A master's degree involves moving a step further into the realm of higher learning to enable you to be considered a true professional. To attain a primary (bachelor's) degree is a great achievement in itself and nothing to be sneered at, but to go on from there and achieve a master's degree shows a higher, more involved level of knowledge. Today a master's degree enables applicants to better compete in the workplace. Whereas in the past, a bachelor's degree would secure a job for life with great pay, the bar has been raised, and now a bachelor's level will barely get the applicant an interview let alone a position.

Bachelor's Degrees

A bachelor's degree is completed in four years in the United States or three years in Australia and some other countries, depending on how many units are completed per semester. Students are taught concepts by lecturers and tutors as well as having texts discussed and disseminated during tutorials and assignments. All of this instruction is guided to provide the student with a specific specialized body of knowledge.

Degree Conferred

Once the student has passed the exams for his subject area, he is conferred with a degree. Honors students perform additional self-motivated research on a chosen topic.

Master's Degrees

Graduating with honors will ensure the student can continue their education path to a graduate master's program. A first-class honors degree will usually allow one to proceed directly into a doctoral program, depending on the university, but the next step for a second-class honors degree is to enter the master's program. There are two paths of study for the master's degree, course work or research. In the course work the student is expected to attend lectures and tutorials, in a similar way as in undergrad school, except that there are more discussions and less lecturing.

Self-Evaluation

Student's personal evaluations on topics are expected and valued, and while outside source bibliographies are still very much a part of graduate academic writing, course conveners and professors are also interested in the academic opinions of the students. During the undergrad stage students are expected to use many references to prove any assumption they make regarding their subject area. The style for undergrad school is that the first person is never used in essays or assignments, unless specifically requested. In graduate school first person is allowed and expected in some cases, especially if a student is giving an opinion or evaluation.

Motivations

Attaining a master's degree will ensure a higher salary than lower degrees. U.S. Census Bureau studies show that those with an MBA typically earn around $10,000 more than employees with a bachelor's degree. In the field of teaching, however, a master's degree only earns $4,500 more. When deciding whether to pursue graduate qualifications, students should take their motivation into account. They should ask, "Will a master's help me achieve my career goal? Is it the occupation I want or will it increase my earnings? Can it get me a promotion or give me more credibility at work?" These are all important considerations.

Thesis and Research

A research master's usually requires a thesis of 20,000 words to be written in roughly two years, and depending on how well students have researched their topic, they may be asked to continue for another two years and expand their master's thesis into a doctoral dissertation. The rigors of attaining a master's provide a clue as to its value. The depth to which a student is encouraged to delve into a topic convey a new perspective compared to just being told something or reading about it. A master's degree can be likened to a bachelor's degree and 10 years of experience in the field.