Undergraduate vs. Graduate: Career Opportunities with a Post-Graduate Degree

Many people treat their undergraduate graduation as if it’s the final day of formalized education; they feel like their schooling is complete after 16 long years. Deciding to continue your education and pursue a graduate degree might seem, to some, like just another delay before getting out into the ‘real world.’ It’s important to realize that even though continuing your college education requires both a significant time and financial commitment, the benefits can heavily outweigh the costs.

A study by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics found that, as of 2015, the median weekly income for individuals with a master’s degree was $200 more than those with a bachelor’s degree; doctorate degrees garnered an additional $300. Similarly, the unemployment rate for master’s degree holders was found to be 2.8%, compared to 3.5% for undergraduates.

Furthermore, the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce calculates that by 2020 more than 60% of jobs nationally will require at least some postsecondary education.A college education is quickly becoming a necessity for the job market and bachelor’s degree holders continue to become more common. Only master’s and doctorate degrees will guarantee the same competitive edge in the future as a larger percentage of the population earn at least an undergraduate degree. Post-graduates in a variety of fields are, statistically, more employable and better paid than their bachelor-wielding counterparts.

Information Technology

Computers, and the people who work with them, aren’t going away any time in the near future. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the employment of information technology occupations such as programmers, network architects, systems analysts and software developers will go up by 12% from 2014 to 2024; this is the fastest growth predicted for any field.

The website PayScale.com conducts a yearly college salary report of the highest-paying majors for each degree level. At the bachelor’s degree tier, Information Systems ranked 53rd. The study calculated that the median pay in 2016-2017 for alumni in the field with 0-5 years of work experience was $56,300.The same major, at the master’s level, moved up to 28th place and has a projected median salary of $67,800. Software engineering and computer science degrees are even higher up the list, in the top 20 and even top 10.


The business field is very broad, covering everything from marketing to administration; unsurprisingly, almost all areas benefit from a master’s degree. A bachelor’s in business administration earns a median salary of $46,100. Working until a master’s degree results in a nice jump up to $57,700. Business management degrees scale similarly to administrative degrees. An undergraduate’s salary right out of school is projected to be around $45,800. Going back for the master’s degree is rewarded with an increase to $56,800.

Because management is needed in multiple markets, a graduate management degree can be worth even more depending on your specialization. A master’s degree in technology management ranked sixth place on PayScale’s listing, with a median early career salary of $65,900. The opportunity to focus your area of expertise is available with almost all graduate degrees, resulting in higher pay and more career options right out of university.

Elementary Education

Both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education have a fairly modest salary; PayScale ranks a bachelor’s degree at 288th place with a projected $35,900 salary and a master’s at 148th with $46,200. A graduate degree is helpful to those who wish to continue teaching higher grade levels for better pay, but is even more effective for those who choose to go into academic administration.

Becoming an academic or educational administrator virtually always requires a graduate degree. Having a four-year teaching degree background better prepares you for a career where you would be managing or directly working with other teachers and students, but a bachelor’s alone is not enough to land you the position. A degree in Educational Administration is not listed on PayScale’s bachelor’s degree salary report. The master’s degree salary report, however, place it at 129th place with a median salary of $53,900. A graduate degree in the education field has the potential to increase yearly income by 50%.

Upper Iowa University offers graduate degrees and certificates in a variety of focuses including business administration and education. Contact UIU today to apply or request more information.