While associate and bachelor degrees grant you entry to the job market in the U.S., in recent years, the number of jobs available to holders of these degrees have continued to reduce.
Today, many entry-level positions now require at least a master’s, and if you have your eyes set on senior professional and management roles, a graduate degree is pretty much a given requirement.
Consequently, one of the most popular career-building moves available to workers today is the securement of a related advanced degree like a master’s degree. An increasing number of professionals now return to school mid-career, and a significant proportion of students are choosing to earn at least one graduate degree before they even enter the workforce.
A master’s degree typically opens the door to a higher starting salary, more earning potential, and a more extensive range of potential job roles right from the onset of your career. Graduate degrees can also offer avenues for workers with plateauing careers to specialize, granting them access to more esoteric professional paths.
However, not all master’s degrees are created equal. While some graduate degrees only provide avenues for incremental career growth, others almost guarantee a dramatic boost to your pay and give a significantly more favorable career path.
If you are looking to snag up a graduate degree to augment your career prospects, here are the top 9 highest paying master’s degrees you should consider.
Related: Does a Master’s in Education Increase a Teacher’s Salary
Whether its payroll, property, business, or sales tax, some form of taxation constitutes a significant proportion of the life of the average American, and they are not going away anytime soon.
However, a graduate degree in taxation gives you access to both sides of the table, enabling you to work in the tax regulation and management process, and grounding you in the workings of the U.S. taxation system.
Taxation experts help to ensure compliance with the regulation and codes of the internal revenue service either as a customer or corporation-serving professional or by working directly for the IRS and other tax regulatory bodies.
Consequently, these experts specialize in preparing reports, carrying out audits or helping you avoid one, and finding errors, deductibles, and potential exemptions.
To ground you in the necessary skills and education for these services, graduate taxation degree programs provide instruction in the technical basics of taxation like tax planning, and tax compliance. You also get detailed coverage of advanced taxation themes like international, federal, corporate, gift, individual, and partnership taxation, and financial planning courses like retirement planning, bankruptcy tax planning, estate planning, and strategic tax planning.
Furthermore, the coursework for many programs also incorporates a significant research emphasis.
A master’s degree in taxation is an excellent option for finance-related professionals and undergraduates as it provides prime access to a relatively stable and growing field. Taxation jobs have a projected growth rate of 10% over the next decade, a significant amount over the national average.
Besides, taxation professionals with graduate degrees earn a decent starting salary of at least $60,000, with the potential to grow to the mid-career average of $120,000.
#8: Chemical Engineering
For both aspiring and practicing engineers, one of the most desirable fields of study in their sphere is chemical engineering. This specialization preference typically rises from the fact that chemical engineers are one of the more ubiquitous types of engineers, with demand for them present in almost all sectors of the manufacturing industry.
In fields across the manufacturing spectrum, including clothing, electronics, paper, and pulp products, medicine and healthcare, photography, business, and biotechnology, chemical engineers often feature prominently in their product and equipment fabrication processes.
Chemical engineers incorporate elements of practical and theoretical chemistry as well as the principles of engineering into their work, creating a crucial link between the hard sciences and the technology-heavy field of manufacturing.
Consequently, these professionals play central roles in process development, equipment design, supervising, and optimizing the production process, as well as the treatment and handling of byproducts of the manufacturing process.
With a master’s degree in chemical engineering, participants get an advanced education in the field that opens the door to a significantly broader range of opportunities in today’s manufacturing sector.
Here, students get a grounding in concepts like advanced thermodynamics, chemical kinetics, advanced process systems engineering, biochemical engineering, molecular thermodynamics, and advanced separation processes.
Furthermore, with these programs, participants also often get the opportunity to specialize in concentrations like nanotechnology, thermodynamics, and biotechnology that further enhances their career prospects.
Another excellent way to up your market value significantly is with elective courses or minors in other fields applicable in the real world like entrepreneurship and business, production optimization, applied mathematics, or energy management.
Chemical engineers with graduate degrees typically start with a salary north of $70,000, with significant potential growth as many professionals double their take-home pay mid-career.
