Ready to find your ideal master's program?
www.mastersprogramsguide.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.
Sixty years ago, a person could get by in life and be quite successful with just a high school diploma.
Thirty years ago, most people were satisfied with just a bachelor’s degree and found the job market quite welcoming.
Today, the competition in the job market is stronger than ever.
Many people strive to earn graduate degrees that will bring them higher salaries and set them apart from others who are just starting out.
According to the latest U.S. Census data, more than 21 million people in the U.S. hold a master’s degree. That’s 21% of the adult population (25 years or older). It is a 22% increase from 2000.
The best master’s degrees are now as common as bachelor’s degrees were in the 1960s. In 1970, only 200,000 people held a master’s degree. In other words, a master’s degree is the new bachelor’s degree.
So, why the sudden increase in these degrees? Why should you be interested in getting one? Well, for one thing, consider the bump in salary.
According to U.S. News & World Report, more than 70% of people who choose to pursue a master’s degree do so because of the potentially increased salary. Let’s face it, we all want a great life with a big paycheck and comfortable retirement and future.
A lot depends on the major you choose. Most firms pay a reasonable amount more to those with a master’s degree.
According to The National Association of Colleges and Employers, employees who have a Master of Business Administration degree make up to $27,000 more per year.
There are many jobs out there paying six figures to graduate students. According to Monster.com, the highest paying jobs for a person with a master’s degree are:
- Nurse anesthesia CRNA, at $156,000 per year
- Telecommunications engineer, at $141,000 per year
- Financer and senior financial analyst, at $134,000 per year
Salaries will only continue to rise. The median salary for someone with a master’s degree is just under $70,000 per year. That’s a $20,000 increase from 2000.
While earning a graduate degree can be stressful and tiring, it’s all worth it. Nothing in life will come easy, but putting in the hard work will pay off. And then some!
When you think about it, earning a graduate degree is not even that time-consuming. Even less so than an undergraduate degree! Many students who take on a master’s degree can complete the program in just one or two years. In the grand scheme of things, this is just a small sacrifice.
There are many types of master’s degrees out there. But which one is right for you? We’ll take a closer look in this post.
COMMON APPLICATION AND ADMISSION QUESTIONS
Once you’ve decided to get a master’s degree and take the plunge, the next questions are what to study and how to choose where to study.
Check out the list below for 10 of the most popular master’s degrees. That will give students applying to college some ideas and show the benefits of each. It’s really all about what drives you.
What are you passionate about? The worst thing would be to pursue a master’s degree in a subject or field you have no interest in.
It’s true. A master’s in finance is one of the top degrees out there. It’s No. 1 on our list of most popular master’s degrees. But if you don’t like mathematics or numbers, you’re in for a tough road ahead.
With a bit of research, you’ll be ready to set out on your path.
Contact the admissions office to see what you need.
Almost all top master’s degree schools ask for:
- Letters of recommendation
- A resume
- A statement of purpose
- A personal statement explaining why you want to earn a graduate degree in that specific area
Check with your own enrollment counselor for more details. It’s a good idea to make the personal statement more anecdotal and personal. Tailor your personal statement toward the different master’s degrees you’re interested in. Tell a story in your personal statement that intrigues the reader and makes you more likely to be accepted.
Your own enrollment counselor will want to see human interest and passion in your writing. That’s true even of bachelor’s degree holders and other degree seekers. It’s something to pay attention to when applying to college at any education level and when submitting letters of recommendation, too.
Some programs also require test scores with a minimum score. Students pursuing master’s may have to complete the GRE (Graduate Records Examination), GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test), or the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test). For candidates like nurse practitioners who want to become advanced practice registered nurses, some master’s programs for nurse practitioners might involve related tests, too. Nursing programs can be highly competitive.
Once you’ve been accepted and are enrolled, you will need to put in a lot of time for your studies. Classes at the graduate level are more rigorous than those for your bachelor’s degree. Still, because you are studying your passion, they should be more rewarding to you and more beneficial than what you covered in your bachelor’s degrees.
