Sept. 12, 2019
If there’s one factor that’s almost sure to help increase your earnings, it’s going back to school for a post-graduate degree.
According to the website PayScale, the average recipient of a bachelor’s degree earns an average salary of approximately $61,000. Those who have at least a master’s degree typically see their income jump to $71,000 a year. Some post-graduate programs open the door to substantially higher wages than that. Here’s a look at 10 careers that require advanced degrees and have some of the best starting salaries.
● On average, workers who have a master's degree earn 16% more than those who have a bachelor's degree.
● A number of the top-paying careers are in healthcare, including doctors, nurse anesthetists, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners.
● The law, business, and engineering are fields in which an advanced degree can also lead to a lucrative career.
The list of high-paying graduate degrees is crammed with healthcare jobs. Not surprisingly, physicians are at the top. Those who work in primary care earn an average annual salary of $237,000, according to a 2019 survey by Medscape. That figure jumps to $341,000 for doctors who specialize. Keep in mind that specialization adds extra years to an already long timeline of study (medical school lasts four years and residency takes at least three years, and generally both come after four years of undergraduate college).
Average annual salary for a primary care doctor
You don’t need an M.D. after your name to earn a substantial paycheck in the medical field. Nurse anesthetists, who help administer anesthesia to surgical patients, earned an average of $174,790 a year in 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in 2019. To become one, you need to be a registered nurse and complete a specialized master’s degree program. At that point you can sit for the exam to earn the certified registered nurse anesthetist, or CRNA, designation.
Average annual salary for a nurse anesthetist
The benefits of going into dentistry go beyond helping patients improve their smile—you end up with a satisfying salary as well. Last year, dentists' median salary was $156,240, according to BLS data. With the aging of the U.S. population, job prospects are expected to stay strong over the next decade.
Median annual salary for a dentist
Companies increasingly need people who are capable of planning and executing their technology goals. That’s why the median pay for jobs like information-technology managers and IT project managers is $142,530, according to the BLS. However, at many organizations, especially bigger corporations, you need at least a master’s degree in the field to take on those roles.
Median annual salary for IT managers and IT project managers
Becoming a pharmacist is no easy feat. You’ll have to work toward a doctor of pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree, which includes challenging biology, chemistry, and pathology coursework. Afterward, graduates must pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX), which is required to practice in all 50 states. Nevertheless, at the end, pharmacists are rewarded with a very respectable salary. Their median pay in 2018 was $126,120, reports the BLS.
Median annual salary for a pharmacist
Careers in law are still among the highest paid in the country. The median salary for an attorney was $120,910 in 2018, according to the BLS. In order to practice you need to earn a juris doctor (JD) degree—typically a three-year post-graduate program for full-time students. Most states also require that you pass a bar exam.
Median annual salary for a lawyer
Physician Assistant, Nurse Practitioner
A shortage of physicians means that more hospitals and clinics are turning to physician assistants and nurse practitioners to help manage patient care. Both careers require a master’s degree as well as state licensure. In 2018 physician assistants earned a median salary of $108,610, while the median pay for nurse practitioners was $107,030. The future looks sunny for those who want to enter these professions, with employment expected to increase well above average over the next several years.
Median annual salary for a physician assistant
Important: Engineering is also the top-paying specialty for those with a bachelor's degree.
A post-graduate degree in economics unlocks a number of lucrative career possibilities that aren’t as readily available to applicants with a bachelor’s degree. Among them are working as a policy analyst, market researcher, or professor. Those who earn an advanced degree can do quite well. Last year the median pay for an economist was $104,340, based on BLS data.
Median annual salary for an economist
Engineering continues to be one of the most in-demand careers in the U.S., although employment prospects vary based on one’s specialization. Average pay for those with a master’s degree was $94,000 last year, according to PayScale.
Average annual salary for an engineer
In the corporate world a master’s in business administration is often a prerequisite to climbing the ladder. Typically, an MBA grad will make, on average, $86,000 a year, according to the website PayScale. Those with a finance specialization fare even better, with an average salary of $97,000. Another option to consider: a business graduate degree like a master's in taxation or business analytics.
Average annual salary for an MBA graduate
The Bottom Line
A post-graduate degree is one of the surest ways to increase your earning potential. That’s especially true for those who pursue a program in a high-demand field, including healthcare, information technology (IT), engineering, or law. Keep in mind, however, that certain bachelor's degree programs can also be worth considering, if you're not prepared to put extra time into your education.