There are a lot of good reasons to earn a master’s degree. From strengthening your expertise to advancing your career or landing a promotion, a master’s degree can make a big impact professionally. Even beyond some of those reasons, many students are pursuing a master’s degree to increase their earning potential. A master’s degree isn’t an iron-clad guarantee that you’ll take home a heavier paycheck, but one thing is for sure: A master’s degree in the right field can really pay off.
When weighing whether a master’s degree will up your pay, it’s vital to take into account the subject your degree is in. In some fields, a master’s degree may not result in a big pay bump. In others, a master’s degree can make all the difference. Learn which master’s degrees can lead to high earnings and how advancing your education could translate to more money in the bank.
Will a Master’s Degree Increase My Salary?
If your goal is to earn more money, is a master’s degree worth it? Besides getting a raise or promotion in your current job, a master’s degree may be a solid way to increase your income. But the difference a master’s degree makes in your annual salary can vary greatly depending on your field and area of expertise.
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, master’s degree holders earn an average of 22.5% more than their bachelor’s degree counterparts. While not all master’s degrees bring more earnings when compared to bachelor’s degrees in the same subjects, some fields, like education and healthcare, are likely to offer higher wages to master’s degree holders. That means the impact a master’s degree will have on your salary will be highly dependent on what you do, what you want to do, and where you work.
25 Top Master’s Fields for High Earnings
Using data from College Scorecard, we’ve ranked the top 25 master’s fields for high salaries (in no particular order). By earning a master’s degree in one of the areas below, you can feel confident that your investment will pay off and result in a solid salary.
Pursuing a master’s degree in computer science provides a deeper understanding of complex topics, fosters critical thinking, and refines technical skills. This advanced education prepares graduates for various roles in the ever-changing technology landscape, including artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, and software development, while contributing to personal and professional growth. Professionals working as computer and information research scientists should see a 15% increase in available positions in the field by 2031. With a master’s degree in computer science, you can pursue positions such as computer and information systems manager, computer network architect, and software development engineer.
A master’s degree in systems engineering exposes you to a broad range of disciplines. Depending on the program, a master’s in this area prepares you for work in academia or in hands-on industries. This degree can be found under a few different titles, such as a master’s of information technology with a concentration in systems engineering. This is a cross-disciplinary area of study and incorporates elements from mechanical engineering, finance, production, and electrical engineering. A master’s degree in systems engineering offers a solid foundation for career advancement, enabling you to explore roles such as electrical engineer, software engineer, project manager, and mechanical engineer. This advanced education will broaden your skill set and prepare you for diverse opportunities, including principal systems engineer positions.
Pursuing a graduate-level education in nursing can lead to a long and rewarding healthcare career. If you have an interest in working with patients directly, managing nursing facilities and staff members, or conducting research, a master’s degree in nursing may be a great fit for you. Depending on your current level of education, choose from four common routes to earn a Master of Science in Nursing degree: RN-to-MSN, BSN-to-MSN, ADN-to-MSN, and ASN-to-MSN. Master’s students in nursing typically work toward a particular specialization, such as gerontology, midwifery, nurse anesthetist, family nurse practitioner, orthopedics, and clinical nurse specialist. These professionals usually work in healthcare settings such as clinics, hospitals, nursing care facilities, and doctors’ offices.
Median salary in 2022:
$103,560 (Graduate level)
Allied Health Diagnostic, Intervention, & Treatment Professions
Professionals in this area of the healthcare field work with cutting-edge technologies. This may include cardiovascular technology, respiratory care, genetic therapy, athletic training, and many more. Depending on your interests and background, you could choose from several master’s degree programs to pursue a career in allied health diagnostics, intervention, and treatment. Your options for education paths include Master of Science degrees in nursing science, occupational therapy, orthodontics, communication sciences and disorders, and clinical laboratory science, among others.
Median salary in 2022:
$93,180 (Occupational Therapists)
Electrical, Electronics, and Communications Engineering
Students training for careers in electrical, electronics, and communications engineering concentrate on integrated circuits, semiconductor devices, wireless communication, design and fabrication, and digital image processing, to name a few areas. To find a career in this specialized engineering field, consider earning a Master of Science degree in areas such as telecommunications engineering, light waves engineering, electromagnetics and optics, wireless and mobile communications, new media engineering, and others. Depending on the school, you may see computer and electrical engineering training together in the same master’s program.
If you have a high school diploma and a real estate license, you can work as a real estate broker in your state. A master’s degree in real estate, however, helps you develop advanced skills and in-depth knowledge of the field that qualifies you for higher-paying jobs. With a master’s degree in real estate, you can seek out lucrative jobs as an agency owner, property developer, urban planner, portfolio manager, investment manager, or financial analyst. Master of Science in real estate programs may expect incoming students to have a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, such as business, real estate finance, or economics. In addition to education level, the pay for this field varies by geographic location, economic conditions, and home values.
