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What is the right age for an MS in the USA?

According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, in the US, the answer is simple – seems like 6 months to a hundred!

Average age masters degree students

But seriously, how do you time your Masters? It is clear that 20 somethings dominate the classrooms. That’s the natural progression of items to check off in ones’ life anyway. Undergraduate – Done. Masters – Next. But if you look close enough, the population is a mix of various students with varying manufacturing dates.

In all, Masters timings can be classified in two categories.
A. Fresh out of undergrad – Younger than 25
B. With job experience – Older than 25

Each category has its own set of good reasons to follow. While not advocating either, we will lay down the possible advantages in pursuing your MS before or after your legal drinking age.

A. MS after Undergrad

Course work memory generally tends to have a short half life. Most students take the advantage of the momentum of being in the education system, to enroll in an MS program right after college. And why not? You have a fair idea of your choice of specialization. You are in the company of peers with similar intentions. Your parents are still willing to support your endeavors, at least some are. And you really don’t need to go out and buy yourself grown up office clothes. Purani jeans will do just fine for two more years!

In reality, there are some serious advantages of getting an MS after college.

Lack of other responsibilities

Without the added, and more mature, responsibilities, you are more likely to be able to devote all your time towards qualifying your Masters. MS courses are more advanced, requiring complete focus on assignments, examinations, projects and even internships. Remember the all-nighters? Cramming up in the two days before your college exams? Well an MS schedule can get grueling enough to demand similar stamina. If you are able to manage the load, you can even work towards taking up extra credits, reducing costs by finishing your MS degree faster. And if you are older and wiser with a job, or family to take care of, we can be quite sure that your lights will be out by sunset each day!

In the company of educators and peers

Your undergraduate environment can provide a pool of experienced individuals who can help you choose your most suited MS specialization (Read How to select the right MS specialization?). You will have access to not just highly qualified professors who can tell you a thing or two about what to expect during your Masters, you can even get a few of the pre-requisites out of the way. Preparing for GRE/GMAT or scouring the internet for information, on applications, can become less painful while working together with your peers.

Easy to network

Being right out of college, keeps your undergraduate associations fresh. If you plan your moves right, your network of past students and alumni can help you get a personalized point of view about MS specializations and Universities. Most people are happy to oblige and share their experiences leaving you to explore with all kinds of pertinent information.

Early to degree, early to rise

If you are able to get a head start in your career, its growth may also be accelerated. The difference in median salaries between a Bachelors and a Masters graduate, based on data from US Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2009-2011 and courtesy of Georgetown University, Center on Education and the Workforce, shows a significant difference in every field. With a Masters degree to begin with, you will most likely be inducted at a higher grade, and pay scale, as compared to Bachelor degree holders.

Median Salaries by Education Level

  Source: MSU Careers
All convincing arguments professing the importance of an early entry into the world of Graduate school, for Masters. However there are a few plus points to be considered for a late entry, after a hiatus in the world of education.

B. MS after job experience

Yes, there are many individuals filling up the student body, in graduate school, after years of work experience. Though they may stand out a bit at college parties, looking like they are there to chaperone the very young adults, there are very good reasons why some people choose to get an MS later in life. Let us explore why you could choose to pursue an MS after a hiatus.

Work experience adds wisdom

Having been in the job world, already, gives you a better understanding of the job market. Especially in terms of what kind of specialization backgrounds, and what skills, are companies looking for in a candidate. So instead of going to school ‘coz that’s the next thing to do,you are able to customize your qualifications to your needs.

You are financially all set

Masters, and especially MBA, degree courses can put a dent on your finances (Read Cost of getting a degree abroad).  If you plan it quite right, you can work to save for your education, thereby reducing costs on student loans. That way you can even schedule your course work such that you don’t have to take up five different campus jobs to sustain yourself. You can focus on completing your degree asap and get going with your career.

Useful for a Career Change

Many individuals choose to go back to school to change the course of their career. While it is not essential that you get a degree to switch, it certainly helps as an evidence of training in a resume otherwise lacking in relevant skills.