Of course, you will need to be motivated and stay motivated while working on your master’s degrees. That’s just basic best practices for higher education regardless of whether you are studying full time or not. Some master’s degrees are intensive, full-time programs that can take only a year to complete. Other master’s degrees are part-time programs that can take up to five years or more to complete.
You may also complete hands-on work in the field for a master of science or master of arts. This might have been required for a bachelor’s degree, too, but master’s degrees tend to require even more.
Most include internships and/or practicums that might come with semester hour credit attached. Internships give students an ideal opportunity to make contacts and accumulate work experience. With work experience, you’ll gain references and open yourself up for more positions. You’ll be on the inside track for jobs you might be interested in later. The more people you meet via your work experience, the better.
HOW MUCH CAN I MAKE WITH A MASTER’S DEGREE?
Earning a master’s is a smart choice. Jobs that require a master’s degree are the fastest-growing segment of the economy. That’s compared to all other education levels. These occupations should grow at a rate of 17% over the next 10 years. That number could be higher.
There are ways for graduate students to cover these costs for an advanced degree. According to U.S. News & World Report, one of the most popular is to approach your employer. Many employers will help pay tuition. That’s as long as the advanced degree will benefit the employee and the company alike.
Another to finance graduate work is through college loans. This can be difficult if you already have loan debt. Still, check with the school’s financial aid department to see if any assistance is available. Students should also look into graduate scholarships. School counselors and admissions officers can help students find scholarships that fit them best.
See Also: 50 Best Master’s Degree Programs
OUR RANKING CRITERIA
We prioritize four major factors in our list of different masters degrees:
- Earnings Potential
- Student Satisfaction
The main ingredients in our recipe for success are \reliable research and well-harvested data. We don’t make recommendations based on personal opinions or financial incentives.
Our revenue and content are separate. Sponsored schools have no impact on our rankings. The only way to make it onto one of our lists is to have an incredible academic program!
If you want to know more about how we decided on the most popular masters degrees, we encourage you to check out our methodology page.
Check out our list of MS degrees below!
#1. MBA/MASTER’S IN FINANCE/FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT
Do you want to make money and take control of your future? A master’s in business and finance will make you an asset to any corporation. This is one of the most common masters degrees out there.
You can even start your own corporation, if you choose! One of the study options available to business majors is entrepreneurship. This will teach you how to build a company. An MBA and a master’s in finance are a popular choice graduates who are motivated.
A master’s degree in finance and/or financial management opens applicants up for jobs as:
- Investment bankers ($64,000 per year)
- Financial analysts ($85,000 per year),
- Financial managers ($127,000 per year)
- Brokers ($70,000 per year)
- Financial planners ($74,000 per year)
- Commercial bankers ($118,000 per year)
- Insurance specialists ($70,000 per year)
- Finance directors ($105,000-130,000 per year, according to Indeed)
Many students with a master’s in finance land positions at:
- Bank of America
- Merrill Lynch
- Booz Allen Hamilton
- Chase & Co.
- McKinsey & Co. J.P. Morgan Chase
- Boston Consulting
- Goldman Sachs Wealth Management.
Coursework in the field is rigorous. You won’t get a degree without putting in a lot of hard work. You’ll make great money once you graduate and find a good job. It doesn’t come without a lot of sacrifices while in school. Many master’s degrees are offered online. MBA and finance students can work around their busy schedules. You can study on your own time to earn the degree.
The curriculum includes between 30 and 40 semester hours. It features popular courses in:
- Corporate finance
- Financial analysis
- Principled financial leadership
- Corporate valuation and modeling
- Global consulting
- Studying financial markets
- Investment analysis
You will likely complete a thesis and internships.
#2. COMPUTER SCIENCE
Technology is taking off to levels never before thought possible. The demand for computer science (CS) majors is growing per year. As a CS graduate, you’ll have the knowldge to develop, program, and analyze computer information. This makes CS students an asset for any company. You can pursue a successful career in any industry.
A computer and information scientist with a master’s degree makes upward of $118,000 per year.
There’s a high demand for computer specialists regardless of the graduate school you choose. The expected job outlook for computer technology positions should grow from 10-20% over the next 10 years.
