20 of the Highest-Paying Jobs You Can Get with a Master’s Degree

For many of today's in-demand jobs, a master's degree is the entry point. Jobs that require a master's degree often command high salaries. Many of these jobs also show promise for the future as they are in fields with lots of opportunity. This may be appealing if you wonder which master's to get.

What master's degree is most useful? That depends on your goals, interests and skills. Some of the highest paying jobs that you might land with a master's degree are in areas like:

  • Business
  • STEM
  • Health Care
  • Education

This article breaks down how a master’s degree may lead into a top occupation with the highest salaries. Which industries these are in and what the job forecast is over the next few years. Understanding the full picture may help you learn if pursuing a master's is a worthy choice for you.

Statisticians

Statisticians today are often called data scientists. They come up with and/or apply math and statistical theory in many fields.

Their skills help to collect and organize numerical data. They also know how to make sense of and present this data so others can use it.

This ability is something that almost every industry needs. From agriculture to business, economics, health care, finance and beyond.

Many of the master's degrees in statistics provide the chance to apply theory. Courses often cover more complex methods as well as analytics.

Some programs look at cloud computing, machine learning and forecasting methods. Should you want to teach or work on independent research, a master's degree may lead into a PhD.

Speech-language pathologists

Speech-language pathologists also go by the name Speech Therapists. They work with both children and adults.

Part of what they do is assess and diagnose. Then treat and help to prevent communication and swallowing disorders. Such issues have different causes. Like stroke, brain injury, hearing loss, Parkinson's and autism.

Speech therapists need a master's degree from an accredited program. In this case, the Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA).

This enables them to sit for state licensure exams since most states need some kind of license. In a master's program, students often study age-specific disorders and other topics. They also undergo a supervised clinical experience.

Physician assistants

Physician assistants also go by the name PAs. They practice medicine on teams. You might find PAs working along with physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare workers.

PAs examine, diagnose, and treat patients. Other duties relate to a chosen specialty since PAs work in all areas of medicine. Primary care and family medicine, emergency medicine, surgery, and psychiatry.

Physician assistants usually need a master’s degree from an accredited PA program. This enables a PA to sit for national certifying exams from the NCCPA.

Since a state license is mandatory, this is vital. Beyond this, accredited PA programs include many clinical rotations. During these rotations, aspiring PAs often find permanent employment with a supervising doctor.

Occupational therapists

Occupational therapists (OTs) treat injured, ill, or disabled patients. Their aim is to help the people in their care move through everyday activities with ease.

As such, the therapy they do helps patients develop and/or recover. Or, at least improve on and maintain skills needed for daily living and working. Such patients may have permanent disabilities, growth delays, mental health issues and beyond.

Most OTs need at least a master's degree to begin a career. But many do go onto pursue a doctorate. After completing an accredited MSOT program, students need to pursue a state license.

This involves passing the NBCOT exam. Both master’s and doctoral programs need at least 24 weeks of supervised fieldwork. But a doctorate also includes a 16-week capstone experience.

There are also board and specialty exams. So, attending a MSOT program may help you pinpoint an area you want to practice in. Like pediatrics or low vision.

Nurse practitioners

Nurse practitioners are a kind of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). This means they are at least masters-prepared and have a license to practice as an NP.

In their role, they serve as primary and specialty care providers. Meaning they deliver advanced nursing services to patients and their families.

Depending on the state, the scope of NP duties may be broad. They often prescribe medication and lab tests as well as consult on health care teams.

Some NPs also choose to specialize in one area. Like adult and geriatric health, pediatric health, or psychiatric and mental health.

Earning an MSN-NP degree may have a wide range of benefits. For one, NPs usually earn more than registered nurses. Also, it looks as if the entry point to APRN roles is moving towards the DNP.

Many nurses also use an accredited MSN-NP program to hone skills for a specific practice area (E.g. women's health). This is crucial in advanced nursing since one has to take board and state exams to practice in that area.

Nurse anesthetists

Nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) provide general or local anesthesia to patients. Their skills help put a patient to sleep before surgery and other procedures. Or, feel no pain by numbing one area of the body.

When caring for patients, they know how to discuss medications and check vital signs. They also understand how to manage pain and deal with emergencies.

CRNAs need at least an MSN in nurse anesthesia. This enables a nurse anesthetist to pursue a mandatory state license through the NBCRNA.

