Earning a graduate degree is a great investment in your future, if you choose wisely. Some degrees pay you back, but others don't do much to increase your earning potential. Subject matters, so in order to plan your financial future, use PayScale's 2015-2016 College Salary Report to rank how different majors for graduate degrees compare based on alumni salaries. This list includes MBA focuses, non-MBA masters' degree majors, bachelors' degree majors and associate degree majors.
Majors With The Highest Earning Potential
If the highest earning graduate degree looks familiar, you've probably seen our list of bachelor's degree majors ranked by salary potential. Petroleum engineering is the subject that tops both lists, though it's interesting to note that a master's degree in petroleum engineering earns a median mid-career salary of $173,000, a mere $5,000 more than a bachelor's degree in the same subject. No matter what degree level you obtain in petroleum engineering, you'll probably have an easy time finding a high-paying job. It just depends on how much time you want to spend in school.
A master's degree in nurse anesthesia leads to the second-highest mid-career median salary on our list ($159,000) and the highest early career salary ($139,000). Nurse anesthetists earn high salaries because they provide critical services to hospitals at lower costs than doctors performing the same duties.
The highest-earning MBA emphasis (and third-highest overall graduate degree alumni salary) is strategy, with a median mid-career salary of $148,000.
How Do Law Degrees Rank?
If you want to study law, your salary potential will vary wildly depending on where you attend law school, but JD alumni report a median mid-career salary of $139,300, making a juris doctor the tenth most lucrative graduate degree on PayScale's list.
Some Graduate Degrees Pay Off More Than Others
Finally, the lowest salaries of grad school alumni belong to workers who hold non-MBA masters's degrees in education and human service majors. Masters' degrees in early childhood education, human services, counselor psychology, divinity, community counseling and mental health counseling all have median mid-career salaries below $53,000.