Strong Growth in Employment Anticipated for Those With Graduate Degrees

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported recently that professionals with graduate degrees will be more in demand in the next few years. These findings are part of the BLS’ biennial look at expected changes in the long term for employment. BLS looks at employment changes based upon occupation, industry, level of education and demographics.

BLS is projecting that the number of jobs that require a doctorate or a professional degree is going to go up by 20% by 2020. The number of jobs that require a master’s degree is going to go up by 22%. These rates are more than the general 14% growth rate that is projected for all jobs by 2020. They also are more than the gains that are expected for people with less than a bachelor’s degree.

The figure below shows that the number of jobs that normally need a bachelor’s degree to start is going to increase by 16% by 2020. The number of jobs needing an associate’s degree is going to go up by 18%.


Generally, US employment is going to grow from 143.1 million jobs in 2010 to over 163 million by 2020, which is an increase of over 20 million jobs. Approximately 875,000 of those jobs are going to need a doctorate or a professional degree, and about 430,000 will need a master’s degree.

Also, some job openings are going to happen due to current workers who are retiring, leaving the workforce or going to other occupations. When you take into account the replacement needs and job growth, there will be about 2.6 million jobs that require an advanced degree by 2020. Of all of those jobs, 1.7 million will need a doctorate or a professional degree, and about 900,000 will require a master’s degree.

Occupation Employment Projections

By 2020, many occupations where job growth is expected to quickly increase will be in:

  • Health care

  • Personal services

  • Social services

Some of the jobs with the most expected increase in job growth do not usually require a master’s degree to start, but six of those occupations do require a masters degree. Those professions are:

  • Marriage and family therapists: 41% increase

  • Physical therapists: 37% increase

  • Audiologists: 36% increase

  • Medical scientists: 36% increase

  • Mental health counselors: 36% increase

  • Veterinarians: 35% increase

BLS also provided the occupations that expect the largest total numerical growth in employment. Post secondary teachers are expected to increase from 1.8 million jobs in 2010 to 2.1 million in 2020. This includes TESOL teachers; there is a strong need for professional TESOL teachers with master’s degrees and there are many good no GRE master’s programs where you can earn your master’s in this field.  All of the other job areas with larger projected total growth in jobs usually require lower degrees than a master’s degree. See also 50+ online masters in education options.

Industry Sector Employment Projections

It is expected that health care and social assistance will be the top growth leader in employment between 2010 and 2020. The average expected annual growth rate is three percent. Educational services and professional and business services also are expected to show strong employment growth. Annual projected gains are 2.3% and 2.1%, respectively.

Note that some areas of the employment sector are expected to have overall declines in growth. BLS states that the federal government will see an annual decline of about 1.3% per year. The decrease is expected to go from three million employees in 2010 to about 2.6 million employees in 2020. Much of the decline is due to loss of jobs in the US postal service.


The BLS data indicate that the there will be strong employment growth for those who have graduate degrees, but employment projections likely underestimate the number of master’s degree holders in the job market. Some of the projections look at the education level attainment that is needed to enter a field, but many employees in that field may already have master’s degrees. Good examples of this are teachers and engineers. Both occupations technically require a bachelor’s degree, but many engineers and teachers have master’s degrees. About 28% of civil engineers and 51% of secondary school teachers have an advanced degree.

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