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.
Degrees in This Section:
- Master’s in Nurse Anesthesia
- Masters of Business Administration MBA in Strategy
- Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering
- MBA in General and Strategic Management
- Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry
- Ph.D. in Computer Science (CS)
- Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering
- Ph.D. in Pharmacology
- MBA in Entrepreneurship
- MBA in Corporate Finance
- Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry
- Ph.D. in Engineering
- MBA in Finance and Economics
- Ph.D. in Physics
- Master’s in Computer Science/Engineering
- Masters in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner
- Master of Science in Operations Research
- Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering
- Master of Science in Taxation
- Master’s in Technology Management
- Master’s in Economics
- Master of Science in Materials Science
- Master in Nursing – Nurse Midwife
- Master of Science in Statistics
- Master of Occupational Therapy
#1 Master’s Degree in Nurse Anesthesia
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.
Salary: The median salary for CRNAs as of 2016 was $160,200 per year.
Growth: The growth rate for CRNAs will be 19% by 2024, which is much faster than average.
Requirements: CRNAs must earn at least their master of science in nursing, and it is slowly becoming standard to earn your doctor of nursing practice. After earning your degree, you are required to have a year of clinical experience, and then sit for your national certification exam.
#2 Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Strategy
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.
Salary: The median salary for the mid career professional with this type of MBA is $145,000 per year.
Growth: The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that all business and finance positions will see 8% increase in job growth by 2024, which is faster than average. The growth rate could be greater for certain professionals with this degree; for example, management consultants will see 12% increase in job demand in the coming years.
Requirements: Most professionals with an MBA in strategy work in upper level management and finance positions, which require a business background, MBA, and several years of related experience. Earning an MBA in strategy typically takes two years, full time, or three years part time.
#3 Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering
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.
Salary: The starting median salary for chemical engineers with a Ph.D. is $75,000 per year. Overall, the median salary is $98,300.
Growth: Job growth in this field will be only 2% through 2024.
Requirements: You must have a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering to get an entry level position, and a Ph.D. is required for the highest level positions in the field. Earning a Ph.D. in this field requires a minimum of four years, and a dissertation is usually required.
#4 MBA in General and Strategic Management
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.
Salary: The salary for a general management MBA will vary widely depending upon the position. An operations manager, for example, earns an average salary of $80,000; a CEO with the same degree earns $177,000 per year.
Growth: The growth rate for all finance and business positions according is 8% by 2024.
Requirements: There are many advanced business management positions you can earn with this degree, so the requirements will vary. Generally, upper level business management positions require an MBA in the appropriate specialty and at least seven to 10 years of related business experience. Earning an MBA takes two or three years full time.
#5 Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry
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.
Salary: The average salary for a Ph.D. in organic chemistry is $96,400 per year.
Growth: The rate of growth in this position by 2024 will be only 2%, which is slower than average.
Requirements: All organic chemistry professionals must have a bachelor’s degree in the field to get started, and a Ph.D. is required for the top managerial and academic roles. Earning this degree requires a minimum of four years, full time.
#6 Ph.D. in Computer Science (CS)
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.
Salary: The median salary for computer programmers is $79,800 per year, but the salary for a professional with a Ph.D. could be considerably higher.
Growth: The job growth rate for all computer and IT occupations will be 12% by 2024, which is faster than average.
Requirements: Earning a Ph.D. in computer science takes at least four years after you graduate from your master’s program, and may require a dissertation.
#7 Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering (EE)
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.
Salary: The median salary for electrical engineers is $96,200 per year.
Growth: This field will see little job growth by 2024; most of the positions that will be available are expected to be in research and development.
Requirements: Earning a Ph.D. in electrical engineering takes at least four years and the completion of a dissertation. Most electrical engineers in management roles have at least a master’s degree, and a Ph.D. is becoming more common.
#8 Ph.D. in Pharmacology
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.
Salary: The average salary for those with this Ph.D. is $99,000 per year.
Growth: The job demand for all medical scientists will increase by 8% by 2024, which is faster than average.
Requirements: Most medical scientists and pharmacologists have a Ph.D. in biology or a related field. Earning this degree takes at least four years.
#9 MBA in Entrepreneurship
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.
Salary: The salary for an MBA in entrepreneurship varies widely depending upon the job; a marketing director earns an average salary of $124,000 per year.
