The Master's Degree Jobs with the Most Earning Potential
Whether you are debating pursuing a master’s or you already have your graduate degree, this list is for you. Determining which jobs out there require a master’s degree and offer high pay can be challenging. We’ve curated this list of the top ten master’s degree jobs with the highest earning potential.
Some careers require a master’s degree to begin working, while others simply pay more for higher education. Plenty of the jobs listed below offer high pay for entry-level positions simply because of the education requirements of the job. Use this guide to determine if you want to get a master’s degree and what career field you should pursue.
What Is a Master's Degree?
A master’s degree is an advanced degree typically earned after a bachelor’s degree. These degrees are considered graduate degrees and take roughly two years of college education to earn. Most master’s degree programs are more intensive than undergraduate programs, and they often require students to complete thesis or capstone projects before graduating.
When you decide to earn a master’s degree, you’re deciding to become a master in your field of study. Master’s degree programs typically don’t have any general education courses and offer very few electives. You can earn either an on-campus or online master’s degree based on your needs and preferences as a student.
Attending one of the top 5 online colleges is a great way to earn an online master’s degree, although there are plenty of on-campus schools as well. The entire goal of this degree is to move past the broader education you received in an undergraduate program and focus on a specific area of study.
Why You Should Earn a Master's Degree
There are many reasons why students decide to continue their education and earn a master’s degree. You might be interested in a master’s degree because it’s a graduate degree with less commitment needed than a doctorate, or you may be pursuing a master’s degree in preparation for a doctorate.
Once you’ve earned a master’s degree, you’ll start to see the benefits of your education quickly. Those with master’s degrees are generally paid more, have more luck during their job hunts, and even become eligible for career paths unavailable to those with only an associate or bachelor’s degree.
Quick Look at the Top 15 Highest-Paying Master's Degree Jobs
|Profession||Average Salary with a Master’s Degree|
|Chief Executive Officer (CEO)||$185,950|
|Director of Information Technology||$173,822|
|Computer & Information Research Scientist||$126,830|
|Computer Hardware Engineer||$119,560|
The 15 Highest-Paying Master's Degree Careers
While earning a master’s degree is a surefire way to earn a higher salary, certain careers will pay you more than others simply because you have a master’s degree. These are ten of the highest-paying master’s degree careers. By deciding which career is right for you, you can determine which area of study you’ll need to major in.
You can pursue a high-paying career in the medical field, tech industry, or even the business world. With a master’s degree, there are more opportunities to find a high-paying job than ever before.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
Average Salary: $185,950
CEOs are found working in nearly every company you can think of, both small and large. These top executives help develop goals, policies, and procedures for their business to follow, as well as oversee budgeting and financial activities.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a median salary for CEOs of $185,950 per year. Even in the lowest 10 percent of earners, CEOs still manage an average annual salary of around $62,000, while the highest 10 percent of earners make around $208,000 per year.
Even though you only need to have a bachelor’s degree to work as a chief executive officer, you’ll have much better luck being hired if you have a master’s degree. You will also earn significantly more with a master’s degree than with a bachelor’s, potentially putting you in the top 10 percent of CEO salaries.
Average Salary: $183,580
As a nurse anesthetist, you would be able to work in healthcare. You would be administering anesthesia to patients and assisting in their care before, during, and after operations. Nurse anesthetists also help with mental health care, pain management, and any emergencies that may arise.
The BLS reports that this job yields a median annual salary of $183,580. The lowest 10 percent reported an average salary of less than $84,120, while the highest 10 percent earn over $190,900. The projected employment of nurse anesthetists will grow a whopping 45 percent in the next decade, so there will be plenty of availability.
A master’s degree is required for even entry-level positions in this field. Nurse anesthetists are considered advanced practice registered nurses, or APRNs. To become one, you’ll need to earn a Master’s Degree in Nursing, earn a registered nursing license, and check your state and local requirements for additional licenses and certifications.
Director of Information Technology
Average Salary: $173,822
Directors of information technology are responsible for overseeing a company’s information technology (IT) department. This could involve everything from hiring and training new information technology staff to overseeing all IT infrastructures, systems, and networks.
According to Salary.com, with a master’s degree, you can expect to earn around $173,822 per year in this career. Even on the lower end of the pay scale for this position, you can still earn an average of $172,781 per year. The top-earning directors of information technology with master’s degrees earn up to $184,743 per year.
