Imagine one of these two scenarios.
You are fresh off the graduate school boat, armed with a master’s degree, then the pandemic hit. Suddenly, businesses have either downsized or have entirely closed, and you are running out of options on what to do with that master’s degree. You start thinking, “is there any chance for you to use it in a crippled economy?” Do you move laterally, use your other skills and take on a side hustle for now? The feeling of hopelessness and being stuck suddenly creeps in.
Or, you have been seriously considering pursuing graduate studies even before the pandemic hit. You are thinking of bumping your salary and expanding your skillsets by mastering a different discipline from your undergrad studies. Then COVID-19 brought the economy to a screeching halt. Your company downsized, and you were one of the unfortunate collateral damages. Reeling off the furlough, you are now on the fence whether to still pursue a master’s degree, albeit online, or to put it off for now.
Had the pandemic not happened, both situations would not exist at all. The job outlook for a newly minted master’s graduate has always been optimistic, while a master’s degree can be pursued on a part-time basis by any aspiring professional. Their company might even sponsor part of their tuition fee. A master’s or advanced degree has always been a tried-and-tested pathway for career growth and eventual success. However, the coronavirus turned both situations into a question of risk.
- Do you risk moving laterally and further away from your career goals because there are no jobs in your chosen field?
- Do you risk not doing what you are passionate about to earn a living in these trying times (this is a very legitimate and valid risk to take, given today’s global situation)?
- Do you risk spending your money just to pursue your lifelong goal to pursue an online or blended master’s degree without knowing if the job outlook will be optimistic (this risk could be mitigated with proper and ample research)?
- Do you risk spending the money you saved for grad school into, say, a small business or side gig, with the possibility of good returns instead of letting the money sleep in a bank account (because you cannot get a job anywhere else at the moment)?
These are heavy risks to weigh. If you’re in similar situations, this article provides you with an optimistic outlook into the job market, factoring in the current global situation brought by the pandemic. We list the top 20 jobs for master’s degree holders that still pay the most amid the pandemic through research and information consolidation. It serves as a guide for people debating themselves as they look for a job in their field of graduate study and wonder if pursuing graduate studies is worth their time and money.
If you can identify yourself in the first situation, it is not that dire if you think about it. You already have your master’s degree. You have to be creative and flexible in using it to re-carve a professional career in these times. You should not fret if you do not get to use it now because of limited job market opportunities. Banking off your other skillsets is still a good way to get a good return on that hefty educational investment. Besides, having a master’s degree is never a bad thing. The timing may be bad right now, but things will turn around at some point. If you do not see your dream career on this long list, it does not mean you are doomed. Just keep working to earn a living and harness those other skillsets you gained in grad school because you will never know when that long-awaited opportunity will knock on your door.
If you can identify yourself in the second situation, then this is where it all gets risky. If you were gearing up for grad school even before the pandemic, then let us assume that you had money saved for it. You got laid off. So, the question now is, do passion and career goals have a higher priority to you in these times, or is survival your priority? It is a different question when you have enough saved for both a master’s degree and emergencies such as the pandemic. Perhaps you can still pursue it without dipping too much or not at all into your emergency fund. But not everyone is that liquid, and many would rather consolidate all their savings into one emergency or rainy day fund. If you are one of these, there is nothing wrong with putting your dreams on hold for now and gearing up for unexpected situations. It is all a matter of priorities.
The hope and objective of this article are to provide light at the end of a long tunnel. This article aims to provide a factual and optimistic representation of the current labor market conditions for master’s degrees. Because as mentioned, things will turn around eventually, and even before that happens, professionals can start gearing up and polishing their credentials and marketability as they position themselves to land coveted roles, thanks to their grad school attainment. The pandemic cannot take away that those with master’s degrees are more employable than their college graduate counterparts.
In fact, before the pandemic, several entry-level jobs required a master’s degree. There are plenty of job opportunities for master’s degree holders despite the volatile economy. But first, let us dissect the unwaning leverage of a master’s degree. Also, for the sake of perspective, let us examine the job market for master’s degree holders in 2019, right before the pandemic hit, and in 2021, when the market has bounced back quite a bit thanks to the availability of vaccines.
