by Brandon Reiter
Higher education is very expensive in the United States. Therefore if you are debating whether it’s worth your time and money to further your education with a Master’s degree, being aware of which degrees often lead to the highest paying jobs is crucial in order to make your decision. While each school and program will have huge price discrepancies, determining whether or not the cost and time is worth it depends on a variety of factors.
For instance, I am currently in the process of acquiring my Master’s in Accounting (MSA) from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (Go Heels!), and it wasn’t just the cost of the program that led me to it, but also the length of the program, the prestige of the university, and the flexibility of class scheduling, among others. I could have chosen to pursue an MBA, but an MBA takes twice as long to complete and is typically more expensive, so I concluded that an MSA would be more ideal for my life, time, and career.
When it comes to time, finding schools that will waive test scores and certain classes for you should be another huge consideration. I was quite dismayed when my own alma mater, Syracuse University would not waive a single class for me, let alone offer any scholarship money for their program that cost 3x more than UNC’s and is not ranked on ANY list (UNC’s online accounting is consistently ranked in the top 5). Not only did UNC waive two classes for me, but they gave me a small fellowship grant. Although miniscule, the grant money showed me that they were interested in me and my potential, more so than my alma mater at least.
“You know I took these classes here, right?” I said to the dismissive Syracuse admissions officer.
Anyway, enough about me! If you feel stuck in your current career, and are considering pursuing a master’s degree, lets take a look at some important facts.
Projected 2022 Starting Salaries by Master’s Degree Field of Study
- Engineering – $85,096
- Computer Science – $82,384
- Math & Science – $78,937
- Business – $71,021
While starting salary is an important stat, it doesn’t tell you the full story. Typically, engineers are paid the highest out of the gate, but it doesn’t have the highest career earning ceiling. You may get a higher salary to start as an engineer but if we take a look at mid-career earnings they paint a different picture.
Top Master’s Degree (by Median Mid-Career* Salary)
- Finance – $125,208
- Biomedical Engineering – $117,243
- Computer Science – $115,730
- Information Systems – $110,678
- Statistics – $106,402
- Physician Assistant – $100,108
- Civil Engineering – $94,396
- Nursing – $94,269
*Mid-Level career is approximately 10 years into one’s career. This data is using 2019 statistics.
While business ranked 4th in terms of starting salary, it yields the highest median mid-career salary, followed by a very niche engineering degree, and then Computer and Information Systems not far behind.
Of course, in order to earn a salary there has to be a job available for you in the first place, so something to consider is which degrees are currently in high demand.
Top Master’s Degree (by Demand)
- Computer Science
- Human Resources
- Mechanical Engineering
- Software Engineering
While there are plenty of other factors that go into making a selection, from these numbers we can conclude that since both MBA/Business/Finance and Computer Science degrees are at the top of all three lists, they are the most valuable. Because there are so many different types of engineering degrees, it’s hard to just blanketly say that all engineering degrees are great, I mean they are but each one is very different. For example, Mechanical and Software engineering are in the highest demand right now, but Civil Engineering has had better mid-career salaries.
You should absolutely NOT pursue a Master’s Degree just because you think it will make you the most money. Going back to school takes up a lot of time, and if you are not interested in the subject or can see a future job you would enjoy after graduating I would implore you to reconsider your thought process. This list is intended to simply point out some variables that can help you decipher what you can possibly earn after earning a certain degree.
Nonetheless, I present to you…
Skyview CFO’s Top 3 Master’s Degrees of 2022:
- Computer Science – There’s no doubt, if you’re able to understand computer, you’ll be a valuable asset so long as the internet is and it doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon. As technology continues to grow, being credentialed in the science of computers will lead to plenty of job opportunities with very high earning opportunities.
- MBA – Finance – If you’re looking to make money, studying it is a good start. While starting salaries may not be as high as engineering or computer science, Finance graduates have the highest pay ceilings on average. So long as there’s a market, companies are created, merged and the likes, finance careers will have tremendous opportunity. Most MBA programs allow you to focus on one specific business area (marketing, supply chain, finance, accounting, etc.) of those specializations, Finance will yield the most opportunities, although an MBA in any subject does not hurt to have.
- Software Engineering – I didn’t want to just say “Engineering”. Truth is any engineering degree is a valuable asset, regardless if you even wind up being an actual engineer. Hiring managers tend to like the way engineers problem solve, and all I know is while I was sleeping through my business classes, my engineering friends were in the library all the time. Software engineering, specifically, creates the highest potential at this point in time, again because the world is getting more and more digital and the demand for Software engineers continues to climb year over year.
Sources: Statista.com, NACE Winter 2022