The 10 Highest-Paying Master’s Degrees


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A master's degree helps professionals advance their careers and increase their earning potential.

Certain career paths may require a master's degree. For example, nurse practitioners, statisticians, and computer and information research scientists need a master's degree to qualify for jobs. Additionally, employers may prefer candidates to hold a master's degree for leadership and managerial roles.

What Can You Do With a Master's Degree?

A master's degree helps professionals advance their careers and increase their earning potential. Certain career paths may require a master's degree. For example, nurse practitioners, statisticians, and computer and information research scientists need a master's degree to qualify for jobs. Additionally, employers may prefer candidates to hold a master's degree for leadership and managerial roles.

A master's degree also prepares graduates for doctoral programs. Some career paths require a doctorate. Most professors, research scientists, and psychiatrists hold a doctoral degree. Some doctoral programs only admit candidates with a master's degree.

What Jobs Can You Get With a Master's Degree?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, many of the highest-paying careers require a master's degree. For example, nurse anesthetists, who earn nearly $168,000, on average, must hold a master's degree. A master's in nursing also leads to high-paying jobs like nurse practitioner and nurse midwife.

Many chief executives, who make nearly $190,000 per year, on average, hold an MBA. Other well-paying jobs, like computer and information research scientist, political scientist, and economist, require a master's degree. The 10 highest-paying jobs that require a master's degree offer salaries of over $100,000 a year, on average, making a master's degree a good investment.

The list below ranks the highest-paying master's degrees by career, including salary information, job titles, and the best master's degree for the career.

Chief Executives

Chief executives set policies for companies and organizations. They act as the highest decision-makers, planning and directing operational activities. In addition to working in business, chief executives may work in the government as mayors, governors, or other public officials.

Example Job Titles

  • CEO
  • COO
  • Chief Executive Officer
  • Chief Operating Officer
  • Commissioner of Internal Revenue
  • County Commissioner
  • Government Service Executive
  • Governor
  • Mayor

Recommended Degree: Many chief executives hold a master's degree in business administration. A master's in public administration benefits prospective chief executives in the public sector. In addition to a master's degree, chief executives often need extensive work experience.

Occupation Characteristics: Chief executives must analyze information to create data-backed policies and make organizational decisions, requiring strong decision-making, analytical, and leadership skills. The role also draws on communication and problem-solving skills.

Median Annual Wage: $189,600

Nurse Anesthetists

Nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia for patients undergoing medical procedures. During a surgical procedure, nurse anesthetists monitor a patient's vital signs to administer a safe and effective dose of anesthesia. They also assist patients recovering from anesthesia and provide postoperative pain management.

Example Job Titles

  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
  • CRNA
  • Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice
  • DNAP
  • Nurse Anesthetist

Recommended Degree: As an advanced practice registered nurse, nurse anesthetists must hold at least a master's degree and a state license. After completing a master's degree, graduates must pass a national certification exam.

Occupation Characteristics: Nurse anesthetists must assess changes in a patient's condition quickly and accurately, requiring strong critical thinking skills. Since they work with patients and other medical providers, nurse anesthetists also need exceptional interpersonal and communication skills.

Median Annual Wage: $167,950

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Computer and information research scientists create new approaches in computing technology. They study complex computing problems to devise solutions for businesses. Computer and information research scientists also invent new computing languages and methods to improve fields like science and medicine.

Example Job Titles

  • Computational Theory Scientist
  • Computer Scientist
  • Control System Computer Scientist
  • Programming Methodology and Languages Researcher

Recommended Degree: Most computer and information research scientist jobs require a master's degree. Master's degrees in computer science and computer engineering represent the best degree options for prospective computer and information research scientists.

Occupation Characteristics: Because they conduct experiments, analyze data, and solve complex problems, computer and information research scientists must bring exceptional analytical and critical thinking skills to their position. Creativity and logical thinking also help computer and information research scientists succeed.

Median Annual Wage: $118,370

Political Scientists

Political scientists research political ideas and subjects. They collect and analyze data on governments, public opinion, political trends, and policies. After conducting research, political scientists develop theories, often presenting their findings in publications. Political scientists also measure the impact of policies and laws on society and government. Many political scientists monitor current events, political elections, and policy decisions.

