An excellent article on becoming a master can be found in the USCF’s online magazine HERE.
In the article Matan Prilleltensky describes how he did it. He wrote, "...after crossing 2100 in late '07, I figured the next step couldn't be far off." He finished first in the under-2300 section at the 2007 World Open but then states, “…my undergraduate years finished with 2200 no closer than it was two years prior.”
He makes an astute observation: “It was finally time to revise my thoughts about chess strength. Many of us are dishonest with ourselves when we examine our ratings. Of course we are underrated - unlucky against lower rated players, perhaps, or frequently having opponents stumble onto good moves. Nonsense! There seems to be some confusion about the rating system's purpose. It is not a measure of your ‘chess understanding', future potential, or anything like that. It is a quantitative reflection of your results in tournament chess. As such, it is inherently accurate to a considerable degree. If your four digit number is an unsatisfying one, play better! I promise that will make it go up.” Emphasis mine.
Even if your goals are more modest, his article is worthwhile reading. Be sure and check it out!