It's the holidays, and you are probably busy buying gifts a-plenty.
Family and friends? Check.
Co-workers and teachers? Check.
Daycare workers, the mailman and everyone in between? Check.
You may have crossed everyone off your list, but someone very important could be missing. And who would that be? Why, you, of course!
Yes, Christmas is about giving, but there is no reason why you shouldn't also do something special for yourself this holiday season. If you think you have covered your bases by getting a bachelor's degree, it may be time to treat yourself to something even better. A master's degree is not only good for your bottom line, it also benefits your children and your community.
Consider all the possibilities that may come with earning a master's degree:
1. Greater employability
Earlier this year, The New York Times declared the master's as the new bachelor's degree. While it used to be a four-year degree was the way to go to find a job, today's graduates are finding master's degrees now seem to be the preferred credential for many employers. The fact that those with an advanced degree are more likely to find a job is bore out in unemployment figures published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2010, when the overall national unemployment rate was 8.2 percent, the unemployment rate for those with a master's degree was less than half that rate at 4 percent.
2. Greater income potential
Likewise, the BLS shows those with advanced degrees typically earn significantly more than those with less education. In 2010, median weekly earnings for those with a master's degree were $1,272. That's roughly double the amount individuals with only a high school diploma earn. It also exceeds the median weekly income of $1,038 for bachelor's degree holders and $767 for those with an associate degree. Over the course of a lifetime, master's degree holders can expect to earn $2.67 million compared to $2.27 million for those with a bachelor's degree, according to an analysis by Georgetown University's Center for Education and the Workforce.
3. Better health
It may not be surprising to hear master degrees can result in greater employment and earnings. But did you know it can also be good for your health? The Council of Graduate Schools reports that of those with a master's degree, more than nine in ten say their health is good, very good or excellent. According to a study conducted by the College Board, those with a bachelor's degree or higher education are less likely to smoke and more likely to exercise than their less-educated counterparts. In addition, they are less likely to be obese. The children of highly educated parents are also less likely to be at unhealthy weights.
4. Better communities
Education doesn't only have a positive impact on your waistline, it can also have a lasting effect on your community. The Council of Graduate Schools found that in the 2006 elections, 70 percent of master's degree holders voted compared to 60 percent of those with bachelor's degrees and 40 percent of high school graduates. The College Board also reports those with a four year or advanced degree are engaged in more volunteerism than those with less education.
5. A new family legacy
Earning a master's degree is about more than doing something good for yourself. Studies indicate an advanced degree may even have a lasting impact on your family tree. According to the College Board, parents with an advanced degree were most likely to read to their children every day, and their preschool children had the highest level of school readiness among all children. Young children with parents holding a master's degree were more likely to be able to recognize all the letters, count to 20 and write their first name.
So this Christmas, do something nice for yourself. But don't bother with a crock pot, new pair of boots or the latest smart phone. Instead, check out the master degree programs in a field you love and discover how the right education can be the best present you'll ever give -- or get.