10 Best Graduate Degrees by Salary

Going back to school for an advanced degree, like a master's, doctorate, or MBA can increase your earning potential big-time, but only if you choose the right degree and major combination. These are the best graduate degrees by earning potential according to PayScale's salary database.



Nurse Anesthesia

1. Nurse Anesthesia

Degree Level: Master's
Early Career Median Pay: $140,000
Mid-Career Median Pay: $156,000
Percent High Job Meaning: 82%

Nursing is a great career, but a typical RN will reach their maximum salary potential pretty quickly. However, if you go on to earn a master's degree in Nurse Anesthesia, you can raise that salary cap quite a bit. Nurse Anesthetists perform many of the same functions as a full-fledged Anesthesiologist, but with far less schooling. They also earn a great salary — the median mid-career salary is $156,000.

Strategy

2. Strategy

Degree Level: MBA
Early Career Median Pay: $96,200
Mid-Career Median Pay: $149,000
Percent High Job Meaning: 47%

Earn a master’s in business administration focused on Strategy and you’ll be equipped to help make decisions that guide the fate of entire companies. And if you are making the decisions that make or break a company’s future, you’re likely to earn a pretty penny. The typical salary for MBA grads who studied Strategy is $149,000.

Chemical Engineering

3. (tie) Chemical Engineering

Degree Level: PhD
Early Career Median Pay: $96,100
Mid-Career Median Pay: $146,000
Percent High Job Meaning: 64%

As corporations work to develop all kinds of new materials, they need more workers with the expertise and technical skills that a doctorate in Chemical Engineering can give you. That’s why workers who earn a PhD in Chemical Engineering tie for third on our list of the highest paying graduate degrees, reporting a median mid-career salary of $146,000.

General & Strategic Management

3. (tie) General & Strategic Management

Degree Level: MBA
Early Career Median Pay: $85,200
Mid-Career Median Pay: $146,000
Percent High Job Meaning: 53%

Knowing how to effectively manage people is a valuable skill. Workers with MBAs in General and Strategic Management have the knowledge, and usually the experience, to manage huge teams and make decisions about how entire companies should handle their workforces. That means they are valuable to employers, and their salaries ($146,000) reflect that value.

Organic Chemistry

3. (tie) Organic Chemistry

Degree Level: PhD
Early Career Median Pay: $83,400
Mid-Career Median Pay: $146,000
Percent High Job Meaning: N/A

Chemists and Research Scientists with a PhD in Organic Chemistry may see their salaries grow significantly over the course of their career; while early-career median pay is somewhat low for this list at $83,400 annually, mid-career median pay tops $146,000 a year.

Computer Science

6. Computer Science

Degree Level: PhD
Early Career Median Pay: $118,000
Mid-Career Median Pay: $145,000
Percent High Job Meaning: 63%

You don't have to earn a PhD in order to get a job as a highly paid Software Engineer. But if you do dedicate the time and effort it takes to get a doctorate, you can expect a median annual salary of $145,000 by mid-career.

Electrical Engineering

7. Electrical Engineering (EE)

Degree Level: PhD
Early Career Median Pay: $103,000
Mid-Career Median Pay: $144,000
Percent High Job Meaning: 68%

Electrical Engineering graduates do well at all levels of education, from associates degree recipients on up, but if you want to make your mark as a Senior Electrical Engineer, Research Scientist, or similar, a PhD will boost your career ... and your salary. Median pay at mid-career is $144,000 annually.

Pharmacology

8. Pharmacology

Degree Level: PhD
Early Career Median Pay: $75,400
Mid-Career Median Pay: $141,000
Percent High Job Meaning: 87%

Pharmacology PhDs have the highest job meaning on our list, and a pretty impressive salary to boot. By mid-career, median pay is $141,000.

Entrepreneurship

9. Entrepreneurship

Degree Level: MBA
Early Career Median Pay: $70,300
Mid-Career Median Pay: $139,000
Percent High Job Meaning: 49%

You certainly don't need any level of degree in Entrepreneurship to start your own business, and getting one isn't necessarily a guarantee that you'll succeed in that path ... or even want to. Many respondents to PayScale's survey who have an MBA in Entrepreneurship opt for roles in existing companies, becoming Product Managers, Business Development Directors, and more.

Corporate Finance

10. (tie) Corporate Finance

Degree Level: MBA
Early Career Median Pay: $78,100
Mid-Career Median Pay: $138,000
Percent High Job Meaning: 35%

You certainly don't need any level of degree in Entrepreneurship to start your own business, and getting one isn't necessarily a guarantee that you'll succeed in that path ... or even want to. Many respondents to PayScale's survey who have an MBA in Entrepreneurship opt for roles in existing companies, becoming Product Managers, Business Development Directors, and more.

Physical Chemistry

10. (tie) Physical Chemistry

Degree Level: PhD
Early Career Median Pay: $73,600
Mid-Career Median Pay: $138,000
Percent High Job Meaning: 56%

Whether you forge your career in private industry or academia, a PhD in Physical Chemistry can pay off, especially over time: mid-career median pay is $138,000.



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