What master’s program should I choose? It depends on what you want to do with your career. Do you want to advance in your current job or do you want to change your career path to a different field of study? Depending on your answer, you will have a few ideas of how to answer the question of what master’s program is right for me.
An obvious field of study that has a high income is in the healthcare industry. Healthcare jobs that benefit from a master’s degree – such as advanced practice nursing, nursing informatics, and healthcare administration – offer reasonable pay due to the high demand for professionals in many localities. Furthermore, the industry requires a high level of skill, so it offers a reasonable income.
If you do not want to pursue a job in the healthcare industry, then you may wonder what master’s degree pays the most after a medical position. Technology jobs offer a high level of income due to the skill required for the career. Careers in cybersecurity, computer engineering, and engineering management are among the highest-paying careers with a master’s. While careers in the healthcare and technology industries offer an opportunity to make a high pay with a master’s degree, you will also find a degree in business also helps you reach your income goals. Finance, accounting, and project management can make the most of a master’s degree.
Jobs are presented in order from highest-paying to lowest, based on Payscale data.
1. Nurse Anesthetist
A nurse anesthetist position is one of the highest paying jobs with a master’s degree. Nurse anesthetists assist anesthesiologist physicians when general anesthesiology is required for surgery or another procedure. Many nurse anesthetists work in an anesthesiology practice instead of in a large hospital or other healthcare organization. They are often directly under an experienced anesthesiologist and work as their assistant whenever their services are required. While the physician is actually in charge of the process, the nurse anesthetist is often the one who will actually insert the IV to knock the patient out and take the IV out when it is time for the patient to wake up. They will also double-check and make sure the physician has not made any errors that could endanger the patient.
Nurse anesthetists usually start out as RNs who want to advance in their careers. A master’s degree in nurse anesthesiology requires not only two to three years of schooling also plenty of on-the-job experience that RNs can get through their everyday positions. After completing the degree and the work experience, a prospective nurse anesthetist still has to be board-certified in order to work in this field.
Average Salary: $146,354
2. Chief Financial Officer
One of the best paying jobs with a masters degree, a Chief Financial Officer or CFO responsible for managing the company’s finances. They are usually in charge of the big picture as far as cutting expenses and increasing profits across the board. A CFO is what’s called a C-level position, which is the absolute top of the management ladder in any company. Thus, the CFO is essential to the company’s financial health.
Most people in CFO positions as with other Professionals in C-level positions, have Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degrees. However, just an MBA degree is not enough to become a CFO. Executives at this level usually have many years of experience in the business world before they can advance this far in their careers.
Average Salary: $131,314
3. Engineering Manager
Any job with “engineer” in the title is bound to pay more than average, especially engineering managers. There are many different types of engineering manager positions, many of them among the highest paying careers with a master’s degree. To put it simply, an engineering manager directs the work of multiple certified engineers underneath them in a company structure. Engineering managers may work in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, and any of the other engineering fields.
Most people working in engineering manager positions have a master’s level degree in the engineering discipline of their choice. As with many of the other positions on this list, engineering managers often have many years of experience in addition to their master’s degrees. Often, an entry-level engineering position requires a master’s degree and professionals can work their way up to being engineering managers after several years of experience.
Average Salary: $115,204
Working as a pharmacist is one of the best paying careers with a masters degree. Some pharmacists have doctoral degrees but only a master’s degree is required for this profession. Pharmacists are responsible for mixing, measuring and dispensing prescribed medications. They also need to be able to control the medications in their pharmacy, especially opioid medications that have many legal restrictions. In addition, a pharmacist must advise patients on how to use their medications in a healthy way.
As previously mentioned, some pharmacists have doctoral degrees but only a master’s degree is required to practice. As with many other medical professions, extensive work experience as part of the education process. Many pharmacists work as pharmaceutical assistants during their education to get the experience they need. Once they get this experience and finish their degrees, they need to be board-certified, just like doctors, before they can practice.
Average Salary: $112,999
5. Petroleum Geologist
Petroleum geologist have reason to be among the highest paying jobs with a master’s degree. To put it simply, petroleum geologists help oil companies find large oil deposits. Most people in this field do work for oil companies; however, some may work for a government organization or nonprofits. The salaries for petroleum geologists working for these organizations may be lower than those working for for-profit corporations. Many petroleum geologists work overseas, especially in the Middle East where there are large oil deposits in many locations. However, there are petroleum geologist positions in the United States, especially in Alaska and Texas.
