5 Fastest Growing Careers That Require a Graduate Degree

5 Fastest Growing Careers That Require a Graduate Degree

If you are wondering what you should ‘get a masters in’ by going back to school, you may want to consider one of the fastest growing careers that require a graduate degree. All five choices represent occupations with the most projected growth between 2021-31 as reported by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), where the typical entry-level education is a master’s degree.

Earning a master’s degree is a big commitment. First, you likely want to make sure it’s worth the investment – of time, money and energy. In addition to considering your interest, it could be important to look towards your future career.

Why not match your strengths with some solid data about job growth and salary potential? You could explore topics you love while preparing to pursue a potentially dynamic career path in the future.

written by Rana Waxman


What Are the 5 Fastest Growing Careers 2023 That Require a Graduate Degree?

According to the BLS, The fastest growing careers that require a graduate degree are:

  1. Nurse Praticioner – NP
  2. Statician
  3. Physician Assistant
  4. Speech-Language Pathologists
  5. Genetic Counselor

Fastest Growing Jobs with a Graduate Degree

The number one factor in determining the top 5 fastest growing careers requiring a graduate degree is the workforce from 2021-2031. This is a calculation to project the percent change in available positions.

Why is this helpful? Well you may want to consider if open positions may be out there once you graduate from your master’s program. This data could also indicate an increasing demand for these services.

Below is a rundown of each of the top 5 occupation’s projected growth. As a comparison, the national average growth rate for all occupations in the same time period was 7%.

  1. Nurse Anesthetists, Midwives or Nurse Practitioners: In 2021, there were 300,00 NPs. This is projected to increase to 420,000 by 2031 and represents a 40% job outlook, or 120,000 new jobs.
  2. Mathematicians and Statisticians: In 2021, there were 36,100 statisticians. This is projected to increase to 47,291 by 2031 and represents a 31% job outlook, or 11,200 new jobs.
  3. Physician Assistants: In 2021, there were 139,100 PAs. This is projected to increase to 178,048 by 2031 and represents a 31 percent growth, or 38,948 new jobs.
  4. Speech-Language Pathologists: In 2021, there were 159,800 speech-language pathologists. This is projected to increase to 193,358 by 2031 and represents a 21 percent growth, or 33,558 new jobs.
  5. Genetic Counselors: In 2021, there were 2,900 genetic counselors. This is projected to increase to 3,422 by 2031 and represents a 18 percent growth, or 522 new jobs.

What salary could you earn?

Are you be to pay off your student loans? Live the lifestyle you dream of? Studies by the BLS show that “potential wages are just one of the factors to consider before embarking on a graduate education.”

And of course there are no guarantees of employment or salary. But it’s always useful to get an idea on income.

For the 5 fastest growing careers that require a graduate degree, the median annual salaries reported in May 2020 were as follows.

  1. Nurse Practitioners: $123,780
  2. Physician Assistants: $108,100
  3. Statisticians: $121,530
  4. Speech-Language Pathologists: $79,060
  5. Genetic Counselors: $80,150

As a comparison, per the BLS, the 2021 median annual wage for all occupations in the US was $41,950.

What Master’s Degree Should I Earn?

Deciding to earn a master’s degree, never the less which one, is a complex decision. In addition to job outlook and salary potential, you also likely want to enjoy what you do. Fortunately, each of these 5 fast growing careers are attached to potentially dynamic courses of study that could fuel your mind and inspire your future work.

So how do you decide? Consider your interests and strengths. Then discover what each career path may offer and how you might actively pursue your goals through a master’s degree program.

Find a match? Follow any of the links to review related masters programs and start on your way.

Career Spotlight #1: Nurse Practitioner (NP)

Nurse Practitioners hold the number 1 spot for fastest growing careers with a graduate degree. A Nurse Practitioner (NP) is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse who has formal education in patient care beyond a Registered Nurse (RN).

NPs are taught in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of chronic and common illnesses.

Are Nurse Practicioners Doctors?

While they study people and how to heal them, NPs are not physicians. However, many NPs work independently, prescribe medications, and order laboratory tests. They consult with physicians and other health professionals when needed.