Other positions in the computer science field include:
- Software engineer
- Systems architect
- Data analyst
- Data science specialist
- Software developer
- Mobile application developer
- Information technology professional
- Machine learning engineer
All of these typically earn $100,000 per year with a master’s degree. These are jobs that every company needs. For those who enjoy working with information technology, CS is the perfect graduate program. It’s one that will yield a great life and successful career.
CS best master’s programs offer many opportunities for hands-on practice in the field. During the coursework, experienced professors teach computer science and software engineering concepts. These master’s degrees are more advanced than an undergraduate degree.
A Master of Science in Computer Science has a mixture of online and on-campus courses. The curriculum includes:
- Web application development
- Database administration
- Disaster recovery and continuity
- Intelligent systems
- Software development
- Computer science theory
- Software and systems engineering
- IT strategy and management
Each school’s program is different, something you’ve probably already noticed in our list of master’s degrees. Prospective students can earn a degree in computer science or software development in roughly one to two years. This depends on the pace at which they choose to study and the number of courses required. Internships are offered with many programs. Almost all schools require a capstone and thesis project. What makes CS one of the top areas in which to pursue a master’s degree? The knowledge that students receive, plus the high demand and high pay.
Another one of the most popular masters programs in our list of master degrees is the master of science in mathematics.
Who says you don’t need mathematics in the real world?
Earning a master’s in the field of mathematics is one of the most beneficial degrees.
A majority of those who can earn an advanced degree in mathematics end up in positions as:
- Investment analysts
- Operations research analysts
- Postsecondary mathematics teachers
Careers fed by these master’s programs pay well. In fact, this is one of the highest paying master’s degrees. An actuary earns an average of $102,000. Operation research analysts earn close to $84,000.
A graduate math curriculum typically requires the completion of 30 to 40 credit hours. You’ll take courses in:
- Mathematical analysis
- Complex analysis
- Abstract algebra
- Geometric transformations
- Differential equations
- The theory of numbers
There will also be concentrations available. These depend on what a student plans to do with the degree. For example, courses will vary for teaching at the postsecondary level or going into accounting or statistics. Almost all schools require the completion of a thesis or final comprehensive examination.
#4. MASTER OF MARKETING
A master of science in marketing degree often means free access to some of the nation’s biggest events. Not to mention travel expenses paid by your company to all parts of the country. The master of science in marketing is one of the most popular master’s degrees on this list, especially if you have good communication skills.
Do I have your attention yet? Good. Yes, if you are successful enough and get into an area that focuses on event marketing, then some of the things listed above may come true. But first things first: You have to put in the work. We’ll get to that shortly.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, projected employment in the marketing industry is expected to increase by 13% over the next 10 years. Among the jobs that those with a master’s in marketing may hold include:
- Director of marketing and communications
- Brand manager
- Director of marketing
- Communications director
- SEO strategist
- Web analyst
- Digital marketing specialist
Interested in making money and heading up a marketing company? A director of marketing makes an average salary of $131,978. Now I think I really have your attention. This is one of the highest paying master’s degrees, especially if you have strong communication skills.
The goal of a master’s degree is to secure a leadership position in the field. That way, you have more control over the messages being sent out. Marketing programs help their students to develop these skills and accomplish these professional goals and career goals via leadership training. According to U.S. News & World Report, marketing managers hold the No. 1 Best Sales and Marketing Job, according to U.S. News & World Report. If you enjoy traveling and promoting events, you may very easily find positions in this highest paying field.
A curriculum involves anywhere from 10 to 15 courses. Internships are highly recommended, if not required. The enjoyable element of internships is the hands-on experience they provide. You’ll also gain the ability to move around and understand what it’s like to work in the field.
There are concentrations to choose from, depending on which school you attend. The concentration dictates what the focus will be in both coursework and later job hunting. Some of the available concentrations and marketing courses include:
- Leadership communication
- Learning and development
- Organizational development
- Public relations
- Marketing communications
Many higher education institutions offer online courses. Students can work in the field and study for their master’s degree at their own pace. Some of the courses students can expect to complete in a marketing program are:
- Applied critical thinking in communication
- Storytelling through research and management
- Marketing analytics
- Brand management strategies
- Public relations strategies and processes
#5. MASTER IN PETROLEUM ENGINEERING
Do you have a real interest in the environment and want to bring some of your ideas to life? You may find that earning a master’s degree in petroleum engineering (PE) offers rewarding career options. Though not the most common masters degree, it’s one of the most lucrative types of master’s degrees out there.