Example Job Titles

  • Government Affairs Researcher
  • Government Affairs Specialist
  • Local Governance and Citizen Participation Specialist
  • Political Consultant
  • Political Research Scientist
  • Political Researcher

Recommended Degree: A master's in political science is the best graduate degree for political scientists. Master's degrees in public administration, public affairs, and public policy also position graduates for political science careers.

Occupation Characteristics: Political scientists engage in qualitative and quantitative research, which requires strong analytical skills. They also rely on critical thinking and communication skills to craft political theories and communicate their ideas.

Median Annual Wage: $117,570

Physician Assistants

Physician assistants practice medicine. They examine and treat patients, working in teams with physicians and other healthcare professionals. Physician assistants take patients' medical histories, conduct physical examinations, and order diagnostic tests. They can also diagnose conditions, determine treatment plans, and prescribe medication.

Example Job Titles

  • Anesthesiologist Assistant
  • Certified Physician's Assistant
  • Family Practice Physician Assistant
  • Orthopaedic Physician Assistant
  • Orthopedic Physician Assistant
  • Pediatric Physician Assistant
  • Radiology Practitioner Assistant
  • Surgical Physician Assistant

Recommended Degree: A master's degree in physician assistant studies represents the best degree for prospective physician assistants. During the program, students complete coursework and clinical requirements. After earning a master's degree, prospective physician assistants must apply for a state license.

Occupation Characteristics: Physician assistants need strong problem-solving skills to evaluate patient symptoms and determine treatments. The position also requires communication skills and compassion.

Median Annual Wage: $108,610

Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners may act as primary or specialty care providers. They offer advanced nursing care for patients, including diagnosing conditions and administering treatments. In many states, nurse practitioners can work independently from doctors and prescribe medications. Nurse practitioners often specialize in an area like pediatrics, psychiatric and mental health, or adult and geriatric care.

Example Job Titles

  • Acute Care Nurse Practitioner
  • Cardiology Nurse Practitioner
  • Certified Nurse Practitioner
  • Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • NP
  • Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner
  • Emergency Medicine Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Health Nurse Practitioner
  • Family Practice Nurse Practitioner
  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Orthopedic Nurse Practitioner
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
  • Surgical Nurse Practitioner

Recommended Degree: Nurse practitioners must typically hold a nursing master's degree and pass a national certification exam to practice.

Occupation Characteristics: Nurse practitioners need strong critical thinking and communication skills to diagnose patients and communicate treatment plans. Because they assume senior healthcare roles, nurse practitioners also need leadership skills and resourcefulness.

Median Annual Wage: $107,030


Economists collect and analyze data on the production and distribution of resources, goods, and services. They research economic trends and issues, conduct surveys to gather data, and rely on mathematical models and statistical techniques to analyze data. Economists also forecast market trends and advise businesses and governments on economic issues.

Example Job Titles

  • Agricultural Economist
  • Econometrician
  • Economic Development Specialist
  • Economic Research Analyst
  • Economist
  • Environmental Economist
  • Industrial Economist
  • Labor Economist
  • Price Economist
  • Social Economist
  • Tax Economist
  • Trade Economist

Recommended Degree: Economists often hold a master's in economics, one of the highest-paying master's degrees. They may also hold a master's degree in mathematics or statistics.

Occupation Characteristics: Economists rely on analytical skills to identify data patterns and draw conclusions. They also apply critical thinking skills to solve complex problems. Many economists complete written reports or presentations, which requires strong communication skills.

Median Annual Wage: $104,340

Nurse Midwives

Nurse midwives provide family planning, gynecological, and prenatal care services for women. They deliver babies and provide postpartum care. Nurse midwives also act as primary care providers for newborns and women. They may offer wellness care and educate patients on reproductive health issues. As advanced practice registered nurses, nurse midwives must hold a master's degree.

Example Job Titles

  • Certified Nurse Midwife
  • CNM

Recommended Degree: Nurse midwives generally hold a master's degree in nursing. An MSN remains one of the best-paying master's degrees. After completing the degree, prospective nurse midwives must pass a national certification exam.