(Statistics for 2020 will not be included in this piece because it represents the first time the pandemic peaked and placed several states on hard lockdown, as such, economic data is pessimistic, to say the least, and defeats the purpose of this article.)
The Perpetual Power of a Master’s Degree
It has not been that long when the country suffered an economic recession. Jobs were scarce, and those who had one suddenly found themselves with none. Many of them returned to school – graduate school – at that, in the belief and faith that once the recession is over (and it did end), jobs will reopen and will require more rigorous qualifications where a graduate degree will come in handy.
That was more than ten years ago. Fast forward to 2021, with an economic crisis that could stretch out for a longer time than expected. The upshot of the pandemic was that it sent businesses to the brink and sent – or forced – everyone to stay home, to continue with their routines remotely, whether that may be school, work, or even entrepreneurship.
But even before the pandemic, the job market has been gradually changing its landscape. The phenomenon of academic or degree inflation, the devaluation of a formal post-secondary degree (e.g., bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees) because of market saturation, contributes to the sudden shift of the landscape. Still, it has not always been like this.
In the 20th century, America’s economy – the giant, the multi-sector powerhouse that it is – was built on the efforts of skilled, middle-class, blue-collar workers or employees that are skilled or proficient in one group of interrelated skills and that alone. They are usually graduates of associate’s degrees, vocational courses, or high school graduates with or without a GED. Concrete examples can be found in the manufacturing and agricultural sector back then.
Then digitalization and automation came in the 21st century, and the job landscape required a new breed of workers – a hybrid employee – one that combines practical and good communication skills. A jack of all trades, master of all, or a few yet marketable and transferable skills. Suddenly, everyone’s getting their degrees, first a bachelor’s then advanced degrees, because if you want to move up in the workforce, you have to move up the academic ladder. That was the premise and requirement of hiring managers and employers at that time up until the last decade. The result is a palpable void in the skilled workers or middle-skills labor sector, known as a “skills gap.” This is why many American companies relocated their manufacturing hubs to developing countries with more available skilled workers (and not to mention, more affordable). Placing white-collar professionals to perform blue-collar jobs may be ironic and ineffective in cost and production, but it has become the norm.
So, industries and hiring managers focused on hiring employees not based on academic pedigree but skills and experience. The impact of this phenomenon is reflected in the BLS report, where the labor participation rate has been steadily declining since 2001 – the start of the internet and technology boom in industries. The irony is jobs have been consistently available by the hundred thousand, and yet companies struggle to fill these.
The problem is that most of the available jobs over the last decade required a certain level of workplace readiness which most graduates do not possess yet. Non-traditional educational pathways like short course certificates, “micro-credentials,” on-the-job training, and the like are gradually gaining traction among industries and are now being strongly considered by many employers, especially those in the IT field. An example is IBM’s New Collar Jobs initiative, which focuses on the applicant’s skills rather than a diploma.
The skills gap is not only apparent in the middle-skills sector. The leadership gap is also apparent in the upper management sector, as those who have held these positions for so long are now gradually entering retirement. Naturally, the baton will now be passed on to the next generation of leaders, who, while they are very experienced and skillful in their roles in the middle level, will need re-training to gear them for leadership and employee engagement. This is where the perpetual value of a master’s degree lies. At the very least, their theses or capstone projects have allowed them to demonstrate and polish graduate-level communication skills transferrable to the workplace. But not all master’s degrees impart the same skillsets, especially soft skills. Graduate degrees like an MBA or a Master’s in Communication, Public or Health Administration, Governance, Leadership, Education, Human Resources, Project Management or International Relations are just some examples of master’s degrees that produce well-rounded graduates with transferable skills that are ready to lead and collaborate in the workplace.
