Highest Paying Master’s Degrees for the Future

Master’s Degrees with the Highest Paying Wage Premiums

In today's job market, many wonder which master’s degree pays the most. Or how much a master's degree might increase salary. In fact, the highest paying master’s degrees span many industries and incomes.

In some of these career paths, you won't need a master's degree to land an entry-level job. But you may need a master's degree to 'get ahead' or earn more than people who don't.

For these jobs, one can look at average salaries of people with a bachelor's degree. Then compare them to workers in that same field with a master's degree. The difference, if there is one, is a wage premium, A.K.A. more pay.

While it isn't a set figure, people with master's degrees often earn from 14 to 89% more than those with a bachelors. These are some of the master's degrees with the highest wage premiums.

At the same time, there are many careers where a master's degree is the entry point to a job. You'll need one for different reasons. Either to meet state license requirements. Or because grad school provides the opportunity to deepen skills and knowledge.
 

Either way, these may be lucrative master’s degrees to earn. Especially if the field is fast growing. As salary is a significant motivator, many people pursue a master's degree for this reason.

How Much Do People with a Master’s Degree Make?

Salaries for people with a master’s degree vary. Impacting factors include occupation, location, setting, and experience level.

1. Business

Business represents the most common graduate major (23%). In these fields, many people earned an MBA as it is often needed for positions of seniority.

One example are Securities, commodities and financial services sales agents. Here, master’s prepared workers earned 89% more than those with a bachelor’s degree.

2. Education

Master’s in education degrees hold an 18% share of all master’s degree conferred. The ‘payoff’ for these degrees is often high.

People with master’s degrees in these fields earned from 14 to 44% more than workers with a bachelor’s degree.

3. Healthcare and Social Service

About 15% of students earned a health focused master’s degree. At the same time, many careers in health care and social service show wage premiums for a master’s degree. And require a master’s degree.

One example is Nurse Practitioners (NPs). To become one you need at least a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and about 80% do.

This is also one of the highest paying master’s degrees. NPs earn an average of $35,300 more per year than BSN-prepared RNs.

4. STEM

Seventeen percent of master’s degrees granted in recent years were in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Of these, math-related occupations had a 33 % higher wage with a master’s degree than did those with a bachelor’s degree.

This article will break down master's wage premiums  for 20 occupations. Many of them line up well with findings about the most popular graduate majors!

Take a look to see what interests you and whether any of these master’s programs matches your goals.

Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents

Closest Associated Degree: Bachelor’s

Median annual wage for bachelor's degree: $90,000

Median annual wage for master's degree: $100,000

Wage premium percent: 89%

Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents work in the financial sector. They link buyers and sellers by conducting trades. They also help companies find investors.

Many start out with a bachelor's degree. But an MBA is often an asset for advancement. It provides a well-rounded set of real-world business practices. Plus, many employers reward MBA holders with higher pay and large signing bonuses. If finance is your thing, you might compare with a Master of Science in Finance.

Logisticians

Closest Associated Degree: Bachelor’s

Median annual wage for bachelor's degree: $54,000

Median annual wage for master's degree: $82,000

Wage premium percent:52%

Logisticians are in charge of an organization's supply chain. They coordinate all aspects of moving a product from supplier to consumer.

One doesn't need a bachelor's degree to start out. But a master's degree may help with industry certification. Plus, a master's in supply chain management offers courses like strategic sourcing. Such tactical planning skills may help one step into a position of leadership.

Information Security Analysts

Closest Associated Degree: Bachelor’s

Median annual wage for bachelor's degree: $85,000

Median annual wage for master's degree: $100,000

Wage premium percent: 18%

Info Sec Analysts plan and carry out security measures that keep data and networks safe. Their roles evolve given the rise of cyberattacks and number of threats.

Employers today often prefer candidates with an MBA in Information Systems. These programs blend professional leadership with computer focused courses. There are also a range of cybersecurity MS programs depending on your goals.