Growth: The growth for all business and finance positions, including marketing and entrepreneurship-related roles, is going to be 8% by 2024, which is faster than average.
Requirements: Earning an MBA in entrepreneurship takes at least two years, full time, while those who are in school part time take usually three years.
#10 MBA in Corporate Finance
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.
Salary: The salary for MBA in finance professionals varies a great deal; for a financial analyst, the median salary is $61,000 per year. For a finance manager, the median salary is $99,000 per year.
Growth: Job growth for all finance positions will be approximately 8% by 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Requirements: Most finance professionals have at least a bachelor’s and ideally an MBA in finance. A typical full time MBA program in finance takes two years to complete.
#11 Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry
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.
Salary: The starting salary for Ph.D.s in physical chemistry is approximately $62,000 per year, and can increase to nearly $100,000 per year at the mid career point.
Growth: Job growth for chemical engineers will increase by 2% by 2024, which is slower than average.
Requirements: This degree requires up to five years to earn, and is required for high level chemical engineering positions in both the private sector and academia.
#12 Ph.D. in Engineering
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.
Salary: The median salary for all engineering professions in 2016 was $77,900 per year.
Growth: Job growth for all engineering professions will be 3% by 2024, which is slower than average.
Requirements: Earning this degree takes four years or more, and requires most students to complete a dissertation in a suitable topic.
#13 MBA in Finance and Economics
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.
Salary: The median salary for this degree depends upon the occupation; financial analysts earn an average salary of $61,000 per year, while finance managers earn $99,000 per year.
Growth: Job growth in all finance and business related positions will rise by 8% by 2024, faster than average.
Requirements: This degree takes two or three years to earn, depending if you attend part or full time.
#14 Ph.D. in Physics
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.
Salary: The median salary in this field is $104,000 per year.
Growth: The job outlook for physicists and astronomers will increase by 7% by 2024, which is about average when compared to other positions.
Requirements: Earning this degree takes at least five years, and is required for most leading physicist positions, whether that is in academia or in the government or private sector.
#15 Master’s Degree in Computer Science (CS) and Engineering
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 an online 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.
Salary: The median salary for a master’s degree in computer science and engineering can range from $83,000 for a software engineer, to $136,000 for a principal software engineer.
Growth: Computer science occupations will see strong growth in the range of 12% by 2024, which is much faster than average.
Requirements: Earning a master’s degree in computer science and engineering takes up to three years if you attend on a part time basis. Most mid and upper management level positions do require you to have this master’s degree.
#16 Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner
A master of science in nursing or MSN is the degree that you need to earn if you want to become a nurse practitioner or FNP. FNPs are primary and specialty care providers who can offer most of the same services as doctors. They are increasingly relied upon to provide vital healthcare services in the US, as there is a shortage of physicians. You can become an FNP with approximately 2.5 years of study after you earn your bachelor’s degree.
Salary: The median salary for a master of science in nursing for a nurse practitioner is $100,900 per year.
Growth: Job growth for nurse practitioners is expected to be very strong by 2024, with at least 30% growth anticipated.
Requirements: Earning a master of science in nursing for FNPs requires at least 30 months, and also requires you to have several thousand clinical hours. After you have completed all requirements, you must pass your national certification examination.
#17 Master of Science in Operations Research
A master’s degree in operations research teaches you to use analytical and mathematical techniques to help organizations have a better understanding of the decision making process that takes place in many types of private and public organizations. As technology is getting better and more data is available to organizations, companies are looking for ways to streamline their operations and to increase profits.
Salary: The median salary for an operations research analyst, which is one of the more common roles for someone with this degree, is $80,000 per year.
Growth: Job growth for operations professionals will be strong in the next several years, with 30% growth expected.
Requirements: Earning this master’s degree takes approximately two years on a full time basis.
#18 Master of Science in Biomedical Engineering
A master’s degree in biomedical engineering will prepare you to work in scientific development and research. It also can be an appropriate degree for those who want to earn their Ph.D. or MD. This advanced degree will allow you to work in a biomedical position for a medical or pharmaceutical organization.
Salary: The median salary for a biomedical engineer is $85,620 per year.
Growth: Job growth for biomedical engineers will increase by 23% by 2024, which is much faster than average.
