The 5 Highest Paying Graduate Degrees

There is a lot that goes into deciding whether or not to pursue a graduate degree. The time commitment, quality of the program, and potential career outcomes are all considerations you might have.

In most cases, a graduate degree will expand your opportunities for advancement and yield a positive return on your investment by way of a higher salary. That said, a dramatic salary increase is not a given. A big part of that outcome depends on what type of program you decide to pursue.

According to PayScale, Here are some of the highest paying master’s and graduate degrees.

5. General and Strategic Management

Type of Graduate Degree: MBA

What the Degree Entails: As an MBA student concentrating in strategic management, you’ll take classes that will sharpen your analytical thinking and management skills. You’ll learn about organizational theory and development, business plan development, strategic planning, and much more.

What You Can Earn: Generally speaking, an MBA is among the master’s degrees that pay the most. MBA graduates with a concentration in General and Strategic Management typically start off at $50,000, with mid-career salaries averaging $90,000.

Potential Career Opportunities: Marketing Manager, Director of Marketing, Senior Vice President of Operations, High-End Management Consultant, Investment Banker, Investment Fund Manager, Chief Operating Officer (COO), Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

A Day in the Life: Many MBA graduates work in the marketing industry. As a marketing manager, you could be working for an agency that handles multiple accounts, or you might be working for a company’s internal marketing team. You’ll possibly lead a small team and manage vendors for various marketing projects on different platforms, such as the Internet and television.

4. Organic Chemistry

Type of Graduate Degree: PhD

What the Degree Entails: Depending on the specific program you choose; a PhD in Organic Chemistry can take approximately five years to complete. Your course load will probably include classes on various types of organic chemistry, including synthetic and physical organic chemistry. You might also take classes in quantum mechanics and kinetics.

What You Can Earn: Those with a PhD in Organic Chemistry typically start with an entry-level salary of $53,000, with mid-career salaries averaging at $99,000.

Potential Career Opportunities: Research Scientist, Senior Chemist, Research Assistant Professor, Forensic Analyst, Environmental Chemist, Food Scientist

A Day in the Life: Working as a research scientist, you’ll likely find yourself in an academic setting, such as a university. A typical day could include conducting experiments and putting together research reports based on observations and outcomes. Post-doctoral research scientists often aim to learn new research techniques, build networks with other colleagues, and prove their ability to secure funding for future research projects. Those who enjoy creative challenges and hypothesizing new ideas could enjoy a graduate program in organic chemistry

                • 3. Chemical Engineering

Type of Graduate Degree: PhD

What the Degree Entails: Pursuing a PhD in Chemical Engineering can be a challenge, but it’s one that can yield great rewards. In addition to the technical math skills and methods needed to successfully pursue a career as a chemical engineer, you’ll learn about advanced chemical engineering thermodynamics, which makes this academic experience highly specialized.

What You Can Earn: PhD graduates focused on Chemical Engineering typically start off at $62,000, with mid-career salaries averaging $105,000.

Potential Career Opportunities: Chemical Engineer, Process Engineer, Engineering Project Manager, Licensed Professional Engineer (P.E.), Engineering Manager, Nuclear Engineer, Petroleum Engineer

A Day in the Life: As an engineer, you could be working in the food industry, the medical field – even the petroleum industry. A typical day as a chemical engineer could include redesigning the chemical structure for a particular process to lessen (or even eliminate) pollution. Chemical engineers also often develop safety procedures for workers who will be operating equipment that is close to or utilizes chemicals and chemical reactions.

                  • 2. Strategy

Type of Graduate Degree: MBA

What the Degree Entails: Business schools often provide concentration options for MBA students, like marketing or finance, but they might also offer a Strategy MBA as a general choice. This versatile MBA will prepare you for the next step in your career by teaching environmental and industry analysis, market evolution and dynamics, and other important fundamentals of the business world.

What You Can Earn: Degree holders typically start off with an entry-level salary of $63,000, with mid-career salaries averaging at $117,000.

Potential Career Opportunities: Senior Product Manager, Finance Manager, Strategy Consultant, Operations Consultant, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Chief Operating Officer (COO

A Day in the Life: An MBA in Strategy is similar to other types of MBA degrees, but there are enough differences to make this MBA significant – starting with the wide range of industries graduates can access. Although marketing is a common career path for MBA grads, an MBA in Strategy can land you a career as a leader in just about any field. As a Chief Operating Officer, daily duties would include ensuring that operations throughout the company are executed efficiently by working with other department heads and directors.

                      • 1. Nurse Anesthesia

Type of Graduate Degree: Master’s

What the Degree Entails: The curriculum for a master’s degree in Nurse Anesthesia prepares registered nurses for the next step in their careers by focusing on the ins and outs of anesthesia practice. This includes a blend of both clinical and classroom instruction.

What You Can Earn: Though it’s not often cited, a Master’s in Nurse Anesthesia is one of the highest earning graduate degrees out there. Nurse Anesthetists typically start off with an entry-level salary of $93,000, with mid-career salaries averaging at $141,000.

Potential Career Opportunities: Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

A Day in the Life: Working in a surgery center or hospital, a nurse anesthetist will administer anesthesia to a patient undergoing an operation. The nurse anesthetist will also carefully monitor a patient’s vitals during the surgery. Depending upon the medical facility and type of procedure being done, a nurse anesthetist may or may not be working alongside an anesthesiologist.

Highest Paying Graduate Degrees – Conclusion

When it comes to increasing your earning potential, many prospective graduate students seek out the highest paid master’s degrees without knowing that a doctorate degree might be more suitable to their interests and increase their pay comparably.

When you calculate the high price tag of most degrees, it’s understandable that a potential salary increase might be a key component in your decision-making process. Salary is important, but it isn’t everything when it comes to your career. As long as your graduate degree leads you to a fulfilling new path that makes you happy, salary could turn out to be only part of that equation. Regardless of which graduate degree you pursue, you’ll also want to consider the financial aspects of a graduate program. At College Ave, we have private student loan options to fit your needs.


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