A master’s degree is a valuable qualification that will undoubtedly increase your chances of landing a better job with a higher salary. With more and more people getting a master’s these days, many lucrative roles now demand a graduate degree as a prerequisite. While an undergraduate degree can make you a professional, a master’s will give you specialized skills and turn you into an expert in your field. In other words, most master’s degrees are master’s degrees that pay well.
Here are some of the highest-paying master’s degrees around, the best jobs you can secure after graduating, and the median salary for each.
Highest Paying Master’s Degrees of 2023
In identifying the highest paying master’s degrees, average salary for degree holders was obviously a key factor. However, we also considered other factors which will contribute to future earning potential, such as career path prospects, demand for professionals, and other benefits.
1. Master of Engineering
If you’re after one of the highest-paying jobs with a master’s degree — your first stop is engineering. A master of engineering degree is a specialized, professional qualification that prepares students to use their technological and engineering skills to address real-world issues and find solutions. You can have varied specializations with a master’s in engineering, each leading to lucrative jobs with strong job growth. An engineering master’s degree is one of the best master’s programs you can get if you want to make money in your career.
Stanford’s Master of Science in Engineering is one of the best, if not the best, master’s of engineering programs in the country. Stanford is currently listed by the US News as the #2 best engineering school.
University of California’s Master of Engineering is designed to help students learn how to work in an interdisciplinary team while solving problems and improving their leadership skills. You can choose between the traditional plan or the accelerated track if you’d like to finish sooner.
Expected growth rate from 2020-2030: 7%, about average
Senior mechanical engineers research, design, and build mechanical and electro-mechanical systems and equipment.
2. M.Sc. Nursing
A master’s program in nursing is another master’s degree that pays well. It helps registered nurses build leadership capacity and develop high-level knowledge and skills in the field of nursing. This qualification opens up a range of career options.
Johns Hopkins University has long been known as a premier institution for education in the field of medicine. Its Masters of Science in Nursing is currently #1 on US News’s list of 2023 Best Nursing Schools: Master’s.
#4 on US News’s list, University of Pennsylvania has an excellent faculty-to-student ratio. There are 99 full-time members of faculty and 664 currently-enrolled graduate students. This means there is one faculty member for every seven students.
University of North-Carolina Chapel Hill comes in #8 on the US News list. It provides quality education at a somewhat more affordable price. This institution also offers a high-quality Doctor of Nursing Practice program.
Expected growth rate from 2020-2030: 9%, about average
Clinical nurse leaders supervise other nurses and take part in delivering patient care.
3. Master of Business Administration (MBA)
An MBA program helps students to become quality professionals by developing and enhancing their management, leadership, and organizational skills. Their critical thinking and analytical ability help them pursue some of the highest-paying jobs on the market.
Tied at #1 on US News’s Best Business Schools list, the University of Chicago offers not just one of the best MBAs but some of the best business-related education you can find. Its MBA has many departments offering all sorts of concentrations, allowing you to choose a field you want. MBAs here are not cheap by any means, but do offer a great chance of ROI — 88.70% of full-time University of Chicago (Booth) graduates find employment after finishing their MBAs.
As the other institution holding the #1 position on the US News list, Wharton provides an excellent MBA with a high employment rate (89%) after graduation. Wharton is a renowned name when it comes to MBAs and education here does not come cheap. However, it has the biggest network of alumni in the country — something that can surely come in handy in the business world.
Expected growth rate from 2020-2030: 8%, about average
A chief executive officer is the head of an organization, in charge of its organizational structure, workforce, strategies, and communication with the board of directors. This is one of the highest-paying jobs with a master’s degree.
Expected growth rate from 2020-2030: 8%, about average
Business operations managers coordinate activities of different departments within an organization to align the company’s strategies with its customers’ interests.
4. M.Sc. Cyber Security
A master’s in cyber security is another of the most profitable master’s degrees. It equips students with knowledge of risk management, ethical hacking, cryptography, digital forensics, and a range of other topics. If you like computers and want to make a difference, this is the best master’s degree for you! Graduates are highly skilled in cyber security and know how to protect IT systems from malicious actors and other critical risks.