Education administrators

Closest Associated Degree: Master’s

Median annual wage for bachelor's degree: $52,000

Median annual wage for master's degree: $75,000

Wage premium percent: 44%

Education administrators work in colleges and universities. Some oversee the entire school. While others manage a department. Like student affairs, staff research or admissions.

In general, one needs a master's degree to enter this field. But deans and provosts often have a PhD and may start out as professors. Master's in Educational Leadership programs often cover the finer points of management. Like how to craft a budget, lead changes, plan and oversee teachers.

Physician assistants

Closest Associated Degree: Master’s

Median annual wage for bachelor's degree: $66,000

Median annual wage for master's degree: $95,000

Wage premium percent: 44%

Physician assistants, also known as PAs work on health care teams. They perform a range of patient care duties. For instance, they examine, diagnose and treat patients.

Physician assistants need a master’s degree from an accredited PA program. This enables a PA to pursue a mandatory state license. Accredited PA programs stack clinical rotations onto coursework. Many students find permanent work while serving under a physician on these rotations. As one of the fastest growing occupations (37% to 2026), job prospects are positive.

Preschool and kindergarten teachers

Closest Associated Degree: Bachelor’s

Median annual wage for bachelor's degree: $30,000

Median annual wage for master's degree: $43,000

Wage premium percent: 43%

Preschool teachers educate and care for children younger than age 5. They teach language, motor, and social skills. Kindergarten teachers also work with young minds. They usually teach simple math, art and reading and how to interact with others.

In some states, teachers need to earn a master’s degree. This may come after receiving their teaching certification and obtaining a job.

People who want switch from one career into teaching are often able to do this with a Master of Arts in Teaching. There are also Master's in Early Childhood Education programs for current teachers. These help students understand how to plan lessons, observe and manage a classroom.

Financial managers

Closest Associated Degree: Bachelor’s

Median annual wage for bachelor's degree: $78,000

Median annual wage for master's degree: $110,000

Wage premium percent: 41%

Financial managers make sure a company is in good financial health. To do this, they oversee and come up with financial reports. They also make tactical plans to help an organization invest and/or meet financial goals.

Many employers look for candidates with a master’s degree. Like an MBA or Master’s in Financial Planning, accounting, or economics. These often help students hone skills in financial analysis and decision making. At the same time, they explore trade software and strategy. People in this field also strive for professional certifications. These also build competency and may help one advance.

Market research analysts and marketing specialists

Closest Associated Degree: Bachelor’s

Median annual wage for bachelor's degree: $65,000

Median annual wage for master's degree: $90,000

Wage premium percent: 38%

Market research analysts check and forecast market conditions. They look at these things to examine potential sales of a product or service. Then turn this data into action plans so they can help companies make decisions. Like what products people want, who will buy them, and at what price.

For some market research analyst jobs, one needs a master’s degree. Many grad schools offer MBAs with a focus on market research. But analysts often pursue Master's in data analytics, statistics or marketing. Such degrees usually cover key methods. Like tactical planning and complex math. As a result, they may ready students to step into a leadership role. Or perform more technical research.

Marketing and sales managers

Closest Associated Degree: Bachelor’s

Median annual wage for bachelor's degree: $80,000

Median annual wage for master's degree: $110,000

Wage premium percent: 38%

Marketing managers weigh costs and demand for a company's products or services. They often look to find potential markets. Then develop pricing and brand strategy to target those buyers. Sometimes, their role is to meet with clients and come up with a marketing plan for them.

Job prospects in this field are more positive for people with strong digital skills. Master’s in marketing programs often help students on this front and with leadership. Or cultivate a niche like integrated marketing a major that is emerging and relevant.

Property, real estate, and community association managers

Closest Associated Degree: Bachelor’s

Median annual wage for bachelor's degree: $56,000

Median annual wage for master's degree: $76,000

Wage premium percent: 36%

Property managers have different roles and tasks. These often tie in with the type of real estate - commercial or residential.

Such duties may include collecting rent, negotiating leases and finding tenants. But many working in this area do so with a finance or business background. They may need to understand how to plan and develop a property to make money from it.

