As my friends and I started to finish up our bachelor’s degrees and transition into our careers, a question that frequently pops up is this: is a master’s degree really necessary?

Indonesian parents (and perhaps even Asian parents in general) have this mindset of “studying as high as you can”, and that often translates to getting a master’s degree after getting your bachelor’s. That said, people are increasingly questioning whether it is really worth it. For one thing, a master’s degree is a pretty expensive investment to begin with. Are the benefits really worth taking up additional student loans?

Another argument against master’s degrees has to do with opportunity cost and time. Assuming you’re taking up a full-time program, that would mean taking around 1 to 2 years off work, time you could be using to grow and further your career. You could even be promoted within that time span, which would translate to learning even more real-life skills (not to mention getting a pay raise). Instead, you’re back in the classroom, attending seminars, getting buried in textbooks and group work.

Nonetheless, there are upsides to getting a master’s degree, and valid ones too. For one thing, it’s one way for you to differentiate yourself in the competitive job market, start at higher level positions in an organization, and command higher pay. More importantly, master’s degrees do give “second chances” to people who want to change careers. When you’re still a fresh graduate, it’s way easier to snatch an interview in an unrelated field by virtue of “being interested” or “wanting to try something new.” It gets harder as you progress in your current career and develop skills that may not necessarily be relevant in that other field.

Networking is also another benefit. Obviously, many MBA graduates, especially from the prestigious schools, eventually hold important positions, which doesn’t hurt. But if you’re looking to change careers, a master’s program would provide a platform for you to connect with people (both peers and industry practitioners) in the field you’re planning to enter.

I personally have never pursued a master’s degree, but I have been actively considering it. I suppose, as are most things, it all boils down to you and what you want out of a master’s degree. If you think a master’s degree would equip you with the necessary skills, experience, or network, then go for it. If you feel like you would grow more by progressing in your career, then a master’s is probably not worth the investment.

Let me know of your opinions in the comment section below. I’d also love to hear from those who have actually gotten a master’s degree⎯was it worthwhile, and why or why not?