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Highest Paying Master's Degrees

January 27, 2021

Your education level can significantly impact your career options and earning potential. College graduates with bachelor’s degrees can typically secure higher-paying jobs than high school graduates. The same is true for people with master’s degrees. Learn about some of the highest-paying master’s degrees to find out if going to graduate school could benefit your career.

What is a master’s degree?

A master’s degree is an advanced degree in a specialized field that you can earn after an undergraduate degree. Examples of these include a Master of Business Administration, Master of Public Administration and Master of Laws.

Some students transition straight from undergraduate to graduate school because they know their target career path requires a master’s degree and specialized skills. Others return to school after several years in the workforce to further their knowledge and earning potential. On average, it takes two years to three years to complete most master’s degree programs.

A master’s degree may provide you with better job prospects, more career responsibilities and a higher salary. You might need one to advance past a certain point in your career, particularly if your goal is a senior leadership position. Here are 10 jobs that require a master’s degree and pay above $70,000 annually, as indicated by Indeed Salaries.

Related: Leadership Skills: Definitions and Examples 

High-paying master’s degrees

Many master’s degrees can earn you jobs with high salaries, but the following are some of the best paying master’s degrees:

1. Health care administration

National average salary:  $77,528 per year

Primary duties: The coursework for Master of Healthcare Administration teaches you a variety of skills critical to health care management, including strategic planning, policy, statistical business methods, organizational behavior, economics and consulting. This degree prepares you to be an effective leader in the health sector. Graduates can find health care management and executive positions.

2. Marketing

National average salary:  $79,175 per year

Primary duties: A consistently high-paying graduate degree, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Marketing Management sets graduates up to run a company’s marketing department. You will learn about consumer behaviors, brand position, product development, media platforms and promotional strategies so you can lead a team in creating marketing campaigns and relationships with customers. Possible jobs include marketing director or manager.

3. Applied mathematics

National average salary:  $79,815 per year

Primary duties: If you are interested in the advanced function of mathematics in fields such as engineering, management and science, Master of Science in Applied Mathematics is one of the top-paying master’s degrees. In this program, you can specialize in focus areas such as numerical analysis, scientific computing and mathematical biology. With this degree, you can find mathematician jobs that require you to research and apply complex math concepts to business, economic, engineering, computing or other industries.

4. Industrial management

National average salary:  $80,200 per year

Primary duties: A Master of Science in Industrial Management degree trains students in facility and engineering management, trade and systems analysis. With this master’s you might find a job as a systems manager, industrial engineer, operations consultant, director of manufacturing or production supervisor.

5. Computer science

National average salary:  $81,680 per year

Primary duties: Students pursuing a Master of Science in Computer Science will enter into a growing field. If you choose this path, you will learn advanced computer language and algorithms and be able to design and manage software, networks, security and databases. You can focus on specific areas such as programming languages, software engineering or artificial intelligence. With this degree, you can find employment as a computer and information systems manager.

6. Petroleum engineering

National average salary:  $82,330 per year

Primary duties: Petroleum engineers design extraction methods for crude oil or natural gas development and production. Professionals pursuing this niche degree will gain an understanding of concepts ranging from physics and chemistry to geology and thermodynamics to economics and mathematics. Jobs you might qualify for upon obtaining a Master of Science in Petroleum Engineering include petroleum geologist, production engineer or drilling engineer, petroleum engineer, among others.

7. Physics

National average salary: $91,080 per year

Primary duties: Through physics, students study the correlation between space, time, energy and matter. You might pursue a Master of Science in Physics if you want to specialize in fields such as biophysics, astrophysics, quantum physics, nonlinear dynamics, biophotonics, computational physics, electrodynamics or solid state physics. With this degree, you can find work as a scientist or physicist in a research laboratory or at an educational institution as a high school or college professor.

8. Chemical engineering

National average salary: $93,453 per year

Primary duties: Chemical engineers will need a master’s to advance professionally. Their job duties include equipment design, producing and testing products, overseeing manufacturing and more. They often work in the chemical industry but also fill needs in fields such as photography, electronics, health care and product manufacturing. When pursuing a Master of Science in Chemical Engineering, students can choose to specialize in areas such as nanotechnology, thermodynamics and biotechnology.

9. Economics

National average salary: $94,319 per year

Primary duties: A Master of Science in Economics gives degree-holders a deep understanding of economic theories such as micro- and macroeconomics, econometrics, economic forecasting and growth and applied, financial and computational economics. You can specialize in the finances of a particular industry and find work as a financial economist, micro- or macroeconomist or industrial economist. You can also earn an MBA in economics if you want to study industry, marketing, trade and investments on a local or global scale. With this degree, you can specialize in labor or urban economics and economic analysis.

10. Physicians assistant

National average salary:  $103,648 per year

Primary duties: With a Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies, you can become qualified to provide patient care such as counseling, examinations, diagnoses, writing prescriptions and carrying out treatments. You may choose to specialize in a particular area, such as genetics, immunology or pharmacology. Physician assistants work directly under physicians in hospitals, community clinics and doctor’s offices.