The exact scope of Nurse Practitioner duties is defined somewhat by the state and the type of population they care for. That said, below are several duties that might be performed by NPs.

  • Primary Care
  • Specialty Care (E.g. adult and geriatric health, pediatric health, or psychiatric and mental health)
  • Health Promotion
  • Conduct Research
  • Create Patient Care Plans

Employment Outlook for NPs

The employment of nurse practitioners is projected to grow 40 percent from 2021 to 2031, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. This growth is attributed to an increase in demand for healthcare services and an emphasis on preventive care.

Physician Assistant Salary

Based on data from May 2021, Nurse Practitioners earned a median annual salary of $123,780. More specifically, the median annual salary for NPs in the top industries in which they were employed in 2021 was as follows.

  • Offices of Physicians: $121,280
  • Hospitals: $128,190
  • Outpatient Care Centers: $128,190
  • Educational services: $102,680
  • Offices of Other Health Professionals: $104,790

How to Become a Nurse Practitioner

Nurse Practitioners need to earn at least a master’s degree from an accredited program to practice. Some NPs, especially those interested in research and leadership, may choose to go on and earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree as well.

Beyond the graduate-level education, NPs need to successfully pass national certification exams in a patient population focus and earn state APRN licensure. In addition, APRN positions may require certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), basic life support (BLS) certification, and/or advanced cardiac life support (ACLS).

Pursuing a Nurse Practitioner at a Glance*

  1. Gain undergraduate nursing experience.
  2. Earn a registered nurse license.
  3. Complete a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program – It might take around three years to complete this course of study. Program lengths vary by school.
  4. Consider a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree program (DNP) – DNP programs often include advanced courses in leadership, population health, and typically culminate in a final capstone project. They represent and additional step in your NP education and could help set you apart.
  5. Earn required APRN licensure and certifications.

Getting There: Masters in Nurse Practitioner Programs

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Nurse Practitioner programs meld classroom education and clinical experience. In class, students might take part in seminars and roundtable discussions. Classes often explore theories and concepts of nursing science and their applications, along with the management of health care.

Research is used to provide a basis for the improvement of healthcare techniques. Courses in, physiology, and pharmacology are common, as well as coursework specific to the chosen nurse practitioner role. For example, a nurse who wants to concentrate in pediatrics may take courses in child development.

General NP coursework could also include the following.

  • Biostatistics
  • Health Economics
  • Health Care Ethics
  • Health Promotion
  • Nutrition
  • Advanced Health Assessment

Areas of emphasis in nurse practitioner programs include acute care, adult health, child care, community health, emergency care, geriatric care, neonatal health, occupational health, and primary care. Research individual NP programs to see if your preferred specialty is covered.

NP Program Application Requirements

Admission to an NP program could depend on one’s prior education and the specific type of program.

Many choose a BSN to MSN program, which may require a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and a current RN license. Aside from transcripts and minimum GPA, some schools may want to see a current resume, letters of reference, personal statement, and test scores such as GRE and TOEFL.

Additional NP programs may be available for RNS without a BSN or those with backgrounds in fields outside of healthcare. These are often called accelerated programs or direct entry programs. Contact schools to learn about potential options.

Career Spotlight #2: Statisticians

The role of a statistician is another fastest growing career that requires a graduate degree. Statisticians develop or apply mathematical or statistical theory and modeling to solve practical problems in industries such as business, engineering, and healthcare.

Some of them choose to further refine their skills to pursue a niche career. They might explore fields like bio-statistics, agricultural statistics, business statistics, or economic statistics.

What Exactly Do Statisticians Do?

To accomplish their goals, they could design ways to collect, organize, interpret and present numerical data so that it is usable information. For instance, a mathematical statistician might work on surveys or opinion polls. Essentially, they seek to make large quantities of data understandable. Learn more about Statistics and Data Analytics Programs.

Employment Outlook for Statisticians

The BLS forecasts a 31 percent growth in overall employment for statisticians from 2021 to 2031, which is much faster than average. Growth is expected as statistical analysis is used more widely to make informed decisions in areas such as healthcare, policy, business, and scientific research. Also, the availability of Internet data is on the rise.

