Graduate school is a very important investment in your future. If you’re considering applying to or enrolling in a graduate degree program, you’ll want to make sure the program you choose not only meets your academic and career goals but that it also pays off in the long run. Researching and identifying high-paying master’s degrees before choosing a program is simply a smart move.
Earning a master’s degree has many benefits. A graduate degree can open the door to career advancement opportunities, enable you to earn a higher salary, expand your career pathways and prepare you for the next level of higher education (doctoral studies). According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, earnings increase — and unemployment decreases — as educational attainment rises.
Whether you’ve just started thinking about graduate school or you’ve decided to move forward and are exploring your options, we hope this list of high-paying master’s degrees will help put your education — and your career — firmly on the path to success.
Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA)
If you’re looking to become a leader in the business world, an MBA is a must-have. Earning an MBA prepares graduate students for management positions by building vital employer-desired characteristics such as strategic thinking, communication skills and versatility. An MBA degree also offers a well-rounded education that covers a variety of functional business areas including finance, operations, marketing, information technology, entrepreneurship, leadership and data analytics.
As far as graduate degrees go, an MBA is one of the most popular choices with students — and one of the most in-demand from the perspective of employers. The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) Corporate Recruiters Survey for 2020 reports that 89 percent of employers plan to hire MBA graduates in 2021.
When it comes to return on investment, earning an MBA adds up. Students graduating with a master’s degree in business administration vs. a bachelor’s degree in business can expect an annual salary that is almost $30,000 higher, according to the Winter 2021 Salary Survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE). Based on reported data from employers, students graduating with an MBA in 2021 are projected by NACE to earn an average starting salary of $87,966 — an increase of 11.3 percent from 2020.
The improved earning potential that an MBA delivers is further supported by GMAC’s 2020 Corporate Recruiters Survey, which indicates that the median salary for MBA holders is $115,000 — 75 percent more than the median salary for those with a bachelor’s degree.
Master’s Degree in Information Technology
Given the increasingly complex and ever-evolving nature of computer and network systems and their central role in today’s global business environment, pursuing a high-level career in information technology is a sensible option. Graduate students who enroll in an accredited master of science in information technology program will gain knowledge of a wide range of relevant topics such as security analysis, virtualization technologies, network administration, regulatory compliance, cloud computing, large-scale application deployment and mobile computing.
With the increased emphasis on the collection and storage of big data, information security, and cloud computing, the demand for computer and information systems managers is projected to grow 10 percent from 2019 to 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Those who choose to pursue a high-paying master’s degree in IT can expect a bright future. Careers in the IT field are not only growing — they are also very lucrative, according to salary data generated by a variety of sources. Employer-reported data from Salary.com, for example, indicates a median salary of $121,186–$128,341 for information technology manager positions for those who hold a master’s degree. Data from U.S. News & World Report indicates that IT managers made a median salary of $146,360 in 2019.
Master’s Degree in Engineering Management
When it comes to high-paying master’s degrees, a master of science in engineering management fits the bill. This interdisciplinary career pathway is ideal for those who want to integrate technical knowledge with business management expertise. Job opportunities in engineering management cover such areas as quality and production operations, product design and support, engineering services, research and development, supply management and consulting services.
The demand for engineering management professionals is growing according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, which suggests that employment of engineering managers will expand 3 percent from 2019 to 2029. Computer systems design and engineering management consulting are expected to be high-growth areas, in particular.
In terms of salary data, the national average pay for those who hold a master’s degree in engineering management is $115,980 per year based on job postings on ZipRecruiter.com. PayScale.com reports similar information, with the average annual base pay for engineering managers in the U.S. listed at $118,115.
Master’s Degree in Finance
If numbers are your thing, pursuing a master of science in finance (MSF) degree could be a rewarding educational and career route for you. Graduate students who study finance will build proficiency in such areas as global financial markets, capital strategy, statistical analysis, asset allocation, and quantitative and qualitative financial models.
The Winter 2021 Salary Survey from NACE lists a master’s degree in finance as one of the top-10 in-demand graduate-level degrees, according to data reported by employers. This parallels occupational outlook data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which indicates that career opportunities in the financial management field are projected to grow 15 percent from 2019 to 2029.
