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Most Practical Masters Degrees: List of Degrees that Lead to Jobs

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the amount of money you will make with a master's degree will depend upon which area of study you choose. Also, different parts of the country are more attuned to certain industries, some of which might require a master's degree for career employment.

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.

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.

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