What is the average masters students age? Should you return to graduate school?

Starting graduate school and a master’s is a particularly scary point for many people. However, if you feel that you lie outside of the average age of a typical master student the anxiety for starting the course increases significantly.

According to my analysis the average age of master’s students is 29.8 years old. Most PhD students in the US enroll for a Masters when they are 23, in the UK it is 22, in Germany it is 24, in Australia it is 24, and in Sweden it is 23.

However, there are also many thousands of others who start their masters much older.

This data is shown in the graph below.

AVERAGE AGE: 29.8 years old

The data is taken from the organisation for economic co-operation and development.

You can see that there is a large tail to the data. Meaning that many enrolments in masters occur after the peak in the early 20s.

Of course, the average master student age is dictated by when they complete their undergraduate and this is typically in their early 20s. However, there are many people who do their masters at a much older age due to:

  • career change
  • professional development
  • access to higher pay
  • personal interest
  • personal challenge
  • and many other reasons

This article will share with you some of the interesting aspects and considerations for Masters students age.

How Old is the Average Graduate Student?

The average age of graduate students is somewhere between 29 and 33 years old depending on the country.

A graduate student is anyone who is pursuing a higher level of education beyond the traditional college experience.

Many students are choosing to enroll in graduate school later in life, either after working for a few years after obtaining their undergraduate degree or while working part-time in a degree program.

However, data from the University of British Columbia suggests that the fastest-growing masters enrolment age bracket is between 20 and 29 years old. They have noticed 14% increase between 1991 and 2022.

The age range for graduate students is quite broad, as some students pursue a doctoral degree later in life, while others enroll in graduate programs immediately after completing their undergraduate degree.

Analysis of Masters level enrolment data shows us that people are still enrolling in a masters degree beyond 65 years of age.

Why people Wait to Get Graduate Degrees?

There are many reasons why people may wait to pursue a graduate degree after earning their bachelor’s degree.

For one, many students take longer than four years to earn their undergraduate degree, which can delay their decision to continue their education.

And many students want to experience life outside of academia before committing to further study.

The cost of college and the burden of student debt can deter some students from immediately pursuing a higher degree.

Many students also choose to gain work experience before returning to school, which can give them a better sense of their career goals and improve their chances of admissions to a desired graduate program. This is true of many professions including education and those seeking to complete an MBA.

Furthermore, some students may simply need a break from the rigorous demands of school before committing to more years of studying for a master’s degree.

Who are mature students?

It may surprise you to know that mature age students are those who are typically over the age of 25 and have decided to pursue further education, whether it’s by continuing their studies or starting a new course.

These students are usually returning to education after a break, often for personal or career-related reasons.

Mature students often come with a wealth of life experience and may be balancing family, work and other commitments alongside their studies. The extra experience that they bring to the degree can help them significantly when studying.

Regardless of their course or study choices, mature students bring a unique perspective to their studies and the college community.

Life Experience Helps

From personal experience I know that life experience can be extremely valuable when it comes to academic pursuits.

Students that have got a lived experience in a professional setting are often much more knowledgeable and understanding of the dynamics of a particular field and profession.

They are also familiar with the failings and blindspots of a profession that can make their Masters research incredibly insightful.

Mature students who have already had some life experiences can bring a unique perspective to their studies.

Whether they are an undergraduate student working towards their degree or a graduate student pursuing a PhD, having gone through some real-world situations can help them better understand course materials and connect their studies to actual life situations.

I have also found that mature students are often more dedicated to their studies, taking their education seriously and striving to earn high grades.

They are motivated to learn new skills and develop new knowledge, and they often thrive in their cohort, bringing insightful perspectives to discussions while also benefiting from the input of other students.

Balancing Work, Family and Study

Balancing work, family, and study can be a challenging task for any mature student.

It requires a great commitment to integrate all these aspects of life without compromising on any area.

Quite often mature age students also have:

  • independents such as children
  • financial responsibility such as mortgages and debts
  • ageing parents
  • a higher living standard which is more expensive
  • in many other friendship and professional commitments.

For those who may already be working full-time or part-time, pursuing a graduate or master’s degree may seem like a hurdle to overcome.

As a mature age student, one needs to prioritize and schedule their tasks according to their level of urgency.

With the right mindset and support from family and colleagues, one can successfully juggle between work, family responsibilities, and course requirements to ultimately achieve their academic goals.

Special Considerations

Special considerations are often given to mature students who are pursuing a graduate degree.

These students have an advantage over younger students due to their life and work experience which has prepared them for the rigors of graduate study.

They often bring a wealth of knowledge and perspectives that enrich the classroom experience.

It is important to recognize that mature students may also face challenges such as balancing work and family responsibilities with their studies.

In order to successfully navigate these challenges, mature students require careful consideration and support from their institutions.

As a result of their unique backgrounds and circumstances, mature students may have different learning preferences and approaches to studying.

Providing equitable access and support to these learners is essential for mature age student success.

What’s the difference between undergraduate and postgraduate study?

When choosing to do a postgraduate degree it can be confusing to differentiate between undergraduate and postgraduate study.

Undergraduate and postgraduate study differ in a few key ways.

Firstly, undergraduate study is the first level of tertiary education and can lead to obtaining a bachelor’s degree.

A student undertaking undergraduate study is typically referred to as an undergraduate.

A graduate student is someone who is studying at a postgraduate level.

Postgraduate study generally involves more specialized and advanced topics and research than undergraduate study.

The main difference between undergraduate and postgraduate study is the level and depth of study, with undergraduate study being more general and postgraduate study being more focused and specialized.

Wrapping up

This article has been through everything you need to know about the typical master student age and the average age of a student in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, and Sweden.

Even though the average age of a master student is 29.8 years old there are many people that choose to do a Masters at a much older age.

As long as you have the support from your friends, family, and you have the ability to balance your current standard of living with the new demands on you as a student, there is no need to assume you wouldn’t succeed at any age.

Personally, I have seen mature age students thrive in the academic environment because they are driven, know what they want to achieve, and often bring a whole lifetime of experience with them that undergraduate students simply do not have.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.