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Top 10 master’s degrees that really pay

An MSN is one of the best paying master degrees.
March 20, 2019

By Katie Pins

If you’re sitting at your desk, reading this blog and thinking you’d like a career change, then I’ve got some good news! A master’s degree can create opportunities for professional and financial growth. But, not all graduate degrees come with the same earning potential. If you’re thinking of going back to school, it’s important to know what job opportunities are out there and how much they pay.

Our list below includes some of the careers that come with high paying master’s degrees. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2019 shared the highest paying occupations that typically require a master’s degree for entry. We went a step further and broke down the degrees to pursue and the commitment behind this education.  Hopefully, we can help you decide if grad school is worth it for the direction you see your career going.

Best paying master’s degrees and their corresponding jobs

The jobs listed below typically require a master’s degree to get an entry-level job.

Nurse anesthetist: Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Median annual salary: $165,120

In order to begin your journey toward becoming a nurse anesthetist, you would need to get a bachelor’s of science in nursing and pass an exam to become an RN. From there, you can work on getting your MSN degree over the course of two to three years and pass a certification exam. An MSN can advance a nursing career significantly, not just as a nurse anesthetist but in other areas of nursing. In fact, nurse practitioners also make this list and require the same degree. So, if you’re interested in getting an advanced degree in nursing but you’re unsure of the direction you want to go, an MSN could give you some flexibility.

Political scientist: Master’s degree in political science

Median annual salary: $115,110

Although there are a few jobs out there for someone with a bachelor’s in political science, many federal government agencies require a master’s degree. Plus, a master’s in this field significantly increases your median salary. An advanced degree in political science typically takes two years of full-time education.

Computer and information research scientist: Master's degree in computer science

Median annual salary: $114,520

After earning a bachelor’s degree, it could take two to three years to earn your master’s in computer science. Computer and information research scientists are some of the top-earning careers with this advanced degree. It’s also an exciting field to work in because these scientists are at the forefront of robotics technology and they’re finding innovative ways to use existing information technology. Computer and information scientists are also in demand in all sorts of fields, like medicine, production and business.

Nurse practitioner: Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

Median annual salary: $110,930

Nurse practitioners are in high demand. In fact, it’s one of the fastest growing professions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Like nurse anesthetists, you would need to have a BSN and your RN before continuing to get a master’s in nursing. As the healthcare industry grows and changes, there are many nurse practitioners earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, which requires more than the two to three years an MSN requires.

Physician assistant: Master’s degree in physician assistant studies

Median annual salary: $104,860

If patient care is a passion of yours and you already have a bachelor’s degree in a healthcare-related field, then a degree in physician assistant studies may be for you. Most programs prefer that applicants have at least three years of healthcare experience. When you enroll in a three-year master’s program, you also will be required to complete clinical hours through your program. These hours and a certification exam are essential to becoming a physician assistant.

Mathematician: Master’s degree in mathematics

Median annual salary: $103,010

Although you could get a job as a mathematician with a bachelor’s, many private sector companies require either a master’s or Ph.D. To get your master’s, you only need to tack on an additional one to two years. If you already enjoy developing mathematical models, analyzing data and solving problems, then a master’s in mathematics could be for you. Mathematicians are found in many different fields, especially technology.

Economists: Master's degree in economics

Median annual salary: $102,490

A master’s in economics could put you in a variety of industries, including insurance and finance, government, consulting and scientific research. The highest paying economists tend to come from the insurance and finance industry. If you’re interested in pursuing a degree in economics, programs usually take one to two years. After that, many students continue toward a Ph.D., although a master’s is a minimum requirement for most economist positions.

 

Careers that don’t require a master’s but make our list

A master’s degree in these jobs can be a big help if you are interested in switching careers but are typically not a requirement. We thought they were still important to note since they often make the list for the best paying master’s degrees upon graduation.

Engineering: Electrical, Computer, Biomedical

Median annual salary: $130,000

Although there are plenty of jobs available to people with a bachelor’s in electrical, computer or biomedical engineering, a master’s can be a good way to step into the field from a different industry. There are programs for master’s in engineering management as well as engineering in general. If you need more of a foundation in engineering, then a degree that helps expand your technical knowledge may be best. Engineering programs typically take two years to complete.

Financial Manager: Finance and Economics degrees

Median annual salary: $125,080

A position in corporate finance can be a boost to your salary, and bachelor's degree in finance, accounting, economics or business administration is often the minimum education needed for financial managers. However, many employers now look for candidates with a master's degree in those same areas. An MBA is one of the most common master’s degrees and often takes two years to complete. MBA programs are pretty flexible, offering part-time and full-time programs.

Technology Management: Master’s in technology management

Median annual salary: $127,000

An advanced degree in technology management can help you expand your project management skills and knowledge of technology systems. In about two years, the degree can also prepare you for managing software engineers, programmers and computer systems projects. Experience within the technology field is important when applying for jobs after graduation.

 

Going back to school to get an advanced degree can help you increase your pay and opportunities if you pick the degree that’s right for you. When considering graduate school, also consider how you will pay for school and how much student loan debt you are willing to take on. Hopefully after graduation your hardest decision will be comparing job offers!


Katie Pins is a marketer fascinated with finance. Whether the topic is about the psychology of money, investment strategies or simply how to spend better, Katie enjoys diving in and sharing all the details with family, friends and Money Mentor readers. Money management needs to be simplified and Katie hopes she accomplishes that for our readers. The saying goes, "Knowledge is Power", and she hopes you feel empowered after reading Money Mentor.