A master’s degree is among the most prestigious educational degrees available in the U.S. and can lead to a well-paying career in many industries. Some of the highest-paying master’s degrees are in psychology and computer science, but political scientists, physician assistants, and nurses rank highly, too. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly earnings for a professional with a master’s degree is $1,661, but this can vary depending on your field of study. That’s why we’ve made this list of the top 10 master’s degrees according to pay.

Our Ranking Criteria

To create our list, we relied on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to find the highest-paying occupations that typically require a master’s degree for entry-level positions. We then did additional research to find the best schools to obtain each degree.

After you’ve received a bachelor’s degree, earning a master’s can take one and a half to three years of additional study, so it isn’t a decision to take lightly. We’ve also included tuition costs and job outlook data so that you can make the most informed decision about your career path.

The Highest-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a Master’s Degree

1. Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

Median Salary: $139,280

What They Do: Industrial-organizational psychologists apply the principles of psychology to workplace issues, such as training employees, resolving conflicts, and maintaining a proper work-life balance. They may research these topics at a university or think tank or work for employers to help solve specific problems directly. Their responsibilities often include observing employees’ behavior, conducting surveys and studies, and developing reports and presentations to share their findings with executives and other decision-makers.

How to Become One: The best degree for advancing in this field is a master’s in industrial-organizational psychology. There are also many master’s in psychology programs that offer a concentration option for industrial-organizational psychology. In addition to general psychological principles, these degree programs cover talent development, change management, and industrial relations.

  • Projected Job Growth, 2022-2032: 6%
  • Highest-Paying States: California, Ohio, Oregon, Massachusetts, Missouri

Top Academic Programs for Industrial-Organizational Psychologists:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
University of Maryland Resident: $828 per credit, Nonresident: $1,805 per credit 30
University of West Florida Florida resident: $377.60 per credit, Alabama resident: $482.60 per credit, Nonresident: $1,037.24 per credit 42
Baruch College Resident: $470 per credit, Nonresident: $855 per credit 36

2. Computer/Information Research Scientist

Median Salary: $136,620

What They Do: Computer and information science is a high-paying field, and research scientists within that industry can expect to work on new technologies such as robotics or machine learning. Responsibilities may include developing new software or programming languages, running experiments, and writing academic papers about the results. This career path is best for people who work well on teams, love to solve problems, and want to work in a research capacity in fields such as biomedicine or business.

How to Become One: A master’s degree is the typical level of education for workers in this field. To get into one of these master’s programs, you’ll first need to earn a bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject, such as computer science or information technology.

  • Projected Job Growth, 2022-2032: 23%
  • Highest-Paying States: California, Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, Massachusetts

Top Academic Programs for Computer and Information Research Scientists:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Stanford University $58,746 per year 45
Maryville University $800 per credit 36
Northeastern University $55,200 per year 32

3. Political Scientist

Median Salary: $128,020

What They Do: According to the BLS, around 6,200 political scientists are working in the U.S., 61% of whom work for the federal government. Their responsibilities include research and analysis, which may focus on current events, foreign relations, and other aspects of law and government. Political scientists may track public opinion and economic trends, study voting patterns, and more. Their research helps to shape policy decisions by government agencies, labor unions, private businesses, and other organizations.

How to Become One: Political scientists typically have a Master of Public Policy (MPP), Master of Public Administration (MPA), or similar degree. It’s common for new entrants to the field to gain experience through internships or volunteer positions as they work to complete their college education.

  • Projected Job Growth, 2022-2032: 7%
  • Highest-Paying States: District of Columbia, Virginia, California, New York, Washington

Top Academic Programs for Political Scientists:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Columbia University $33,932 per semester 30
Massachusetts Institute of Technology $29,875 per semester 66
Illinois State University Resident: $422.57 per credit, Nonresident: $877.72 per credit 32

4. Physician Assistant

Median Salary: $126,010

What They Do: Physician Assistants (PAs) do nearly everything a licensed physician can do, except they work under the supervision of a physician. In a hospital setting, they may work as part of a small team, performing examinations, providing vaccinations, and preparing patients for surgery. In rural areas with limited healthcare providers, physician assistants may be the primary point of contact for patients and their families. Other tasks may include treating broken bones and prescribing medications.

