The Best Paying Graduate Degrees

By Ronald Kimmons. May 7th 2016

In the United States and many other countries, the general expectation is that professionals should have a bachelor’s degree. However, in some cases, getting a four-year degree of this type may not bring the desired qualifications or level of expertise necessary for a particular field and it may be beneficial for students to stick it out and earn a master’s degree, professional degree or PhD. While such degrees are often expensive – in terms of both tuition and opportunity cost – they can result in significantly improved job opportunities. Read on to learn about the best paying graduate degrees.


As soon as people start talking about high-paying advanced degrees, the MBA credential is generally the first thing to come to mind. MBA programs prepare graduates for a wide array of jobs in business administration and management – qualifying them to eventually have the chance of getting a CEO position which pays over $1,000,000 per year on average. However, various different types of MBAs exist and they do not result in the same job prospects.

  • Standard MBA – This is the type of credential most widely offered by traditional business schools across the United States. They generally offer good job prospects though prospects vary significantly depending upon school ranking. Full-time courses of study usually take one or two years to complete while part-time courses of study may take several years. They usually require at least two years of post-baccalaureate working experience prior to enrollment. Some of the best MBA providers in the United States are Harvard University, Stanford University, University of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
  • Executive MBA– Executive MBA programs are similar to standard MBAs, but they are specifically for management and administration professionals who have significantly more experience in the workplace – often about eight years. These programs generally cost more, but they offer a higher payout.
  • Global MBA– This type of program is similar to a standard MBA, but it focuses on imbuing students with a global perspective, preparing them primarily for positions in international business.
  • Online/Distance Learning MBA– These programs offer students the opportunity to attend business school either entirely through an online environment or through a mixed online/classroom setting. Some such programs – such as the distance learning program at Thunderbird School of Global Management – are high-quality educational opportunities, but others are overpriced and do not result in significantly better career opportunities.

While some MBA holders – such as those from Harvard and Stanford – frequently command salaries of over $100,000 upon graduation, many MBA holders who graduated from less reputable programs earn less than $50,000.

Medical Degrees

For those who pursue master’s degrees and doctorates in the medical field, job prospects are almost always good. While the difference in earnings potential between a master’s and a doctorate is not large in some fields – such as business administration – it can make a significant difference in the medical field. This is because, in the medical field, specialization is everything and specialization means more study. The median annual salary for physicians is around $180,000, and those who open their own practices can make into the millions. One thing to take into consideration, however, is the fact that, in the United States, physicians tend to pay large sums of money in malpractice insurance premiums.

Jurisprudence Degrees

Whenever people say the words “doctors and lawyers”, they often do so to signify that they are talking about professionals with money. This makes sense, as lawyers typically earn high-paying salaries. While some lawyers make less than $50,000 per year, it is very normal for them to earn in the $100,000 range. As with doctors, those who start their own law practices in big cities can often make into the millions.

Engineering Degrees

At any level of education, engineers of various fields tend to outperform other graduates. While people with bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees in engineering are often eligible for the same jobs, the difference in average income is about $15,000 per year. There are two basic types of engineering degrees:

  • Master Of Engineering– This degree prepares engineers for the job market by building their skills over and beyond what is taught at the four-year level.
  • Master Of Engineering Management – This degree prepares engineers to oversee an entire team of engineers and manage engineering projects.

Some of the more lucrative engineering fields are computer engineering, mechanical engineering, petroleum engineering, aerospace engineering and chemical engineering.

Science Management Degrees

Science managers oversee entire teams of scientists who conduct research and development. Science management degrees are usually field-specific. While jobs are available at the bachelor’s level, the difference in annual income between a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree is usually about $20,000 – resulting in average salaries in the $70,000 range for people with master’s degrees.

Computer Science And Information Technology

Even though the huge boom in demand for computer specialists starting in the 1990s is over, professionals with computer-related skills are still in high demand. Software developers, database managers, network managers and the like tend to command salaries upward of $90,000. While people holding bachelor’s degrees in these fields have decent job prospects, the prospects for those with master’s degrees are significantly better.

Degrees For Education

When asked who the most underpaid professionals in the United States today are, many people will quickly talk about teachers. However, while high school teachers with bachelor’s degrees or master’s degrees generally do not command stellar salaries, university professors do. A PhD in education itself or in virtually any degree field taught at universities can qualify you to be a university professor and collect a salary of $100,000 or more.

If you are considering getting a graduate or professional degree, take a look at our list of the best paying graduate school degrees. It might help you narrow down your choice on which graduate program to apply to.


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