Occupation Characteristics: Nurse midwives must respond quickly to address health problems, requiring strong critical thinking and observational skills. The role also demands communication skills and compassion.

Median Annual Wage: $103,770


Mathematicians develop new mathematical rules and concepts. They study areas like algebra or geometry to create new mathematical theories. Mathematicians also create mathematical models to analyze data. Cryptographers, for example, encrypt and decrypt numerical data. Mathematicians work in many fields, including the government, academia, finance, and tech.

Example Job Titles

  • Algebraist
  • Cipher Expert
  • Cryptanalyst
  • Cryptographer
  • Cryptographic Vulnerability Analyst
  • Geometrician
  • Mathematician

Recommended Degree: Mathematicians typically hold at least a master's degree in mathematics. Universities may offer master's programs in applied or theoretical mathematics. Mathematicians also benefit from a master's degree in statistics.

Occupation Characteristics: The position demands strong math skills since mathematicians rely on knowledge of algebra, calculus, and other mathematical fields. Mathematicians also bring strong problem-solving and analytical skills to their roles.

Median Annual Wage: $101,900


Psychologists observe and interpret individuals and their social behavior. While some positions require a doctorate, several psychology jobs only require a master's degree, such as a school psychologist and rehabilitation psychologist. School psychologists address educational or developmental disorders, while rehabilitation psychologists support physically or developmentally disabled individuals.

Example Job Titles

  • Developmental Psychologist
  • Experimental Psychologist
  • Forensic Psychologist
  • Neuropsychologist
  • Psychometrist
  • Psychotherapist
  • Rehabilitation Psychologist
  • Social Psychologist
  • Sports Psychologist

Recommended Degree: A master's degree in psychology prepares graduates for roles like social psychologist, rehabilitation psychologist, and school psychologist. Many developmental and experimental psychologists also hold a master's degree. Some positions require certification or licensure, such as school psychologist.

Occupation Characteristics: Psychologists draw on analytical and observational skills to collect information and draw conclusions. They also rely on strong problem-solving skills to identify treatments and solutions.

Median Annual Wage: $100,770

Industrial-Organizational Psychologists

Industrial-organizational psychologists use psychological principles to solve workplace problems. They research topics like workplace productivity, management styles, and employee morale to help managers and executives improve their businesses. Industrial-organizational psychologists advise businesses on issues like policies, employee training, and organizational development.

Example Job Titles

  • Engineering Psychologist
  • Human Resources Psychologist
  • I/O Psychologist
  • Industrial Psychologist
  • Management Psychologist
  • Organizational Psychologist
  • Organizational Research Consultant
  • Personnel Research Psychologist

Recommended Degree: A master's in psychology represents the best master's degree for industrial-organizational psychologists. Graduate coursework on topics like statistics and research design benefit prospective industrial-organizational psychologists.

Occupation Characteristics: Industrial-organizational psychologists collect information and make evidence-based recommendations, requiring strong analytical skills. The role also requires strong communication skills to collaborate with managers and executives. Additionally, industrial-organizational psychologists need observational and problem-solving skills.

Median Annual Wage: $97,260

Education Administrators, Elementary and Secondary School

Elementary and secondary school administrators, also known as K-12 principals, oversee the operations of elementary, middle, or high schools. They manage teachers and staff, promote a productive learning environment, and coordinate curricula. K-12 education administrators also conduct teacher evaluations, assess student achievement data, and set school goals.

Example Job Titles

  • Elementary School Principal
  • High School Principal
  • Junior High School Principal
  • K-12 School Principal
  • K-8 School Principal
  • Middle School Principal
  • Secondary School Principal

Recommended Degree: The best graduate degree for education administrators is a master's degree in education administration or educational leadership. Most principals also need teaching experience and an administrator's license.

Occupation Characteristics: Principals need strong leadership, decision-making, and problem-solving skills. They also need strong communication skills to interact with students, teachers, and parents.