Georgetown University offers a fully online (or hybrid) Master’s in Cybersecurity Risk Management. Students are tasked to complete 33 credit hours in the timeframe of two to five years. Ranked 23rd best in the list of national universities, Georgetown is an excellent and prestigious university to earn your degree from.
NYU’s Masters in Cybersecurity requires students to complete 30 credit hours over a timeframe of one year. You can choose between two tracks: cyber defense or cyber operations. The program is not affordable, but NYU’s Cyber Fellows program can offer 75% scholarships for qualifying students.
WGU’s Online Master’s in Cybersecurity and Information Assurance is fully online and self-paced for the ultimate flexibility. Students need 30 credits to graduate. Tuition is a flat rate: $4,295 per six-month term whether you are an in or out-of-state student.
A master of finance program helps students develop and sharpen their financial management skills. With accounting, research, and communication skills, they are eligible for a range of well-paid roles. An MF is one of the best master’s degrees to get if you’re interested in financial topics and math.
The McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin offers a Master’s of Science in Finance. The program’s rigorous curriculum was designed by a council of leaders in the finance industry.
MIT isn’t only known for engineering and science-related programs. Its Sloan school offers a Master of Finance program with a rigorous curriculum and a hands-on approach to learning, guided by world-class faculty.
Expected growth rate from 2020-2030: 5%, slower than average
Financial advisors offer advice to individuals about how to manage their finances for a better financial future.
6. M.Sc. Computer Science
A master’s in computer science helps students acquire in-depth knowledge of computing systems and architecture, as well as other topics such as statistics and mathematics. They can then apply this knowledge and skills to solve problems using technology and obtain a number of well-paid roles.
Best Master of Science in Computer Science Programs
The prestigious Cornell University offers a Master of Science in Computer Science program. It is a small program lasting four semesters, teaching students deeper knowledge and skill in the field through research, advanced coursework, and writing. Cornell requires students to serve as teaching assistants during their education. In exchange, students receive a full tuition waiver and a stipend for living expenses.
UC Berkeley’s Master of Science in Computer Science program requires 24 credits to complete. Students can learn about topics like user interface design (UI design), cryptography, network security, and more.
Purdue University, based in Indiana, offers a Master of Science in Computer Science. Students have two choices — a non-thesis option comprising ten courses of three credits each, or a thesis option comprising eight courses of three credits each and a thesis requirement.
Expected growth rate from 2020-2030: 22%, much faster than average
Software developers are involved in designing, developing, testing, and implementing software for various applications. They also look for vulnerabilities in developed software and come up with solutions.
Expected growth rate from 2020-2030: -10%, decline
Computer programmers use their coding knowledge to help software applications work efficiently and to improve programs and operating systems.
7. M.Sc. Data Analytics
A master’s in data analytics integrates advanced statistics, analytical skills, management, and computing knowledge to prepare students to handle and analyze large quantities of critical data for better decision-making.
Stanford University offers its MS in Statistics: Data Science. It is a 45-credit program teaching students everything they need to know about data science and analytics. It culminates in a capstone project.
New York University’s Master of Science in Data Science is a highly-selective program focusing on teaching students how to develop new methods related to data science. It is a 36-credit program spanning two years. NYU has a limited number of scholarships available for qualifying students.
Data analysts handle large quantities of data related to marketing, logistics, demographics, and other business aspects. They make data digestible to help organizations and businesses make better decisions for the future.
8. Master of Economics
With a master’s in economics, students gain knowledge of quantitative and qualitative analysis of economic data to suggest solutions to problems in society, industry, and business.
Yale University’s Master of International and Development Economics is a highly-selective one-year cohort program. It admits only thirty students per year to ensure close mentoring from faculty. Students must complete five core courses and two electives.
USC’s Master of Science in Applied Economics and Econometrics is a 32-credit program that most students can complete in twelve to eighteen months. There are six tracks to choose from, though the program only accepts full-time learners.
The University of Florida’s Master’s in Economics offers its master’s students many of the same programs its doctorate students enroll in. There are four specializations available, though getting accepted to the program be challenging.
Expected growth rate from 2020-2030: 24%, much faster than average
An actuary uses critical thinking and analytical skills to predict risk and interpret events. Their advice helps businesses to make better decisions that can keep them healthy even during challenging times.