If you debate whether to pursue a master’s degree while riding out the pandemic and the economic recession, you will come across different opinions if you seek enlightening information online. Generally, the opinions are divided into two schools of thought: some will say it is no longer worth it for reasons stated above (i.e., the academic inflation, skills gap, focus on skills-based hiring); While the other school of thought is based on data that shows an upward and positive trend towards the opposite scenario. The National Student Clearinghouse tracks student enrollment in post-secondary levels for each term since the pandemic has started. For the 2020 fall term, graduate enrollment has risen by almost 4% compared to the prior year. For the 2021 spring term, graduate enrollment has continued upward, plotting a 4.4% growth from the previous academic year. In fact, for both terms, graduate enrollment has surpassed undergraduate enrollment (both bachelor’s and associate’s degrees), but only placing second overall in enrollment growth to graduate certificates which is at 10%.
This tells us that despite naysayers discouraging college graduates from pursuing advanced studies, the latter does the opposite. The growth in graduate enrollment for both fall and spring terms are good indicators that students are optimistic that once the pandemic and the recession are over, the job outlook will be optimistic. The spike in enrollment in graduate certificates is also an indicator that many are realizing the value of upskilling or retooling through micro-credentials and are using these special circumstances to increase their knowledge and experience.
As an aspiring graduate student, you are rolling the dice here, but being smart and pragmatic in choosing your program may increase your odds in the job market. Research job market trends, developments, changes, and emerging skills yearly. Look into job forecasts as well. Reading what is in demand today and what will be projected in the years to come. You have to learn to look a few years into the future and make your career projections. Will your master’s degree plus your graduate certificates still be in demand by completing your studies? The answer is vital to the decision-making process.
Read further along as we list the top 20 lucrative jobs for master’s degree holders. This list should give you a deep insight into which industries thrive despite the pandemic and which roles are in demand, leading to gainful employment. As you go through the list, choose a field of study or program that leads to a role or career path that both lines up with your passions or interest and has a positive career outlook, and most especially, one that is recession and pandemic-proof. Look into the fields of public health or business. These are just some fields that have seen a growth in graduate enrollment since the pandemic started. Another field of study that has experienced an upward trend during the pandemic is nursing. If your time permits it, enroll in a graduate certificate course as well to expand your skillsets. Check with your university if it has any partnerships with MOOC platforms or in-house stackable certificates that can count towards a degree.
An example would be the optional stackable certificates offered by the Harvard University Extension School under its Master of Liberal Arts (ALM) programs. These certificates do not count toward a master’s degree per se but allow the student to gain a second graduate certificate or credential. How is that for marketability and employability?
These micro-credentials and graduate certificates greatly increase your employability, showing that you are skillful, adaptable, and versatile. A certificate in any IT skill like data science or computer science or a transferrable skill like project management can greatly complement any graduate degree. It tells employers that you have a solid theoretical foundation while being equipped with the knowledge and skill in emerging technologies and soft skills, which is a definite advantage for you and the company or organization for which you will be working.
You have to make your degree work out for you for job seekers already armed with a master’s degree. The same advice applies to you with aspiring graduate students: research, be creative and be flexible. Research on what is in-demand and what is forecasted to be in-demand in the years to come. You want to be prepared to retool or upskill if necessary to adapt to the dynamic demands of the workplace. You have to read up job outlook reports to stay ahead and not be complacent that a master’s degree alone can take you further. It still can, but not without proof that you can perform, execute, and not just think and strategize. Look into which companies are continuously hiring amidst the pandemic. Look into their job requirements and see how you can creatively and pragmatically marry the required skills with your master’s degree and evaluate how you can improve. This is where graduate certificates may come in handy. Being armed with certifiable specific skillsets, especially in digitalization, automation, fintech, and big data, can open up more doors for you in the job market.
And once again, you have to be smart about the courses you take. Assess whether these courses will still come in handy in, say, five years. Yes, these areas of learning evolve that quickly. Assess what you need to do in upskilling to stay ahead and continually adapt and thrive in the workplace. Assess if there will be a saturation of professionals with the same skillsets as you and, therefore, will toughen the competition for lucrative roles as you move up the career ladder.
Nowadays, it is no longer enough to aim for an advanced degree like a master’s degree or for that role you think is perfect for you. You have to think ahead and be proactive in designing and defining your career plans, which, because of the pandemic, has gone through changes and detours. A master’s degree, as it has been repeatedly stated here, is always a beneficial armamentarium for any job seeker or an employee looking to move up career-wise. In a pandemic-riddled economy, a master’s degree works as insurance – it can lower your chances of being furloughed, or it can increase your chances of being re-employed. It is not without its costs and risks, but the rewards are great, fulfilling, and lucrative with proper foresight, and if smart moves are made along the way to pursue a master’s degree or a job where a master’s degree is key.
