After graduating with a bachelor’s degree, the master’s degree is the next educational step.
In most cases, you can’t enroll in a master’s degree program without a bachelor’s degree, and the bachelor’s typically has to correlate with the master’s. For example, to enroll in a master’s of psychology degree, you would need a bachelor’s in psychology; it’s unlike that you would be able to enter the program with a bachelor’s in mathematics.
So what are the best master’s degrees and what job makes the most money? Let’s find out…
What is a Master’s Degree?
A master’s degree is essentially an expansion on your education, going into further detail on your chosen discipline. They typically take about 36 to 54 semester hours to complete, which equals roughly a year to a year and a half of study.
The goal of a master’s degree is to deliver an advanced education to create a student with a high level of knowledge and expertise in a certain topic. Compared to bachelor’s degrees, especially bachelor’s of arts, they are more focused and defined, going in-depth into a specific subject.
For a detailed explanation of master’s degrees, please read our article “What is a Master’s Degree.”
Why Choose a Master’s Degree?
There are many reasons to choose a bachelor’s degree including personal interest in the subject, a short education period, and a larger salary.
Let’s look at interest. For most students, one of the main reasons to obtain a bachelor’s degree is a deep interest in the subject. If you are passionate about history, economics, writing, biology, or engineering (just to name a few), a master’s allows you to expand your knowledge in these areas.
There is also the fact that, compared to other levels of education, a master’s degree can be completed in a relatively short time. As we discussed earlier, a bachelor’s degree can be completed in 18 months of less. Compared to a bachelor’s degree, which usually takes four years, this is a swift educational experience.
While a larger salary should not be the only reason to further your education, there is also a financial incentive to complete your master’s degree…
Highest Paying Master’s Degrees
Earning a master’s degree takes time, energy, commitment, and money. So is a master’s worth it? From a financial perspective, how much will you actually benefit from a master’s degree? Much will depend on your specific education and expertise, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a holder of a master’s degree is $1,401 per week. Assuming they get paid for 52 weeks a year, this equals a median annual salary of $72,852.
A master’s degree is the next educational step after a bachelor’s degree, so it helps to compare the two and see what advantage is gained once you make the leap from undergraduate to graduate school. The same numbers from the BLS show that the median salary for a bachelor’s degree is $1,173, which equals an annual salary of $60,996.
Using these numbers, we see that on a weekly basis, the master’s degree brings in $228 more per week. Annually, the difference is $11,856 more per year to the graduate of a master’s degree compared to a bachelor’s.
But as you’ll see, the best master’s degree jobs bring in far more than $72,852 a year…
How We Determined the Highest Paying Master’s Degrees
To create this list of the best master’s degree jobs, we relied exclusively on data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Although there are other sources of information related to jobs and salaries, the BLS is one of the most authoritative organizations when it comes to the overall job market. We also use the BLS exclusively for consistency, as staying with one source gives a more reliable comparison between different master’s degree jobs.
The process was simple. We looked at all the careers listed by the BLS and filtered the list to only those careers that require a master’s degree. We then chose the 16 top-paying careers in the list of master’s degree jobs.
We also looked at career growth predicted by the BLS, as this is an important factor for careers as well. The national average for job growth is expected to be 7% from 2016 to 2026, so anything below 7% is actually not keeping up with the national average. In a sense, you could argue that jobs below 7% are shrinking, as they are not growing at the same rate as the overall job market.
16 Best Master’s Degrees for Highest Pay
Below are the 16 best master’s degrees for a high paying career. Each degree program spotlighted is available at least 80% online so you can advance your career while continuing with your current job.
- Physician Assistant
Job Growth: 37%
Working as part of a medical team, PAs help examine, diagnose, and treat patients, and there will be a rapid expansion of this career, with an expected 37% jump. Starting with a bachelor’s degree in a medical field, as well as on-the-job experience, physicians assistants will need a master’s as well as certification.
#TRENDING: Master of Physician Assistant Studies / Advancement Option from University of Nebraska Medical Center
Job Growth: 6%
Although the growth is about average, the pay for this career is outstanding, with the top 10% earning more than $172,000. Economists, which study production and distribution of resources, usually have a bachelor’s in economics and a master’s degree in a related subject. Some lower-level positions are available with only a bachelor’s.
#TRENDING: Master of Science in Finance from Georgetown University
- School Principal
Job Growth: 8%
School principals organize and manage the educational system, and while they may not teach directly, they are an important part of educating young students. School principles require a master’s degree, and most will have bachelor’s in teaching as well as years of classroom experience.
#TRENDING: Master of Education in Educational Leadership from Grand Canyon University
- Education Administrator
Job Growth: 10%
College administrators help organize and student services, academics, and research at institutions both large and small. This career calls for a master’s degree, but the specific degree field can vary and can include marketing, accounting, and social work. Several years of experience is required, but you can earn over $182,000 if you are in the top 10%, making this one of the top master’s degree jobs.