Several nursing graduate schools offer a MS-DNP track given the DNP is becoming the entry-point. Such programs may take about 2-years and many complete courses online. This may be worthwhile as nurse anesthetist jobs usually pay the most of all APRN roles.

Education administrators, postsecondary

  • Specific Degree Example
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Education administrators, elementary and secondary school

Principals oversee all school operations. They work in elementary, middle and high schools. Duties are broad and include overseeing the daily school activities. Things like planning curriculums and discipline. They also manage staff and provide a safe setting where students learn and grow.

In most schools, principals need teaching experience and a master's degree. Usually it is a master’s degree in education administration or leadership.

These programs may set future principals up with business skills. Like how to budget, hire teachers and set goals.

In most states, public school principals also need a state school administrator license. Licensure requirements vary by state, but most need a master’s degree.

Having these credentials may lead to jobs that pay more than teaching in a classroom. Since many baby boomers expect to retire, it may be worth considering.

Computer and information research scientists

Software writing and computer security skills are both in high demand. Computer scientists invent, design and research in these areas and others.

They work to find new computer languages, tactics and methods. Sometimes using technology that exists. Other times, they create new tools and solve problems in many fields. From business and medicine to science and beyond.

Most jobs in this field need a master’s degree in computer science or computer engineering. Such programs build broad and deep technical skills.

Students often tailor their degree to meet their interests and career goals also. Areas include cybersecurity, data analytics and more.

Some students who choose a research-based MS often move into a PhD after. Having a PhD may open up other avenues. Both in research and teaching.

Librarians

Back some years librarians only needed to curate books and manage the library. But today, a librarian is also an information studies pro.

They connect people with reference materials of all types from print to digital. Many also plan programs like storytelling for young children. Plus, their use of databases must be as solid as their ability to prepare a library budget.

Librarians usually need a master’s degree in library science. Some position extra requirements too. Such as a teaching certificate or a degree in another field. For instance, a law librarian may need a law degree and an academic librarian, a PhD.

In an accredited MLS program, students study how to organize material and information. They also learn how to research in a purposeful way. This may mean learning about online reference systems and semantics for Internet search.

Instructional coordinators

Instructional coordinators oversee school curriculums and teaching standards. They both craft and put in place educational material.

Alongside teachers and principals, they also assess how effective the lessons are. Whether they are helpful to students and boost outcomes.

Most instructional coordinators need a master's degree. In many states, they also need a specific license. Masters programs are often oriented for teachers who want to take a next step.

They often focus on a few pillars. Like how to plan engaging lessons and teach in ways that students can understand.

Many also look at areas like how to assess and work with diverse groups. But there are also ways to tailor a program to interests. Like using technology in the class or curriculum design for a specific subject.

Healthcare social workers

Healthcare social workers help patients make sense of a diagnosis. Then, work with these patients if they need to alter their housing and lifestyle.

Many also link patients with support systems and guide them on how to make transitions. In working this way, health care social workers may serve as an advocate.

They often explain to doctors what is going on with a patient's mental state. How they are coping with disease and illness. Some also focus on a specific group. Like older patients, hospice or palliative care

To work as a health care social worker in this capacity one needs a master's degree. The degree and about 2-years of supervised practice are part of attaining a state license.

Accredited MSW programs ready students to pursue a job in their chosen area of practice. These programs are part theory and part hands-on. Thus, they usually build skills in clinical assessment as well as how to manage workflow.

If you already have a BSW, you might look for an advanced standing MSW program. These take often shave about one year off regular programs.

Now is a perfect time, as health care social workers are in demand. This due in part to an aging population and their needs vis a vis their treatments, medications etc.

Health diagnosing and treating practitioners, all other

Health diagnosing and treating practitioners usually use alternative medicine. Such professionals include acupuncturists, naturopathic physicians and orthoptists.

Acupuncturists use needles to help people manage pain, prevent or treat symptoms. Most (48%) have a master's degree. But many also have a professional degree or doctorate.

An accredited MSAc program covers oriental medicine and holistic health care. Students also learn how to use the needles and must undergo an internship.

Having a master's degree may enable one to take national board exams. This is mandatory to achieve certification. in most states, certification allows one to practice as a licensed acupuncturist.

Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors

Educational, guidance, school, and vocational counselors help people with issues they face. The methods they use depend on the setting.

