Discover high-paying graduate degree jobs.
Graduate school is a major commitment of time and money. But the return on investment can be high, as a more advanced credential may help open the door to higher-paying jobs. The following careers, listed in alphabetical order, are a few examples of where a graduate degree can lead to a job with an annual salary of more than $100,000 in the U.S.
Individuals who are fascinated by the sun, planets and stars and who want to get involved with space exploration might enjoy a career as an aerospace engineer. Though only a bachelor’s degree is necessary for an entry-level position in this field, people who wish to do research and development or who want to teach this subject at the college level typically need a graduate degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, or BLS. The median annual salary for aerospace engineers was $116,500 in 2019, according to the BLS, which predicts that jobs in this field will increase 3% between 2019 and 2029 — a growth rate slower than the 4% norm among all U.S. occupations.
When a care patient needs serious surgery and must be put under anesthesia, the doctor who ensures that the patient is safe and feels as little pain as possible is an anesthesiologist. The job of this highly trained specialist physician sometimes requires making life-or-death, split-second decisions, so good judgment is paramount. The average salary among anesthesiologists in 2019 was $261,730, and the BLS predicts that the number of jobs in this field will stay flat between 2019 and 2029.
Architectural or engineering manager
When a building is constructed or a machine is made, the person in charge of the project is often an architectural or engineering manager. Architectural managers typically need a master’s degree in architecture, and although it is possible to get an engineering management position with only an undergraduate degree, it is common for people who want to advance along that career path to seek a management-related graduate degree such as a Master of Business Administration, or MBA. According to the BLS, the median annual wage within this profession in 2019 was $144,830 and a 3% increase in jobs is projected within this field between 2019 and 2029.
An astronomer is a scientist who studies celestial bodies using telescopes and other devices. He or she might be an expert on black holes or galaxies, comets or asteroids. An astronomer’s goal is to increase understanding of the universe through compelling research. In exchange for this scholarly work, an astronomer can expect to receive a six-figure salary, according to the BLS, which reports that the median annual wage in this field was $114,590 in 2019. The BLS predicts that the number of jobs in this field will be 2% higher in 2029 than in 2019, lower than the average among all U.S. occupations.
Biochemist or biophysicist in the wholesale trade industry
Biochemists and biophysicists are scientists who research the chemical and physical aspects of living organisms. They often work in laboratories, using devices like lasers, microscopes and X-rays to investigate scientific questions. In 2019, the median annual salary among U.S. workers in this field who were employed by wholesale companies was $120,240, according to the BLS. Working in this field in independent research and development ordinarily requires a Ph.D. degree, the BLS reports.
Though becoming a CEO entails taking on an intimidating amount of responsibility, being in charge often results in perks, such as generous paychecks. The median salary among chief executives in 2019 was $184,460, and they often receive stock options and performance bonuses. However, these leadership roles will likely become more scarce in the near future. The BLS predicts the number of chief executive jobs will be 10% lower in 2029 than it was in 2019. The BLS notes that the education required to become a chief executive varies widely depending on industry — and so does the salary — but executives at big corporations frequently have MBA degrees.
Computer and information research scientist
People who are interested in inventing new technology and coming up with clever applications of existing technology may want to become a computer and information research scientist. Computer science scholars and innovators sometimes create new computing languages and often find ways to optimize how people use technology. They typically have graduate education, according to the BLS, which reports that the median salary in this field in 2019 was $122,840 and employment will likely be 15% higher in 2029 than in 2019, the BLS predicts.
Computer and information systems manager
Computer and information systems managers, sometimes called IT managers, are responsible for directing the maintenance and improvement of their organization’s technology systems. Though it is possible to work in this kind of management position with only a college degree, many organizations require these managers to have grad degrees. The median annual salary among IT managers was $146,360 in 2019, according to the most recent data from the BLS, which estimates 10% growth in the number of IT manager jobs from 2019 to 2029.
Computer hardware engineer
Though it is possible to find a job as a computer hardware engineer with only a bachelor’s degree, some employers require a master’s degree and experienced workers in this profession often choose to pursue an MBA. This kind of engineer focuses on designing computer equipment. The median U.S. salary in this field in 2019 was $117,220, according to the BLS. The BLS predicts that the number of jobs for computer hardware engineers will be 2% higher in 2029 than in 2019.
A career in dentistry is one of the top job options in the U.S., according to the U.S. News Best Jobs rankings. The first step on this career path is admission into an accredited dental school. However, dental doctoral programs tend to be highly selective. In order to practice dentistry, a person must fulfill the licensing requirements in his or her jurisdiction. U.S. dentists earned a median salary of $159,200 in 2019, per BLS data. The BLS projects 3% growth in this occupation from 2019 to 2029.