If you have an interest in becoming a construction project manager, real estate construction manager, green building and sustainability consultant, or any number of higher-level, well-paying construction careers, a master’s in construction management is an excellent choice. Many programs allow you to specialize in topics such as sustainability and green construction, supply chain and logistics technology, and facility management. To pursue this construction management master’s, you’ll most likely need a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution in construction management, engineering, or in a closely related major. Plus, professional experience in construction goes a long way toward getting accepted to the program of your choice.
Another graduate degree option for tech–savvy computer whizzes is the master’s degree in computer engineering. This branch of the engineering field combines computer sciences with electronics engineering. Professionals with this graduate training design and develop a variety of technological devices and computer systems, from memory chips and data storage devices to networking components and touchscreens. Sometimes these professions are divided into two main categories: hardware and software engineering. After completing this degree, your career options may include computer systems analyst, web developer, computer network architect, and information security analyst.
Aerospace, Aeronautical, and Astronautical Engineering
To pursue the top careers in aerospace, aeronautical, and astronautical engineering, a specialized master’s degree is almost always required. Many colleges and universities offer a master’s degree that combines two or more of these areas, such as a master’s in aeronautics and astronautics engineering. These engineers may work on evaluating environmental regulations, developing and assessing aerospace and aircraft products, ensuring aerospace devices meet certain quality standards, and even manufacturing or repairing satellites and aircraft. With this training, you’ll qualify for a job as a data processing manager, military aerospace engineer, aerospace technician, mechanical engineer, aircraft or spacecraft designer, and beyond.
Management Sciences & Quantitative Methods
Training in this area prepares you to analyze and solve complex business problems in today’s fast-paced marketplace. Required coursework for a master’s in management science, for example, includes quantitative research methods, computer models, and quantitative finance or analytics. Earning a master’s degree in this field of study can help develop your advanced analytical skills and give you a deeper understanding of data-driven decision-making. This degree fosters critical thinking, effective communication, and leadership abilities, which will prepare you for a range of roles in various industries. With a master’s degree in this area, you can seek out a job as a financial analyst, operations manager, administrative service manager, college professor, statistician, and many more.
In master’s programs, engineering typically falls into careers centered on business, management, and manufacturing. You’ll be able to find a variety of engineering master’s degrees in these areas, including programs like a Master of Business Administration in engineering and a Master of Science in engineering management. While the subject matter of these programs changes depending on the school’s specialties and faculty strengths, you can expect to prepare for leadership roles in manufacturing, architectural engineering, scientific research and development services, and enterprise management.
Computer/Information Technology Administration & Management
A master’s degree in computer or information technology administration and management prepares you to manage computer networks, operations, systems, and organizations. Many colleges and universities that offer this master’s degree provide advanced training in computer and information systems security, information technology, project management, system administration, and multimedia management. Depending upon your interests, some lucrative careers to consider include computer systems analyst, database administrator, information security analyst, and web developer.
Entrepreneurial & Small Business Operations
Do you have an interest in business and entrepreneurial pursuits? Maybe you’re considering opening a small business or working for a business start-up after school. A master’s degree in entrepreneurial and small business operations prepares you with the advanced business and management skills you’ll need for success. In these graduate programs, you can expect to take coursework in franchising and franchise operations, small business administration, and entrepreneurial operations, to name a few. Many master’s degree holders in this area move on to pursue careers as business owners, administrative service managers, operations managers, and business teachers.
If you have a love of mathematics and statistics, especially if you have an educational history in a STEM area, a master’s degree in statistics might be a good choice for you. You’ll find that statistics master’s degrees come under a variety of titles, including Master of Science in statistics, Master of Science in applied statistics, Master of Science in data science, and Master of Arts in applied mathematics. Earning a master’s degree in this long-standing academic area prepares you for a rewarding career as a mathematician, college professor, or statistical data analyst.
Pharmacy, Pharmaceutical Sciences, & Administration
A master’s degree in pharmacy, pharmaceutical sciences, and administration prepares you to work on drug development to treat diseases. In these programs, you’ll learn how to synthesize, design, and analytically examine drug compounds and how chemical substances work at a molecular level. Common areas of study include clinical and industrial drug development, medical and pharmaceutical chemistry, natural products chemistry and pharmacognosy, and pharmaceutics and drug design. These master’s programs do not prepare you to become a licensed pharmacist, which requires a Doctor of Pharmacy degree.