11. Statistics

National average salary: $104,009 per year

Primary duties: With a Master of Science in Statistics you will gain advanced knowledge on how to collect, analyze and present data. Concepts you will learn about and have to apply to real-world scenarios include probability theory, regression analysis, bioinformatics and linear modeling. Statisticians can find high-paying jobs managing and analyzing data for companies in nearly any field. These might include medical statisticians, public health statisticians and educational testing statisticians.

12. Electrical engineering

National average salary: $104,119 per year

Primary duties: Students proficient in science, math, engineering and technology might pursue a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering. This program educates you on a variety of technological concepts, including antenna networks, mixed-signal integrated circuits, biosignal processing, quantum information processing, nanotechnology, optical communications, photonics and control systems. People who earn master’s degrees in the engineering field are more likely to qualify for senior or higher-level engineer positions.

13. Nursing

National average salary: $107,076 per year

Primary duties: A Master of Science in Nursing is a valuable degree that sets graduates up to become high-paid nurse practitioners or advanced practice registered nurses. In this leadership role, you will provide primary or specialty care for patients of all life stages. Under a doctor’s guidance, nurse practitioners examine patients, run tests, make diagnoses, perform procedures, prescribe medications and provide treatment.

14. Software engineering

National average salary: $107,366 per year

Primary duties: With a Master of Science in Software Engineering, you can pursue highly skilled roles in a variety of industries. You will learn to design, build, test and maintain software, computer applications and operating systems, in addition to coding. software engineers often find work in the programming, computer service or system design fields within corporate or government organizations.

15. Finance

National average salary: $108,518 per year

Primary duties: A master’s of finance prepares graduates to oversee companies’ investments, financial reports, mergers and acquisitions, cash management and capital. If you pursue a Master of Science in Finance degree, you will learn skills like advanced accounting and management. With this degree, you can get a job in local or international finance as a financial manager or officer, controller, financial planner, investment banker, money manager or risk manager. 

16. Business administration

National average salary: $114,083 per year

Primary duties: If you want to be a business leader, such as a chief executive officer (CEO) in any industry, you will need an MBA. This degree will give you a strong background in leadership, teamwork, management best practices, communication skills and quantitative analysis. You can specialize further depending on the field in which you want to work, such as health care or technology management. 

17. Information technology

National average salary: $121,769 per year

Primary duties: Professionals with a Master of Science in Information Technology will likely have plenty of high-paying job opportunities, thanks to the increase in cloud computing, data storage and information security. This degree teaches you about software development, business information systems, security, telecommunications, programming, networking, and e-commerce. You can find employment as an information researcher, computer systems analyst, software developer, computer network architect or director of information technology.

18. Nursing anesthesia

National average salary: $176,386 per year

Primary duties: Certified registered nurse anesthetists that have completed a Master of Science in Nursing in Nurse Anesthesia are some of the highest-paid nurses. They are responsible for providing pain management services and administering anesthesia for surgeries and procedures in hospitals, dental practices and outpatient centers. 

Related: How to List Education on a Resume

How to apply to graduate school

If you have earned your bachelor’s degree, you can apply to a university or an online master’s program. Whether you have just graduated from college and want to continue your education in a certain field or you currently have a job but want to boost your career and pay grade, a master’s degree might help. To apply, you should:

  1. Select your program.
  2. Review your previous courses.
  3. Complete any necessary tests.
  4. Get letters of recommendation.
  5. Prepare your written materials.
  6. Meet the deadlines.

1. Select your program

Determine whether you want to apply to a physical university or if an online program better suits your time and budget (particularly if you plan to maintain your current job while pursuing your degree). Regardless, make sure it is accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting organization. For some fields that require certifications, you will want to make sure the program you are considering is accredited, in addition to the institution.

2. Review your previous courses

Find out if your chosen graduate program has prerequisites such as prior science courses or language skills. If necessary, you might be able to take classes as a non-degree seeking student to make up for missing credits before applying to graduate programs.

3. Complete any necessary tests

Determine whether you need to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) for admittance. You might not need the GRE for online graduate programs, whereas top universities typically require a minimum score. Other graduate exams you might need to take, depending on your field of study, include the Law School Admission Test, Graduate Management Admission Test or Medical College Admission Test.

4. Get letters of recommendation

If possible, get recommendations from respected faculty at your alma mater. However, if you have been out of school for a while, you can ask managers at your current or previous jobs. 

5. Prepare your written materials

Put together a strong writing sample (if needed) and a personal statement on what you would like to pursue and accomplish in graduate school.

6. Meet the deadlines

Graduate school application deadlines are often in December for students applying to the following year’s fall program. In order to complete all testing and writing samples, and collect the recommendations and transcripts you need, it is best to begin the process a year before the application deadline.

If you are driven to succeed in your chosen career and want to reap the financial and professional rewards of doing so, pursue master’s degrees that pay the most. By specializing in a respected field, you will be better equipped and able to earn a significant salary in a leadership role. For help finding the highest-paying jobs with a master’s degree and preparing to apply, search Indeed’s Career Guide..

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