For some positions in this field employers look for candidates with a master's degree. Like an MBA or Master's in real estate, accounting, finance, or public administration. Each may be useful for different aspects of managing property. Some with the actual operations and day-to-day. Others with the strategy behind using property as a way to invest.

Counselors

Closest Associated Degree: Master’s

Median annual wage for bachelor's degree: $37,000

Median annual wage for master's degree: $50,000

Wage premium percent: 35%

Counselors help people manage and overcome problems. Depending on their license and skill set, they may focus on a therapeutic method, group or issue. People working in this capacity need several things. A state license, master's degree and hours of fieldwork under a supervisor.

There are many Master’s in Counseling programs to choose from. Marriage and Family Therapy, substance abuse and mental health counseling are a few.

Such programs usually help students fulfill licensure requirements. Counselors are in high demand (23%) which is one incentive to enroll. If you do, you'll want to check program accreditation and any state rules about practice.

Editors

Closest Associated Degree: Bachelor’s

Median annual wage for bachelor's degree: $50,000

Median annual wage for master's degree: $63,000

Wage premium percent: 26%

Editors plan, review, and make changes to content before it gets published. Many today also have a strong grasp of digital tools and their target audience. But underlying these skills, one needs to be able to proofread text for errors.

Those with the title "executive editor" usually hire writers and other staff. Then have a final say about the work product. Managing editors usually oversee a department. They may work for a magazine or publisher where they have to handle the day-to-day.

Many editors launch a career with a bachelor’s degree. Some pursue a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) as a way to highlight their creative skills. Or to move into a managerial position.

There are both MS and MFA in writing programs that may help with these goals. These programs may hone penmanship skills.

These may feature courses in journalistic, creative or science writing. Plus expand on various methods of editing. Grads may take away skills they can apply to digital or print. Having a degree also provides a credential that may help one to pursue senior roles.

Mathematicians, statisticians, and other miscellaneous mathematical science occupations

Closest Associated Degree: Master’s

Median annual wage for bachelor's degree: $60,000

Median annual wage for master's degree: $80,000

Wage premium percent: 33%

Mathematicians and statisticians have strong skills in analysis. As problem solvers they know how to look at data. Their analytic skills are useful in many areas too. From business and engineering to health care, marketing and beyond.

Most math and statistics focused careers are growing at a speed of 33 % to 2026. One reason is that Big Data is everywhere. So, people who can break it down and turn it into an action plan are in high demand.

For many of these jobs, one needs a master’s or PhD. For many of these jobs, one needs a master’s or PhD. A Master's in math or statistics is often found as a Master's in Data Analytics. Though Master's in Applied Statistics and others exist too.

Here the goal is to help students generate business insights from complex data sets. These often feature a wide range of statistical and math methods. Also, on the menu - courses in areas like cloud computing, text mining and data engineering.

Social and community service managers

Closest Associated Degree: Bachelor’s

Median annual wage for bachelor's degree: $50,000

Median annual wage for master's degree: $65,000

Wage premium percent: 30%

Social and community service managers work for many social and human service agencies. Some of these organizations aim to help a certain group. Like children, the homeless, older adults, or veterans. But others help people with a challenge. Like substance abuse, mental health issues, chronic hunger, and lack of work. In either role, managers develop and run programs that address community needs.

Many people enter the field with a bachelor's degree. Yet employers often prefer candidates with a master's degree. These roles often need someone who can run public service programs. This usually takes skills in data analysis and administration. One way to study this is through a Master's in Human Services program. Courses may touch on ways to impact policy, sources of funding and staffing.

Medical and health services managers

Closest Associated Degree: Bachelor’s

Median annual wage for bachelor's degree: $70,000

Median annual wage for master's degree: $90,000

Wage premium percent: 29%

Medical and health services manager oversee a facility, a unit within one or a doctor's office. This can take different business skills and an understanding of health care. Like how to keep costs down while providing quality patient care.

Many roles also need people who know how to work with electronic health records. But a solid grasp of health care laws, rules and human resources may be crucial too.