A market research manager helps organizations with their market-related research requirements. They study market conditions, customer preferences, and competitor strategies, and use this analysis to develop strategies and make recommendations.
Expected growth rate from 2020-2030: 33%, much faster than average
Statisticians use statistical models, theories, and methods to solve real-world issues. They collect and interpret data to help business decisions.
9. MA in Political Science
A master’s in political science gives students deep insight into the political, social, and economic landscape of country and city governments. It prepares them to handle issues affecting society, develop public policy, and participate in decision-making at the highest levels.
The prestigious Duke University consistently ranks among the top in the country. It offers a MA in Political Science program that requires 30 credits to complete. However, getting in might be tough — it only accepts 10-13 students each year.
The University of Georgia offers a 33-credit Master of Arts in Political Science and International Affairs program at its Athens campus. The program was specifically designed for students looking to earn a PhD after graduation. Qualifying students may work in an assistantship position in exchange for full tuition remission and a living stipend.
Expected growth rate from 2020-2030: 7%, about average
An urban and regional planner communicates with government officials, discusses strategies, and coordinates with contractors.
Some Worst Paying Master’s Degrees
Just as there are most valuable masters degrees that can help you earn six figures, there are some degrees that may simply not be worth it. Many still choose the degrees below, particularly when they are following their passion. Here are some of the worst-paying master’s degrees and some of the jobs you can get with them:
Master’s in Human Services
A master’s degree in human services helps prepare you for working in policy-based programs, social services, public resources, and more. These programs teach you the skills and techniques necessary for jobs such as:
Social and community service manager (average salary $74,000 per year)
Master’s in Divinity
Those looking to earn their Master’s in Divinity (MDiv) usually aren’t in it for the money, but rather to gain the knowledge and experience necessary to become a pastor, priest, minister, or spiritual leader. Pastors generally earn around $30,000 to $60,000, although salaries depend on the church location and the congregation’s financial capacity. Youth pastors and chaplains or ministers earn less.
Master’s in Mental Health Counseling
Mental health counseling often dips into substance abuse and behavioral disorder counseling as well. Master’s degrees and internships are often required to find jobs in this field. Unfortunately, unless you are a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist, your salary will look closer to $48,000 than six figures. Nevertheless, mental health counseling is a noble field to choose.
Other Things to Consider When Choosing Your Master’s Degree
Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest things that people consider when choosing their master’s degree is money. Going for a master’s degree is a major cost, so people naturally look to their potential return on investment (and its timeframe) to see whether more education is worth it. However, money isn’t the only factor in the equation. So, what else should you consider when choosing your master’s degree?
Here are some factors to look into when considering the best master’s degree to get:
Besides the money, one of the first things you should ask yourself is why. What is your reason for wanting to go back to earn a master’s degree? Is it to further your current career path or to change it completely? Are you following your interests and finally entertaining your passions? Or do you want to go back simply for the sake of learning? Whatever it may be, knowing your “why” can help guide your decisions along the way.
Try to resist the temptation to choose a field or program simply because it’s the “best” or just because you feel it might look good on your resume, either — make sure you choose something that suits your goals. Considering your goals and no one else’s can improve the chances of you feeling more fulfilled with your career after graduation.
Your Interests and Strengths
It’s tempting to simply choose one of the best-paying master’s degrees and leave it at that. However, just because a program might lead to high-paying jobs doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you. It’s always a good idea to consider your interests and strengths and weigh them against your choice programs.
Will a program help you build upon your strengths and allow you to thrive, or will it cause you more trouble than you might feel it’s worth? Would you be interested enough in a particular subject to pursue your master’s all the way to the end?
High-paying master’s degrees are great, but what’s even better is something that fits you.
Of course, if you really want to pivot into a different field or career, you can — there’s always a way to leverage your current skills and experience into something new.
The cost of a master’s degree can be quite prohibitive for many seeking higher education. It is also one of the biggest considerations many make when choosing a program and a school. You may want to consider the overall cost of a program (tuition fees, additional fees, living expenses, and opportunity costs) and weigh it against what you’re willing to spend or borrow. Doing your research beforehand can help you make the right decision.
There’s good news — most universities and master’s degree programs do offer financial aid. You can also find outside scholarships, employer tuition assistance, and other benefits that can help bring down your program’s cost. There are even some schools that provide tuition remission and living stipends in exchange for an assistantship requirement.
