Highest Paying Master’s Degrees

By Chris Kolmar - Dec. 4, 2020

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Over one in four working professionals now has a bachelor’s degree, an all-time high. With such a competitive and saturated job market, it can be challenging to stand out to employers.

Earning a master’s degree is a way to separate yourself from the crowd, unlocking career paths otherwise hard to break into. However, with the time and financial investment required to obtain a graduate degree, it’s important to choose the right one.

The folks here at Zippia have done the research, so you don’t have to. We’ve compiled a list of the highest paying master’s degrees to accelerate your income and career.

What are the Highest Paying Master’s Degrees

The main criterion in ranking this list was income. However, we have tried to include degrees of varying fields to appeal to all interests and abilities.

  1. Nursing anesthesia. Nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia to patients during medical procedures that require it. They are critical team members who work with surgeons, dentists, and other qualified healthcare professionals.

    A master’s in nursing anesthesia also unlocks the path to becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) with further training. CRNAs consistently rank among the highest paying nursing jobs in the United States, with salaries averaging over $180,000.

    Anesthesiology is an especially high-paying field in Texas and Florida.

    The healthcare industry is expected to grow quickly over the next decade, making this career’s growth potential high.

    National median salary: $176,386

  2. Information technology. A master’s in information-technology unlocks a wide range of information-technology management careers.

    These include roles such as IT risk manager, chief technology officer, and data analytics manager. These careers’ common duties are designing, implementing, and monitoring systems that hold client or company information.

    IT professionals typically find themselves working for businesses, nonprofits, or the government.

    National median salary: $121,769

  3. Business administration. A master’s of business administration (MBA) ranks among the most useful and flexible graduate degrees available.

    You’ll acquire both theoretical and practical training in managing and operating businesses. Leadership and teamwork skills are taught, as well as the specifics of managing budgets and strategic thinking.

    In addition to starting businesses, graduates apply their degrees in specific areas, such as marketing, accounting, and finance.

    MBAs also leverage their critical thinking and collaboration skills to succeed in completely unrelated fields.

    This degree is often found among chief executives, a top paying position in states like Massachusetts.

    National median salary: $114,083

  4. Finance. Although less flexible than an MBA, a master’s in finance is perfect for those planning on specializing in the field.

    You’ll acquire the skills to handle investments, trade securities, and manage risk.

    With this degree, many students can land investment banking jobs at top institutions straight out of school. Other careers include financial analysts and advisors.

    National median salary: $108,518

  5. Software engineering. Software-development is a field where demonstrating ability can compensate for a lack of any formal degrees.

    However, provided you have those skills, earning a master’s in software engineering can separate you from the crowd.

    You’ll be immersed in software systems and architecture, learn complex algorithms, and fine-tune your foundational programming skills.

    This degree opens doors to competitive roles at top companies and will help you quickly advance your career.

    National median salary: $107,366

  6. Nursing. Master’s programs in nursing typically offer many specializations, each leading to top paying career paths.

    Nurse practitioners are responsible for diagnosing illnesses, prescribing medicine and treatment, and educating their patients on how to maintain their health.

    Popular specialization areas include women’s health nursing, family nursing, and pediatric care.

    In addition to specializations, graduates have many options regarding their work setting.
    Nurse practitioners are often found working under supervising physicians at hospitals and clinics. They may also start their own independent practices or become consultants.

    This degree is highly valued in states such as North Carolina, where the top-paying jobs are related to healthcare.

    National median salary: $107,076

  7. Electrical engineering. A master’s in electrical engineering allows one to specialize in skills that are in high demand among employers. Such specializations include computer engineering, photonics, and circuits.

    This opens the path to high-paying careers such as genetic, communications, and computer hardware engineering.

    Specializations relating to computers are especially flexible, allowing you to work for top companies across numerous industries.

    National median salary: $104,119

  8. Statistics. This degree will help you develop and strengthen a foundation in statistical theory. You’ll also learn how to apply statistical methods to business, as well as use related technology and software tools.

    Your skills will be desired anywhere decision-making and data analysis are important.
    As this describes most companies in every field, a master’s in statistics offers extreme flexibility.

    Statisticians are in demand across countless fields, including those not directly related to mathematics. Such fields include marketing, public health, and medicine.

    National median salary: $104,009

  9. Physician assistant. Physician assistants are essential members of the medical teams that assist surgeons and physicians. They work in settings such as clinics, hospitals, and laboratories.