PE focuses on job related tasks to hydrocarbons. It focuses on the production of crude oil and natural gas. Jobs focus on the growing technologies used to help produce more than 300 new products that are derived and created from petroleum. The average salary of a petroleum engineer is more than $118,000 . Some make as much as $155,000. This is a very well-paid position.
With a master’s degree, students are eligible for jobs in:
- Reservoir engineering
- Environmental engineering
- Process economics
- Production engineers
- Computer visualization of petroleum systems
- Tertiary recovery
The typical curriculum for a master’s degree in petroleum engineering includes anywhere from 25 to 35 credits. Different concentrations are offered. Some schools do not require the completion of a thesis. They will require rigorous coursework. Some of the courses students can expect to find on the schedule include:
- Reservoir Engineering
- Well Drilling and Completion
- Petroleum Fluid Properties and Phase Equilibria
- Petroleum Products Operations
- Development and Origin of Oil & Gas Reservoirs
- Pressure Transient Testing.
Students will also complete coursework in physics, chemistry, and thermodynamics.
Depending on the school, students may have the opportunity to visit factories, oil rigs, and energy facilities. These visits reinforce concepts presented in the coursework. Internships are often available and encouraged. Students can get hands-on practice and experience in the field.
#6. MASTER OF BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION
The Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a popular degree. It is also a popular degree among some of the most familiar names in pop culture. Did you know that Kevin Costner, Clint Eastwood, Tiger Woods, and Arnold Schwarzenegger all hold MBAs? There is a very good salary attached, too. An MBA is an excellent career choice.
The top jobs for MBA students after they graduate are:
- Chief Technology Officer
- Computer and information systems manager
- Financial manager
- Health services manager
- High-end management consultant
- Insight and analytics manager
- Investment banker.
The average starting median salary for a business school graduate with an MBA is $110,000. This is well above the median salary for all students with a master’s degree. Many MBA programs in higher education focus on data analytics and how they drive business success in the future.
- Current theories and practices in global markets
- Macro- and microeconomic factors in decision-making
- Effective resource management to sustain high corporate performance.
MBA programs have 32 and 46 semester credits. Students will also have to work with agencies or businesses to get hands-on experience as part of their studies. Many universities require an internship or practicum. Students can choose from several concentrations. Some best practices concentrations include:
- Health systems management
- Project management
- Sports business
- Human resource management.
Students take sample courses in many programs, including:
- Financial Analysis and Firm Evaluation
- Quantitative Analysis
- Decision-Making and Leadership
- Applied Marketing Research
- International Competitive Strategy.
#7. MASTER OF EDUCATION (MEd)
Do you want to make a difference in society and help play a role in the development of future generations? Then there is no more rewarding career path than earning a Master of Education (MEd). Teachers lead upcoming generations into college and beyond. They give them the tools they need to succeed in the real world. With an MEd degree, students are eligible to teach at the secondary and post-secondary levels. Many universities require post-graduate degrees to teach. Yet many colleges and community colleges hire teachers who hold the best master’s degrees in education.
Earning a degree in education allows graduates to teach and earn a comfortable salary. Each state has different salary ranges. They extend from roughly $50,000 to $75,000 per year. The average salary of a college professor is $75,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The need for teachers is growing. That’s especially true given the growing pace of technology and online schooling. According to the BLS, the number of teachers is expected to grow by 4-10% over the next 10 years. Some states have a much higher demand for teachers than others. In some areas, that 10% number could be even higher.
Most universities offer concentrations in:
- Early Childhood Education
- Social Studies
- Language Arts
- World Languages
Students must complete an internship or practice teaching requirement. This is where they work with an elementary or secondary school teacher to practice teaching real students. That is, if the graduate student is not already employed as a teacher. This hands-on practice and guided teaching help prepare future teachers. It educates them on what they will face once they are in their own classroom.