Statistician Salary

The median annual salary for statisticians in May 2021 was $108,100. The median salaries for statisticians in the top industries they were employed in are as follows.

  • Federal Government: $115,610
  • Research and Development: $114,770
  • Insurance Carriers: $83,820
  • Healthcare: $79,060
  • Colleges and Universities: $77,750

How to Become a Statistician

Statisticians typically need a masters degree to pursue entry level positions. Many statisticians have degrees in mathematics, economics, computer science, or another quantitative field.

Students who want to enhance their careers as a statistician are generally advised to take as many math courses as possible in high school. Computer programming courses are also suggested.

Since statisticians may pursue a career in many fields (E.g. education, marketing, psychology, sports), it may also help to develop an understanding of a specific area you hope to enter.

Becoming a Statistician at a Glance*

  1. Take high school math and computer courses
  2. Earn a Bachelors in Mathematics degree
  3. Earn a Masters in Statistics degree
  4. Consider a PhD in Statistics program if you want to teach at a post-secondary institution or conduct research

Getting There: Masters in Masters in Statistics Programs

Masters in Statistics programs could lead to a Master of Applied Statistics, Master of Science in Data Science, Masters in Business Analytics, or a related degree. Each program has its own requirements, and full-time students might need from one to two years to complete their studies. Program lengths vary.

The curriculum is generally planned-out to help students hone their analytical abilities and prepare to turn raw data into actionable information.

Some of the courses students might take are listed below.

  • Linear algebra
  • Calculus
  • Experimental Design
  • Survey Methodology
  • Probability

Statistics Masters Program Application Requirements

Applicants to Masters in Statistics programs may need a bachelor’s degree and past experience in linear algebra, calculus, and statistics. Some schools may also want to see Math Entrance Exam or GRE scores.

Career Spotlight #3: Physician Assistant (PA)

Another one of thefastest growing career requiring a graduate degree is that of a Physician Assistant. Physician Assistants (also known as PAs) examine, diagnose and treat patients. However, they are not licensed medical doctors. Instead, PAs practice medicine in teams with physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare workers. They are not licensed to perform surgery but could assist doctors in surgical procedures and work under supervision.

What Are the Duties of a Physician Assistant?

The specifics of physician assistants’ duties and how much supervision they need are defined to an extent by each state and employer. However, PAs work in all areas of medicine – primary care, family medicine, emergency medicine, surgery, and psychiatry.

A physician assistant might close an incision for a surgeon, educate parents on how to care for an asthmatic child, prescribe medicine, and beyond. Below are several other duties that are reported by PAs.

  • Take and review patient’s medical histories
  • Examine patients
  • Order diagnostic tests
  • Set broken bones
  • Immunize patients

Employment Outlook for PAs

Per the BLS, the employment of Physician Assistants is projected to grow 38 percent from 2021 to 2031. One reason for this trend is the fact that baby boomers are aging, and with this, more health care services may be needed. Also, there is a rise in the number of chronic diseases (e.g. diabetes), which drives up demand for providers.

PAs could be trained more quickly than physicians. Beyond that, team-based healthcare provision models continue to evolve and become more prevalent, making demand for PAs likely to expand.

Statistician Salary

The median annual salary for physician assistants in May 2021 was $121,530. Furthermore, the median annual salary for PAs in the following industries in which they were employed in 2021 was as follows.

  • Outpatient centers: $128,430
  • Hospitals (state, local, private): $127,240
  • Offices of physicians: $121,010
  • Goverment: $106,910
  • Educational services (state, local, private): $101,040

How to Become a Physician Assistant

To pursue a career as a Physician Assistant, students need to earn a masters degree from an accredited Physician Assistant program. This could take at least 2 years of full-time postgraduate study. Program lengths vary by school.

Also, all states require physicians to be licensed. To achieve this, graduates need to pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) from the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA). A physician assistant who passes the exam may use the credential “Physician Assistant-Certified (PA-C).”

