the master's degree offer advantages when applying?

What students, universities and employers expect from master’s courses can vary greatly: Students appreciate a wide range of offers and like to gain international experience before they commit to a career. Universities value research, while employers demand more practical relevance. The German Chamber of Commerce and Industry asked companies about their expectations of master’s courses: 70 percent would like a stronger application orientation. The second place on the priority scale was the teaching of leadership skills, and third and fourth places were integrated internships and specialist knowledge. Research skills and study visits abroad came in last.

"Although practical relevance is most important to many companies, they also value the fact that the content in master's courses is taught in a scientifically sound manner," says Ann-Katrin Schröder, who runs the "Quaternary Education" program at the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft e. V. coordinated. The Stifterverband found out that companies in the field of further education Master’s courses want “tailor-made module combinations”. With employers, the focus is less on the degree or title, but rather on closing the competence gap in the company, and as quickly as possible. For this purpose, large corporations enter into partnerships with universities, such as the Otto Group with the Leuphana University in Lüneburg or Deutsche Telekom with the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Another benefit for companies from the close cooperation with universities is that the employees of a group can network with each other during their studies across locations and, if necessary, internationally.

If students are geared towards the needs of employers and, for example, attach great importance to application orientation and tailor-made module combinations, then the master’s degree offers advantages when applying. The master’s degree is also advantageous if the university maintains partnerships with companies and you can make initial contacts during your studies.

Career start with a master’s degree - advantages at a glance

  • You gain more knowledge and expertise
  • You have the opportunity to reorient yourself
  • You can gain experience abroad
  • You can already make contacts if your university is a partner of companies
  • An application-oriented master’s degree offers the advantages of applying
  • With a master’s degree, you tend to get a higher starting salary

Find the right master’s degree

If you have now decided on the master’s degree, you first have to find the right master’s degree. Anyone looking for the right master’s degree independently of an employer is first of all spoiled for choice. The Center for University Development provides orientation in the growing range of offers: every year they survey students in master’s programs at universities, technical colleges and business schools and use the data obtained to create the CHE university rankings. Here you can find information on over 3,950 master’s courses from a wide variety of disciplines. In addition to business administration, economics and computer science, the ranking has also been offering information on environmental, bio, chemical and civil engineering, electrical and information technology, materials technology and materials management as well as mechanical engineering and psychology since this year.

It's that simple: You register for free and can then select a subject, type of university and type of degree from an overview. You will then receive a list of the universities that offer this subject - together with an overview of their ranking results. If you value certain criteria more than others in the master’s program, you can create your personal ranking by selecting the criteria that are important to you.

At squeaker.net you will also find numerous university profiles and experience reports from students and graduates who explain the advantages and disadvantages of their Master’s or MBA studies.

It doesn't always have to be the MBA: If you are aiming for a career in management, the still young "Master in Management" course is an interesting alternative to the MBA.

Master's checklist - the most important criteria

1. Master's degree at a university, university of applied sciences or business school? 

Formally, all master’s degrees are equivalent, but the orientation of the courses can differ depending on the provider. At universities, research and science are more in the foreground than at universities of applied sciences or private business schools. So if you want to do a doctorate later, the university is best for you. If, on the other hand, it is more practical, then a university of applied sciences is more suitable for you. You will also learn practically, but only related to economic subjects, at private business schools. These often work together with companies and thus facilitate the later entry into professional life.

2. Private or public master’s degree? 

The equipment and support is usually better at private universities. However, this luxury has its price: While you usually only pay a maximum of 500 euros per semester for a master’s degree at state universities or technical colleges, studying at a business school can cost five to ten times as much! Financing your studies also plays a role in choosing the right master’s degree.

3. Consecutive or continuing education? 

Do you ask yourself whether you want to deepen, supplement or combine your course content with a completely different topic? In the past, this decision was a little more complicated, because a few years ago a distinction was made between consecutive and non-consecutive courses:

  • Consecutive: building on a specific Bachelor's degree (around 75 percent of the Master’s courses)
  • non-consecutive: no previous knowledge from the bachelor's degree in the same subject (12 percent of all offers)

Since 2008, master’s programs with subject-specific content other than the bachelor’s degree have been part of the consecutive study programs. Today one differentiates only between consecutive and continuing education courses. The best-known further education course is the Master of Business Administration (MBA), with which many people add economic knowledge to their initial academic training after their first professional experience. Those courses that require professional experience are referred to as continuing education. All others will be named consecutively in the future, regardless of whether they are continuing a subject or are interdisciplinary, such as a journalism master's after a natural science bachelor's degree.

4. What other criteria are important?

Further indications for the choice can be: Is the course accredited?

  • Do the contents in the course catalog appeal to me?
  • How much freedom of choice do the examination regulations allow?
  • How high is the dropout rate?

One last tip

Do you think the master’s degree will be worthwhile and have you even considered a master’s degree at a certain university? Then use the open day and get in touch with teachers and students. This is the best way to collect important impressions. Because in the end, your gut has to agree.

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