Best alternatives to master’s degree programs

Best alternatives to masters degree programs

So, you’ve finished your bachelor’s and are planning to pursue a master’s degree program (AKA grad school). Now, before you make that decision, hear us out. What if you had better, cheaper and more beneficial alternatives to master’s degree programs that you could do instead? 

Why do people pursue master’s programs?

Traditionally, the main reason people opt for a master’s degree is for specialization purposes. Bachelor’s are usually broader, and then a master’s narrows it down. This is also the top choice for many who have a professional field in mind they would like to start a career in. Of course, the other (conventional) reason is to obtain a doctoral degree after.

A master’s degree offers many benefits. 

It can help you significantly expand your knowledge in specialized fields.

  • You are often among the first to know about new technologies being developed in the field and you are also able to take advantage of high-level resources at this level of study.
  • Having a master’s lets potential employers know that you’re more than knowledgeable in your field of study, which adds credibility to your resume.
  • It helps you stand out in the increasingly competitive job market.
  • It gives you the means to build a network to help further your career in the future.
  • Your chances of earning a better salary are usually higher if you have a master’s.
  • All of this sounds pretty great, right? Well, there’s more to it!

Why a master’s degree could be a waste of time

Like anything that sounds too good to be true, master’s programs have their own downsides. 

Additional costs and debt

Master’s degrees usually take around half the time a bachelor’s does but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a costly investment. According to’s 2021 data, the cost of a Master’s degree typically ranges “between $ 30,000 and $ 120,000, depending on the school, the major, and the length of the program.” The average cost of a master’s is $ 66,340.

The study also showed that graduates with a master’s degree had higher average debt in other categories besides student loans. This doesn’t bode well for those who are already indebted due to student loans incurred through their bachelor’s degree program.


It might seem like something straight out of fiction, but individuals do often get rejected for being ‘overqualified’.

If you’re looking to start your career and trying to take your first step into the career space, there’s a chance that you may be viewed as ‘overeducated’ and therefore, overqualified. 

There are numerous reasons for this but the general perception is that those with master’s don’t plan on settling long for jobs that seem like “low-hanging fruit”. Employers may think you’re looking to treat the role as a transitional one before you move on to bigger, more lucrative opportunities.

Whereas on the other hand, these ‘bigger’ opportunities are reserved for those with some level of experience. So if you don’t have much experience but only have your educational qualifications to back you up, there’s a chance you may get rejected for those, too. 

A masters degree can be stressful

The pressure of it all

Let’s say you do find a role that is open for those with only educational qualifications. In these scenarios, it’s simply not enough to have completed your master’s — you need to have completed it well. 

Getting a master’s degree is not an easy task. With all the independence you suddenly get, the weight is entirely on your shoulders to make it through in one piece. It can be stressful and the pressure is enough to make the toughest of heads crack. 

For those who are up for the challenge, this is a great option. For the rest of us, it may prove to be a chaotic, hectic mess.

So, then, what can you do instead? Now that’s where we can help you out.

Top alternatives to choose instead

As we mentioned before, a master’s degree can certainly be a good pursuit for those looking to go on a very specific path. But there are always alternatives that can fulfil those needs — especially after (or even during) your bachelor’s. 

Take specific classes

If you want to upskill in a particular subject, you don’t need the whole 360-coverage of everything beyond. Focus on the particular skills and knowledge you want to build and find the classes that can help you achieve this. 

There are tons of certificate programs that can help you be just as qualified on the topic as a whole master’s degree. Are you only interested in literary theory? You don’t need an entire MA in English for that! 

Additionally, there are online courses that offer fantastic learning opportunities and certifications. These are a lot more flexible and a whole deal cheaper than a master’s degree program.

Take specific classes instead of an entire degree

Get an internship

We’ve said this so many times but we’ll say it again. An internship is the greatest tool in your arsenal. It’s an easy way to gain work experience and bolster your resume. 

In fact, you don’t even have to waste time after graduation to get an internship. You can start looking for one while you’re still in college and if it’s a paid internship, you’ll be making some extra money on the side.

There is no shortage of companies looking to hire students as interns. They love it because you’re a blank canvas. They can teach you the trade without having to make you unlearn your previous experiences or argue over the processes with you. 

With an internship, you can get relevant experience, gain more skills and industry-specific knowledge, and increase your chances of getting employed by your companies of choice in the future. 

Volunteer work

This may surprise you but volunteer work is highly regarded in the career space! It’s not unusual for people with no proper work experience to get considered for just having volunteer work listed on their resumes. 

Why is that?

Well, if you highlight that you’ve been volunteering in your free time, it shows employers that you have a bunch of desirable qualities. 

  • You can be selfless: By volunteering, you’re telling them “I like to give back to the community! I think about people other than myself”, and what this indicates is that you’d be a good fit in a team.
  • Making an impact: Taking the initiative and carrying out projects to help people shows that you have what it takes to make a lasting impact.
  • Can manage your time: Volunteers are often unpaid workers who juggle voluntary work with everything else going on in their lives — sometimes even full-time jobs. What you’re essentially showing them is that you can manage multiple ongoing projects and still get work done.

Voluntary work can boost your employability

There are other benefits to voluntary work. For example, you can use this as an opportunity to build a network with like-minded individuals. After all, creating connections is one of the most important steps in building a successful and fulfilling career.

Final Thoughts

The key thing to keep in mind if pursuing a master’s degree is that you need tons of discipline. It’s a lot more work and money, but a good option for those who are comfortable with playing the long game. 

On the other hand, any of the alternatives we’ve spoken about will do just as well for those looking to get a leg-up over their competition in the job market, trying to build a network, or increasing their skills and knowledge in a specific field.




Kahless is a writer with a special interest in sociology. He spends much of his free time travelling, reading, writing, and stopping his cats from ripping apart everything he owns. It’s advised to bring along a strong cup of coffee (3 espresso shots minimum) when approaching him.

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