Job Outlook for Master’s Degree Holders Amidst the Pandemic
The economy is rebounding, although not steadily and consistently, but it is showing signs of hope. This is a good outlook for jobseekers, especially those with master’s degrees or thinking of getting their advanced degrees. If you time it right, you will get paid well for coming into the role with an advanced degree, but if you are thinking of pursuing a job during an economic downturn, intent on hard-selling your master’s degree, you might get the opposite result. So, as you peruse through the list, please note the job outlook, as these are forecasted to last a few years, with recessions, such as the one we have now, factored in. These parameters are good indicators of whether a job is stagnant or slowly but surely growing.
The areas that bode well for job seekers with master’s degrees or about to get one are the health or life sciences, business administration, finance, and, surprisingly, the humanities. For the IT career field, one should look out for noteworthy trends that may lead to redundancies. An example is the advent of automation; while it signifies progress in the field, it might also signify job redundancies.
The field of Humanities, on the other hand, are on the rise job-wise, albeit slow and steady, because of the growing demand for these roles in the tech field, as the latter is geared to pumping out more innovations and creations that behave like and are just as intuitive as humans. The communication skills inherent with humanities graduates like those of political science and sociology and their expertise in human group interactions make them valuable additions to any marketing, sales, research, branding, and engagement teams.
The 20 High Paying Jobs that Require a Master’s Degree
Before we start the list, let us first define what a high-paying job is.
In the U.S., different jobs in different states pay differently. So, to define a job, whether it is high or low paying, will depend on the state where the profession is being practiced. But regardless, a high-paying job pays above or equal to the living wage. While this definition is not arbitrary across all sources, it is the one that makes the most sense. A high-paying job, by definition, is a job with a salary that covers not just the necessities of food, shelter, clothing but also is enough to cover utility expenses such as power, connectivity, water and heating, extra food expenses, health care, transportation, child care (if necessary), insurance and governmental obligations such as taxes with a substantial excess that can be saved for other non-essential future expenses or retirement like a 401k. It is the opposite of living “paycheck to paycheck.”
Now that we know the meaning of a high-paying job let us define how much does a high-paying job pay?
To reiterate, a job is considered high-paying if it pays above or equal to the living wage. Living wage is defined as the minimum salary required to cover living expenses, financial obligations, non-essential expenses like travel and social dining with money left for savings. The wage varies from state to state and even county to county. The same is true for the minimum wage. On the other hand, the minimum wage is the baseline rate that also differs for every state. It is usually 100% to about 75% lower than the living wage and is enough – in theory – to cover the bare necessities like food, housing, clothing, and utilities.
So, how much is the living wage? Or better yet, how much should a high-paying job pay for one to live comfortably anywhere in the U.S.?
As mentioned, wages, whether minimum or living, are different for each state and county. In 2019 (no data exists yet for 2020 as of writing due to difficulties in information gathering because of the current pandemic), the U.S. Census reports that the median income for households is at $68,703, which means that half of the households across the country are earning below this while the other half are earning above this. Whether this amount is equivalent or higher than the living wage is difficult to estimate because each state reports different rates and costs of living, which determines if the wage is sufficient or not. To further break it down, in the same year, there are:
- There are 14 states whose median household incomes are at $75 or higher. Examples are Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maryland, New Jersey, DC, and Virginia. California, Utah, Colorado, Alaska, and Hawaii represent the west.
- There are seven states whose median household incomes are between $65K to $74,999. These are Oregon, Wyoming, Minnesota, Illinois, Delaware, Rhode Island, and New York.
- Thirteen states whose household incomes represent the 2018 median income, between $60K to $64,999. These states are in the Midwest, such as Nebraska, Kansas, Wisconsin, and North Dakota. Texas also belongs in this list, as well as Nevada and Arizona.
