These Majors See The Largest Salary Change After Getting Your Masters

by McLeod Brown
Study - 2 years ago

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Congrats to all you recent graduates. You did it!

Welcome to the real world. There are so many perks you get to enjoy now!

  • You work a lot
  • You pay a lot in taxes
  • You miss college and simpler times
  • You schedule your own doctor’s appointments because your body randomly starts hurting for no particular reason
  • Every week or so you have a panic attack where you start asking existential questions and ponder if you’re on the trajectory to success

Now that we’ve shed some wisdom upon thee, you may be asking yourself, “Is it worth it to get my masters?” Good news, we’ve answered that question for you.

We looked at the data to see which majors experience the best and worst income changes between graduating with a bachelors and masters.

Majors With Largest Salary Increase After Graduating With Masters

  1. Clinical Psychology: 35%
  2. Engineering Mechanics Physics: 35%
  3. Nuclear, Biological Technology: 34%
  4. Medical Assisting Services: 33%
  5. Engineering, Industrial Management: 32%

Majors With Largest Salary Decrease After Graduating With Masters

  1. Educational Administration: -8%
  2. Cosmetology, Culinary Arts: -7%
  3. Pharmaceutical Sciences: -6%
  4. United States History: -5%
  5. Petroleum Engineering: -4%

Turns out, getting your masters isn’t always what’s best for business. However, for those in the STEM field, it isn’t such a bad idea.

Nearly 75% of all bachelor degree holders in STEM fields do not have STEM jobs. This has made getting a masters degree all that more important for those interested in pursuing STEM-specific careers.

While the idea of going to school into your 30s may not appeal to all, the opportunity to perform some really cool research that undergrads don’t usually get to experience and making yourself more appealing to future employers seem to be good reasons to go to grad school.

Summary of findings

  • Masters holders in seven majors experience a neutral or negative effect on their income after earning their degrees, led by educational administration with an eight percent loss of income
  • Petroleum engineering and pharmaceutical sciences masters holders experience income losses of four and six percent
  • It pays to get your masters in clinical psychology or engineering mechanics – the fields ranked highest for pay difference with a 35% increase in salary
  • Masters holders in nuclear technologies experience a hefty pay increase of 34%
  • The STEM field has a strong hold on those majors financially impacted the best by masters degrees

How we did it

We looked at data from the Census Bureau for this study – specifically the 2012-2016 American Community Survey PUMS dataset.

Our subjects for the study were all full-time workers aged 30 to 54. This was to allow time for students to earn their masters (i.e., it’s rare to graduate with a masters at 22).

The way we found the percentages was basic math. We looked at the average income for bachelors and masters degree holders by field of study. We then took the difference between the two and divided it by the average for masters degree holders in that field.

In conclusion: Stay in school. Maybe.

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