Petroleum geologists usually have a master’s degree, although some may even have a doctorate. There are not very many universities that have a petroleum geologist master’s degree. However, those that do often specialize in this field, leading to their degrees being very prestigious in the petroleum geology sector. Petroleum geologists do not need any additional certifications after a master’s degree, and they can often make very high salaries straight out of graduate school.
Average Salary: $109,740
6. Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
Acute care nurse practitioners may work in many different fields of medicine. However, they most often work with patients who are critically injured. As you may imagine, many acute care nurse practitioners end up working in emergency rooms. There are also many acute care nurse practitioners working with terminally ill patients in hospice settings. An acute care nurse practitioner position is well-compensated, even qualifying best-paying jobs with a master’s degree; however, it can also be difficult work.
As with the other advanced nursing positions on this list, many acute care nurse practitioners start out as RNs who decide they want to advance in their careers. At this point, they will likely do a master’s degree that involves a great deal of work experience. Once they have their master’s degree, they all need to be certified as acute care nurse practitioners before they can work. Once they have been certified, they can operate semi-autonomously, including writing prescriptions, as long as they are under the supervision of a physician.
Average Salary: $100,041
7. Investment Banker
A career in investment banking is one of the highest paying careers with a master’s degree. There are many different types of investment banking. Some investment bankers specialize in working with personal funds, and some work invest the funds of large organizations. Investment bankers may even operate with their own company’s money with the intention of making a profit through various transactions and trades. Some investment bankers specialize in long-term Investments, such as bonds and real estate, and some specialize in short-term Investments, such as stocks and options.
Investment bankers, like CFOs, usually have MBA degrees. The highest investment banking salaries are usually reserved for experienced professionals. However, new grads often earn high salaries in this field.
Average Salary: $98,826
8. Data Analyst
A data analysis can work in many different sectors, and can even work in government, nonprofit, and for-profit organizations. The responsibilities of a data analyst are simply to make sense of a large volume of data and draw conclusions from this data that are valuable to their company – which is one of the reasons they are among the best paying careers with a master’s degree. Data analysts need to be able to have a versatile skill set and to be able to think outside the box in order to reach conclusions from a massive volume of statistics.
The most successful data analysts have master’s degrees. There are not too many graduate programs in data analysis, but the number of schools that do offer a degree in data analysis at the masters level is growing. It’s important to note that reaching a six-figure salary in this field often takes many years of experience in addition to the master’s degree.
Average Salary: $95,988
9. Cybersecurity Engineer
A cybersecurity engineers works to protect their organization’s software and data from cyber criminals, commonly referred to as hackers. The sophistication and proliferation of hacking in recent years has raised the demand for cyber security engineers greatly, raising their salary at the same time, making a cybersecurity engineering one of the highest paying jobs with a master’s degree. Cyber security engineer will be expected to implement and perhaps even design effective countermeasures to protect their organization’s data.
A master’s degree is not necessary to become a cyber security engineer. Many people working in this field simply have a bachelor’s degree plus years of experience. However, as in other fields, obtaining a master’s degree will help professionals in this field in advance in their careers more quickly and possibly help them reach a higher level than they would otherwise be able to get to without a graduate degree. Even after obtaining a graduate degree, there are many different cyber security certifications offered by different organizations that are highly prized within the field.
Average Salary: $95,021
10. Physician Assistant
Physician assistants operate in much the same capacity as physicians themselves, and while they don’t make quite the money that a doctor does, it’s still one of the best paying jobs with a master’s degree. The main difference is that physician assistants have to operate under the supervision of a board-certified physician. However, physician assistants are often semi-autonomous, especially in more general fields of medicine like family medicine. These more general fields, especially family medicine, are where the majority of physician assistants work.
One of the requirements for becoming a physician assistant is obtaining a master’s degree. A physician assistant master’s degree often takes longer and has more arduous coursework than the average master’s degree. In common with many higher-level medical positions, a physician assistant must also complete a great deal of work experience as part of their graduate degree program. As is also common in the sector, physician assistants must obtain a board certification before they can begin practicing under a physician. It is also worth noting that the salary of a physician assistant varies widely depending on the type of medicine they go into.