#7: Nuclear Engineering
For professionals in STEM fields, one of the best ways to significantly boost your job prospects and potential pay is with a master’s in nuclear engineering. With the increase in atomic energy use pairing nicely with the rising demand for specialists in this discipline, the field offers an exciting opportunity for people who want more challenging and rewarding roles.
Nuclear engineers handle both the research and development of instruments, systems, and processes that we use in creating beneficial use cases for atomic energy. Consequently, these specialists create, operate, and monitor nuclear plants and other systems needed to generate nuclear power.
Furthermore, potential career paths abound in the nuclear sector. Qualified professionals can enter a variety of roles that deal with the handling or production of nuclear fuel, fuel use, waste disposal, pant development, spacecraft design, the use of radiation for medical diagnosis and treatment, or a host of other medical and industrial applications.
Consequently, holders of master’s degrees in nuclear engineering immediately gain access to a range of roles and career-building opportunities in both governments, medicine, and industry. From the U.S. Military to medical research centers and power plants, many high-tech STEM bodies have an abundance of nuclear engineers on their roster.
According to a report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field is growing by a measly 4%, which is significantly slower than most other professions. However, the fact that nuclear engineering positions are typically some of the most stable, long term jobs, and the field is also relatively low competition, makes nuclear engineering an attractive career choice for interested candidates.
Professionals with master degrees in nuclear engineering earn an average salary of around $75,000, with the potential for a significant increase as they garner experience.
#6: Corporate Finance
Those who are in control of the money will always get excellent remuneration, and no field personifies this better than corporate finance. A master’s in corporate finance allows you to specialize in one of the most prestigious and sought after sections of the finance industry.
Corporate finance deals with all the intricacies of how the big bucks move, and a master’s degree in the field will ground you in the education and skills needed to effectively navigate the fast-paced landscape of global finance and financial markets.
This degree helps you understand how and why organizations manage their financial and investment decisions. Consequently, this program covers how financial markets work, how companies gain and maintain financing, how IPOs, acquisitions, and mergers work, how to value financial products and organizations, how to grow firm value, and the A to Z of stocks, derivatives, and other financial instruments.
Furthermore, corporate finance professionals assist organizations in generating funds, managing business financial operations, managing cash resources, influencing fiscal policy, handling acquisitions and mergers, ensuring legal and regulatory compliance, and also help guarantee the future economic stability of the organization.
As a result, a master’s in corporate finance opens up roles in financial management for local and global corporations, commercial and investment banks, hedge funds, real estate firms, money managers, financial planning agencies, insurance firms, government organizations, and consulting firms.
For top-performing masters in corporate finance holders, there is never a shortage of career opportunities, as almost every organizational body needs a capable financial manager.
masters in corporate finance holders start with an average salary of about $80,000, with potential for growth to above $125,000 in mid-career.
More: Best Undergraduate Finance Programs
#5: Strategic Management
In today’s fast-paced business world, organizations often have to consistently tweak their strategies almost on a minute by minute basis or risk falling behind. Consequently, managers who specialize in blueprinting for success are seeing an increase in demand, and few qualifications prepare you for that role like an MBA in strategic management.
A master of business management degree in strategic management prepares participants to take up roles where they direct and contribute to the decision-making process at organizations, to maximize profit, aligning with market conditions, and anticipating responses from other market factors.
Strategic managers evaluate and assess organizational needs and implement techniques to ensure goal-oriented success.
Consequently, the curriculum for an MBA in strategic management often includes themes like management strategy, executive leadership, managing diversity, accounting for decision making, business ethics and governance, project management, organizational behavior, managerial economics, industry analysis, and global strategy. However, depending on the program specifics, an MBA in strategic management can take either a global or a U.S.-only focus.
One big positive to this degree is the breath of its application across industries, ensuring that qualified professionals get an abundance of opportunities and limitless prospects for career advancement.
Holders of a master of business management degree in strategic management can expect a starting salary of around $90,000, with a potential rise to figures above $150,000 as they advance into senior corporate roles. Annual pay for graduates who opt instead to work as consultants cover an even more extensive range and can vary dramatically depending on experience and client base.
MBA programs provide students with an education in all the critical-thinking, managerial, and leadership skills needed to run a successful business. In today’s fast-paced business scene, few MBAs are as applicable as one in entrepreneurship.
