There is a lot of thought that goes into graduate school decisions – from deciding to attend in the first place to deciding where to apply and what major to pursue. It’s important to know that while a graduate degree can certainly open doors and provide additional opportunities, it’s not a given. Successfully completing a graduate degree doesn’t always mean you’re guaranteed to get a higher salary either. While odds of a higher income with an advanced degree are greater, keep in mind that a big part of this depends on what program you decide to pursue. That’s not saying that other graduate degree programs can’t mean higher salaries – they certainly can.
According to PayScale, the following graduate programs are typically shown to yield the highest return on investment.
Here are the five highest paying graduate school degrees:
- 5. Organic Chemistry
Type of Graduate Degree: PhD
What the Degree Entails: Depending on the specific program you choose, a PhD in Organic Chemistry can take approximately five years to complete. Your course load will likely include classes on various types of organic chemistry, including synthetic and physical organic chemistry. You might also take classes in quantum mechanics and kinetics.
What You Can Earn: Average degree holders typically start off with an entry-level salary of $83,400, with mid-career salaries averaging at $146,000.
Potential Career Opportunities: Research Scientist, Senior Chemist, Research Assistant Professor
A Day in the Life: Working as a research scientist, you’ll likely find yourself in an academic setting, such as a university. A typical day could include conducting experiments and putting together research reports based on observations and outcomes.
- 4. General & Strategic Management
Type of Graduate Degree: MBA
What the Degree Entails: As an MBA student concentrating in strategic management, you’ll take classes that will sharpen your analytical thinking and management skills. You’ll learn about organization theory and development, business plan development, strategic planning, and much more.
What You Can Earn: Average degree holders typically start off with an entry-level salary of $85,200, with mid-career salaries averaging at $146,000.
Potential Career Opportunities: Marketing Manager, Senior Vice President of Operations, Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
A Day in the Life: Many MBA-degree holders work in the marketing industry. As a marketing manager, you could be working for an agency that handles multiple accounts, or you might be working for a company’s internal marketing team. You’ll possibly lead a small team and manage vendors for various marketing projects on different platforms, such as Internet and television.
- 3. Chemical Engineering
Type of Graduate Degree: PhD
What the Degree Entails: Pursuing a PhD in Chemical Engineering can be a challenge, but one that often yields great rewards. You’ll learn about advanced chemical engineering thermodynamics, in addition to the technical math skills and methods needed to successfully pursue a career as a chemical engineer.
What You Can Earn: Average degree holders typically start off with an entry-level salary of $96,100 with mid-career salaries averaging at $146,000,
Potential Career Opportunities: Chemical Engineer, Process Engineer
A Day in the Life: As an engineer, you could be working in the food industry, the medical field, even the petroleum industry – the list goes on and on. A typical day as a chemical engineer, for example, could include redesigning the chemical structure for a particular process to lessen (or even eliminate) pollution.
- 2. Strategy
Type of Graduate Degree: MBA
What the Degree Entails: Business schools often provide concentration choices for MBA degrees, such as marketing or finance, but also normally offer a Strategy MBA as a general choice. This versatile MBA will prepare you for the next step in your career by teaching environmental and industry analysis, market evolution and dynamics, and other important fundamentals of the business world.
What You Can Earn: Average degree holders typically start off with an entry-level salary of $96,200 with mid-career salaries averaging at $149,000.
Potential Career Opportunities: Senior Product Manager, Chief Operating Officer (COO), Finance Manager
A Day in the Life: An MBA in Strategy is similar to other types of available MBA degrees, but does offer enough differences, as it may provide for a wider range of opportunities. Although marketing is a common career path, an MBA in Strategy can land you a career as a leader in just about any type of industry. As a Chief Operating Officer, daily duties would include ensuring that operations throughout the company are executed efficiently by working with other department heads and directors.
- 1. Nurse Anesthesia
Type of Graduate Degree: Master’s
What the Degree Entails: Curriculum for a master’s degree in Nurse Anesthesia will prepare registered nurses for the next step in their careers by learning the ins and outs of anesthesia practice. This includes both a blend of clinical and classroom instruction.
What You Can Earn: Average degree holders typically start off with an entry-level salary of $140,000 with mid-career salaries averaging at $156,000.
Potential Career Opportunities: Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
A Day in the Life: Working in a surgery center or hospital, a nurse anesthetist will administer anesthesia to a patient undergoing an operation. The nurse anesthetist will also carefully monitor a patient’s vitals during the surgery. A nurse anesthetist may or may not be working alongside an anesthesiologist, and may depend on the medical facility and type of procedure being done.
There are so many possibilities that graduate degrees can lead to when it comes to a high earning potential. For many degree-seekers, this is the main objective of pursuing a graduate degree, especially when you calculate the high price tag of the degree itself. Although it’s perfectly understandable to want to get a good return on your investment, also remember that salary isn’t everything when it comes to career contentment. As long as your graduate degree leads you to a fulfilling new career that makes you happy, salary may only be a part of the equation.