How to Become One: Before pursuing a career as a physician assistant, it’s essential to research the licensing requirements in your state. You’ll likely need to complete a two-year master’s degree program and undergraduate studies in a relevant subject. Unlike doctors, PAs don’t have to obtain an M.D. or complete a residency program. This means you’ll have a shorter, less stressful career path, but you’ll also earn less than a medical doctor — $126,010 per year on average, compared to $229,300.

  • Projected Job Growth, 2022-2032: 27%
  • Highest-Paying States: Washington, California, Alaska, Connecticut, Nevada

Top Academic Programs for Physician Assistants:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Stanford University $19,582 per quarter 182
Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science $46,799 per year 92
Pacific University Year 1: $53,556, Year 2: $53,161, Year 3: $16,661 131

5. Advanced Practice Registered Nurse

Median Salary: $125,900

What They Do: There are three types of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs): nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and nurse anesthetists. Nurse practitioners are the most common type of APRN — their typical job duties include the same responsibilities as registered nurses (assessing conditions, treating injuries and illnesses, educating patients, etc.) as well as more advanced medical tasks, such as ordering tests, analyzing test results, and prescribing medication. Nurse midwives deliver babies and other maternity care services, while nurse anesthetists specialize in administering anesthesia and pain management services.

How to Become One: You will need a graduate degree in nursing to find work as an APRN. Depending on your location and specialty, you may also need to get certified by an organization such as the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board, American Midwifery Certification Board, or National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists.

  • Projected Job Growth, 2022-2032: 38%
  • Highest-Paying States: California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, Nevada

Top Academic Programs for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
University of Maryland Resident: $873 per credit, Nonresident: $1,549 per credit 69 – 71
Duke University $14,525 per semester 42 – 49
Georgetown University $42,444 per year 44

6. Economist

Median Salary: $113,940

What They Do: Over a quarter of economists work in the federal government, while others work in consulting, R&D, state government, and local government. Economists may focus on a specific area of expertise, such as healthcare, education, taxes, or employment. A big part of an economist’s job is to make predictions using data analysis software, and other tasks include writing reports, delivering presentations, and consulting with business clients. Economists need to be familiar with everything from statistical models to historical trends.

How to Become One: Most positions in this field require applicants to have a master’s in economics or a related subject area. However, for some opportunities (particularly government jobs), you may only need a bachelor’s degree.

  • Projected Job Growth, 2022-2032: 6%
  • Highest-Paying States: District of Columbia, New York, Illinois, California, Massachusetts

Top Academic Programs for Economists:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Duke University $35,723.25 per semester 30
American University $1,922 per credit 30
Columbia University $41,914 per semester 31

7. Mathematician

Median Salary: $112,110

What They Do: A master’s in mathematics can prepare you for a job in government, where you’ll work on policy proposals based on surveys and statistics, or in academia, where you’ll work on more abstract theories. There are also opportunities available in the healthcare industry, where biostatisticians assess the results of medical studies, as well as in business, engineering, and research and development.

How to Become One: Since career outcomes can vary widely in this field, it’s essential to know what kind of mathematician you want to be. Mathematicians who work in government may only need a bachelor’s, but many other roles typically require a graduate degree. You can start by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in mathematics or economics, with courses in statistics or computer science to round out your education. Then, you can apply for an appropriate master’s degree based on your long-term career goals.

  • Projected Job Growth, 2022-2032: 2%
  • Highest-Paying States: Washington, New York, California, Virginia, Maryland

Top Academic Programs for Mathematicians:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Wright State University Resident: $680 per credit, Nonresident: $1,145 per credit 30
Ball State University Resident: $8,118 per semester, Nonresident: $22,194 per semester 30 – 31
University of Pittsburgh $1,038 per credit 30

8. Education Administrator (Kindergarten through Secondary)

Median Salary: $101,320

What They Do: Education administrators at the kindergarten through secondary (high school) level must be able to handle various tasks, from managing a school’s budget and academic calendar to recruiting new students and hiring teachers. They may also be responsible for public relations and enforcing school policies.