Becoming a Physician Assistant at a Glance*

  1. Take 2 to 4 years of undergraduate science-focused coursework (program lengths vary by school)
  2. Pursue patient care experience
  3. Earn a Masters Physician Assistant degree
  4. Pursue PA Licensure

Getting There: Masters in Physician Assistant Programs

Masters in Physician Assistant programs often meld coursework and lab work in health with a clinical medical education. In their first year, students typically take a series of prescribed courses, such as the examples listed below.

  • Clinical Medicine
  • Pathophysiology of Disease
  • Pharmacology
  • Human Anatomy & Physiology
  • Physical Diagnosis
  • Medical Ethics

Physician Assistant programs then may devote the second year to a ‘clinical block’ or rotations. Rotations could be offered in areas such as emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, prenatal care/gynecology, general surgery, pediatrics, and behavioral health. Rotations allow students to observe real medical scenarios and put theory into practice.

PA Program Application Requirements

Applicants to PA masters programs typically need to complete a web-based form on CASPA – the Central Application Service for Physician Assistants. This allows them to apply to multiple programs at the same time.

Admission requirements are broad, and students usually need an undergraduate science-focused degree with a stipulated minimum GPA and a number of patient-care experience hours. Experience could take the form of work as registered nurses, EMTs or paramedics, volunteering, or other efforts.

Also, applicants to many PA programs usually fulfill some prerequisites in terms of coursework and labs. These might include topics such as general biology, general chemistry, human anatomy, microbiology psychology, and statistics.

Other than this, applicants may need to satisfy technical standards (e.g. basic motor skills) and may need to submit test scores (e.g. GRE, MCAT, TOEFL). Since there is some variance, interested students should refer to individual schools.

That stated, there are what are called ‘Advanced Physician Post Professional Programs’ which may have different admission requirements. These are typically planned out for Practicing Physician Assistants who may have graduated from an accredited PA program prior to 1984 or who have earned a bachelors degree in Physician Assistant studies. Contact schools to learn more  about potential options.

  • Some of the nation’s most affordable tuition rates, from a private, nonprofit, NEASC accredited university
  • Qualified students with 2.5 GPA and up may receive up to $20K in grants & scholarships
  • Multiple term start dates throughout the year. 24/7 online classroom access

Career Spotlight #4: Speech-Language Pathologist

Speech-language pathologist is the 4th fastest growing career needing a graduate degree. Speech-language assess, diagnose, treat and work in the prevention of communication and swallowing disorders. They often work in various medical settings and with adults and children.

What Skills Could You Need to Be a Speech-Language Pathologist?

First and foremost, speech-language pathologists are skilled in areas such as speech, swallowing disorders, and language. Speech-language pathologists use their skills to deal with a variety of issues that arise from strokes, brain injuries, hearing loss, and other ailments.

Many may also well versed in dealing with autism, Parkinson’s disease, and developmental delay.

Employment Outlook for Speech-Language Pathologist

Employment of speech-language pathologists is projected to grow 21 percent from 2021 to 2031, reports the BLS. This fast growth is attributed to the rise in the need for more healthcare workers.

Speech-Language Pathologist Salary

The median annual salary in May 2021 for speech-language pathologists was $79,060. Median salaries for speech-language pathologists by the top industries they were employed in are as follows.

  • Nursing and Residential Care: $99,340
  • Hospitals: $95,620
  • Offices of Physical, Occupational, Speech Therapists, and Audiologists: $93,510
  • Educational Services: $75,270

How to Become a Speech-Language Pathologist

Speech-language pathologists typically need to earn at least a masters degree in speech pathology.

Many colleges and universities advise or require speech-language pathology students to take courses in areas of language development, age-specific disorders, and other areas of healthcare. Because speech-language pathologists often work with patients, healthcare courses may be beneficial.