Average Salary: $94,243
11. Nurse Midwife
Working as a nurse midwife is one of the highest paying careers with a masters degree. Nurse Midwifes specialize in assisting with the labor and birth procedures administered by OBGYN Physicians. As with the other advanced nursing positions, many nurse midwives start out as RNs. if these RNs are drawn to OBGYN medicine and want to advance in their careers, they may want to become nurse midwives.
The process required to become a nurse midwife is also similar to the processes required to become other advanced nursing professionals. Nurse midwives must first complete a graduate degree that includes plenty of experience working in the field. Many nurse midwife graduate students are actually RNs who work in the OBGYN field of Medicine. Nurse midwives also must be board-certified before they can begin working in their new role.
Average Salary: $93,639
12. Family Nurse Practitioner
A career as a family nurse practitioner includes many duties and responsibilities similar to those of physician assistants. They often treat patients in a family medicine practice who require basic care such as physicals or various medical exams and tests. They can also prescribe medication under the supervision of a board-certified physician. And just like physician assistants, FNP is one of the best paying careers with a masters degree.
Family nurse practitioners must first have a BSN degree. They then need to go on to graduate school and obtain a master’s degree in the family nurse practitioner specialty. Again, this graduate degree will often include hundreds of hours of required work experience. After completing a graduate degree in obtaining their certification, they may begin to practice in the growing field of family medicine.
Average Salary: $92,548
13. Information Technology Manager
A position as an Information Technology (IT) manager is another high-paying career path for people who have a master’s degree. IT managers are usually responsible for advising and directing teams of IT professionals. Many IT managers also take on hands-on vital IT duties. Besides this, the roles of IT managers can vary widely depending on the type of organization and even the department of the organization they work in.
Many IT professionals who want to advance to an IT manager position will go back to school into a graduate degree program. This, coupled with years of experience, qualifies them for these positions. A career as an IT manager will not be available to most applicants directly from grad school. Most IT managers have years of experience in addition to graduate degrees.
Average Salary: $87,513
14. Management Consultant
Companies will often bring in management consultants to train and advise their managers. Management consultants often work with many different companies in a short period of time. However, the length of each consultation varies depending on the management consultant’s work style and on the client’s needs. Because an in-demand consultant can set their own price, they are some of the highest paying jobs with a master’s degree.
Management consultants often have MBA degrees. In fact, obtaining an MBA degree is the standard barrier for entry into a career as a management consultant. Professionals fresh out of business school often work as assistants under established management consultants for some time before they rise up the ladder.
Average Salary: $87,130
An actuary is one of the best paying jobs with a master’s degree that you’ve probably never heard of. Actuaries work for insurance companies and sometimes large corporations to calculate risk. Most actuaries are employed by insurance companies. They calculate the risk of any given policy. For example, they make calculate how likely it is that a certain driver gets in an accident. These calculations are then used to determine how expensive the premium is for the policyholder.
Actuaries often have master’s degrees, although this is not necessarily required to enter the field. Many actuaries have master’s degrees in actuarial sciences. Some universities do not offer the specialty, so actuaries may have graduate degrees in related fields like Insurance management.
Average Salary: $86,946
16. Nuclear Engineer
Working as a nuclear engineer is one of the most challenging careers in the world – and therefore one of the highest paying careers with a master’s degree. When many people think of nuclear engineers, they think of scientists working for the military. There are many positions in nuclear engineering that involve working for the military or the government. However, these days nuclear engineers often work to design and maintain nuclear power plants. Nuclear engineers may also work to dispose of nuclear waste in an efficient and safe manner.
Generally, nuclear engineers need to have a master’s degree to enter the field. Nuclear engineering is a highly specialized and complex science, so further education is required beyond an undergraduate degree. Some nuclear engineers even have doctoral degrees, especially if they work for a university in a research capacity.
Average Salary: $86,939
17. Software Engineer
Software engineering is central to modern life – our lives run on software. Software engineers are responsible for creating and maintaining various types of software programs. Often, they will create proprietary software for their companies from scratch. The complexity and demanding nature of this job means that most higher-level software engineers have to have master’s degrees, and that makes software engineering one of the best paying careers with a masters degree.
As with some of the other IT professions, a master’s degree is not necessarily required to become a software engineer. However, software engineers that do have masters degrees will often find that it is easier for them to obtain high paying positions. Of course, software engineers must also have years of experience in addition to a graduate degree in order to obtain the most coveted positions. It also helps for software engineers to have certifications from some of the many industry organizations.
Average Salary: $84,009
18. Aerospace Engineer
Aerospace engineering is not an easy job, but because the education and the professional demands, it is one of the highest paying jobs with a master’s degree. Aerospace engineers work to design airplanes and other aircraft. They are often responsible for ensuring that these aircraft fly in the most efficient and safe way possible, which is an extremely difficult and complex responsibility.
As aerospace engineering is a very complicated field, a master’s degree is the standard degree for professionals in this area. Some aerospace engineers may only have bachelor’s degrees, however this is rare. It can be difficult for even those professionals who do have master’s degrees to enter this field, as there is a great deal of competition in this highly sought-after profession.
Average Salary: $82,724
19. Financial Controller
A financial controller position is one of the best paying jobs with a master’s degree. The duties and responsibilities of a financial controller vary widely depending on what sort of organization they are in. For example, financial controllers in nonprofit and government organizations often have very different responsibilities than those working for private sector corporations. In general, however, a financial controller’s overarching responsibility is to ensure that the budget set forth for their department is followed to the letter to eliminate any excess expenses for their company.
Financial controllers who wish to advance in their field often go back to school to obtain graduate degrees. There are graduate degrees at the masters level that are specifically for financial controllers. Many financial controllers also end up entering MBA programs. Some MBA programs even have specializations targeted towards financial controlling professionals.
Average Salary: $81,868
20. Operations and Supply Chain Manager
In a global economy of shipping, the operations and supply chain management profession is crucial. Many operations and supply chain managers work for large corporations in the logistics department. Professionals in this field often work for retail corporations to ensure that this corporation’s stores are stocked with the products that customers want. Managers must ensure that shipments are made on time and to the right locations, and they often must hold vendors responsible if these shipments are not made properly. For that, they earn one of the highest paying careers with a master’s degree.
In years gone by, few institutions offered master’s degrees in this discipline. Nowadays, degrees in supply chain management have become more common. As these degrees have become more common, it has also become more common for employers to require that professionals in this field have a master’s degree. It is not a hundred percent necessary to have a master’s degree to enter into this field, however, it will qualify applicants for many more positions.
Average Salary: $81,412
21. Sales Manager
Sales managers are often responsible for advising and directing a team of sales professionals. Sometimes, sales managers are also responsible for making sales themselves. It is important to note that the salaries of sales managers can vary widely depending on what field they’re in. To obtain the highest salary, which can make for one of the best paying careers with a master’s degree, sales managers often work in industrial and medical fields selling extremely expensive equipment.
Sales managers who want to advance as far as possible in their careers often obtain MBA degrees. While this was rare in past years, high-level sales has become such a competitive field that getting a graduate degree is seen as one of the best ways to advance in this career. An MBA will allow sales managers access to many more well-compensated positions.
Average Salary: $80,900
22. Electrical Engineer
Electrical engineers are involved in the creation of electrical devices and of electrical systems that are incorporated into larger systems. Electrical engineers have a wide variety of different roles and responsibilities. The highest-paid positions in electrical engineering are often found in the research and development departments of large corporations. However, there are many other potential positions for someone with an electrical engineering graduate degree, some of them standing among the highest paying jobs with a master’s degree.
Electrical engineering is another one of those fields that does not absolutely require a master’s degree for entry. However, like many other positions on this list, having a master’s degree in electrical engineering will help professionals obtain positions and advance more quickly in their careers. Once they get to the high-level positions later in their careers, a master’s degree may actually be necessary to even be considered for some of these advanced positions. Of course, electrical engineers with graduate degrees are also more skilled and knowledgeable in their professions.
Average Salary: $74,525
23. Chemical Engineer
A position in chemical engineering may be one of the best paying jobs with a master’s degree. Chemical engineers are involved in creating and tweaking chemical products on every level. As with electrical engineers, many chemical engineers find high-paying positions in the research and development departments of large corporations. The corporations that offer such highly paid positions often specialize in creating new chemical products for commercial and industrial applications. Of course, there are chemical engineering positions available in other sectors as well.
Many universities offer master’s degrees in chemical engineering, as there is a high level of demand for these degrees. This is because most chemical engineers need to obtain graduate degrees in order to advance in their professions. Entry-level chemical engineering positions may only require a bachelor’s degree. However, to advance higher up the ladder to the well-compensated positions, a graduate degree is often indispensable and may even be required by the company that the professional works for.
Average Salary: $73,602
24. Project Manager
Project management is another one of those fields that involve positions with a wide variety of different duties and responsibilities. Project managers may work for organizations large and small, or they may hire themselves out as a freelance consultant. To put it simply, project managers are tasked with keeping certain internal projects on time and on task as well as finding the most efficient workflow to accomplish a project’s goals as quickly and inexpensively as possible.
Project management is a highly sought-after profession. However, it can be somewhat difficult to successfully enter into this field. This is why more universities are offering masters level project management degrees. Obtaining a master’s in project management may be the surest way for a working professional to successfully enter this field and begin a highly compensated career. It is not absolutely required that project management professionals have a graduate degree, especially if they are working for themselves as freelancers. However, it certainly helps professionals begin and advance in their careers.
Average Salary: $73,439
25. Financial Manager
Financial management is often considered to be one of the best paying careers with a master’s degree. Financial management usually refers to managing an individual’s debt, income, and assets. Some financial managers also work to manage the finances of organizations such as trusts. However, most work with individuals. The highest position paying positions in this field are reserved for those financial managers who specialize in working with high net-worth individuals. To embark on the most lucrative career possible in financial management, it is important to get an MBA degree.
Financial managers have to be licensed in order to work in this field. An MBA degree is a common requirement for licensure. Many MBA degrees actually offer specializations in financial management that incorporate these certifications into their courses. This way a financial management professional can get their degree and their certification by the time they graduate in order to begin their career as soon as possible. As with many of the other professions on this list, it may take years of experience for financial managers to work their way up into near six-figure salaries.
Average Salary: $72,380
Why Do Professionals Make More with a Master’s Degree?
When you are looking into the best graduate degrees to pursue for your career, you will want to understand why a master’s degree helps you make more as a professional in your field. A master’s degree gives you more training in your field of study when you are looking into your career options. You will have the specialized training you need to apply your skills to your workplace. It also ensures that you have the credentials to handle specific tasks and problems.
Asking what master’s degree is right for me gives you a few ideas of where to start in your education. You want to consider your personal interests as well as your career goals when evaluating a master’s degree. You should also be aware that a master’s degree allows you to focus on building up more networking opportunities. A school may offer events or programs that allow you to meet professionals in your field and network with individuals who help you connect to a company for a new job.
How Do I Choose a Master’s Degree?
There’s a question that arises when you consider returning to school for a master’s degree. What masters should I get to advance in my career? Ultimately, deciding on a master’s degree program depends on your goals for your career and your situation.
Generally, you want to start with looking into the programs that fit your current job situation. Look into accredited programs that advance your studies based on your previous education. Build on your bachelor’s degree by studying in the same field or a related field. It will allow you to build on the skills you have already developed in your education and in your job.
If you want to move into a different field of study, then you should evaluate your goals. Find out what master’s degree will help you make a shift into the career you want to pursue. Focus on programs that work with your goals and help you gain a higher position in your career. The decision about what to pursue in your education depends on your goals; however, you should focus on degree programs that either build on your existing skills and education, or that help you transition into a different field of study.
What Fields Have the Highest Pay?
When you are looking into which masters degree pays the most, you may have a few ideas to help you get started.
When it comes to the top master’s degrees in demand for the technology industry, you will find that software development is an area that will help you reach your goals. While a software developer makes a reasonable income, you can expect to make more with a master’s degree when you take on a management position. Software developer management is a high paying career path that focuses on technological advancement and leadership.
Business careers offer a high-income level due to the skill involved in selling products as well as the focus on entrepreneurial endeavors. An entrepreneur has the opportunity to make more than many other jobs due to the level of independence involved in the career and the focus on building a product or service that addresses a specific concern or problem.
A master’s degree allows you to increase your income level, but you should select a career path that gives you a reasonable return on your investment. The degree programs that have a high return on investment are in industries with a high demand for trained and skilled professionals, so you want to focus on medical degrees, technology education, and business degrees to prepare for industries that have a high level of growth.