Master of Science in Leadership in Educational Administration from
- Organizational Psychologist
Job Growth: 8%
Also known as “industrial-organizational psychologists,” this form of psychology deals with research methods that solve problems in the workplace. It can include management, productivity, and employee moral that helps a company become more profitable or an organization more effective.
Master of Science in Psychology / Industrial-Organizational Psychology from
Job Growth: 33%
Using complex mathematical formulas, mathematicians and statisticians apply math to help solve real problems for business, engineering, health, and numerous other industries. To land this career, you need a master’s in a high-level math discipline, as well as a bachelor’s in mathematics, statistics, or a related area.
#TRENDING: Master of Science in Mathematics from The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
- Occupational Therapist
Job Growth: 24%
Although “occupational” sounds like they help people improve job skills, these therapists actually do a lot more, as they will help people develop and improve skills that are needed for both work and daily living. A master’s degree in occupational therapy is required, and many of these professionals will have bachelor’s in biology or physiology. With this education, the top 10% can expect to earn over $120,000 a year.
#TRENDING: Master of Education in Leading Adult & Organizational Learning from Park University
Job Growth: 1%
Sociology deals with the study of behavior with an emphasis on groups and culture. Most jobs will require at least a master’s degree from one of the best master’s programs, although some may need a PhD. A bachelor’s degree in psychology and sociology is a good start to this career path, which can bring over $141,450 to the top 10%.
#TRENDING: Master of Science in Sociology / Education from Grand Canyon University
- Genetic Counselor
Job Growth: 29%
Providing information and support to health care providers and advice to patients, genetic counselors assess individual and family risk for certain diseases based on inherited conditions. They need a master’s in genetics or genetic counseling, but the education usually start with a bachelor’s in genetics, biology, health, or a similar field.
#TRENDING: Master of Science in Health Sciences / Molecular Diagnostic Sciences from The George Washington University
- Speech Language Pathologist
Job Growth: 18%
Also known as speech therapists, employers in this master’s degree job will focus on communication disorders that may result from a variety of causes. The top 10% can expect annual earnings over $118,000, but an education in speech or language development from one of the best master’s programs is usually required.
#TRENDING: Master of Science in Speech Language Pathology from Idaho State University
- Post-Secondary Teacher
Job Growth: 15%
College teachers will teach classes on a wide variety of subjects, so a master’s degree in your specific field will be needed. Although the nature of college education is changing, the need for post-secondary teachers is expected to climb 15%, and the top 10% can expect earnings over $170,000.
#TRENDING: Master of Education in Higher Education / Educational Leadership from Liberty University
- Urban & Regional Planner
Job Growth: 13%
Have you ever wondered how cities get mapped out? Why is one road at an angle while the rest are square to each other? This is usually because of decisions made by urban and regional planners, whose job is to create communities that effectively accommodate population growth. A bachelor’s degree can qualify you for some positions, but most will need a master’s for most. The top 10% of this field will earn over $108,000 a year, making it a stable and well-paying job.
#TRENDING: Master of Arts in Urban & Regional Planning / Sustainability from University of Florida
Job Growth: 9%
These are professionals focused on public-health issues, including disease and injury to humans. They use research, community education, and advice to policymakers to help promote a healthier society. The top 10% in this career can earn over $113,000, but a master’s in epidemiology, which covers biology, science, and public health, is required.
#TRENDING: Master of Public Health / Epidemiology from Benedictine University
- Orthotist / Prosthetist
Job Growth: 22%
With advancements in technology, prosthetic limbs and braces are more effective than ever, and this is thanks in large part to the work of orthotists and prosthetists. They will design, measure, and fit the latest in prosthetic limbs, and the top 10% can expect salaries over $104,000. A bachelor’s in biology or a similar field is a great educational start.
#TRENDING: Master of Science in Biology from Indiana State University
- Instructional Coordinator
Job Growth: 11%
These highly-trained professionals oversee school curriculum and standards for teaching. With a bachelor’s in a teaching-related field and a masters related to instructional theory, these employees help create better schools at all levels. A master’s degree and over five years experience may be required, but the top 10% in this field can expect an income over $101,000.
#TRENDING: Master of Education in Learning and Technology from Western Governors University
Job Growth: 4%
There is still a lot to learn about human history, and many of the discoveries come from archeologists, work in the field and also analyze samples in laboratories. The top 10% in these masters degree jobs can expect annual salaries over $99,000, but a master’s in archeology is almost always required.
#TRENDING: Master of Arts in Theological & Cultural Anthropology from Eastern University
Job Outlook for Master’s Degree Graduates
High-Growth Areas for Master’s Degree Holders
- Physician Assistant: 37%
- Nurse Anesthetists: Growth: 31%
- Speech-Language Pathologist: 18%
- Genetic Counselors: Growth: 29%
- Orthotists: 22%
- Information Research Scientist: 19%
- Mathematician: 33%
Declining Careers for Master’s Degree Holders
Find the Best Master’s Degree for Your Future