8 Master's Degrees That Can Earn You Over $150k Per Year
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8 Master's Degrees That Can Earn You Over $150k Per Year

As tuition prices for graduate degrees continue to skyrocket, it is increasingly important for students to know the return on investment for their education. In this regard, not all master's degrees are created equal. In the roundup below, we highlight eight master's degrees that can lead to careers with annual salaries over $150,000. This list was created using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

It is important to bear in mind that these BLS figures reflect mid-career salaries, or salaries in the 75th percentile. This means graduates may need to gain some experience in the field before seeing these wages on their paystubs. That being said, when it comes to finding master's degrees that pay off in the long haul, the following eight are a great place to start.

1. Business Administration

Business Administration

Major Overview: A Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a popular choice for those already working in the field of business who are looking to advance their skills and experience. Courses provide expertise in the areas of accounting, human resources, finance, operations and marketing. What sets this degree apart from a bachelor's of business administration is the introduction to the theory and strategy of these subjects. Most students of an MBA program must complete a dissertation or final project. Common concentrations include risk management, accounting, entrepreneurship, finance, international business, human resources and information systems.

Featured Career: Chief Executive
A chief executive, often called a CEO, is responsible for ensuring an organization meets its goals by overseeing budgets, devising operational procedures and negotiating contracts. A big part of the job usually involves reporting to a board of directors or other funding agency. The specific day-to-day duties of a CEO depend on the organization he or she oversees. However, the content covered in an MBA can help executives at businesses of all types to develop the skills necessary for the job. This includes both the hard skills, such as drafting reports, and the soft skills, such as managing staff.

Career Stats:

  • Salary in the 75th Percentile: >$187,200
  • Highest-Paying States: Indiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee
  • Number of Job Openings Per Year: 4,867
  • States with the Highest Job Growth: Colorado, Utah, Washington

What do you enjoy most about your job?

"I claim to know more CEOs than any man I ever met, and that's why I can say it's fun to be at the top. Everyone and their brother wants to be president of the United States every four years. Why? Because it's fun at the top!"
-Joseph Mancuso, CEO of CEO Clubs International

2. Petroleum Engineering 

Petroleum Engineering

Major Overview: Graduate students of petroleum engineering focus on the production of subterranean reservoirs of oil, gas, steam and hot water. This is a highly technical course of study, involving physics, chemistry, mathematics, geology, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics and economics. More than 300 products are derived from petroleum, and most of them are crucial to everyday life. As a result, jobs in the field are in high demand, as businesses and governments determine where our energy will come from in the future.

Featured Career: Petroleum Engineer
How does oil and gas get extracted from the Earth's surface? That's the job of a petroleum engineer to determine. They are tasked with doing this not only economically, but also safely. This why the technical training received in their master's degree is so important.

There are many different types of petroleum engineers. For example, completions engineers determine the most efficient way to finish building a well, while drilling engineers find out the best way to drill into a well. Also, production engineers monitor a well. On the other hand, reservoir engineers study underground deposits of oil and gas. A master's degree also allows a petroleum engineer to work in research or teach at a university.

Career Stats:

  • Salary in the 75th Percentile: $185,200
  • Highest-Paying States: Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia
  • Number of Job Openings Per Year: 1,083
  • States with the Highest Job Growth: North Dakota, Colorado, Texas

What do you enjoy most about your job?

"Most world problems come down to energy availability. It's a good feeling to wake up every morning and know you are working on problems that are going to make a difference in people's lives. Oil and Gas industry has such gravity, everyone thinks big."
-Moji Karimi, Business Development Manager, Biota Technology

3. Nurse Anesthetist

Nurse Anesthetist

Major Overview: These master's degrees prepare individuals who are already registered nurses to enter anesthesia practice, which trains them to deliver anesthesia to patients of all ages. Most programs include both classroom and clinical instruction, with concentrations in obstetrical, pediatric, cardiac and neurosurgical patients. Graduates of accredited master's degree programs are eligible to take the national certification examination delivered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). This certification is required to work as a nurse anesthetist.

Featured Career: Nurse Anesthetist
Nurse anesthetists are referred to as advanced practice registered nurses. This means they are registered nurses with a master's degree that gives them specialized knowledge and skills. They work in collaboration with physicians to provide anesthesia before, during and after medical procedures, such as surgeries or emergency situations. After consulting with a patient on allergies or medical conditions, a nurse anesthetist administers either general anesthesia, which puts a patient to sleep, or local anesthesia that numbs a particular part of the body.

Career Stats:

  • Salary in the 75th Percentile: $181,860
  • Highest-Paying States: Mississippi, Idaho, Indiana
  • Number of Job Openings Per Year: 1,367
  • States with the Highest Job Growth: Florida, Utah, Virginia

What do you enjoy most about your job?