School counselors help students for instance. While guiding them to make wise academic choices, they also help with social skills.

Career counselors help people choose a career path. They may guide their patient to follow a certain path of study or employment.

Most school counselors must have a master’s degree in school counseling or a related field. They also need a state-issued credential.

Masters programs help counselors gain key counseling skills for different age groups. Apart from theory, courses discuss ethics and issues professionals face today. Such as how to foster academic growth and work with parents, school staff and students.

Many programs also look at psychosocial growth and learning styles. They may also discuss leadership. For instance, how to use data to develop and put into place school counseling programs.

Art, drama, and music teachers, postsecondary

The requirements for college and university art, drama, and music teachers may vary. Most professors need at least a master's in education and state license. Others may need a Master of Fine Arts or PhD in the field they want to teach.

To be able to teach art, drama or music one needs to know the subject matter in depth. Some students may want to hone their craft first. Then pursue a teaching certificate later.

Master of Arts in Teaching Masters programs are often useful to career switchers. These include teaching methods and supervised teaching. After completing a MAT degree, students may need a state license.

Mental health counselors

Mental health counselors work one-to-one and with groups. Their goal is to help their patients be in a well state of mental and emotional health.

The issues they deal range from addictions, abuse and anxiety to stress, self-esteem and more. To provide this type of therapy requires a solid knowledge base. Not only of counseling methods but also of the different issues and how to help resolve them.
Masters in mental health counseling programs may serve a few purposes. For one, in some states you need one to pursue a mandatory license.

A master’s may also help widen the scope of a counselor's services. Things like providing private one-on-one counseling. Or working without supervision.

Rehabilitation counselors

Rehabilitation counselors help people to overcome or manage a disability. The people they work with may have a physical, mental, emotional or growth disability.

Each of these produces distinct needs in the clients a counselor serves. But the goal is usually to help each one to live an independent life.

Most rehabilitation counselors need a master’s degree in this area or a related field. For some positions one needs certification or a license too.

An accredited rehabilitation counseling program includes supervised clinical hours. Students also study how to assess their clients.

Other course material often covers various aspects of a disability. Such programs usually ready grads to pursue both state licensure and national certification. To keep a state license valid, continued education may be necessary.

Mental health and substance abuse social workers

Mental health and substance abuse social workers help clients cope with these illnesses. They often connect their clients with other support. Like information on support groups and 12-step programs to help clients cope with their illness.

Many clinical social workers work in these roles as well. To do so, they need a Master of Social Work (MSW). Plus, enough practice hours to sit for licensure exams.

Most MSW programs instruct students in clinical assessment and case management. By their final year, students often choose a concentration. Then complete practice hours in a related setting.

If you only have a bachelor’s degree, chances are you will be a caseworker or assistant. But with an MSW degree, you may be able to go after more senior roles and higher pay.

Marriage and family therapists

Marriage and family therapists work with individuals, couples, and families. It is their goal to help clients manage and overcome family problems. Or issues that stem from other relationships. Things like self-esteem, stress, addiction, abuse and harmful beliefs.

This type of therapy is unique in that it operates on a family-centered point of view. This means looking at roles and dynamics as well as mental health needs. In so doing, they treat the whole relationship not only the clients.

To practice as a marriage and family therapist comes with a set of requirements. One is a master's degree. It can be in psychology, marriage and family therapy, or a related mental health field. But has to be from an accredited program.

MFT programs help students learn how marriages, families, and relationships function. They often cover many different theories, ethics and therapies.

Students may learn how dynamics can affect mental and emotional disorders. They also have a clinical practicum to add mandatory supervised hours. With these in place, the next step is to pursue state licensure.

Archivists

Archivists are safe keepers and managers of documents. One of their skills is knowing how to assign value to records, cultural artifacts and historical papers.

Another is a solid grasp of how to organize. Archivists must classify, process, catalog, and preserve important material. They also direct staff when it comes to arranging an exhibit or maintaining a collection.

To pursue a career, archivists usually need a master’s degree in one of a few majors. Like history, library science, archival science, political science, or public administration.

Master's in archival science programs often train students for this role. They usually cover the methods to ensure books, art and other objects stand the test of time. This often involves digital and other means as well as a keen eye and ability to research.

Another key aspect of earning a master's in this field is that there is lots of competition for jobs. So, having a grad degree and with a internship or volunteer experience may help

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