- There are nine states with a median household income of anywhere between $55K to $59,999. Most of these states are in the Midwest and the East Coast, like Florida, the Carolinas, Maine, and Missouri, with Montana being the only northwestern state in this category.
- The remaining eight states have a median household income of less than $55K, and these are mostly southern states such as New Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, and West Virginia.
- The top 3 states with the highest median household incomes are Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey, all having median incomes of $85K and above.
- On the other side, only three states have median household incomes below $50K. These are (from highest to lowest) Arkansas, West Virginia, and Mississippi. The median income in Mississippi is $45,792.
A determinant or powerful driver of salaries in each state is the cost of living. So, while the median salary for go-to states like New York and California are very competitive, one must remember that this number is always directly proportional to the cost of living in those states. So, what does this tell you?
Whether you are a professional who is carefully studying your next career move or a fresh college graduate debating on what graduate degree to pursue, you also need to consider the cost of living in your current location. How much does a specific job pay in the state where you currently live? Will it cover your expenses? Or do you need to move out of state to minimize your cost of going back to school and other living expenses and eventually maximize your future earnings?
This is not a new phenomenon! Studies show that a significant number of individuals have moved out of their current locations, sometimes with their family in tow, to transfer to states with more affordable costs of living. So, this is also a good point to consider as you design your future career plans.
The occupations are categorized by career field in curating the high-paying jobs for master’s degree holders. The categories provide additional insight into the lucrative career options for various fields of study. The salaries listed alongside the occupations are based on the occupation’s 2020 median pay as listed in the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook and other sources, with the national living wage for 2019 as the barometer, as reported by the U.S. Census. The occupations listed here have reported median salaries that are higher than the national median, meaning to say, the occupations listed here are not only “high-paying” but also have proven track records of sustaining the median income over a few years, thus able to provide earners and their families not just living wages but comfortable wages for years to come.
Career Field: Health and Life Sciences
Median Annual Salary: $115K
A career in nursing is very in-demand and lucrative nowadays, especially with the current pandemic. From a practical perspective, it pays as much as medical specialists do, like surgeons, anesthesiologists, or OB-GYNs. But with an advanced Nursing degree, such as what is required of Nurse practitioners, one needs only spend anywhere between 4 to 6 years of study to become an APRN or Advanced Practice Registered Nurse. Nurse practitioners work either in hospitals, whether in-patient or outpatient or in private practice, but most NPs work in private practices that are non-hospital based.
What is the difference between a Registered Nurse and a Nurse Practitioner?
For one, both are registered, nurses. Both professionals should pass the licensure examination in the state where they are practicing. One of the differences is in educational attainment. Whereas registered nurses have undergraduate degrees, which could be a diploma, an associate’s degree (which grants the title RN), or a bachelor’s degree in Nursing (in which case, the professional could have the following titles after their name – “RN, BSRN”) to denote that they are not only an associate’s degree holder but also a bachelor’s degree holder, a Nurse Practitioner has an advanced degree. The advanced degree could be a Master’s of Science in Nursing degree (MSN), followed by a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).
There is also a separate licensing exam to be a Nurse Practitioner, and this is on top of the RN license gained through the NCLEX or the National Council Licensure Examination. In terms of scope and specialty, a Nurse Practitioner has greater responsibilities and autonomy than RNs in this perspective. Under their advanced degrees, Nurse practitioners can diagnose, design treatment plans, order laboratory exams and other diagnostic, tests prescribe medication, and collaborate with other medical specialists (MDs) as they manage their patients’ overall treatment and progress. Yes, they can have their patients independent of the guidance and instruction of doctors or MDs.
RNs, on the other hand, do not have such autonomy. In this regard, NPs, especially DNPs, are similar to MDs, and like MDs, NPs can also specialize in various areas of treatment demographics. Each specialization will require different certifications.
Among the highly paid NP specializations include geriatric care, mental health, acute primary care, family care, and pediatric care. These specializations can generate an annual income of $105k and above. This infographic by medical journal repository Medscape also shows that even a newly minted NP can earn above the $105K mark annually. Gaining an MS in Nursing degree is the first step to embark on a career as a Nurse Practitioner.