Though getting into medical school and earning a medical degree is an arduous process, it can serve as a steppingstone to a lucrative career. Physicians and surgeons were among the highest-paid professionals in the U.S. in 2019, when they had a median annual salary of at least $208,000, according to the BLS. The BLS predicts that jobs for physicians and surgeons will increase 4% between 2019 and 2029.
Economists conduct research and offer analysis on a variety of financial topics such as employment, wages and the economic impact of proposed laws or regulations. Workers in this field took home a median salary of $105,020 in 2019, according to the BLS. The number of U.S. economist jobs is expected to grow by 14% from 2019 to 2029, much more than the norm among U.S. occupations, per BLS data.
Environmental engineer for the federal government
People who care about the environment and love tinkering may enjoy a job as an environmental engineer. This type of engineer can design technologies and facilities that help protect the environment, provide guidance on pollution cleanup efforts and conduct environmental inspections. Environmental engineers who work for the federal government often receive six-figure paychecks. The median annual wage for federal environmental engineers, excluding for the postal service, was $105,410 in 2019, according to the BLS.
Family and general practitioner
One of the advantages of becoming a primary care doctor is the opportunity to forge a long-term bond with a patient and guide him or her through various health challenges ranging from minor ailments to major issues. Family and general physicians tend to have numerous regular clients. The average salary among U.S. family and general practitioners was $213,2700 in May 2019, according to the BLS. Employment for family medicine physicians will be 6% higher in 2029 than it was in 2019.
Financial managers develop strategies to help organizations meet their long-term financial goals. Examples of types of financial managers are chief financial officers, controllers and risk managers. Workers in this profession earned a median salary of $129,890 in 2019, according to the BLS, which predicts employment growth of 15% from 2019 to 2029. This job typically requires a bachelor’s degree, but many employers of financial managers prefer to hire candidates with master’s degrees.
Primary care physicians who typically work with adults are known as general internists. They can diagnose and treat illness, though they usually provide nonsurgery care. They are experts at recognizing the signs of problems with a person’s internal organs such as the stomach, kidneys, liver and digestive tract. The average salary among these types of doctors in 2019 was $201,440, the BLS reports. Employment for general internal medicine physicians is expected to be 1% lower in 2029 than in 2019.
General or operations manager
A highly organized and analytical person could thrive as a general or operations manager. This type of administrator can run nearly any type of organization and typically has tremendous authority. A general or operations manager is a key decision-maker within his or her organization and makes crucial strategic choices about how to allocate the organization’s time, money and effort. He or she often gives assignments and may be responsible for enforcing deadlines and quality standards. The median annual wage within this profession in 2019 was $100,780, according to the BLS, which predicts that employment within this field will be 6% higher in 2029 than in 2019.
A pediatrician is a doctor who specializes in treating children. He or she concentrates on addressing medical problems faced by children, including injuries and diseases. The median salary among U.S. general practice pediatricians in 2019 was $184,410, which is less than the median salary among doctors in general. According to the BLS, the number of jobs for general pediatricians will be 2% lower in 2029 than in 2019.
Industrial production manager
Manufacturing facilities have many moving parts, so they can be challenging to run. However, the industrial production managers there often receive generous paychecks, and a manufacturing career is usually lucrative. According to the BLS, the median salary within this profession in 2019 was $105,480. Employment in this field is expected to be 1% higher in 2029 than in 2019. Someone who joins this profession can expect to come up with strategies for increasing productivity and ensuring safety at manufacturing facilities.
Information security analyst at a finance or insurance company
Given the large number of serious data breaches at corporations and in governments, information security analysts play a vital role in shielding confidential information from hackers. In 2019, the median salary among information security analysts who worked in either the finance or insurance industry was $103,510, the BLS reports. Employment within this field is expected to surge. The BLS predicts that the number of jobs available to information security analysts in general will be 31% higher in 2029 than it was in 2019.
Judge, magistrate judge or magistrate
Whoever holds a gavel in a courtroom and renders legal verdicts has tremendous power and authority, which are usually accompanied by a high salary. According to the BLS, median annual wages among judges, magistrate judges and magistrates came in at $136,910 in 2019. The BLS predicts that employment within this field will be 3% higher in 2029 than in 2019.
Law professors are responsible for training the next generation of attorneys. They can show law students how to practice law in a variety of ways, such as through the Socratic method question-and-answer style of teaching or via law school clinics where they give J.D. students a chance to apply the law and see how it works. The BLS reports that the median annual salary for this line of work was $113,530 in 2019, and the bureau also notes that employment in this field is likely to be 7% higher in 2029 than in 2019.