Medical Illustration & Informatics
In these master’s programs, you’ll learn how to apply computer science and software engineering to areas in medical research, clinical information technology, and beyond. Many graduate programs train you with the necessary skills to develop advanced imaging and database systems. You’ll also spend time examining computer-assisted imaging, animation, and graphics that will aid your research and development of imaging systems and displays. Master’s degrees in this area have titles such as Master of Science in health informatics and Master of Arts in medical and biological illustration.
Food Science & Technology
Professions in the food science and technology field are rapidly changing with continued improvements in research technologies. In these master’s programs, you’ll learn how to use the latest tools to study health risks and positive and negative effects of various foods, and you’ll engage with different types of hands-on research projects. Degrees in this area have varying titles, including Master of Science in nutrition education, Master of Health Administration, and Master of Public Health with a concentration in nutrition. Upon graduation, you’ll be ready to pursue well-paying careers such as safety inspector, public health educator, quality manager, microbiologist, nutritional therapist, and food technologist.
Like some other master’s degrees in engineering, studies in mechanical engineering help you develop valuable skills in quality control, engineering design, and leadership. You’ll also develop exceptional problem-solving skills and study how design relates to engineering principles. With a master’s in mechanical engineering, you may find yourself working in popular roles such as mechanical engineer, industrial designer, agricultural engineer, or petroleum engineer. While you won’t need to show previous work experience in this area for admission to this graduate program, you can expect to submit letters of recommendation from sources who can speak to your likelihood of success in a master’s in mechanical engineering program.
Do you see yourself working for a business that participates in the global economy? A master’s degree in international business helps you develop the business and management skills to work in the international business environment. Depending on your interests and program, your coursework will include training in international marketing, human resource management, finance, and supply chain management. Master’s degree-holders in international business often pursue careers as international marketing directors, financial controllers, international trade and customs managers, international foreign policy advisors, and multinational managers. You’ll see these programs listed as a master’s of arts or master’s of science in international business.
Legal Professions & Studies
Do you have an interest in working in a profession that relates directly to the judicial system and the law without going to law school? A master’s of legal studies positions you for success in this industry. Degree-holders in this area often work in leadership and management roles. These professionals are especially useful for businesses and industries where daily operations must follow strict protocols and abide by complex legal standards. A master’s in legal studies often leads students to careers such as human resources managers, senior compliance officers or directors, senior contract negotiators, senior business analysts, or associate operations directors.
Computer Software & Media Applications
A Master of Science in software development or computer application development equips you with the necessary skills to keep up with technological developments and evolving software. You’ll also gain an advanced understanding of software design and coding languages. Pursuing a master’s degree in this field makes sense because it cultivates a strong foundation in software development, digital media, and emerging technologies. This advanced education enhances technical skills, creativity, and problem-solving abilities, preparing graduates for diverse roles in the rapidly evolving tech industry. You’ll learn adaptability and resilience, enabling you to stay current with technological advancements and maintain long-term career relevance.
This diverse and growing field helps you understand the creation and management of information systems, broadly construed. You’ll learn about how people use information systems in their professional careers and personal lives, in addition to data retrieval, ethics, human-computer interaction, database engineering, library sciences, and analytics. Degrees in this category may include Master of Library and Information Studies, Master of Science in information sciences and technologies, Master of Arts in communication and information studies, and Master of Science in computer and information sciences. Some colleges and universities offer concentrations such as programming, project management, computer networking, and data modeling and analytics. Upon graduation, you can pursue in-demand careers such as IT project manager, information security analyst, IT manager, college professor, and many more.
Chemical engineering combines studies from a variety of fields, including physics, chemistry, and mathematics. A master’s degree in this area prepares you for roles in public health, water and air quality, sustainable fuel production, and beyond. You may find that some schools offer concentrations in biotechnological engineering, chemical processes engineering, and polymers and biopolymers. With a master’s degree in chemical engineering, you can pursue rewarding careers such as agro-food engineer, chemical plant manager, chemical process engineer, and chemical investigation analyst. These programs typically have extensive prerequisite requirements, so be sure to check out the details of all prospective programs before you apply.
If you have a knack for problem-solving and enjoy working with numbers, a master’s degree in taxation could be a great fit for you. Taxation programs train you to handle expansive regulations and tax codes as they pertain to IRS state and federal taxes. A master’s degree in taxation essentially makes you an expert in tax law. Master’s degree-holders in this area often pursue careers as senior tax managers, tax consultants, tax analysts, or tax accountants.
Business & Commerce
Business- and economics-minded students should explore a master’s degree in commerce or a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in commerce. Pursuing a master’s degree in business and commerce enhances critical thinking, communication, and leadership skills and prepares you for diverse career opportunities across industries. The degree also fosters networking and professional growth, which can aid in increasing your employability and long-term success in the competitive business landscape. Professionals with a master’s degree in commerce often go on to work in international commerce, project management, marketing, and various financial services.