How to Become One: Most school administrators start their careers as teachers, which means you’ll need to earn a bachelor’s degree in the subject you plan to teach and gain real-world teaching experience. If you’re interested in a job in education administration, you can obtain a master’s in educational leadership or another relevant graduate degree to advance your career.

  • Projected Job Growth, 2022-2032: 1%
  • Highest-Paying States: New York, Washington, Connecticut, New Jersey, California

Top Academic Programs for Education Administrators (Kindergarten through Secondary):

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
University of Texas Permian Basin $11,729.70 per year 30
George Washington University $950 per credit 30
McKendree University $32,660 per year 32

9. Statistician

Median Salary: $98,920

What They Do: Statisticians collect, organize, and interpret data. Their work may involve conducting surveys and studies, developing statistical models, and creating charts and other visualizations to help share their findings. Just about every organization needs data analysis, so statisticians can find employment in a wide range of industries and workplace settings.

How to Become One: Most entry-level jobs for this occupation require applicants to have a master’s in statistics, mathematics, or a related field. Even if you can find work as a statistician with just a bachelor’s degree, you’ll likely need a master’s to move up into management positions.

  • Projected Job Growth, 2022-2032: 32%
  • Highest-Paying States: New York, California, Wyoming, Connecticut, Maryland

Top Academic Programs for Statisticians:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
Stanford University $18,829 per quarter 45
University of California, Berkeley Resident: $22,566.75 per semester, Nonresident: $30,351.25 per semester 24
University of Michigan Resident: $1,862 per credit, Nonresident: $3,391 per credit 30

10. Sociologist

Median Salary: $98,590

What They Do: Sociologists study the effects of social influences, how people behave in group settings, and how societies change over time. They collect information through observation, surveys, and interviews, analyze this information to generate insights and prepare presentations and reports to share their insights with others. Many sociologists specialize in a particular aspect of society, such as healthcare, education, or crime.

How to Become One: You’ll likely need at least a master’s degree to find work as a sociologist. If you want to start your career immediately after earning your master’s, look for applied, clinical, or professional programs rather than academic programs designed for those pursuing a Ph.D.

  • Projected Job Growth, 2022-2032: 5%
  • Highest-Paying States: Massachusetts, Illinois, California, North Carolina, New York

Top Academic Programs for Sociologists:

School Tuition # Credits to Graduate
University of Central Florida Resident: $369.65 per credit, Nonresident: $1,194.05 per credit 30
University of Alabama at Birmingham Resident: $468 per credit, Nonresident: $1,142 per credit 30
Northern Arizona University Resident: $11,846 per year, Nonresident: $29,338 per year 30

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a master’s degree?

A master’s degree is a postsecondary degree typically pursued after completing an undergraduate degree. Most master’s degrees take one and a half to three years to complete, making it less of a commitment than obtaining a doctorate. Some industries require a master’s degree to get a job, while in others, it’s optional but may still boost your employability or earning potential.

Who should pursue a master’s degree?

Before pursuing a master’s degree, you should find out whether it will be worth the expense and necessary for your career. Some students begin their master’s immediately after a bachelor’s degree as part of a long-term career plan, while others may pursue it later in life to increase their earning potential or shift careers.

What master’s degree pays the most?

The highest-paying career on our list is industrial-organizational psychologist, with a median annual pay of $139,280. If this career isn’t right for you, then computer science ($136,620) or political science ($128,020) may also be worth considering. Remember that annual salaries can vary from state to state, even with the same credentials.

How much does a master’s degree cost?

The cost of a master’s degree depends on which program you enroll in and which school you attend. For example, you can earn a master’s in sociology at the University of Central Florida for just $369.65 per credit, while earning a master’s in economics at American University will cost you $1,922 per credit.

Interested in a degree instead?

Learn more about online degrees, their start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.