Research

Money Motivates Millennials to Pursue Master's Degrees; Passion for Learning Draws Gen Xers

Most people pursue advanced degrees primarily for the higher earnings they expect as a result, according to new research from LinkedIn. The professional social network surveyed 15,000 of its members from around the world, and recently issued a report based on a subset of 1,627 people from the United States, including 502 people who intend to pursue a master's degree and 524 people who already possess one or are currently attending master's courses.
 
Fifty-four percent of respondents cited higher salary as their biggest factor in going after a master's degree. Nearly half (48 percent) also noted the need to "up-skill" in order to be successful and referenced a "passion for learning."

However, motivations for those who intend to earn an advanced degree varied widely depending on the age of the respondent. Among millennials — people aged 18 to 34 — 58 percent referenced salary as the main driver. Among Gen X (35- to 49-year-olds), that data point was only 44 percent; the motivation most referenced in the older group was a passion for learning, specified by 48 percent of respondents.

People pursuing master's degrees tend to apply to an average of three institutions, a short list made up before they've ever had contact with any of the schools — at least in 72 percent of cases. Nine times in 10, students will end up going to one of those universities already on the list rather than switching directions.

Their primary influence is the institution's Web site; 55 percent of people said they're guided by that resource in choosing where to apply. That's closely followed by friends and peers, who influence education decisions for 50 percent of people. Information sessions and professional social networks sway decisions for half as many people. However, professional social networks are three times more influential than personal social networks.

University reputation is less important to master's holders and candidates than the faculty quality and program format. Reputation was key for 79 percent of respondents, while instructor quality was picked by 90 percent of people and program format by 83 percent. Tuitions fees were of importance to 71 percent of respondents.

Nearly half (48 percent) of people who intend to pursue a master's degree hope to find a course of study that's local and part-time. Forty-one percent want an online program and 33 percent would be happy with a hybrid face-to-face and online option.

Business is the big deal for this group of respondents: Twenty-seven percent of respondents who intend to earn a degree said that's their choice of subject. Twelve percent specified IT and software engineering.

The results of the study are available on LinkedIn's site (registration required).

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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