By analyzing case studies and participating in practicums, students enrolled in a master’s of business administration degree in entrepreneurship get a teardown on all the many factors that influence and help determine company success.
In these programs, students learn how to read market trends, analyze financial information, conduct feasibility studies, create business plans, start and develop business ventures, work with investors, as well as the workings of managing and coordinating operations between company departments.
Furthermore, an MBA in entrepreneurship gives the student a grounding in the state of the business process in today’s world, including legal structures, venture capital, and startup culture.
Consequently, entrepreneurship MBA graduates are privy to real-world knowledge and skills that apply to almost every organization today. Professionals in this field often pursue roles as management consultants, company executives, and financial managers, while others still choose to start business ventures.
Holders of this master’s degree start with a modest average salary of $68,000, with opportunities for significant pay rise throughout their career. Mid-career professionals in management roles typically earn north of $140,000.
#3: Marketing Management
Business is never going out of style, and one aspect of business that has stayed on a parabolic growth curve over the last few decades is marketing.
Rapid advances in marketing psychology and its use by businesses on a global scale have intersected nicely with the advent of the internet and worldwide connectivity to create every marketing professional’s dream.
Today, marketing and advertising are conscious business strategies at the forefront of the business plans of all corporations. According to one report, global content marketing revenue alone exceeded $300 billion in 2019.
Hence, there has never been a better time to pivot into the market, and an MBA in marketing management is, without a doubt, one of the best ways to go about it. Marketing managers oversee all aspects of a company’s marketing strategy, including the introduction of new products, increasing sales, managing and growing the firm’s reputation, building public relations, and developing new marketing ideas.
With an MBA in marketing management, you get advanced instruction in all the skills necessary for running the marketing department and marketing branches of companies.
Consequently, the curriculum for these programs typically includes both practical and theoretical courses in concepts like marketing research, sale promotion, product development, and design, product management, branding, and the marketing features of new media and internet technologies.
Holders of MBAs in marketing management in the U.S. earn a middle of the pack starting salary of around $65,000. However, with wages rising dramatically with experience, these professionals can often expect to receive north of $135,000 mid-career.
#2: Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists
If you are an aspiring or already working registered nurse, few master’s degrees can do as much for your career as one in Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetics. Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) are specialists that handle all aspects of patient care that involves anesthesia.
CRNAs are responsible for administering anesthesia to patients both before and after diagnostic, therapeutic, obstetrical, and surgical procedures. These nurses also participate in emergency services, pain management, and airway management for patients in all conditions.
To become a CRNA, a master’s degree in the field is mandatory. Plus, to qualify for practice, aspiring CRNAs pass national and any required state certification examinations, secure at least one year of work experience in a role that qualifies as acute-care nursing, and must have an active registered nurse’s license.
Consequently, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists are few and far between, with many even working independently and serving multiple hospitals and other health care centers.
However, if you choose to bag a master’s degree in this field and fulfill the other requirements for practice, the associated rewards are so worth it. In addition to job satisfaction from providing an essential health service to often underserved populations, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists in the United States are privy to a starting salary of $140,900 and typically earn over $160,000 mid-career.
#1: Petroleum Engineering
While signs of a looming battery-powered sustainable energy revolution may already be on the horizon, it will be a very long time before the world is ready to be weaned off fossil fuels. And that is if we even choose to go that path.
Consequently, for both the short and mid-term future, one of the most profitable professions available to workers today is petroleum engineering. Petroleum engineers oversee and work in all aspects of fossil fuel extraction, from oil field evaluation to mining, development, refining, and other forms of production.
Furthermore, with graduate academic pursuits in petroleum engineering, you can further specialize in disciplines like petroleum geology, reservoir engineering, production engineering, and drilling engineering. Whichever concentration you choose, there is an abundance of high-paying roles available to holders of these masters degrees.
Petroleum engineering master degrees are also great avenues for holders of undergraduate degrees in fields like geology, mining, geostatistics, and engineering to significantly up their career prospects and potential pay.
The average starting salary for a petroleum engineer in the U.S. is $102,800, while professionals typically earn north of $180,000 mid-career.