As the bachelor's degree has become commonplace, the master's degree is the new mark of distinction. The percentage of Americans aged 25 or older with a master's degree was 8.7 percent overall in 2015, 10 percent among 35-to-44-year-olds, and 12 percent among women in the 35-to-44 age group, according to the Census Bureau.
The Urban Institute recently analyzed the characteristics of those who go to graduate school, their success rate, and how much the additional schooling adds to earnings. Here is the bachelor's-master's comparison by age group...
Average earnings, aged 25 to 34
$54,840, bachelor's degree only
$63,050, master's degree
Master's degree premium: 15%
Average earnings, aged 35 to 44
$71,100, bachelor's degree only
$87,320, master's degree
Master's degree premium: 23%
Average earnings, aged 45 to 54
$77,600, bachelor's degree only
$92,760, master's degree
Master's degree premium: 20%
Source: Urban Institute, Who Goes to Graduate School and Who Succeeds?