Which Master’s Degrees Are Worth the Money?

While statistics show that people with master’s degrees earn more money on average than those with bachelor’s degrees, that doesn’t necessarily mean people with master’s degrees are rolling in the dough. There are plenty of people with master’s degrees who continue to barely eke out a living years after completing grad school. Earning a master’s degree is hard work and can lead to a mountain of student loan debt, so it pays to do a little digging on which master’s degrees are most likely to yield the greatest financial return to make the investment of time and money worth your while. Here, we will explore some master’s degrees that are well-known for leading to top-paying jobs in their respective industries.

  1. Master of Science in Nursing Nurse Anesthetist. Nursing in and of itself is one of the most in-demand careers in the U.S. today and advanced practice nurses who hold an MSN are particularly in demand, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Out of all advanced practice nurses, nurse anesthetists earn the most money on average. The average annual salary for a nurse anesthetist is about $128,000, according to online compensation site Payscale.
  2. Master of Science in Computer Science. A master’s in computer science opens you up to a number of high-paying careers in the lucrative high-tech industry. One of such careers is network systems and data communications analysis, where analysts earned an average annual salary of $71,100 in May 2008, according to the most recent information available from the Bureau. Computer and information systems managers, who are more likely to need master’s qualifications, earned an average annual salary of $112,210 in May 2008, the Bureau maintains.
  3. Master of Science in Computer Engineering. A master’s in computer engineering can lead to even more lucrative high-tech careers because of the specialized knowledge gained through master’s training. Potential careers include computer applications software engineers, who earn an average of $85,430 annually, or computer systems software engineers, who earn an average of $92,430 annually, according to the Bureau. Computer hardware engineers earn about $98,820 each year, the Bureau states.
  4. Master of Science in Engineering Petroleum Engineering. Engineering careers are always listed among the top-paying careers in the U.S., but out of all engineering categories, petroleum engineers earn the most money on average. The average annual salary for a petroleum engineer is $108,020, the Bureau shows.
  5. Master of Business Administration Finance. The world of business is flooded with bachelor’s degrees, and those who truly want to land high-paying, top-level positions often opt to earn their MBA. Out of all MBA programs, a specialization in finance usually proves to be the most lucrative. Careers include: financial managers (average salary: $99,330), financial analysts (average salary: $73,150), and chief executives (average salary: $158,560).
  6. Master of Science in Physician Assisting Studies. PAs are among the most in-demand careers in America and with a master’s degree, they can earn even more money. Master’s degrees in physician assisting studies topped Forbes’ list of Best Master’s Degrees for Jobs, in terms of jobs available after graduation and mid-career pay level ($98,900).
  7. Master of Science in Civil Engineering. This degree prepares you for a career in civil engineering, where the average annual salary is $74,600. While other engineering careers garner higher incomes, civil engineering tends to have more jobs available after grad school.
  8. Master of Science in Engineering Nuclear Engineering. Second in average pay only to petroleum engineers, nuclear engineers take home an average salary of $97,080 each year, which is a nice chunk of change indeed.


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