Tuition fees for the MSN program academic year 2020-2021 range from approximately $15K for degrees offered by public universities to as much as $87K, which is the highest MSN tuition fee as of writing, as offered by Columbia University. While the fees are overwhelming, to say the least, in foresight, a good return on investment is on the horizon as job stability is foreseen, with a forecasted 45% job growth in the coming years. For those who earned their undergraduate degrees in a different field, many universities such as John Hopkins University and Columbia University offer an MSN direct program for those with no RN credentials yet.
Median Annual Salary: $182K
A career in Nurse Anesthesiology is also another path an MS in Nursing graduate can explore aside from being a Nurse Practitioner. A Nurse Anesthesiologist also has the title of APRN or Advanced Practice Registered Nurse and carries another title in addition to that – CRNA, or Certified Registered Nurse Anesthesiologist. Among the various APRN roles, Nurse Anesthesiologists are the highest-paid. Depending on the source material you are reading, it could be anywhere from $140K to as much as $202K a year. This is the one job that wherever state you go, you would get paid over $120K. Whether Arizona, which pays $144K annually, or Wyoming, which pays the most at $243K a year, a career in Nurse Anesthesiology pays off, and sometimes, even sooner than you think.
So, what is so distinct about Nurse Anesthesiologists that they get paid a whole lot?
This huge responsibility commands that eye-popping salary close to that of an anesthesiologist, the medical specialist. It is the trust bestowed upon them by patients who will be undergoing surgery. The responsibility of putting patients in an unconscious state pre-surgery, maintaining that state during the surgery, and reverting to the conscious state post-surgery entails an exceptional level of thoroughness, meticulousness, and attention. Expert knowledge in drug interactions, the intricacies of the nervous system, and vital signs to watch out for to safeguard against possible fatalities is paramount. Having patience and compassion when explaining the procedure to the patient and the patient’s family is just as important as being equipped with the knowledge. And like Nurse practitioners, Nurse anesthesiologists can also legally work autonomously, which can positively impact the cost of hospital care, particularly surgical fees, as it reduces the professional fees to be paid due to fewer operatory team members. A recent study has shown that both approaches to anesthesia administration – one with just a Nursing Anesthesiologist while the other with the tandem of the physician anesthesiologist and anesthesiologist assistant – are equally effective and safe.
The route to being a Nurse Anesthesiologist is similar to that of an NP. Both require an RN degree, a license to practice nursing, an MS degree in Nursing, and an additional license or certification to practice advanced degrees. In the case of Nurse Anesthesiologists, a certification to practice anesthesiology is required. Once passed, the title of CRNA will be next to their names. The job outlook for this role is similar to that of a Nurse Practitioner. The educational investment to pursue a career in this role is similar to an NP since it requires an MS in Nursing degree. And as previously mentioned, this job not only pays that investment off sooner or later, it can sustain a comfortable lifestyle both for individuals or those with families. Even better is that you earn as much as a doctor, just like an NP, but you do not have to spend as much time in school as the latter.
Median Annual Salary: $110K
A Physician’s Assistant is a valuable member of a medical team, especially for outpatient or non-hospital-based cases. Their nature and responsibilities are very similar to that of a Nurse Practitioner. They have licensed professionals with graduate degrees who can oversee and manage patient cases from start to finish – from consultation to diagnosis to interpretation to prescription to post-treatment management. The difference, though, lies in the approach.
A Physician Assistant’s approach to treatment is similar to a physician geared towards the remission of the disease. In other words, the approach is disease-centered rather than patient-centered. There is this notion that sometimes, physicians will only see you if you already have the disease. There is this other notion that surgeons, based on their training and chosen field of specialty, will always push to cut even when there is no need to do so. Whether both notions may or may not be true is a debate for another piece. It illustrates a good point that because PAs are trained in the medical – and not nursing – school of thought, despite the courses being similar (e.g., anatomy, physiology, pathology, etc.), their approach to cases is similar to that of a medical doctor.
On the other hand, NPS will take the patient-centric approach. They will see a patient and not see a disease or a condition to diagnose and treat but a person whose goal is to heal and get better. They not only attend to the patient’s physical needs in terms of addressing their conditions or chief complaints, but they also manage the patient’s mental and emotional well-being. The approach is holistic and geared towards service.
