Back To Career News

Thinking About Grad School? These 5 Degrees Will Make You the Most Money

There are many reasons to pursue higher education at any level, and money is only one of them. However, let’s be real: most people do not come from money, and can’t finance their education with savings. If you’re going to go back to school, especially once you’ve obtained a bachelor’s degree, you need to know that you’re going to come out the other side with a degree that will allow you pay off your loans.
best graduate degrees
Image Credit: Aleera/Flickr

Graduate school is tricky in this way, because a lot of what we think we know about it is based on myth. For example, you can’t “do anything with a law degree,” especially not just any law degree from any school. Ditto getting an MBA — while studying business might well set you up for a high-powered career, simply having the piece of paper isn’t enough to launch you into greatness. On the other hand, for many occupations, a graduate degree isn’t a “nice-to-have,” but a requirement for moving forward.

For these reasons, it pays to do your research before commit to continuing your education after a bachelor’s. PayScale’s latest edition of the College Salary Report helps by providing a section that focuses solely on the graduate degrees that earn recipients the most money. Pursue one of these, and you’ll be in a much better spot than most when it comes to earning:

  1. Nurse Anesthesia

Degree Level: Master’s

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Early Career Median Pay: $140,000

Mid-Career Median Pay: $156,000

Percent High Job Meaning: 82%

Registered Nurses make good money — over $58,000 a year, median — but their pay levels off pretty early in their career, unless they go back to school. Nurse Anesthesia, the top-earning degree on our list, offers high job meaning as well as mid-career median pay of $156,000.

  1. Strategy

Degree Level: MBA

Early Career Median Pay: $96,200

Mid-Career Median Pay: $149,000

Percent High Job Meaning: 47%

There are lots of different MBA concentrations to choose from, but an MBA in Strategy might well boost your earning power the most, according to PayScale data. Pay also climbs sharply over the course of degree-holders’ careers, from $96,200 median pay early on to $149,000 by mid-career.

  1. (tie) Chemical Engineering

Degree Level: PhD

Early Career Median Pay: $96,100

Mid-Career Median Pay: $146,000

Percent High Job Meaning: 64%

You might be able to start your career as a Chemical Engineer with a bachelor’s degree, but a PhD will put you in line for the serious cash — $146,000 median mid-career pay.

  1. (tie) General & Strategic Management

Degree Level: MBA

Early Career Median Pay: $85,200

Mid-Career Median Pay: $146,000

Percent High Job Meaning: 53%

Management is both an art and a science, and those who have the skills and knowledge to inspire large teams are few and far between. An MBA in General & Strategic Management can help you become one of them, and make bank in the process.

  1. (tie) Organic Chemistry

Degree Level: PhD

Early Career Median Pay: $83,400

Mid-Career Median Pay: $146,000

Percent High Job Meaning: N/A

Want to become a Research Scientist or a Chemist? This degree will help get you on your way. Salary generally increases quite a bit for these degree holders, reaching $146,000 median annual pay by mid-career.

For more high-earning graduate degrees, as well as the schools and majors that pay you back, see PayScale’s College Salary Report.

Tell Us What You Think

Did your graduate degree boost your salary? We want to hear from you. Join the conversation on Twitter or leave a comment.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
Read more from Jen

What Am I Worth?

What your skills are worth in the job market is constantly changing.