Becoming A Speech-Language Pathologist at a Glance*

  1. Earn a Bachelors Degree in Speech or Communications Disorders
  2. Earn a Masters in Speech-Pathology degree
  3. Explore an area of interest (Healthcare)
  4. Consider going on to earn a PhD in Speech-Pathology

Getting There: Masters in Speech-Language Pathologist

Masters in Speech-Pathology programs encompass a wide range of options that include Master of Science (MS) in Speech-Language Pathology programs, MA in Speech-Language Pathology programs, and other varying degree programs.

Some are flexible and may allow students to select a focus in one of several areas of speech pathology, such as language disorders, alternative communication methods, and swallowing disorders.

Full-time students may be able to earn their Masters in Speech-Pathology degree in about two years. Curriculums vary but could include courses such as the topics below.

  • Neuroscience
  • Counseling Foundations
  • Communication Disorders
  • Integrative Anatomy

In addition to coursework, programs may ask students to complete a master’s thesis. Contact individual programs to learn more about available classes and requirements.

Application Requirements for a Masters in Speech-Language Pathologist

For many Masters in Speech-Pathology programs, an undergraduate degree is required, preferably in speech communications, speech disorders, or related subject matter. Applicants should refer to each program for further details.

Career Spotlight #5: Genetic Counselors

Genetic counselors are last but not least on our fastest growing careers list. Genetic counselors identify specific genetic disorders or risks through the study of medical genetics and counseling.

Genetic counselors may provide general care or choose a niche in which to pursue employment. These more focused areas could include prenatal and preconception care, pediatric care, cancer, cardiovascular issues, neurology, and more.

What Role Does a Genetic Counselor Play?

Genetic counselors assess how inherited diseases might affect an individual or their family. To do this, they look at family history to evaluate the risk for a variety of inherited conditions, such as genetic disorders and birth defects.

They could then relay information and support to other healthcare providers or to their patients so that the individual or family might make an informed choice about healthcare.

Employment Outlook for Genetic Counselors

Considered a ‘small occupation’ by the BLS, the employment of genetic counselors is projected to grow 18 percent from 2021 to 2031, which is much faster than average. Growth is due to technological innovation in lab tests and developments in genomics, both of which give counselors more opportunities to conduct analysis.

Genetic Counselor Salary

Based on BLS data for May 2021, the median salary for genetic counselors was $80,150. The median salaries for genetic counselors in the top industries in which they were employed are listed below.

  • Medical and Diagnostic Laboratories: $95,870
  • Physicians’ Offices: $79,810
  • Hospitals (State, local and private): $79,360
  • Colleges and Universities: $79,100

How to Become a Genetic Counselor

Genetic Counselors typically earn a masters degree in genetic counseling and pursue board certification. Graduates might pursue certification through the American Board of Genetic Counseling. Also, as of 2016, 22 states required certified counselors to be licen

Becoming a Genetic Counselor At a Glance*

  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree
  2. Gain volunteer or work experience
  3. Complete a Masters in Genetic Counseling program
  4. Earn licensure or certification if required to work in your state.

Getting There: Masters in Genetic Counseling Programs

Masters in Genetic Counseling Programs are typically two-year courses of study which could lead to a Master of Science (MS) in Genetic Counseling degree.

The curriculum typically melds classroom learning with internships or clinical rotations. Clinical rotations could help students develop practical abilities to complement knowledge in the following topics (BLS).

  • Public Health
  • Epidemiology
  • Psychology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Molecular Biotechnology
  • Human Genetics, Gene Therapy

Master in Genetic Counseling Application Requirements

Applicants to a Masters in Genetic Counseling program may need to have a bachelors degree and have taken several prerequisite courses. These might include general chemistry, biology with lab, genetics, organic chemistry, biochemistry, psychology, and statistics.

Aside from GRE scores, personal statement, transcripts, and letters, it is recommended by some schools that applicants have volunteer or work experience. This experience might relate to counseling, developmental disabilities, or genetics. Or involve shadowing a Genetic Counselor.

Find Masters Programs for Fast Growing Careers

So there you have it, the 5 fastest growing careers that require a graduate degree. Motivated to give one of them a shot? We’ve made it easy to get started.

Take advantage of our directory to compare masters programs in your chosen category. Then, connect with those graduate schools with the on-page forms provided. The rest is up to you!