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What Master’s Degree Should I Get? Follow These 4 Steps to Decide

Industries and businesses are evolving at a faster and faster rate. As a result, employers are demanding more of their employees—from highly technical skills to critical thinking and leadership abilities. As business complexity increases, master’s degrees continue to rise in popularity. 

According to labor market analytics firm EMSI, completions of master’s degrees grew 10.1% from 2012 to 2019. However, it’s truly online master’s degrees that are skyrocketing. From 2012 to 2019, completion of in-person master’s degrees actually decreased by 14%. Online master’s degrees more than made up for that decline with 63.8% growth.

As demand increases, so does the number of universities offering online master’s degrees. Many are also evolving their curriculum and programs to meet new industry demands. With more choices than ever before, it can be difficult to decide which master’s degree you should get. Based on your profession and goals, there may be a number of programs that could be a fit.


What matters most when choosing a master’s program? Compare features, benefits and cost to find the right school for you.


Use this guide as a starting point for choosing the right master’s degree for you.

Step 1: Identify What You Want to Get Out Of A Master’s Degree

Finding the best master’s degree starts with identifying your goals. The first question you need to ask yourself is: “Why do I want to get a master’s degree in the first place?” Defining clear goals will help you narrow in on master’s degrees that meet your expectations.

There are many different motivations for getting a master’s degree. Some of the most common include:

  • Increase salary and lifetime earning potential
  • Qualify for a new position or increase speed of career advancement
  • Prepare for executive and leadership positions
  • Take advantage of new career opportunities or transition out of a diminishing profession
  • Gain specialized expertise and skills to set yourself apart in your field
  • Move to a new, highly-competitive company
  • Expand your network and meet like-minded professionals 
  • Prepare for a career in academia or the pursuit of a doctorate degree

Which of these reasons really resonate with you? When you define your goals, you can create a checklist of must-haves and see which master’s degree will benefit you the most.

Step 2: Determine the Type of Master’s Degree You Want

When it comes to master’s degrees, there are two different paths. The first is the generalist path, which will help broaden your skills and cross-functional knowledge. The second is the specialist path, which will deepen your technical skills and expertise in one functional area. Keep in mind your long-term goals when making your decision between these two categories of master’s degrees.

Popular Generalist Master’s Degrees

Generalist master’s degrees provide more long-term career flexibility and prepare you for cross-functional leadership opportunities. Some of the most popular include:

  • Masters in Business Administration: For the aspiring executive, an MBA degree helps you be at the forefront of today’s business and leadership strategies. Gain critical thinking, strategic decision making and management skills across all major functions of business—including HR, Marketing, Finance and Operations.
  • Master of Healthcare Administration: For the innovative healthcare leader, an MHA will help you lead your healthcare organization through an increasingly complex and highly-regulated industry. Learn to balance patient needs with fiscal responsibility to drive operational efficiencies without compromising quality of care. 

Popular Specialist Master’s Degrees

Specialist master’s degrees carve out a niche career path and prepare you for discipline-specific leadership opportunities. Some of today’s popular specialist degrees include:

  • Master’s in Data Analytics: For the data junkie, an M.S. in Data Analytics will help you harness the power of data to empower top-level business decisions. Learn to mine, organize, manipulate and manage data in a user-friendly way that creates a competitive advantage for your organization.
  • Master’s in Marketing & Communication: For the next-gen marketing leader, an M.S. in Marketing & Communications will inspire you to go beyond the marketing campaign mindset. Learn to leverage data to better understand consumers, target new customers and build loyalty in a systematic and repeatable way. 
  • Master’s in Cybersecurity: For the tech pro, an M.S. in Cybersecurity will prepare you to take advantage of rapid industry growth. Learn to tackle cybersecurity challenges at the operational, technical and strategic levels to create proactive solutions that minimize risk and save resources.

Still not sure which master’s degree path is right? 

Having a hard time choosing between degrees that may be applicable to your scenario? Here are some practical tactics that can help you choose which master’s degree to get:

  1. Research the job description, roles and responsibilities of the career you want in order to find a curriculum that aligns with your aspirations.
  2. Interview professionals in your desired career or field to gain insight into the most in-demand skills to seek out in a master’s program.
  3. Ask your employer about the requirements for advancement and the right-fit degree for you (some employers may even help with tuition costs if your new skills benefit their organization).
  4. Research the long-term career prospects for different roles you’re interested in to determine which master’s degree will prepare you for lasting job security.

Map your learnings to your original reasons for getting a master’s degree to decide which degree path will help you achieve your goals.

Step 3: Research Potential Master’s Degree Programs

Now that you have an idea of which master’s degree you want to pursue, you need to evaluate your master’s program options at different universities. Most working professionals will choose to get their master’s degree online. However, you need to know what to look for in order to find a high-quality online master’s program.

As you research different online master’s degree programs, here’s what you need to know:

  • Does the university meet the highest standard for academic excellence? Look for a regionally accredited university with high graduation rates.
  • Does the master’s curriculum align with industry best practices and emerging trends? Look for master’s programs that regularly evaluate and evolve their curriculum with the input of industry experts and employers.
  • Will I receive a top-quality online learning experience? Look for universities that have a long history with online education and a rigorous model for developing online curriculum.
  • Who will teach my master’s degree courses? Look for a master’s program that employs instructors with extensive practical experience applying concepts to real-world situations.
  • How long will it take to earn my master’s degree (and what will that cost)? Look for a master’s program that clearly defines time to completion and how total cost is related to the number of credit hours you must complete.

Step 4: Choose A Master’s Degree Program

Not all master’s degree programs are created equal. The university and program you choose will have a major impact on the skills, knowledge and network you gain. It will also impact your ability to successfully balance your education, career and professional commitments.

Franklin University’s online master’s degrees are designed for working professionals. We build flexibility into every aspect of our master’s programs to help you complete your degree around your schedule. Through engaging online courses, expert instructors and hands-on applications of the latest industry tools, you’ll gain nimble skills that will help advance your career.

Explore our complete list of master’s programs to choose the right one for your career goals.

Free Master's Toolkit
Estimate The Cost of Your Degree & More
Eliminate guesswork by comparing schools and calculate the ROI of a master’s degree.