10 master's degree jobs that pay well
For those hoping to take their career and income potential to a new level, a master's degree may be a smart choice. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2013, individuals with a master's degree had median weekly earnings that were $221 higher than those with a bachelor's degree. That equals out to an extra $11,492 each year for those with these advanced degrees. Among top-paying jobs requiring a master's degree, the following are some of the highest-paying occupations. The listed incomes are average annual wages in the U.S. from 2013 and come courtesy of the BLS.
1. Advanced practice registered nurse (includes nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners): $114,997 average ($157,690 for nurse anesthetists, $95,070 for nurse practitioners and $92,230 for nurse midwives)
2. Mathematician: $103,310
3. Economist: $101,450
4. Political scientist: $100,900
5. Education administrator: $95,635 average ($100,600 for postsecondary administrator and $90,670 for elementary, middle and high school administrators)
6. Physician assistant: $94,350
7. Industrial-organizational psychologist: $87,960
8. Statistician: $83,310
9. Hydrologist: $79,260
10. Occupational therapist: $77,890
These occupations run the gamut, proving no single industry has a lock on all the best jobs. As the population ages and health care becomes more accessible, nurses, physician assistants and occupational therapists have become highly valued. The other jobs listed above typically require a high level of knowledge and competency as well, which may help explain their high levels of compensation.
How to find job information for your state
Of course, compensation is determined by many factors, not the least of which is geographic location. For example, political scientists working in Washington, D.C., the heart of government operations, had mean annual wages of $109,230 in 2013; those in Virginia and Maryland earned an average of $111,590 and $110,880, respectively, for the same period. Meanwhile, political scientists working in California had average annual salaries of $75,460 during that same year.
CareerOneStop, a website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, serves as a clearinghouse of information regarding occupations at the state-level. Visitors to the site can review state profiles that allow them to search for the highest-paying degrees by the average level of education needed. CareerOneStop also includes a number of other career tools for job seekers and students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also includes state profiles in its Occupational Employment Statistics, which can offer another set of data on average hourly and annual wages for specific occupations.
Getting the right master's degree
Before people can apply for the hot jobs in their state, they need to have the right degree. For some of the master's degree jobs that pay well, a degree specific to that occupation is required. Physician assistant and occupational therapist, for instance, are two such jobs.
However, for other occupations, students may want to consider whether getting a broader master's degree may provide them greater flexibility in the job market. A prime example of this type of degree is the master's in business administration.
An MBA has long been considered the gold standard for graduate degrees. Offering the opportunity to learn skills that cross occupations, an MBA is a versatile degree that may lead to employment in some of the hottest and highest-paying jobs.
In addition, having a degree which touches on many disciplines may help workers adapt to changes in the job market. Of the jobs listed above, an MBA may prepare students for current work as an industrial-organizational psychologist or economist. Meanwhile, the degree can also help them to be ready for the jobs of the future.
U.S. News and World Report lists the following as expected to be some of the hottest new jobs for people with an MBA in the years to come.
- Software developer
- Information security analyst
- Financial manager
- Management analyst
- Operations research analyst
- Interpreter and translator
Of course, a degree is no guarantee of a job, and students would be wise to consider the industries in their area as well as average wages before committing to a master's degree program.
State Profile, CareerOneStop,
May 2013 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
May 2013 State Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
"Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Jan. 8, 2014,
Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
"6 Hot Jobs for MBA Grads," Jada A. Graves, U.S. News and World Report,March 18, 2014,