When it comes the rate of return on the investment of an advanced college degree, a master’s degree in finance is primed to deliver. The employer-reported median salary for finance managers is $115,353–$122,569, according to Salary.com. U.S. News & World Report offers comparable data, with $129,890 being the reported median annual salary for financial managers in 2019.
Master’s Degree in Public Health
If you’re looking to make an immediate impact on critical issues facing our world today, a master of public health (MPH) degree could lead to a career that is both fulfilling and economically sound. Students who enroll in an MPH program will learn how to address the multifaceted challenges facing our healthcare system at a local, regional and national level.
Given the ongoing and widespread impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it should come as no surprise that the public health field is thriving. And the increased demand for a wide range of healthcare personnel isn’t likely to subside anytime soon. The rising need for managers who organize and oversee medical information and healthcare staff means that employment of medical and health services managers is forecasted to grow 32 percent from 2019 to 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
With the use of electronic health records becoming more prevalent, managers with knowledge of health information technology and informatics are particularly sought after. Candidates with a master’s degree in health administration or a related field will have the best career prospects, according to the Bureau.
In terms of salary expectations for MPH degree holders, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual pay for medical and health services managers was $104,280 in 2020. This information is reinforced by data from U.S. News & World Report, which shows that the median salary for medical and health services managers in 2019 was $100,980, with the top 25 percent making $133,520.
Master’s Degree in Accounting
Named a top-10 in-demand degree by the Winter 2021 Salary Survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), a master’s degree in accounting is a wise choice for those who are looking to secure their future. This well-known degree prepares graduates for high-level accounting positions in public, corporate, government and nonprofit business environments.
High-quality master of science in accounting programs offered by accredited institutions also enable qualified students to meet licensing requirements for becoming a certified public accountant (CPA).
According to the 2020 Robert Half Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance Professionals, there is a high demand for accounting experts — especially CPAs — in nearly every industry. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that career opportunities for accountants and auditors will grow 4 percent from 2019 to 2029.
Numbers that reflect compensation in the accounting field are also favorable. According to the 2020 Salary Survey from the Institute of Management Accountants, the median total compensation for accountants in the U.S. in 2019 was $107,817, with the median base salary reported as $100,000. For those who hold a master’s degree in accounting, ZipRecruiter.com is currently seeing annual salaries in the U.S. as high as $130,000.
Master’s Degree in Cybersecurity
If you have an interest and/or background in information technology coupled with a burning desire to see justice served, a master’s degree in cybersecurity could be the way to go when searching for a high-paying master’s degree option. Graduate degree programs in cybersecurity explore contemporary issues related to the protection of information capital in areas such as security management, intelligence policy and practice, national security and cyber-crime trends.
With cybersecurity being an increasingly important concern for all different types of business entities, career opportunities in this field are burgeoning. Employment of information security analysts, for example, is projected to grow 31 percent from 2019 to 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The financial rewards that come with a high-level cybersecurity career are substantial. The average annual pay for those who have a master’s degree in cybersecurity in the United States is $102,117, according to current employment data collected and reported by ZipRecruiter.com. This is right in line with data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which reports a 2020 median annual wage of $103,590 for information security analysts.
Master’s Degree in Business Analytics
The vast majority of business decisions are data-driven in today’s high-tech world, which is good news if you are a data junkie looking to pursue a high-paying master’s degree. By earning a master of science in business analytics, you can boost your career (and earning) potential by learning how to transform raw data into important business intelligence that informs strategy and improves outcomes in many different operational areas.
Predictably, the demand for business and data analytics professionals is strong. Given the need for analysis of an increasing volume of digital and electronic data generated by businesses, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that overall employment of statisticians is projected to grow 33 percent from 2019 to 2029. In addition, Glassdoor ranked data scientist — a role described as being focused on “providing data-driven solutions to complex business challenges” — at #2 on its list of the top American tech jobs for 2021.
When you take a look at the numbers, the potential value of a master’s degree in business analytics is evident. The median base salary for data scientists reported by Glassdoor on its 2021 top American tech jobs list is $113,736. This falls right in the middle of data points derived from the business analytics job category on ZipRecruiter.com, which reveals that the average annual pay in this field in the U.S. is $98,614 a year, with the salary range topping out at $164,500.