Median Annual Wage: $95,310

Education Administrators, Postsecondary

Postsecondary education administrators, also called college administrators, oversee academics, student services, and other administrative tasks at colleges and universities. They may work in admissions, student affairs, or the registrar's office, supporting undergraduate and graduate students.

Example Job Titles

  • Adult Basic Education Manager
  • Continuing Education Director
  • Graduate School Dean
  • Graduate Studies Dean
  • Provost
  • University Administrator
  • University Dean

Recommended Degree: A master's degree in higher education administration or education administration meets the education requirement for most postsecondary education administration jobs, but academic deans typically need a doctorate.

Occupation Characteristics: College administrators rely on organizational skills to manage records and oversee staff. They also draw on problem-solving skills to identify and implement solutions to problems. Postsecondary education administrators must communicate with students, parents, and colleagues, which requires strong interpersonal skills.

Median Annual Wage: $94,340


Statisticians analyze data and apply statistical techniques to solve real-world problems for businesses. They design surveys and experiments to collect data and develop statistical models to analyze that data before reporting their conclusions. They may specialize in fields like engineering, biology, or healthcare.

Example Job Titles

  • Analytical Statistician
  • Applied Statistician
  • Biometrician
  • Biostatistician
  • Environmental Statistician
  • Mathematical Statistician
  • Research Biostatistician
  • Sampling Expert
  • Statistical Analyst
  • Statistical Reporting Analyst
  • Statistician
  • Survey Statistician
  • Time Study Statistician

Recommended Degree: Statisticians often hold a master's degree in statistics or applied mathematics. A master's degree in economics or computer science can also prepare graduates for statistician jobs.

Occupation Characteristics: Statisticians draw on statistical models to analyze data, requiring strong analytical skills. Statisticians also rely on problem-solving skills to design solutions to real-world problems.

Median Annual Wage: $97,780

Occupational Therapists

Occupational therapists help injured, ill, and disabled patients maintain daily living activities through therapeutic techniques. These therapists develop treatment plans, identify goals, and design activities to help patients achieve those goals. Occupational therapists often demonstrate exercises and offer guidance on modifying the home or workplace to meet patients' needs. They may also recommend special equipment and train patients to use the equipment.

Example Job Titles

  • OT
  • Occupational Therapist
  • Registered Occupational Therapist

Recommended Degree: The best master's degree for occupational therapists is a master's in occupational therapy. After earning the degree from an accredited program, occupational therapists must apply for a license.

Occupation Characteristics: Occupational therapists need strong communication and interpersonal skills. They also draw on patience and compassion. Additionally, occupational therapists need flexibility and creativity when carrying out treatment plans.

Median Annual Wage: $84,270


Sociologists examine cultures, organizations, and social institutions to understand society and social behavior. They design research projects and collect data from surveys, interviews, and observations. Sociologists then analyze the data and draw conclusions to test their theories about social issues. Many sociologists create reports or publish articles on their research. They may also advise policymakers on policy decisions.

Example Job Titles

  • Criminologist
  • Family Sociologist
  • Penologist
  • Rural Sociologist
  • Sociologist
  • Urban Sociologist

Recommended Degree: Sociologists typically hold a master's degree in sociology. Depending on their career goals, students can focus on applied, clinical, or professional sociology.

Occupation Characteristics: Sociologists must examine, analyze, and draw conclusions from data, requiring strong critical thinking and analytical skills. Sociologists also need strong communication skills to present research.

Median Annual Wage: $82,050

Genetic Counselors

Genetic counselors evaluate genetic information to identify patients or families at high risk for genetic disorders. They counsel families on these risks and provide information to healthcare providers. They also discuss testing options with patients. Additionally, genetic counselors conduct research and write consultation reports on genetic concepts.

Example Job Titles

  • Certified Genetic Counselor
  • Chromosomal Disorders Counselor
  • Genetic Counselor
  • Mitochondrial Disorders Counselor
  • Prenatal Genetic Counselor

Recommended Degree: Master's degrees in genetic counseling and genetics are among the best-paying master's degrees and prepare graduates for genetic counseling roles. Graduate learners study topics like public health, epidemiology, and developmental biology. They also complete clinical rotations. Graduates can pursue board certification, and half of states require genetic counselors to hold a license.

