Graduate degrees are somewhat different from bachelor’s degrees in terms of their cost. The average cost of a master’s degree is between $30,000 and $120,000. A doctorate degree, meanwhile, costs $10,725 per year at a public school or $22,607 per year at a private school, according to the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Although it gives you a return on investment, it is still an investment that you need to be able to make. This is why some people become interested in the highest and top paying graduate degrees. They want to find a field that interests them, but where they can see not just a return on investment, but also an improvement in overall lifestyle as quickly as possible.
The following degrees offer the highest pay, and therefore possibly also the best and quickest return on investment. Naturally, the cost of earning this degree does vary as well.
1. Master’s Degree in Nurse Anesthesia, with average earnings of $140,000 early career, and $156,000 mid career
Anesthetic nurses, or nurse anesthetists, specialize in helping to administer anesthetics to patients. This master’s degree allows you to become an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) and to be certified specifically in the field of anesthesia, making you a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), which requires board certification.
2. Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a Strategy concentration, with average earnings of $96,200, and $149,000 mid career
Strategy is an important emphasis within the field of business administration. These degrees are incredibly popular, and not just because of the significant earnings. It is also popular because strategic knowledge is required at all levels of business. As a strategist, you will be able to align the activities of a company with its specific goals, thereby ensuring there is a greater chance of long term success. Strategists see business operations in a holistic manner, looking at the organization itself, but also its industry.
3. Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering, with average earnings of $96,100, and $146,000 mid career
The Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering is the highest terminal degree in this field. You will be able to conduct independent research in the field of chemical engineering. Others become faculty, as professors in different universities, or they become members of research centers around the world. Some take on industrial positions such as consultants or engineers, particularly in emerging fields such as nanotechnology and biotech.
4. MBA with a concentration in General and Strategic Management, with average earnings of $85,200, and $146,000 mid career
With this concentration, you will be able to formulate major initiatives and goals for the top management departments of a company, as well as being able to implement these initiatives. You will do this by investigating the resources available, and the external and internal environments that affect the organization as a whole.
5. Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry, with average earnings of $83,400, and $146,000 mid career
With this particular degree, you are likely to take on positions within research and development, often for pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies the world over. You will also focus strongly on innovative sciences like biochemistry and nanotechnology, pushing groundbreaking developments in this field, with a focus on communication, safety materials, energy sources, and medicine. Some who complete this degree become research fellows, or they choose to become professors at universities. You may also find employment within the government, looking at environmental analysis and exploration, defense, and energy.
6. Ph.D. in Computer Science (CS), with average earnings of $118,000, and $145,000 mid career
Holding this degree will enable you to lead new and innovative research in one of the world’s most important and influential fields, generally with a focus on transformational research. Graduates often perform high level research, as well as become part of academia at universities.
7. Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering (EE), with average earnings of $103,000, and $144,000 mid career
Most who hold this degree become teachers at a university. Others enter the world of design, focusing on whatever element their thesis looked at. This includes things such as semiconductor design, DSP algorithms, x-ray interpretation, and more. Unfortunately, it is a narrow field of work outside of teaching at a university, but a very lucrative one.
8. Ph.D. in Pharmacology, with average earnings of $70,300, and $139,000 mid career
Being a Ph.D. degree, this allows you to become a research expert, or an academic fellow. Both options are very popular. Should you decide to stay out of faculty roles, then research positions will enable you to develop new pharmacological products, addressing diseases and illnesses across the world.
9. MBA with a concentration in Entrepreneurship, with average earnings of $75,400, and $141,000 mid career
One of the reasons why this is a degree that may lead to a high earning position is because of its versatility. On the one hand, it enables you to start, manage, build, and grow a new business idea. On the other hand, the skills are transferable, which means you can also go into general management.
10. MBA with a concentration in Corporate Finance, with average earnings of $78,100, and $138,000 mid career
Corporate finance is one of the widest areas of business management. If you hold this MBA, you will have the opportunity to work in a variety of different organizations. Interestingly, those with an MBA in Corporate Finance are in particularly high demand within the world of investment banking.
11. Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry, with average earnings of $73,600, and $138,000 mid career
This degree allows you to teach at university, or to complete research in physical chemistry. The research must be groundbreaking and often has a focus on emerging diseases and on energy usage and development.
12. Ph.D. in Engineering, with average earnings of $93,600, and $137,000 mid career
Being a Ph.D. degree, you once again have the option to teach at a university, or to head a unique research project. Engineering is a vital field of work, as we require greater infrastructure wherever we go. Additionally, being part of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) fields, there are a lot of job opportunities available.
13. MBA with a concentration in Finance and Economics, with average earnings of $66,700, and $137,000 mid career
This MBA degree also allows you to work in a varied field. Many choose to use their skills to work within for profit organizations in this country. Others, however, use their skills and knowledge to drive NGO (non-government organizations) in order to improve the developing world in particular.
14. Ph.D. in Physics, with average earnings of $93,700, and $135,000 mid career
Again, you have the option to become a teacher or to become a researcher. The field of physics is incredibly wide and varied, and very much theoretical in nature. Some of the areas you may get to work in include cosmology (the study of matter within the universe), particle physics, and subatomic particles.
15. Master’s Degree in Computer Science (CS) and Engineering, with average earnings of $95,900, and $134,000 mid career
Although the IT boom is now over, those who have extensive knowledge in the field of computers, computer technology, and computer science continue to be in high demand. With this degree, you are likely to work within a large computer corporation such as Google, Apple, or IBM. Others go on to complete the Ph.D. degree in the same subject area, to further improve their skills.
Clearly, opting to earn a graduate degree means you will invest in your future, but you do have to make the right decisions. Sometimes, a degree will pay you back very quickly, whereas others barely increase your earning potential. The subject that you choose is of the greatest importance, so if you do want to have a general idea of what your personal financial future will look like, you need to make some calculations to find out whether or not it will be beneficial for you in the long run.