While a master’s degree isn’t required for this position, it’s highly recommended. You’ll only need a bachelor’s degree to start at entry-level, but having earned a master’s degree will get you faster access to promotions, higher positions, and a higher annual salary.
Average Salary: $142,170
Marketing managers spend their workdays determining the best way to advertise various products and services. This includes creating promotion events, planning advertising campaigns, and drafting advertising contracts.
The BLS reports a median annual salary of $142,170 for marketing managers. The lowest 10 percent of earners in this career field make around $74,620 per year, while the highest 10 percent can earn over $208,000 per year.
To become a marketing manager, you will need to earn at least a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing or Project Management, though many employers prefer candidates to have a master’s degree. You will also want to complete an internship either while in school or before your job search.
Average Salary: $137,330
If you become a petroleum engineer, you will be working on improving both new and old ways of extracting oil and gas from deposits in the Earth. You will be able to design new and efficient equipment, develop plans of action, and ensure all equipment is installed and maintained properly.
Petroleum engineers earn a median annual salary of $137,330, according to the BLS. The lowest 10 percent of petroleum engineers earn around $78,620 annually. The highest 10 percent, however, can earn over $208,000 per year.
To become a petroleum engineer, you will need a minimum education of a Bachelor of Engineering. However, earning a Master’s Degree in Petroleum Engineering or a similar field greatly improves your employability.
Average Salary: $134,180
Financial managers apply mathematical theories and other skills to help organizations manage their finances. Duties include preparing and reviewing financial statements, ensuring financial requirements are met, and analyzing market trends to make sure the organization is maximizing profits.
The median salary for financial managers, as reported by the BLS, is $134,180 per year. The lowest 10 percent still earn an annual salary of around $70,800, while the highest 10 percent pull in over $208,000 per year. Financial management is expected to grow 15 percent in the next decade, which is much faster than average.
To become a financial manager, you’ll need both education and experience. The best combination for a high-paying job is a master’s degree and at least five years of experience in the field. However, this is a field you can start in with a bachelor’s degree, which helps significantly when trying to gain those years of experience.
Computer and Information Research Scientist
Average Salary: $126,830
Computer and information research scientists can work in all sorts of fields, including business, science, and medicine. They study old and new technology to find and resolve complex issues. This process often involves experimenting, collaborating with other scientists, and developing new computing languages and software tools.
According to the BLS, the median annual salary for computer and information research scientists is $126,830. The lowest 10 percent of workers earn around $72,210 per year. The highest 10 percent earn around $194,430 per year.
For computer and information research scientists, earning a Master’s Degree in Computer Science or a related field is a must. Employers typically do not require any additional education, but many prefer candidates with specialized knowledge of the job’s specific field.
Computer Hardware Engineer
Average Salary: $119,560
Computer hardware engineers focus on the design and development of the physical components of computers. They work on everything from processors and circuit boards to networks and routers. Computer hardware engineers also ensure hardware cooperates seamlessly with new and innovative software.
The median annual salary for a computer hardware engineer, according to the BLS, is $119,560. For the lowest 10 percent of earners, the average salary is closer to $70,100 per year. The highest 10 percent can earn over $192,110 per year.
If you want to start a computer hardware engineering career, you will need a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions and at least a master’s degree for mid and upper-level positions. You will also want to ensure your degree comes from an accredited school or program.
Average Salary: $118,610
For aerospace engineers, workdays involve designing and testing prototypes of aircraft, spacecraft, satellites, and missiles. Once testing is complete and prototypes are deemed successful, aerospace engineers turn the experimental designs into usable products.
The BLS lists an aerospace engineer’s median annual salary as $118,610. If you end up in the lowest 10 percent, you can expect to earn around $72,770 per year. However, if you make it into the top 10 percent, you’ll earn around $171,220 annually.
You find work in entry-level positions with a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree is required if you plan to teach or conduct research. While a degree in aerospace engineering is preferred, a related field of engineering, such as mechanical engineering, will also work for many employers.
Average Salary: $115,390
As a physician assistant, you would work as part of a team in a hospital. Physician assistants can examine, diagnose, and treat patients on their own, but they’re typically under the supervision of a physician who approves prescriptions and diagnoses.
According to the BLS, the median annual salary for physician assistants is $115,390. The lowest 10 percent of earners brought in around $76,700 per year, while the highest 10 percent earned over $162,740 per year. This occupation is projected to grow 31 percent within the next decade, more than the average four percent.