Nevertheless, a Physician Assistantship is a career with a positive job growth rate – BLS reports a 31% growth rate over the next years. Further, this is not a terminal degree. PAs can pursue further studies to be full-pledged physicians in their choice of specialty. This role is a good stepping stone to pursuing medical practice.
So, how do you become one?
Becoming a Physician’s Assistant will require a master’s degree, which could come in the form of a Master’s of Science (MS), a Master of Medical Science (MMS), or a Master’s of Health Sciences (MHS) with a specialization in PA Studies. Most PA Studies programs will run for about three years, which combines pre-clinical training and practical or clinical training. The tuition varies from school to school.
For example, Duke University’s PA program costs $91K for the 109 course credits required regardless of residency. Tufts University’s MMS in PA program has an even steeper tuition fee of $100k because it requires more units for completion: 130 course credits.
But pursuing a master’s degree in PA studies need not be hefty on the pocket. Public universities like the City University of New York or CUNY would only charge $31K for the entire PA program for residents. The same applies to the University of Iowa’s PA program, which for the academic year 2021-2022, charges $49K for its first term and reduces the amount within the next two terms at $40K and $21K, respectively, because, over time, the courses become more and more practical and less theoretical.
All these four schools are among the most highly regarded PA programs in the country. But do not limit your choice of schools to these four because there are over 100 PA schools in the country! If you want to maximize and speed up the timeline of the returns on your hefty educational investment, then choose a school that does not require hefty tuition. Just make sure that the school’s PA program is accredited by the ARC-PA or the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc.
All in all, including undergraduate coursework, to become a PA eligible for licensure, you need to spend 5 to 7 years of study, depending on your undergraduate degree, which could be an associate’s, which would make it five years of study or a bachelor’s degree which would make it 6 to 7 years. As mentioned, the duration of PA programs also varies between schools, running from 2 to 3 years.
Once you graduate, you need to pass a licensure exam, the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE), to be certified. Once certified, a state license is required for you to finally be a full-pledged PA and practice in your chosen state.
Median Annual Salary: $85K
The role of genetic counselors has not always existed in the field of life sciences, even more so in genetics. While the genetic counseling services were first apparent in the U.K. in the 1980s, after the first batch of genetic counselors were trained and have graduated in the U.S. in 1971, it was not until the 2010s when the profession started gaining traction and leaving a significant footprint in the medical community. The role is gradually gaining familiarity among patients and professionals. It is safe to say that the field is not saturated at present, which bodes well for students looking to carve a career in this role. And if it is not saturated in the market and yet patients are becoming more and more aware of the profession, then the role has a great probability for a salary increase, thanks to the law of supply and demand.
So, what do genetic counselors do?
First and foremost, they are not doctors. They are a valuable adjunct to any healthcare team. With the emergence of genetic technologies and the entire discipline of genetics as a whole, the role of genetic counselors has become increasingly important. They are usually involved in research but have found their passion and footing in advising or counseling patients.
What do they advise or counsel about?
They primarily advise about genetic testing, which is the first step in their analysis and forms part and parcel of their advice and insight about genetic predispositions. From there, they talk to you about what the results mean for you and your family – health risks for anomalies, disorders or diseases, predispositions, and how can all these be prevented, or if not, how can it all be managed once the signs start manifesting.
A master’s degree is required to pursue a career in Genetic Counseling. Over 50 schools across the country offer advanced degrees in this field, all of them recognized by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counselling (ACGC). Most master’s in genetic counseling programs run for about two years. Tuition fees vary not only from school to school but also based on the type of institution.
Public universities charge anywhere from $7K for the entire program to as much as $15K. Examples include Indiana State University and the University of Maryland. On the other hand, tuition fees at private universities start at $34K and can go as much as $59K. At John Hopkins University, the tuition fee for the Master’s of Science in Genetic Counseling is $59K. The curriculum of most MSGC programs is a mix of didactic learning, research, and practical training on counseling and advising. Core competencies include molecular biology, genetics, genome sequencing, genetic testing and engineering, epidemiology, chemistry, psychology, research methodology, and other related areas. They can also specialize in a wide array of subfields, similar to that of a physician.