A law degree can lead to jobs in many different fields, such as intellectual property law or real estate law. The median salary for attorneys was $122,960 in 2019, according to the most recent BLS data. This occupation’s outlook for growth is 4% from 2019 to 2029, according to the BLS.
Marine engineer or naval architect for a transportation or warehousing company
Aspiring shipbuilders may want to pursue a career as a marine engineer or naval architect. According to the BLS, the median salary among individuals who held this type of position in the transportation and warehousing sector in 2019 was $101,270. The BLS predicts that employment in this field overall will be 1% higher in 2029 than in 2019, a slower-than-average growth rate.
Business leaders who help to promote companies often earn enormous salaries. According to the BLS, the median salary among marketing managers in 2019 was $136,850. A marketing manager determines the level of demand for a particular product or service, identifies potential consumers and markets that a company can sell to and helps set the price for whatever a company is selling. Employment within this field will be 7% higher in 2029 than in 2019, the BLS projects.
Those with a graduate degree in math might research mathematical theories or work to apply mathematical techniques in fields such as engineering and management. Mathematicians brought home a median annual salary of $105,030 in 2019, according to BLS data. The BLS predicts that the number of jobs for mathematicians will increase 3% from 2019 to 2029, slightly below the norm for U.S. occupations.
Medical scientist at a pharmaceutical or medicine manufacturing company
Someone who dreams of making a scientific discovery that can save lives may enjoy a career as a medical scientist. This kind of scientist specializes in conducting research that clarifies what causes illness, what prevents sickness and which therapies work best. According to the BLS, employment within this occupation, excluding epidemiologists, will be 6% higher in 2029 than in 2019. As of 2019, the median salary among medical scientists at pharmaceutical and medical manufacturing firms was $111,630, the BLS reports.
Mining and geological engineer focusing on oil and gas extraction
Careers in the oil and natural gas sectors can lead to large paychecks. Mining and geological engineers who specialized in extracting oil or gas from the earth had a median salary of $131,850 in 2019, according to the BLS. The BLS predicts that overall employment for mining and geological engineers will be 4% higher in 2029 than in 2019.
Nurse anesthetists deliver anesthesia to patients and provide related care before, during and after medical procedures. According to the most recent data available from the BLS, nurse anesthetists earned a median salary of $174,790 in 2019. The BLS predicts the number of nurse anesthetist jobs, which require at least a master’s degree, to grow 14% from 2019 to 2029.
A nurse midwife focuses on providing primary care to women and newborns. He or she often performs gynecological exams and provides family planning assistance. Nurse midwives typically offer prenatal care and deliver babies. Their median salary in 2019 was $105,030, according to the BLS, and employment is expected to be 12% higher in 2029 than in 2019.
There are many kinds of nurses, and some do not need to have graduate degrees; nurse practitioners, however, are required to have graduate credentials. These highly trained nurses can assess, diagnose and treat patients, and they ordinarily specialize in treating a particular area such as mental health. The median annual salary for NPs was $109,820 in 2019. The BLS predicts that the number of jobs for nurse practitioners will be 52% higher in 2029 than in 2019.
An obstetrician-gynecologist, or OB-GYN, is a doctor who focuses on women’s health issues. He or she can help women by providing birth control, addressing fertility problems, performing cancer screenings of female sex organs and overseeing the pregnancy and childbirth process. The average salary for an OB-GYN in 2019 was $233,610, according to the BLS. Employment within this profession is expected to be 1% lower in 2029 than in 2019.
Operations research analyst for the federal government
People who love math can thrive in a career as an operations research analyst. An individual with this job designs analytical models that can decipher complicated data and determine the most efficient way to run an organization. Among people who held this position in the federal government in 2019, the median annual pay was $113,940. Plus, the job outlook for this profession is bright. According to the BLS, overall employment among all operation research analysts will likely be 25% higher in 2029 than in 2019.
Optometrists perform eye examinations, prescribe glasses or contact lenses and may provide vision therapy treatments. These medical professionals brought home a median salary of $115,250 in 2019, according to the most recent BLS data. The number of jobs for optometrists is projected to increase by 4% from 2019 to 2029, according to the BLS. This growth is expected to be driven partly by an aging U.S. population with an increasing number of vision problems.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeon
There are many types of dentists, and one of these is a kind of dentist who is trained to perform surgeries on the mouth, jaws, teeth, gum, neck or head. That is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. The median annual salary for this kind of surgeon is generally $208,000 or more, according to the BLS, which predicts that employment in this field will be 2% higher in 2029 than in 2019.
Dentists who specialize in aligning crooked teeth using braces and other techniques are referred to as orthodontists. The median salary among these health care providers in 2019 was $208,000 or more, according to the BLS, and employment in this occupation will likely be 2% higher in 2029 than in 2019.
Pharmacists fill prescriptions, consult with patients about their medications, provide some immunizations and more. These professionals earned a median annual salary of $128,090 in 2019, according to the most recent BLS data. The number of jobs for pharmacists is projected to decrease 3% between 2019 and 2029, according to the BLS.
Physician assistants work in teams with other medical practitioners to provide patient care. They aren’t full-fledged physicians, but graduates with these degrees can examine, diagnose and treat patients. Becoming a physician assistant requires rigorous graduate education, though not as much schooling as required for a medical career. Physician assistancy is the No. 1 occupation in the U.S. News Best Jobs rankings, and according to the BLS these workers earned a median annual salary of $112,260 in 2019. The number of physician assistant jobs is projected to grow rapidly — by 31% — from 2019 to 2029, according to the BLS.
Someone with an interest in the scientific laws that govern the universe may enjoy a career as a physicist. The science of physics often touches on complicated philosophical questions about how the universe began and why the universe looks the way it does today. Physicists may ask questions about the essence of space, time, energy or matter, and they sometimes are interested in the inner workings of atoms and subatomic particles. In 2019, the median salary for physicists was $122,850. According to the BLS, the number of jobs for physicists will likely be 7% higher in 2029 than in 2019.
When a person suffers from pain in his or her feet, ankles or lower legs, he or she can seek help from a podiatrist. These health care professionals are the experts on treating health conditions that affect the lower extremities of the human body. The median annual wage among these professionals was $126,240 in 2019, according to the BLS, and job growth within this field is expected to be flat from 2019 to 2029.
Someone who is fascinated by politics, wants to study how governments function and is concerned about government mismanagement might excel as a political scientist. These individuals often analyze government policies and practices, and they sometimes study voter behavior. The median salary among political scientists in 2019 was $122,220, the BLS reports. Employment within this field is expected to be 6% higher in 2029 than 2019, according to the BLS.
Dentists who specialize in helping individuals with missing or damaged teeth are called prosthodontists. These dentists can also replace missing gum tissue. The median salary among U.S. prosthodontists in 2019 was $208,000 or more, according to the BLS, which predicts that employment within this occupation will be 2% higher in 2029 than in 2019.
Public relations or fundraising manager
Protecting and promoting the reputation of an organization or person is hard work. Raising money for organizations is also difficult. That could explain why public relations and fundraising managers typically receive six-figure salaries. According to the BLS, the median salary among public relations and fundraising managers in 2019 was $116,180. Employment within this field is expected to be 9% higher in 2029 than in 2019.
Because of the increasing influence of technology on the way Americans work and live, there is a rising demand for individuals who are skilled at creating software. The BLS predicts that the number of jobs for software developers, along with quality assurance analysts and testers, will be 22% higher in 2029 than in 2019. Median pay for these tech experts added up to $107,510 in 2019.
Doctors who cut people open and perform operations have a highly stressful job that requires a calm, steady hand. They must be highly precise. Becoming a surgeon requires years of specialized training after medical school, and not every med school graduate is able to get into a surgery residency since it tends to be especially selective. As a result, surgeons are usually paid extremely well. According to the BLS, the average salary among U.S. surgeons in 2019 was $252,040. The BLS predicts that the number of jobs for surgeons in the U.S., excluding ophthalmologists, will be 2% lower in 2029 than in 2019.
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High-paying graduate degree careers
— Aerospace engineer
— Architectural or engineering manager
— Biochemist or biophysicist in the wholesale trade industry
— Chief executive
— Computer and information research scientist
— Computer and information systems manager
— Computer hardware engineer
— Environmental engineer for the federal government
— Family and general practitioner
— Financial manager
— General internist
— General or operations manager
— General pediatrician
— Industrial production manager
— Information security analyst at a finance or insurance company
— Judge, magistrate judge or magistrate
— Law professor
— Marine engineer or naval architect for a transportation or warehousing company
— Marketing manager
— Medical scientist at a pharmaceutical or medicine manufacturing company
— Mining and geological engineer focusing on oil and gas extraction
— Nurse anesthetist
— Nurse midwife
— Nurse practitioner
— Operations research analyst for the federal government
— Oral and maxillofacial surgeon
— Physician assistant
— Political scientist
— Public relations or fundraising manager
— Software developer
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Update 03/09/21: This slideshow has been updated to include new information.