You may also want to consider the fact that online degrees are often much more affordable than in-person options. However, online study may not always be applicable, especially in fields that require research or practical experience.
Future Opportunities – Do You Get More or Fewer?
For many, going back to school to earn their master’s degrees means increasing their employment options after graduation. However, your future job options may not actually increase and may actually decrease, depending on the field you choose. Be sure to do your research prior to committing to a program or field — ensure that you do not set yourself up for failure by joining a field with declining growth outlooks.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics is often a great place to find out whether a certain occupation or field will see growth in the coming years. However, you may also keep up with the news and general industry chatter around a field you want to pursue.
Most who want to earn their master’s degrees want to get into top master’s programs that can help set them up for success after graduation. So of course, it only makes sense to look deeper into the actual program(s) before you enroll. There are a few things to consider:
Does the learning format fit your preferences? Master’s degrees can be taught in traditional classroom settings where professors conduct lectures. They can also be earned mostly through research and practical experience. If you’re more of a lecture type of person, it may benefit you to choose programs that use that learning format predominantly, as you’ll likely find the material more accessible.
What’s the schedule and flexibility like? If you intend to work while completing your master’s degree, you probably want to know how flexible a program is before committing. You can always find a flexible job to accommodate an inflexible program format, but it’s best to find something that suits your needs from the beginning. Flexibility is why many choose to go for online degrees that offer flexibility and asynchronous formats to allow for self-paced learning.
How long will the program take? A program’s duration is not always a consideration for many, but you may want to know how long it will take before you can start looking to advance your career.
It’s always good to consider how much student support you’ll get. Support can come in the form of student facilities such as a library, IT services, faculty office hours, and more. It will differ from institution to institution, and you won’t always get the same type of support online that you may get from on-campus learning.
Last but not least, you may also want to consider the program’s location. Would you need to relocate to pursue your education? Sometimes, you may find a program of relative quality nearer by that can help save you the cost and hassle of a cross-country move. Local programs can also mean lower tuition costs.
Alternatively, you can also consider an online master’s degree so you don’t need to move at all!
How Can You Boost Your Salary Potential?
Some of the top-paying master’s degrees on this list can help boost your income significantly after you graduate. However, there are also ways in which you might be able to boost your salary without having to earn a master’s degree at all. Here are a few tips that can help increase your salary potential.
Switch Industries or Pivot Careers
Pivoting your career is one of the best ways to boost your earning potential, especially if you are coming from an average or lower-paying field. Do some research into what is currently in demand (and has a great future outlook) to see if any fields interest you.
In some cases, you may already have the experience and skills necessary to pivot into a new industry or role. However, it is also very likely that you will need additional education and experience to successfully transition. In the case of the latter, you can use this information to help you decide which master’s degree to go for.
Identify Fast-Growing and In-Demand Skills — and Learn Them
You don’t always have to change careers to boost your earnings. If you stay updated on industry news, you may sometimes find some new and fast-growing niches or skills becoming more in demand within your current field. Learning these new skills can help make you indispensable to your employer or make you more appealing to potential employers that may offer you a higher salary. The good news is you don’t always have to earn a master’s degree to learn these new skills — sometimes all you need is a short course or program. These days, there are so many online course providers that can help you learn certain skills, especially in the field of tech.
Keep Working on Your Credentials and Portfolio
One pitfall of long-term employment is that some people can get so comfortable they allow themselves to stagnate. Even as you work full-time, do your best to keep adding to your credentials and your portfolio. You can do so by signing up for online courses that provide you with certificates upon completion (though make sure you select courses that award employer/industry-recognized certificates) or by working on side projects in your own time. A better portfolio and a credential-filled resume can mean higher offers when you look for work. You can also use your credentials and portfolio to negotiate your salary with your current employer — which brings us to the next point.
Negotiate Your Current Salary
If you feel as though your current salary is not keeping up with industry standards or if you feel as though you are being undervalued at your current employer, consider negotiating your salary. Many succeed in getting significant raises. However, if you feel severely undervalued, you may want to find another job instead.
