Why has Northeastern University opened two campuses in recent years far from its namesake geographic region?

What would drive a well-regarded school in Boston to open branches in the Pacific Northwest (Seattle) and the South (Charlotte, N.C.)?

Northeastern, it turns out, is making a big play in master’s degrees. The university is a prime example of a trend toward the master’s illustrated in a story in Sunday’s Post.

In 2004, Northeastern awarded 1,078 master’s degrees. By 2012, federal data show, the total had risen to 3,122. That’s a 190 percent increase.

“The traditional two pillars for higher education have been undergraduate education and PhD research,” said Northeastern President Joseph E. Aoun.

But he said there is a vast market of professionals who want to enhance their knowledge and skills, including in Seattle and Charlotte. The master’s degree is the best way to help them, he said, with specialties in fields such as cybersecurity, health care and biotechnology.