Certification must also be obtained after graduation, as this is also a prerequisite to obtaining a state license to practice the profession. A career in genetic counseling is rapidly growing, as the BLS reports a forecasted 21% job growth over the coming years.
Median Annual Salary: $74K
Epidemiologists study the nature of diseases and their transmission patterns among communities or populations. Through this, they can determine how contagious a certain disease is if it can be contained or controlled, and how it can prevent a pandemic. It is no wonder the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) coin epidemiologists as “disease detectives” because of their exploratory and investigative role in the realm of pathology and public health. With new diseases making their way into humankind more often now than in the past, the demand for epidemiologists has also grown.
The role of an epidemiologist requires knowledge and competency in public health concepts, pathology, microbiology, biostatistics, research methodology and ethics, infection control, virology, medicine policy-making, environmental health. To some extent, data analysis and data science as this role involve interpreting multiple data sets and deriving substantiated conclusions from them. The conclusions are then further studied for evaluation and used for policy creation in the public health sector.
To be an epidemiologist, a master’s degree in public health with a concentration in epidemiology (or applied epidemiology) or a master’s degree in epidemiology are the two pathways to earn a graduate degree. Tuition fees vary greatly, and it is strongly advised to look into your choice of school’s website or admissions contact for the most current rates. A typical MSPH or MS in Epidemiology program runs for about two years.
A certification to practice epidemiology is not necessary. However, two governing bodies for epidemiologists administer the certification exam, the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology (CBIC) and the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC).
According to the US BLS, the job outlook for epidemiologists in the coming years is at 5%. While the figure is not as impressive as the other health professions, a career in epidemiology is sustainable, and it is here to stay. For as long as diseases evolve and become more pathologic and virulent, the work of an epidemiologist will always be necessary.
Median Annual Salary: $86K
Occupational therapists help injured, disabled or weakened patients to get back on their feet – physically – by training them through simulation exercises that re-harness the fine or small movements of their body. The more detailed activities like, for example, holding a pen, writing using a pen, eating with utensils, being able to differentiate tactile sensations of objects, and the like.
Compared to physical therapists who focus more on helping injured or weakened patients regain their gross motor skills like walking, rotating, or extending limbs, torso, neck, or other parts of the body, an occupational therapist will help them regain their ability to do more specific activities. For example, physical therapists may help you regain your ability to move your arm in all sorts of directions, but an occupational therapist may help you regain your ability to scratch your head or even twist your fingers. And another major difference between physical therapists and occupational therapists is that the former usually handles adult patients but is not limited to that, while occupational therapists handle patients of different ages, and young or pediatric patients are a common demographic in occupational therapy. In fact, occupational therapy for pediatric patients has become a specialization of its own.
To practice occupational therapy professionally, earn a master’s degree. An MA or an MS is the entry-level requirement. You must also be board certified and obtain a state license to practice. Any bachelor’s degree is acceptable for admission into a master’s program in occupational therapy. These programs run for about two years and require anywhere from 30 to 60 credit units to graduate, depending on the university you are attending. A typical MS or MA in OT curriculum includes anatomy, physiology, psychology, biomechanics, neuroscience, behavioral science, communication skills for clinical practice, assistive technology, and other related courses.
Occupational therapy is a vocation. Although it is a high-paying job with a 16% job growth rate, many occupational therapists will tell you to enter the field, not with earnings in mind – well, not primarily – but with the commitment to serve. More than the technical and theoretical aptitude, it requires patience, empathy, and compassion because of the rehabilitative nature of the profession. Each patient’s progress and the way to healing may take time, from months to even years, and the changes may be gradual that someone with very little or no patience at all may find it hard to appreciate.
Median Annual Salary: $112K
Nurse-midwives are primary care providers, particularly in obstetrics, gynecology, reproductive health, prenatal care, and postnatal care of newborns. They also assist mothers during the postpartum stage. They can work independently and perform consultations, examinations, diagnoses, prescribe medicines, order tests, interpret results, and manage a patient’s reproductive well-being. