Jobs are available for individuals with master's degrees in a wide range of fields, including business, education and healthcare. Prospective students should also consider state-specific career information, as well as the master's degrees that lead to the highest salaries.
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Master's Degrees that Lead to Jobs
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that, as of May 2013, nearly 2% of the nation's reported workforce had master's degrees. Their median annual wage was $64,510. The BLS also reported that, for those over the age of 25, master's degree-holders who had full-time jobs earned an annual median salary of $68,000. This number was $12,000 more, per year, than those in the same age group who had solely a bachelor's degree.
With regard to employment, the BLS reported on popular areas of study that provided substantial wage premiums for master's degree holders- in other words, 'practical' master's degrees. These areas included business, education, healthcare and social service.
Business Degrees that Lead to Jobs
The BLS reported that, in 2012-2013, degrees in business were the most popular among students obtaining a master's degree. Jobs in business, finance and sales earned the most, in ratio to what employees made with only a bachelor's degree, in these respective fields. Per the BLS, securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents had the highest ratio of earnings against what their counterparts made, with just a bachelor's degree. Of the 16% of those with a master's degree in the field, in 2013, their median annual wage was a reported $170,000, while bachelor's degree-holders made $90,000. The BLS stated that the degree-of-choice for this field was a Master of Business Administration (MBA).
Education Degrees that Lead to Jobs
From 2012-2013, 20% of master's degrees obtained were in the field of education. As of 2013, elementary and middle school teachers with a master's degree made a median annual salary of $54,000, compared to $42,100 for those with only a bachelor's degree. Preschool and kindergarten teachers earned a median annual salary of $43,000 with a master's degree, and $30,000 with only a bachelor's. Education administrators earned a median annual salary of $75,000 while holding a master's degree, while those with only a bachelor's degree made $52,000.
Healthcare and Social Service Degrees that Lead to Jobs
The BLS reported on the wages of those with master's degrees, against those with only a bachelor's degree, in the field of healthcare and social services. Registered nurses with a master's degree, as of May 2013, had a median annual salary of $75,000, while those with only a bachelor's degree earned $63,000. Social workers with a master's degree earned a median wage of $50,000, while those with only a bachelor's degree made $40,000. Counselors that held a master's degree had a median salary of $50,000, against those with strictly a bachelor's degree who made $37,000. Physician assistants with master's degrees had a median annual salary of $95,000, while those with solely a bachelor's degree earned $66,000.
Master's Degree Wages by State
The BLS also reported on master's degree-holders by their areas of concentration within the country. The highest percentage of jobs-to-master's degree-holders was in the District of Columbia, at a ratio of 3.8%, as of May 2013. The median annual salary for those with a master's degree in that area of the country was $82,360. Next was Massachusetts, with 2.7% of its workforce possessing a master's degree, earning a median annual wage of $67,720.
New York had the highest number of employed persons with master's degrees, at 173,230, earning a median annual salary of $70,970. Of the 10 states listed the lowest number of jobs held by those with a master's degree was Vermont, where 7,520 persons made a median annual salary of $57,980.
Highest-Paying Master's Degrees
For 2016-2017, PayScale determined the master's degree majors that led to the highest salaries. Here are the top 10, along with the expected early-career annual median salary:
- Nurse Anesthesia - $140,000
- Computer Science and Engineering - $95,900
- Computer Engineering - $86,700
- Computer Science - $84,800
- Operations Research - $80,800
- Electrical Engineering - $79,900
- Electrical and Electronics Engineering - $79,500
- Chemical Engineering - $73,100
- Technology Management - $65,900
- Taxation - $61,100
Prospective master's degree students can consider popular majors that lead to jobs, as well as majors in which graduates earn high annual salaries.