Occupation Characteristics: Genetic counselors need strong decision-making and critical thinking skills to analyze laboratory findings and determine how to advise patients. The rol

Median Annual Wage: $80,370

Speech-Language Pathologists

Speech-language pathologists, also called speech therapists, diagnose and treat children and adults with communication and swallowing disorders. They evaluate a patient's level of speech or swallowing difficulty and identify treatment options.

Example Job Titles

  • Language Pathologist
  • Public School Speech Clinician
  • Public School Speech Therapist
  • Speech Clinician
  • Speech Pathologist
  • Speech Therapist
  • Speech and Language Specialist

Recommended Degree: A master's degree in speech-language pathology represents the best master's degree for prospective speech therapists. Most states require a license in addition to a master's degree.

Occupation Characteristics: Speech-language pathologists draw on analytical and critical thinking skills to identify appropriate diagnostic tools, analyze results, and develop treatment plans

Median Annual Wage: $77,510

Health Diagnosing and Treating Practitioners

Health diagnosing and treating practitioners include naturopathic doctors and acupuncturists. These professionals use therapies like massage, acupuncture, and natural remedies to heal patients. They may work in hospitals, clinics, or private practice. Some roles, including naturopathic doctor and naturopathic physician, require a doctorate.

Example Job Titles

  • Acupuncturist
  • Homeopathic Doctor
  • Hypnotherapist
  • Naturopath
  • Naturopathic Doctor
  • Naturopathic Physician

Recommended Degree: The best degrees for naturopaths and acupuncturists include a master's degree in acupuncture or a doctor of naturopathic medicine. Acupuncturists typically need certification in addition to the degree.

Occupation Characteristics: As healthcare professionals, acupuncturists and naturopathic doctors rely on critical thinking and decision-making abilities to determine treatment plans. They also bring compassion and strong communication skills to their roles.

Median Annual Wage: $73,960

Urban and Regional Planners

Urban and regional planners create land-use plans and design programs to sustain communities. They may design plans to accommodate population growth, improve a community's facilities, or create a new community. Urban and regional planners often conduct field investigations and analyze data to create proposals. After creating a land-use plan, an urban and regional planner presents the project to public officials and the community.

Example Job Titles

  • City Planner
  • Community Development Planner
  • Regional Planner
  • Urban Planner

Recommended Degree: Most urban and regional planners hold a master's degree in urban or regional planning, which ranks as one of the highest-paying master's degrees.

Occupation Characteristics: Urban and regional planners interpret information from environmental impact studies, market research studies, and censuses, requiring strong analytical skills. They also need strong decision-making and communication skills.

Median Annual Wage: $73,050

Home Economics Teachers, Postsecondary

Postsecondary home economics teachers instruct classes in childcare, finance, and family resource management. They offer college-level instruction on home management, often holding the title of professor. Home economics professors present material in lectures and classroom demonstrations, and they may act as undergraduate advisors.

Example Job Titles

  • Family Resource Management Professor
  • Family and Consumer Sciences Professor
  • Home and Family Living Professor
  • Weaving Professor

Recommended Degree: Most postsecondary home economics teachers hold a master's degree in a field like family studies or human and family management. Some positions may require a doctorate.

Occupation Characteristics: Home economics professors need strong public speaking skills. The career also requires critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which home economics teachers use to explain concepts and conduct research.

Median Annual Wage: $71,380

Art, Drama, and Music Teachers, Postsecondary

Postsecondary art, drama, and music teachers instruct college classes in their field. An art professor, for example, might teach fine art classes like painting or sculpture. These professors work at the college and university level, instructing undergraduate and graduate students. Additionally, art, drama, and music professors often conduct research or create fine art.

Example Job Titles

  • Ballet Professor
  • Graphic Design Professor
  • Music Professor
  • Photography Professor
  • Piano Performance and Pedagogy Professor
  • Piano Professor
  • Scene and Lighting Design Lecturer
  • Stagecraft Professor
  • Theatre Professor
  • Voice Professor

Recommended Degree: A master of fine arts is the terminal degree in the fine arts and one of the best-paying master's degrees. Some drama and music professors may hold a doctorate.