"I enjoy a profession where you can help patients get through a difficult time in their lives ... What drove me to enter the field was the desire to be able to do the very best that I personally knew possible for my patients."
-Juan Quintana, DNP, MHS, CRNA, President of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA)

4. Marketing Management

Marketing Management

Major Overview: This degree usually takes the form of a Master of Business Administration in marketing management and involves both the theory and practice of how businesses promote and sell their products. The curriculum usually covers several key areas in depth, including customer acquisition, product development, management, advertising and market research. Often, students conduct an analysis of the latest technologies that help spread the word about a brand, such as social media networking and other forms of new media. Though marketing management is itself a concentration within the field of business, further specializations on this subject include international marketing management and supply chain management.

Featured Career: Marketing Manager
Marketing managers work collaboratively with an organization's staff to devise plans for promoting its products. These plans, or campaigns, can take many forms and be communicated across several types of media, including radio, television, print and online media. Marketing managers typically conduct market research on a regular basis to determine customer preferences and market opportunities. They may use this research to develop pricing strategies, recommend adaptations to products, or improve the look and feel of a website. A master's degree in this subject provides the knowledge and skills necessary for the managerial tasks of this job, which include hiring a marketing staff and overseeing their daily duties.

Career Stats:

  • Salary in the 75th Percentile: $171,390
  • Highest-Paying States: Virginia, Texas, Pennsylvania
  • Number of Job Openings Per Year: 5,350
  • States with the Highest Job Growth: Utah, Colorado, Washington

What do you enjoy most about your job?

"Marketing is such an exciting field today because things like social media have given brands the opportunity to have dialogue with their customers as opposed to a monologue ... each day proves to hold a new way to be creative and think outside the box."
-Maggie Burke, Account Coordinator, Likeable Media

5. Biochemistry 


Major Overview: Biochemistry is the study of the physical and chemical attributes of plants and animals. The study of biochemistry at the master's degree level concentrates heavily on the latest research in the field. This prepares graduates for jobs in biotechnology, a career in teaching, or to continue on to achieve their Ph.D. in biochemistry. Studies conducted on protein structure, cell culture and the biochemical basis of human diseases are some examples of the type of research analyzed. However, this is also a hands-on curriculum, involving several lab instruments, such as transmission and scanning electron microscopes and UV-visible and infrared spectroscopy.

Featured Career: Laboratory Manager
A laboratory manager oversees staff, supplies and procedures to ensure that a lab is running smoothly and, most importantly, safely. Because of the managerial element of this position, as well as the need for understanding the latest equipment and technologies, a master's degree is typically required. Training lab technicians on equipment, purchasing supplies and processing sensitive documents are some of the specific day-to-day tasks of a lab manager. Duties vary depending on the lab being managed. For example, a government laboratory may have more emphasis on the use of specialized software.

Career Stats:

  • Salary in the 75th Percentile: $165,210
  • Highest-Paying States: Delaware, North Carolina, Pennsylvania
  • Number of Job Openings Per Year: 1,108
  • States with the Highest Job Growth: Georgia, California, Texas

What do you enjoy most about your job?

"I have always enjoyed managing an environmental chemistry lab at MIT. The 2 main reasons for this are that in an academic setting you are constantly getting exposed to new ideas and analytical techniques with every new generation of students. For me, this translates into a work environment that is never boring or repetitive. The second reason I enjoy this job is the opportunity to leave the campus lab and get out into the environment to apply our research to real-world problems in a hands on fashion. That is incredibly satisfying."
-John MacFarlane, Research Engineer / EHS Coordinator, Parsons Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

6. Architectural Engineering

Architectural Engineering

Major Overview: The study of architectural engineering focuses on the technological and scientific principles of construction and design. At the master's degree level, students learn how to design and construct a building's structural systems, mechanical systems, and lighting and electrical systems. They develop the technical knowledge and problem-solving skills necessary to help engineer buildings that meet the needs of the people who will eventually occupy them. Architectural engineering is often considered a concentration of a master's in architecture. However, further specializations, such as environmental architectural engineering, do exist.

Featured Career: Architectural and Engineering Manager
Architectural and engineering managers work collaboratively with architects, construction managers and other stakeholders to develop new products and designs. These projects may include creating lighting for a building that withstands a natural disaster or designing heating and cooling systems that will fit future energy demands. In the course of these projects, the architectural and engineering manager proposes a budget, determines staffing needs and oversees the technical accuracy of staff work. A master's degree in architectural engineering can teach both the technical know-how and managerial skills necessary for this job.

Career Stats:

  • Salary in the 75th Percentile: $162,690
  • Highest-Paying States: Texas, Idaho and Virginia
  • Number of Job Openings Per Year: 4,958
  • States with the Highest Job Growth: North Dakota, Colorado, Texas

What do you enjoy most about your job?

"As a professional in the field, I personally enjoyed the interaction amongst all the disciplines; I interact with the architect, the structural engineer, the lighting designer, the electrical engineer, the land use planner, and the owner ... my goal is to deliver a project that allows the occupants to do what they do better because I did a good job."
-Moses Ling, Associate Professor and the Undergraduate Program Officer, PennState College of Engineering

7. Computer and Information Sciences

Computer and Information Sciences

Major Overview: A master's degree in computer and information sciences prepares students to combine technical knowledge with the ability to manage staff and oversee computer systems within an organization. They learn how to design and implement computer application systems and database systems. Students also learn how to stay at the forefront of new technologies that can positively impact their organization. There are many concentrations, including the following:

  • Computer networks
  • Database management
  • Data analytics
  • Health informatics
  • IT project management
  • Security
  • Web application development

Featured Career: Computer and Information Systems Manager
Computer and information systems managers, also called information technology (IT) managers, help organizations achieve their information technology goals by designing and implementing computer systems. This includes the installation of both hardware and software, as well as verifying that a company's network is secure. These managers oversee the staffing of an IT department and report back to executives on the relative cost of upgrades and other projects. Master's degrees in computer and information sciences prepare professionals to make sound business decisions and manage staff effectively. With added work experience, a master's may also prepare an individual to go on to become a chief technical officer or chief information officer, an even higher paying position.

Career Stats:

  • Salary in the 75th Percentile: $161,520
  • Highest-Paying States: Virginia, Texas, Delaware
  • Number of Job Openings Per Year: 7900
  • States with the Highest Job Growth: Utah, Colorado, Washington

What do you enjoy most about your job?

"One of the rewarding features of being involved in computer and information systems is the building of products and services for customers (internal and external). There is a level of satisfaction at the end of a project where happy customers use the newly minted service and look at the fundamental changes."
-Ananda Bhattacharya, Software and Information Consultant

8. Finance 


Major Overview: Finance is the study of large amounts of money, usually held by a government, large organization or wealthy individual. A Master of Finance covers the basic tenets of managerial finance, corporate finance and investment analysis before diving into the complexities of portfolio management, financial management, and mergers and acquisition. As one can image, there is a heavy emphasis on mathematical subjects like linear algebra and calculus. Some courses also cover topics in the social sciences, particularly political science and government economics. Concentrations include accounting, corporate finance and investments.

Featured Career: Financial Manager
These professionals use their knowledge of finance to ensure that an organization is making sound financial decisions. They create financial reports and forecasts, analyze market trends, and bring financial recommendations to executives and board members. Data analysis is increasingly becoming an important aspect of this job, as new technologies are built for tracking and forecasting finances. A master's in finance helps keep these professionals up to speed on technological advances and, with more experience in the field, can also prepare them for a potential promotion to chief financial officer.

Career Stats:

  • Salary in the 75th Percentile: $159,230
  • Highest-Paying States: Delaware, Texas, Nebraska
  • Number of Job Openings Per Year: 14,108
  • States with the Highest Job Growth: Colorado, Arizona, Utah

These eight master's degrees can lead to careers that fit your lifestyle, professional strengths, career interests and, perhaps equally important, provide the income necessary to pay for your education.

Article Sources

Architectural Engineering, http://www.colorado.edu/engineering/academics/degree/architectural-engineering

Advertising, Promotions and Marketing Managers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/advertising-promotions-and-marketing-managers.htm

Architecture and Engineering Managers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, www.bls.gov/ooh/management/architectural-and-engineering-managers.htm

Computer and Information Systems Manager, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/computer-and-information-systems-managers.htm

Petroleum Engineer, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/petroleum-engineers.htm

Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm

Top Executives, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, www.bls.gov/ooh/management/top-executives.htm

Financial Managers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014, www.bls.gov/ooh/management/financial-managers.htm

Lab Manager: Job Description, Duties and Requirements, http://study.com/articles/Lab_Manager_Job_Description_Duties_and_Requirements.html

Master of Science in Computer Information Systems, http://www.bu.edu/met/programs/graduate/computer-information-systems/

Master of Business Administration, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master_of_Business_Administration

Master of Finance, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master_of_Finance

Master of Science in Biochemistry, http://chemistry.csulb.edu/MS-Biochemistry.html

Master of Science in Petroleum Engineering, https://gapp.usc.edu/graduate-programs/masters/petroleum-engineering/petroleum-engineering

MBA in Marketing Management, http://study.com/articles/MBA_in_Marketing_Management_Masters_Degree_Program_Overviews.html

Nurse Anesthesia MSN, http://www.nursing.pitt.edu/degree-programs/master-science-nursing-msn/msn-program-majors/nurse-anesthesia-msn