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Want to Make Bank? Avoid These 5 Graduate Degrees

Grad school can make or break your career. Choose the right advanced degree, and you can skyrocket to success; choose the wrong one, and you'll rack up debt, but see little payoff. Recently, PayScale helped Fortune crunch some numbers to determine the best and worst graduate degrees out there, with potential income being the most critical factor. While there's obviously more to consider than just cost, it's important to keep in mind how much debt you're getting into – and therefore how much you'll have to make to pay it back – as average tuition for a graduate degree runs $36,000 to $63,000 a year.

Grad school can make or break your career. Choose the right advanced degree, and you can skyrocket to success; choose the wrong one, and you’ll rack up debt, but see little payoff. Recently, PayScale helped Fortune crunch some numbers to determine the best and worst graduate degrees out there, with potential income being the most critical factor. While there’s obviously more to consider than just cost, it’s important to keep in mind how much debt you’re getting into – and therefore how much you’ll have to make to pay it back – as average tuition for a graduate degree runs $36,000 to $63,000 a year.

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(Photo Credit: www.audio-luci-store.it/Flickr)

Here are the five best graduate degrees, based on long-term outlook for job growth, median salaries, and job satisfaction scores:

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1. PhD, Statistics

  • Median Salary: $131,700
  • Projected Growth in Jobs by 2022: 23.7 percent
  • Highly Satisfied: 71 percent
  • Low Stress: 67 percent

2. Master’s, Biostatistics

  • Median Salary: $113,400
  • Projected Growth in Jobs by 2022: 21.3 percent
  • Highly Satisfied: 86 percent
  • Low Stress: 48 percent

3. PhD, Computer Science

  • Median Salary: $144,800
  • Projected Growth in Jobs by 2022: 17.1 percent
  • Highly Satisfied: 80 percent
  • Low Stress: 45 percent

4. Master’s, Human Computer Interaction

  • Median Salary: $115,200
  • Projected Growth in Jobs by 2022: 17.1 percent
  • Highly Satisfied: 72 percent
  • Low Stress: 72 percent

5. PhD, Physics

  • Median Salary: $132,400
  • Projected Growth in Jobs by 2022: 15.6 percent
  • Highly Satisfied: 78 percent
  • Low Stress: 58 percent

If you’re looking to avoid degrees which you may never use – or may never help you earn a decent income – here are the worst five grad degrees according to Fortune and PayScale:

1. Master’s, Interior Design

  • Median Salary: $69,400
  • Projected Growth in Jobs by 2022: 6.0 percent
  • Highly Satisfied: 68 percent
  • Low Stress: 14 percent

2. Master’s, Educational Administration

  • Median Salary: $77,100
  • Projected Growth in Jobs by 2022: 5.6 percent
  • Highly Satisfied: 82 percent
  • Low Stress: 22 percent

3. Master’s, Early Childhood Education

  • Median Salary: $48,100
  • Projected Growth in Jobs by 2022: 7.8 percent
  • Highly Satisfied: 80 percent
  • Low Stress: 31 percent

4. Master’s, Criminal Justice

  • Median Salary: $60,500
  • Projected Growth in Jobs by 2022: 8.3 percent
  • Highly Satisfied: 64 percent
  • Low Stress: 32 percent

5. Master’s, Reading & Literacy

  • Median Salary: $52,300
  • Projected Growth in Jobs by 2022: 9.4 percent
  • Highly Satisfied: 82 percent
  • Low Stress: 26 percent

Overall, the best degrees tend to be in STEM.

“The top of the list has consistently been dominated by STEM degrees, especially statistics and computer science in the last five years,” said Katie Bardaro, director of analytics and lead economist at PayScale.

At the other end of the scale, the “worst” graduate degrees are in the arts and education, leading to careers that bring in as little as $48,100 in mid-career, according to PayScale data.

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