Not everyone enjoys the idea of networking, but there’s no denying how beneficial it can be. Networking can help you make professional and even personal relationships that may bring future jobs and insider knowledge in your sector.
You might hate to hear this, but — relocating can be one of the best ways to immediately boost your salary. Moving to a city that has a higher average salary all around can help you earn more. Additionally, it may benefit you to move to cities where your chosen field is a prominent industry. For example, people working in tech may want to move to San Francisco or Seattle to find the best career prospects.
Beware, however, as higher earning potential doesn’t always mean you can actually get more disposable income or savings. Select a location carefully because high costs of living can completely eliminate whatever salary boost you get.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will I earn more money if I get a master’s degree?
Of course, nothing is guaranteed. If you want to get a better-paid job or are looking for a pay increase in your current role, you’ll still need to demonstrate the right skills, experience, and attitude. However, a master’s degree will be a strong asset in landing a higher salary.
Is there an alternative to a master’s to make more money?
Your first goal in getting a lucrative job is to obtain one of the many high-paying master’s degrees. But, that’s not always possible. In some cases, an undergraduate degree along with professional experience will be sufficient to land a well-paid job. If you’re looking for a pay rise in your current role, there are other ways to build your skills and experience, such as taking on extra responsibilities in your current role. However, in most cases, having a master’s is the most convincing argument for your current employer to give you a pay rise, or for a new employer to hire you.
If you’re interested in research, you could also consider a PhD or a professional doctorate such as an EdD.
What is the best master’s degree for the future?
The answer to this question is quite subjective. If money is the only concern, a master’s degree in engineering or an MBA might be the answer. An MBA can provide you with plenty of flexibility that allows you to work in many industries, so it may be the better choice.
If you’re more interested in fields that are more aligned with the future, you can choose cybersecurity or computer science. Alternatively, if you want something more evergreen (which will never go out of demand), you can always go for M.Sc. Nursing.
Of course, even if you know the best master’s degrees 2023 has to offer, nothing beats following your interests and passions — especially since this makes for a more fulfilling career.
What jobs make 100k a year with a master’s degree?
It appears that senior positions in the field of engineering pay six figures on average. However, if engineering is not your thing, you can look at other positions such as C-level executive (chief executive officer or chief financial officer), nurse anesthetist, information security manager, and computer network architect. Again, many of these positions are more senior or higher up on the ladder — but the good news is these positions are exactly what your master’s degree prepares you for.
Which master’s degrees pay the most?
Looking at the list of highest-paid master’s degrees above, we can easily say that the field with the most high-paying jobs for graduate degrees is engineering. However, you most likely have to be in a senior position to earn six figures in engineering. Regardless, engineering is quite a lucrative field, with the position of Senior Director of Engineering paying nearly $190,000 per year.
Honorable mentions include M.Sc. Nursing, MBA, M.Sc. Cyber Security, Masters of Finance, and M.Sc. Computer Science.
What are the most in demand master’s degrees?
The master’s degrees for college graduates in highest demand by employers in 2023 include data science, cybersecurity, engineering, nurse anesthesia, and management. This closely correlates with the master’s programs and graduate degrees that are the most popular and highly competitive.
What are the most lucrative master’s degrees?
The most lucrative graduate degrees are those that not only have the highest earning potential and job growth but that balance this against how much you’ll need to pay to earn your degree. Master’s degrees that will likely lead to a high salary without saddling you with high student debt include business, finance, and nursing. Other lucrative options include physician assistants and research assistants.
Which master’s degree is most valuable in the future?
In the next 10 to 20 years professions that are predicted to be in the most demand with strong job growth include information systems analyst, software developer, data scientist, nurse practitioner, finance manager, and operation manager.
Most of these jobs are also predicted to deliver high salaries as well as plenty of stable employment options. Therefore master’s degrees in corresponding fields such as information technology, software engineering, business, and nursing could be seen as the most valuable in the future.
In today’s competitive job market, it’s having a master’s degree is almost critical, especially if you want to secure a high-level role with a good salary. A master’s degree makes you eligible for well-paid positions that require a graduate degree as a minimum qualification. In other cases, a master’s may not be required, but it will set you apart from other applicants and put you at the top of the list.
It’s important to consider not only the highest paying master’s degrees but also the programs that fit your passions and career ambitions.