If you pursue a master’s in educational leadership, you’ll find new opportunities as assistant principals or principals. The pay is often more than $100,000 per year. Education is a field that you must have a passion for.
According to U.S. News & World Report, the statistician is No. 1 on the list of Best Business Jobs. It is No. 2 on the list of Best Jobs to Have. Statistics is a field that more people are interested in getting into. That’s especially true with the rise of technology. If you’re good with numbers, enjoy analyzing outcomes, and already have a bachelor’s degree, it’s worth it to consider a master’s degree in statistics.
A statistician makes an average median income of just over $88,000 per year. This is quite high, but it’s the anticipated growth in this field that makes it one of the most popular jobs in the business sector today. With a master’s degree in statistics, many job opportunities are available. These include:
- Senior manager in biostatistics
- Statistical consultant
- Risk analyst
- Financial analyst
- Data scientist
The coursework in a graduate statistics program prepares students by strengthening their mathematics and statistical skills. It provides them with research methods that will give them knowledge of a wide range of statistical application areas.
The average curriculum for a master’s in statistics includes 30 to 40 credits. You’ll also complete a practicum and thesis. Students typically have the option of choosing a concentration, usually in either Analytic or Applied Statistics. Courses include:
- Introduction to Machine Learning
- Applied Stochastic Process
- Introduction to Probability Theory
- Regression Methods
- Statistical Consulting
- Analysis of Variance and Design of Experiments.
You’ll gain the skills necessary to go into a statistics field of your choice. That might be in education, science, technology, health care, government, or business. Students may opt to take the SAS Base Programming Certification Exam. This will elevate their chances of securing a high-level job in the field.
#9. MASTER OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
The beauty of living in America is that people can do just about anything they want! When it comes to future dreams and aspirations, the sky’s the limit. You just have to believe in an idea. Those who take on a master’s degree in entrepreneurship believe just that. They aim to take control of their future and start their own business so that they can be their own boss. Potentially, others’ bosses, too.
The average salary of an entrepreneur is $68,000 per year. Take that with a grain of salt, because the true range for entrepreneurs is anywhere from $1 to more than $1 million per year.
That’s where the coursework comes in. Many colleges and universities offer programs that teach students how to run a business successfully. Your grad school experience is the first step to the best paying jobs.
Many schools offer fully online entrepreneurship programs. These teach leadership, development, growth, and management skills.
Students can get hands-on experience and work with faculty members who are also entrepreneurs. This gives them real-world experience and first-hand knowledge of what it takes to succeed with just an idea. Students learn how to:
- Raise capital for a business
- Market a company
- Lead and manage new ventures
- Communicate with investors and partners
Most programs require anywhere from 30 to 40 credits. They can take one to two years to complete. According to U.S. News & World Report, the top schools for those pursuing a master’s in entrepreneurship are:
- Babson College
- Stanford University (Stanford University also has one of the best MBAs!)
- Harvard University (again, Harvard University is also a great place for an MBA)
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- The State University of California, Berkeley.
#10. MANAGEMENT INFORMATION SYSTEMS
Earn a master’s degree in information systems, one of the best types of master degrees out there. This will give you the skills to analyze, design, deploy, maintain, and manage information systems. These could be in industrial, non-profit, and government settings.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer and information systems managers make more than $142,000 per year. The field is growing faster than average. There’s an 11% projected growth over the next 10 years.
Other positions that graduates can pursue with this degree include:
- IT project manager
- Chief technology officer
- Database architect
- Security administrator
- Software developer
- Computer systems data analyst manager
- IT consultant.
Most of the concentrations offered by universities are in:
- Business intelligence and analytics
- Information security and assurance
- Project management
Courses students are likely to enroll in include:
- Information Systems Analysis and Design
- Database Management Systems
- Business Telecommunications
- Applied Information Systems Architecture
- Managing Emerging Information Technology.
Many of these are similar to the ones bachelor’s degree holders will take. However, students pursuing master’s will take more advanced level courses as part of their degree program.