Requirements: This program will take up to three years to complete. Biomedical professionals who want to work in management do need to have at least their master’s degree.
#19 Master of Science in Taxation
A master’s degree in taxation is a degree that is important to earn if you want to work in a high level position regarding the US federal and state tax codes. Many of those who earn this advanced degree become accountants or auditors at the mid or upper level. This program can be a sufficient background to eventually sit for your CPA examination.
Salary: The median salary for accountants and auditors is $68,100 per year.
Growth: Job growth for accountants and auditors with this master’s degree will be at least 11% through 2024, which is faster than average.
Requirements: Obtaining your master’s degree in taxation can take anywhere from 18-24 months on a full time basis.
#20 Master’s in Technology Management
To work higher in many IT organizations within all types of companies, it is important to have a high level of expertise in technology management. While a master’s degree in computer science can be a good background, having a master’s degree in technology management can ready you for complex management roles. Professionals who aim for jobs as IT executives, CIOs and operations management may find that this is the ideal background.
Salary: The median salary for a variety of top executives is $103,900 per year.
Growth: Job growth for top executives will be an average 6% by 2024.
Requirements: Earning a master’s degree in technology management can take anywhere from one to three years.
#21 Master’s in Economics
Economists study both the distribution and production of goods, resources and services. They collect and analyze data, conduct research about business and economic trends, and evaluate complex environmental problems. Professionals who earn their master’s in economics can work in a variety of economist roles, including the financial field, industrial organization, labor and the international realm.
Salary: The median salary for a economists is $101,000 per year.
Growth: Job growth for economists will be 6% by 2024, which is about as fast as average.
Requirements: Earning a master’s degree in economics is necessary for senior level economists roles. You can earn this degree full time in 18 to 24 months.
#22 Master of Science in Materials Science
A master’s degree in materials science allows you to work in the growing field of materials science. This field studies many substances at the molecular and atomic levels, to understand how substances interact at the chemical level. Material scientists utilize their knowledge to devise new products and to check the quality of goods that are manufactured.
Salary: The median salary for materials scientists was $73,700 in 2016.
Growth: Job growth for materials scientists by 2024 will be 3%, which is slower than average.
Requirements: Working in this field requires at least a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, but a master’s or doctoral degree is needed for many more advanced research roles.
#23 Master of Science in Nursing – Nurse Midwife
Earning a master of science degree in nurse midwifery allows you to provide specialized care to women and their newborns. The services that you will provide in this role can include childbirth, gynecological examinations, family planning and prenatal care services. You also may provide specialized wellness care to women, and educate them how to lead a healthier way of life.
Salary: The median salary for nurse midwives as of 2016 was $99,700.
Growth: Job growth for nurse midwives will be 19% by 2024. This is much faster than average.
Requirements: All nurse midwives are required to earn a master’s of science in nursing, which can take up to three years.
#24 Master of Science in Statistics
Statisticians utilize statistical methods to analyze and collect data that helps them to solve problems in the real world in engineering, business, healthcare and many other fields. You will learn how to use statistical software to perform analysis of data to be used to improve a wide variety of business and government processes. Most often, statisticians are employed by government agencies, healthcare companies, and research and development facilities.
Salary: The median salary for statisticians is $80,500 per year.
Growth: Job growth for statisticians will be a strong 34% by 2024, which is much faster than average.
Requirements: Most statisticians must have at least a master’s in statistics or mathematics.
#25 Master of Occupational Therapy
An occupational therapist specializes in the treatment of ill, injured and possibly disabled patients. They assist these patients to develop, recover and generally improve the skills they require to live on their own and to do work in their job. Those with this master’s degree often work in many mental health settings and help people with mental health problems.
Salary: The median salary for occupational therapists is $81,900 per year.
Growth: Job growth for occupational therapists will climb by 27% by 2024, which is much faster than average.
Requirements: You must earn at least a master’s degree in occupational therapy, and you also have to earn your license after you have completed your degree.
- New Graduates of Engineering. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.acs.org/content/dam/acsorg/careers/salaries/secure/salaries/new-graduates-2014-revised.pdf
- Operations Research Analysts. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/math/operations-research-analysts.htm
- Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioners. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm
- Chemical Engineers. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/chemical-engineers.htm#tab-4
- Electrical and Electronics Engineers. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/electrical-and-electronics-engineers.htm
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