    Duties include assessing patients, ordering diagnostic tests, and prescribing medicine and treatment plans.

    In addition to acquiring expertise in anatomy, pathology, and patient care, you’ll have the option to further specialize in over a dozen fields.

    Such specializations include:

    • Dermatology

    • Emergency medicine

    • Critical care

    • Hospital medicine

    • Addiction medicine

    High job growth is expected for this field over the next decade. The average age of the population is steadily increasing, which will result in higher demand for specialized health care.

    This job ranks among the highest paying in California and Louisiana.

    National median salary: $103,648

  10. Economics. Many assume economics graduates are only involved in research, becoming professors or economists.

    In fact, economics is among the most flexible disciplines available, opening paths to job opportunities in dozens of fields.

    Students of economics acquire expert insight into complex economic and financial situations. They learn how to analyze complex systems and interpret data.

    These are universally useful skills, allowing economics graduates to work as statisticians, consultants, market researchers, and much more.

  11. Chemical engineering. Graduates of this degree acquire skills in core chemical engineering concepts, such as fluid dynamics, mass and energy transfer, and stoichiometry.

    Chemical engineering is also an increasingly multidisciplinary field. Specializations will allow you to focus on related areas such as biotechnology, pharmaceutical engineering, and process engineering.

    These skills are in high demand by pharmaceutical, power generation, and oil extraction companies.

    National median salary: $93,454

  12. Physics. Physics graduates hold important skills for a variety of engineering and research careers.

    Your understanding of complex physical systems and mathematics will allow you to work in fields such as mechanical engineering, aerospace and defense, and nanotechnology.

    The problem-solving and software skills you acquire will also allow you to transition into fields such as software engineering and data analysis.

    Multiple specialization options can further the range of viable careers. Examples include medical, nuclear, and telecommunications related fields.

    National median salary: $91,080

  13. Petroleum engineering. A master’s in petroleum engineering allows you to work not only as a petroleum engineer but in careers relating to geology, prospecting, and geophysics.

    As a student, you’ll acquire specialized knowledge in topics such as reservoir analysis, fluid flow, and petroleum production.

    National median salary: $82,330

  14. Computer science. This degree allows professionals to acquire an edge in today’s technology-driven economy. Computer-science graduates are in high demand at nearly all companies, across every industry.

    Students strengthen their foundational programming and computing skills by studying fields such as databases, advanced algorithms, and computer architecture.

    Further specialization areas are also available, including artificial intelligence, data analytics, and network security.

    Job growth in this field is expected to continue to grow over the next decade.

    National median salary: $81,680

  15. Industrial management. Students in industrial management master’s programs can expect to strengthen their core business and engineering skills. They also acquire specialized knowledge in topics relating to operations and productions.

    Example topics include managerial accounting, production systems, and operations management.

    Graduates lead successful careers as industrial, production, and supply chain managers over a variety of fields.

    These fields include:

    • Plastics manufacturing

    • Pharmaceuticals

    • Electronics manufacturing

    • Printing

    National median salary: $80,200

  16. Applied mathematics. A master’s in applied mathematics is an extremely flexible degree.

    Students graduate with strong problem-solving and analytical skills. They also develop skills in specialized fields, such as computer science, numerical analysis, and combinatorics.

    These strong analytical and mathematical skills allow graduates to branch into a large variety of careers.

    Some examples include:

    Applied mathematics graduates experience rapid job growth in any economy, as their widely applicable skills allow them to transition into whatever industries are growing.

    National median salary: $79,815

  17. Marketing. In addition to foundational marketing skills, students take courses in finance, database management, and strategic planning. They can also specialize in fields such as brand management and digital marketing.

    Marketing graduates are valued by both marketing agencies and large companies with in-house departments. They work as sales, relations, and advertising managers, to name a few.

    Companies are always attempting to reach larger audiences, target certain demographics, and convert sales. For this reason, job growth in this field is expected to be above average for the next decade.

    National median salary: $79,175

  18. Healthcare administration. Graduates lead high-paying careers in the healthcare management field. Such roles include:

    Students are taught the interdisciplinary factors required in managing medical institutions.

    These include healthcare-specific topics such as healthcare information systems, healthcare operations management, and healthcare strategic planning.

    They also learn general management and business principles, as well as how to lead and organize personnel.

    These skills are especially valued in states like New York and Minnesota, where the top paying careers are all related to healthcare.

    National median salary: $77,528

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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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