Employment prospects in this field are positive and growing by 20% to 2026. Especially for those with a Master's in Health Administration (MHA) or MBA. Such programs structure courses around the business side of health care. Things like how to manage staff, schedules and resources while also following protocols.

Earning an MHA may appeal to practitioners (E.g. nurses) who want to take an executive role. Or to those drawn to a management career inside hospitals, nursing facilities etc. If this career excites you, make sure to check out online MHA programs with no GRE requirement. They are often simple to apply to and flexible too.

Environmental scientists and geoscientists

Closest Associated Degree: Bachelor’s

Median annual wage for bachelor's degree: $62,000

Median annual wage for master's degree: $80,000

Wage premium percent: 29%

Environmental scientists focus on protecting the planet. Studying the natural sciences, they strive for ways to keep humans healthy. They may clean up polluted areas or work in an industry to reduce waste. Some also give advice to policy makers. In this capacity their input might craft solutions to things like the climate crisis.

One may start out in this field with a bachelor's degree. But to teach environmental science one usually needs a PhD. Master's in environmental science may be beneficial too. In these programs one may gain more insight into the policy process. Or pursue a degree that focuses on natural resource management.

Elementary and middle school teachers

Closest Associated Degree: Bachelor’s

Median annual wage for bachelor's degree:

Median annual wage for master's degree:

Wage premium percent:

Teaching at its basic level involves knowing a subject and being able to convey it. Both elementary and middle school teachers do this with students of different ages. And in a variety of subjects like English, reading, science and math. Apart from lesson planning, teachers often need to know how to test students. Plus, use their observations to foster positive growth and learning.

Many teachers start out with a bachelor's degree and often need a state license. Depending on the state, they may also need a master's degree. In some states high school teachers also need to have majored in a subject area, such as science or history.

Master's in education programs provide a means to these ends. There are programs for teachers and career switchers. Some lead to licensure, others may harness other career interests like how to weave technology into the classroom.

Librarians

Closest Associated Degree: Master’s

Median annual wage for bachelor's degree: $40,000

Median annual wage for master's degree: $52,000

Wage premium percent:30%

Many of today's librarians work with things other than books. They need strong technical skills to pull together data from many sources. Including online reference systems and databases. They also need an ability to budget and manage staff. Not to mention curate collections that will serve and interest members.

Librarians usually need at least a master's degree in library science (MLS). Though many also need a teaching certificate, professional degree or PhD. In some states, librarians in public libraries need a certification. The American Library Association is the accreditor of master's programs in this field. These programs often ready students with both research and administrative skills.

Network and computer systems administrators

Closest Associated Degree: Bachelor’s

Median annual wage for bachelor's degree: $70,000

Median annual wage for master's degree: $88,000

Wage premium percent: 26%

Network and computer systems administrators are in charge of many key day-to-day operations. It is up to them to organize, install and support local and wide area networks. Plus, keep them safe against breaches.

For some businesses with larger networks, employers may prefer candidates with a Master's. With the wide range of Master's in Technology programs, students have many options. One may focus more on technical computer skills or study networking. Many programs help students gain a business mindset. While also covering a subject in depth. This may be useful for advancement.

Social Workers

Closest Associated Degree: Master’s

Median annual wage for bachelor's degree: $40,000

Median annual wage for master's degree: $50,000

Wage premium percent: 25%

Social workers help people solve and cope with problems in their daily lives. One may start out with a bachelor's degree in social work. But clinical roles involve a master's degree. In these jobs, social workers diagnose and treat mental, behavioral, and emotional issues.

Clinical positions need a master’s degree in social work (MSW). To pursue a mandatory state license, they also need 2 years of supervised practice. Advanced standing MSW programs help BSW-prepared students with this goal.

Yet other Master’s in social work programs are for those who lack such a background. These take longer but cover both core classes and fieldwork. One may also pursue a focal area like military social work.

Many schools offer MSW programs – no GRE required. There are also MSW programs that accept low GPA scores. If any of these resound with your goals, check for CSWE-accredited online MSW programs or schools with this type of approval.

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