Get your company to sponsor

It is common to find company sponsored students at some of the most elite schools around the world. If your organization finds your contribution precious enough, and is able to recognize your potential for bigger better things, they may be willing to pay for your advanced degree. In turn they might require you to work out a contract for not running away once the degree is done. But that’s fair, right? You get to add hefty lines on your resume, get paid to do so and also keep your job! In other words, have your cake, eat it and store some for the day you graduate!
So you see, there are enough reasons to justify your choice of when to pursue your Masters degree. It is not really the age that is the important factor, rather the intent of getting that degree. Evaluate your situation and decide what is best for you.

Now is good, so is later!


Meanwhile keep this goldmine, for all MS related information, bookmarked for whenever you make up your mind.

Guide to Masters Degrees for international students in USA, UK, Canada

Sources: 1, 2

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9 thoughts on “What is the right age for an MS in the USA?”

  1. Hi..
    My name is Rounak verma. I m in my 3rd year of B.E. in mechanical..but i want to change my major for MS. Now m in a dilemma whether to choose cs or finance..m inclined towards some business stuffs but mba is quite expensive. M sure i’ll do good in cs but m concerned about the H1b visa provisions..plz help me out..thanks

  2. I finished my BCA from India in june 2016, and right now i am doing my MSc in management course from a good university in London, but I am not sure whether this degree has any good value in India or not and whether it would be helpful for me in finding a job in India or not , also it is very difficult to find a job in London due to visa issues, though I will try to find an internship in London for about 13 weeks which is a part of course also, however, my main aim is to get a worthy job back in India only! Please reply.

  3. Hello sir, I got clear about the fees structure for MS in USA that you’ve mentioned. But my query is are we suppose to may the entire fees at once ? Or is there any option like paying in installments or paying fees semester wise.

  4. Hello Sir,
    I have my B.Tech in Electronics and Communication Engineering and I have been in Wipro Technologies since August 2015 can I still go for MS in Electronics after in IT industry for 1.5yrs

  5. my name is uday and i completed my btech in 2016,i thought to do ms when i was in class 9.but due to my financial status i cant able to move forward,is there any way for me to fulfill my wish,as because iam from a middle class family.

  6. @Rounak: ‘Business stuff’ would be a very vague definition of what you really want to do. Not sufficient to decide what specialisation you should choose. It’s better to do more introspection on what you really are interested in before proceeding any further.

    @HC: If you aren’t sure about the value of the degree back in India, it probably doesn’t have any. Try your best to get something in London itself where hopefully the brand value is stronger.

    @Shraddha: The fee payment is generally in installments (e.g. semester-wise).

    @Suyash: Sure, if you can explain the link between what you’ve done and what you want to do.

    @Uday: You can get scholarships – if you get a strong GRE score, choose the right universities and submit strong applications.

  7. I’m a qualified CS, CMA and a CA. I have more than 3 years of work ex total, with KPMG and HPCL, a fortune 500. I plan to do my full time MBA, only from an IVY. I am also a Bachelor of Commerce (Specialisation in Accounting & Finance) I have had experience of buy side and sell side strategic alliances and mergers. I’ve also engaged myself with an NGO for the past couple of years, and have started an education based startup. I plan to give my GMAT this year, and get enrolled next year. However, my only concern is I’m 22. I am pretty sure I can convince the admissions department that age is just a number compared to the personal traits and expertise and specialisation I hold in my relevant fields. I’m technically the youngest Crown holder in India. What are the odds of getting into an IVY, if I manage to score somewhere around a 720+ score? I’m pretty sure, I have an excellent SOP to back myself up! Please advise

    Bhavya Desai

  8. Hi,
    I am an Indian with around 3.5 years of work-ex in Data Science and Analytics. I have done B.Tech in Electrical Engineering from an NIT. I want to pursue MS in Economics and am determined for it. I wanted to understand:
    1) If my profile would be in general counted in the good applications or the not so good ones
    2) Would my 3.5 years be counted as an advantage for MS or a disadvantage

    If needed I can provide further details for a better evaluation. Thanks in advance.

  9. Hi Sir, very helpful post.
    I have a B.Com background and I wish to apply for MS in Financial Engineering. I have done pure math courses from coursera and have solid programming experience. I am currently working at an American investment bank in the capacity of a quant research analyst. Total experience at the time of application = 4 years, CFA certification for level 1 in place.
    Do you think I should give it another year and build a better profile (more courses, win kaggle competitions, etc.) before applying?


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