Occupation Characteristics: Art, drama, and music professors rely on public-speaking and communication skills. They also bring leadership skills and creativity to their roles.

Median Annual Wage: $69,960


Epidemiologists are public health officials who investigate the causes of diseases and injuries. They identify patterns behind illnesses and conduct studies into public health problems to improve public health. Epidemiologists rely on data like observations, interviews, and medical records to find the causes of public health issues. They also design and run programs to improve public health outcomes.

Example Job Titles

  • Clinical Epidemiologist
  • Communicable Disease Specialist
  • Environmental Epidemiologist
  • Epidemiology Investigator
  • Malariologist
  • Medical Epidemiologist
  • Pharmacoepidemiologist

Recommended Degree: Epidemiologists typically hold a master's degree in public health, which ranks as one of the highest-paying master's degrees. Many MPH programs offer concentrations in epidemiology and include internships or practicums.

Occupation Characteristics: Epidemiologists need a detail-oriented outlook to effectively analyze data and draw conclusions. They also draw on patience and compassion. Additionally, occupational therapists need flexibility and creativity when carrying out treatment plans.

Median Annual Wage: $69,660

Orthotists and Prosthetists

Orthotists and prosthetists create medical supportive devices such as artificial limbs and braces. They design devices based on measurements or impressions from patients before fabricating them. Orthotists and prosthetists also adjust and repair medical supportive devices and instruct patients on how to use devices.

Example Job Titles

  • American Board Certified Orthotist
  • Artificial Limb Fitter
  • Certified Orthotic Fitter
  • Certified Prosthetist/Orthotist
  • Licensed Prosthetist
  • Orthotic/Prosthetic Practitioner
  • Orthotist
  • Pedorthist
  • Prosthetist

Recommended Degree: A master's in orthotics and prosthetics is the best master's degree for prospective orthotists and prosthetists. After completing a master's program, candidates must complete a residency and earn certification.

Occupation Characteristics: Orthotists and prosthetists must make precise measurements, which requires attention to detail. They also rely on communication and problem-solving skills.

Median Annual Wage: $69,120

Instructional Coordinators

Instructional coordinators, also called curriculum specialists, evaluate curricula and teaching techniques for effectiveness. They conduct teacher observations, analyze student test data, and review curricula to recommend changes to the school board. Some instructional coordinators also train educators on teaching techniques or technologies.

Example Job Titles

  • Curriculum Coordinator
  • Curriculum Designer
  • Curriculum Specialist
  • Curriculum and Assessment Director
  • Curriculum and Instruction Director
  • Instructional Coordinator
  • Instructional Materials Director
  • School Curriculum Developer
  • Special Education Curriculum Specialist

Recommended Degree: Instructional coordinators generally hold a master's degree in education or curriculum and instruction. Public school curriculum specialists often need a state-issued license.

Occupation Characteristics: Instructional coordinators must assess test data to recommend changes, requiring strong analytical and decision-making skills. Instructional coordinators also bring interpersonal and communication skills to their roles since they work closely with teachers and administrators to make curriculum decisions.

Median Annual Wage: $64,450

What is a Master's Degree?

During a master's degree, graduate students pursue advanced training in a specific field. Most master's degree take around two years of full-time study to complete. Many programs incorporate internships to help students build a professional network and gain hands-on experience.

Master's programs often build on undergraduate training. For example, most arts and sciences master's degrees expect students to have completed related coursework during their undergraduate studies through a major or minor. Many master's programs set prerequisites to ensure incoming graduate students possess the foundational knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the program.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which master's degree pays the most?

Graduates with a master's degree in business or nursing earn some of the highest salaries, with several master's degrees in social science fields offering six-figure salaries.

What is the best master's degree for the future?

Master's degrees in business, nursing, and computer science prepare graduates for careers in growing fields and rank as the best graduate degrees for earning potential.

How much does your salary increase with a master's degree?

According to Payscale, the average salary for graduates with a master's degree is $74,000 per year, while the average salary for graduates with a bachelor's degree is $61,000.

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