To become a physician assistant, you’ll need to have a master’s degree in the field of medicine. Most graduate programs require applicants to have gained work experience before applying, so you’ll most likely need to work in medicine before pursuing the degree. After you have earned your degree, you’ll have to get licensed as well.
Average Salary: $111,680
Nurse practitioners are a type of advanced practice registered nurse, also known as APRNs. As a nurse practitioner, you would be able to act as a primary care provider either independently or alongside a physician. Nurse practitioners can diagnose and treat patients, often without requiring physician approval.
The BLS listed the average annual salary of nurse practitioners at $111,680 in 2020. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $84,120, and the highest 10 percent earned over $190,900 annually. The employment of nurse practitioners and other APRNs is expected to grow 45 percent in the next decade, which is faster than most other occupations.
All APRNs are required to have earned a master’s degree to start working. The degree will need to be in a field related to health sciences and public health, although you can choose a specialty. You will also need a registered nurse state license, a national certification, and an APRN state license.
Average Salary: $108,350
Economists spend their days studying and researching current social and political trends and how they impact the economy. The main aspect of this job is to be able to analyze data about the production and distribution of goods and services and to make predictions about trends and the status of the economy.
You can earn a median salary of $108,350 per year as an economist, according to the BLS. The lowest 10 percent of economists earned less than $59,220 per year, while the highest 10 percent have reported earning more than $198,230 per year. With a projected occupational growth of 14 percent by 2029, this is a job with plenty of potential.
To become an economist, you must start by earning a graduate degree. You can work as an intern or in very low-level positions without a graduate degree, but to become a high-earning economist you’ll need at least a master’s. Getting experience from internships while you’re in school can significantly improve your chances of finding employment once you graduate.
Average Salary: $107,312
Software engineers use various programming and coding languages to design, develop, and install various software programs for technological devices. Often, software engineers are hired by companies to create specific software, as well as to debug and improve current software.
According to PayScale, the average software engineer with a master’s degree earns around $107,312 per year. PayScale also reports the lowest pay for software engineers with master’s degrees as being around $95,000, while those who move on to become lead software engineers can earn up to $121,000 per year.
While some software engineering positions don’t require more than a bachelor’s degree to start working, higher salaries come with higher education. If you want to earn the most money possible working as a software engineer, we recommend earning a master’s degree and considering a doctorate.
Average Salary: $100,830
Similar to software engineers, electrical engineers also design, develop, and launch ideas, except these ideas are electronic devices instead of software. Electrical engineering creations can be found in navigation systems, cars, and even planes.
According to the BLS, the median annual salary for an electrical engineer is $100,830. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $64,870 per year, while the highest 10 percent earn more than $159,520 per year. This field is expected to grow three percent in the next decade, which is about average for most occupations in the US.
You can begin an electrical engineering career with just a bachelor’s degree, but we recommend pursuing a master’s degree if you want a higher salary. You can participate in an internship while you study, allowing both your education and experience to impress future employers.
Average Salary: $92,270
You’ll need a love for math and numbers to become a statistician. In this position, you will be expected to create surveys, questionnaires, and experiments to collect data. You will then develop mathematical or statistical models needed to analyze the data and conclude your studies.
The BLS reports a median annual salary of $92,270 for statisticians. The lowest 10 percent of statisticians earn less than $52,700 per year, while the highest 10 percent earn more than $150,840 per year. The employment outlook of statisticians is expected to grow by 33 percent in the next decade.
If you want to become a statistician, you’ll need to earn a Master’s Degree in Statistics. Many statisticians can get by with a degree in economics, but having a mathematical degree is preferable. You can start with a bachelor’s degree, but finding employment is much more difficult and typically only available in government positions.
Should You Pursue a Master's Degree?
Yes, you should pursue a master’s degree. You can start working in many careers right away with only a bachelor’s, but the pay and benefits will increase significantly after earning a master’s degree. You can also apply for internships or entry-level jobs in your field to work while you study for your master’s.
While pursuing a master’s degree is a big step, it’s important to think about the long-term effects this step can have on your career. If you are interested in any of the careers listed above, you’ll want to pursue a master’s degree if you want to maximize your efforts.
So, even if you are skeptical of the commitment a master’s program requires, it’s easy to see the benefits you can reap. If you want to pursue a career with a high salary, you should pursue a master’s degree.