If you’re curious about which master’s degrees pay the most, you can learn some answers from our article about that topic. And, if you want to learn about popular master’s degrees, you can learn about those degrees from our article on that topic. But, why decide on either a lucrative degree or a popular degree when you can have both? In this article, you’ll learn more about which one of those popular master’s degrees is the best investment for your time and money.
The Popular Master’s Degrees
The following master’s degree programs became popular because they are versatile — which means that you can use that degree in a wide variety of professions and positions.
- Health Sciences
- Public Administration and Social Services
One way to learn more about these degrees is to use the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Web site, where you can discover the education you need, what the job is like and how much money you can earn in these careers. Below, each profession is explained, with links to other resources to help you weave your way through the information provided at the BLS.
If you visit the Educational Services page at BLS, you can learn that educational services cover a wide range of job and career possibilities other than teaching. Jobs range from teaching to management and office administration, and these jobs are found in grades from kindergarten to colleges and universities. While teachers can work with a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree in education provides more opportunity to teach at a higher level (high school or vocational school) and could result in a higher position in office management as well.
According to the BLS, post-secondary teachers make an annual median wage of $61,500 compared to all industries at $61,360. If you go down the rows on Table 3 to compare median wages, any occupation within educational services matches or exceeds all industries across the board. Education and experience in this field are important, and if you enjoy teaching, you could manage to have a comfortable and satisfactory life with this career.
A degree in education also is very versatile, as you can avoid teaching in schools and, instead, become a business consultant who trains employees for a corporation. You also could enter other fields such as writing, editing, publishing or focus on a field within teaching such as math, science or art. Even if you have an undergraduate degree in any of those subjects, a master’s degree in education could help to broaden your choices significantly.
The business master’s degree, or MBA, is one of the broadest fields and one of the most popular degrees. If you look at the Management and business and financial occupations page at BLS, you can see that this field covers everything from administrative services managers to top executives in management, and from accountants and auditors to tax examiners, collectors and revenue agents in business and financial operations.
Top executives, for instance, may only need a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree may guarantee even higher wages. The page that examines this career at BLS shows that top executives are among the highest paid workers in the United States, but that wages vary widely depending upon the level of executive responsibility. Median annual wages of general and operations managers in May 2008 were $91,570. The middle 50 percent earned between $62,900 and $137,020. The employers who paid the most were located in computer systems design and related services.
In this case, we went directly to Medical and Health Services Managers to learn more about this field. These careers demand a master’s degree in one of a number of fields as a standard credential for most generalist positions. A bachelor’s degree is sometimes adequate for entry-level positions in smaller facilities and departments. In physicians’ offices and some other facilities, on-the-job experience may substitute for formal education.
Median annual wages of wage and salary medical and health services managers were $80,240 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $62,170 and $104,120. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $48,300, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $137,800. The employers who paid the most were located in general medical and surgical hospitals.
The BLS has an entire page devoted to Social Workers. A bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement for entry into the occupation, but some positions require an advanced degree. Median annual wages of child, family, and school social workers were $39,530 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $31,040 and $52,080. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,870, and the top 10 percent earned more than $66,430. The top-paying employers in this field were elementary and secondary schools.
Public administration is a highly versatile field with a wide variety of sub-field occupations, and high-end mean annual salaries range from $88,530 for engineering managers to $96,540 for astronomers to $94,580 for family and general practitioners. Depending upon your major, you can go into public administration for a master’s degree and focus on serving the public and earn a healthy salary as well.
Engineering is a broad field, also. The Engineers page at BLS shows 18 subfields within engineering, from civil engineers to agricultural engineers and “all others,” which may be mostly in manufacturing industries. As a group, engineers earn some of the highest average starting salaries among those holding bachelor’s degrees. Those individuals holding master’s degrees can earn even higher salaries.
The highest median annual earnings for engineers currently include $108,020 for petroleum engineers, $97,400 for computer engineers and $97,080. The current lowest median annual wage is $68,730 for agricultural engineers. However, the highest employment growth in this industry is projected in environmental engineering at 31 percent over the next decade. Currently, this engineering career earns a median annual wage of $70,900; however, location can make a difference. Environmental engineers located in a city such as Hattiesburg, Mississippi, can earn $107,860 per year.
You can choose a teaching career if you love to teach and know that you will have an annual median wage that is similar to any other industry. Or, you can choose to become a social worker and know that your wages may not be up to standard — this is a job that one enters for the love of the work. On the other hand, learning how business operates can stand anyone in good stead, no matter the occupation, while engineering requires undergraduate courses specific to that career.
Other factors, such as location and sub-field within any one of the careers mentioned above also can affect salaries substantially. Your choice of employer, your experience and your degree also affects wages. But, if you have a bachelor’s degree and would like to expand your career options with a master’s degree, you might think about choosing any one of the subjects listed above to expand your horizons and to increase your income.