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Are people with graduate degrees happier?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015
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Are people with graduate degrees happier?
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Some may argue that people who get promoted often and have overall higher salaries may be happier. Most often, these people have pursued higher education and have a graduate degree from a law school or MBA program. While these two things seem to be highly correlated, are they the only causes of graduate students happiness? Maybe not.

"People who held graduate degrees were much happier than people who simply held a bachelor's degree."

Making clear distinctions
Researchers from Columbia University's Earth Institute teamed up to release the World Happiness Report, a look into people's happiness levels from all over the world based on their respective lifestyles. The authors' findings revealed that people who held graduate degrees were much happier than people who simply held a bachelor's degree or had no form of formal education. Why is this?

While the researchers didn't specify the exact causes of this group's happiness, the benefits associated with graduate school can certainly make a person a lot happier than they would be without this formal education.

First off, people who graduate with a master's degree are more likely to get a job directly after commencement, and earn more than those with a bachelor's degree. While money doesn't necessarily buy happiness, a good salary can help give a person financial support, and allow them to provide necessary comforts for themselves and their family. According to Payscale, people who graduate with a master's degree have an average starting salary of more than $70,000. That kind of money can help people stay comfortably afloat while allowing them to save money. A graduate degree can also lead to future promotions and salary raises, as their general experience and knowledge may outweigh that of competitors with a bachelor's degree.

People with master's degrees also can be considered knowledgeable thought leaders in their field. This knowledge can help graduates pursue publication of books and papers, as well as allow them to become professors in their field. According to Harvard University, many students will go on to pursue positions as assistant professors, providing them with continual knowledge, steady pay and ongoing growth.

Sometimes a higher education leads to a greater salary. Sometimes a higher education leads to a greater salary.

Finding worth in the world
Most of all, having a graduate degree may allow a person to feel worthwhile and valuable to the world. Many people know that as a generation, millennials strive to give back to their communities in an effort to make them, and the world, a better place. This self-worth can go a long way to help a person feel like they've made a significant difference in society. 

A study from the University of Toronto calls this concept "human capital." Researchers found that people with a higher education, notably a bachelor's degree or greater, felt they had greater human capital than people who did not have any type of higher education. The study's authors suggested that the better a person is positioned in society, the happier they will feel. This is not to say that the wealthiest person in the world has the best societal standing. Instead, it's a matter of how people are viewed by their peers and others around them. If people feel generally welcomed and respected, they are more likely to be happy than those who do not feel supported by their society. However, the Toronto researchers also noted it may have to do with societal norms. In poorer countries where it is not unusual for people to be unemployed the poor are not necessarily looked down upon. Yet in more affluent countries, they can be, causing them to feel unhappy. Overall, the study's authors found that people who seemed to have a more enhanced skill set, which was often gained through higher education, tended to be happier than people with less advanced skills.


By Monique Smith

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Queens College
Queens College offers more than 100 master's degrees and advanced certificates in the liberal arts, sciences, social sciences, and teacher education.
www.qc.cuny.edu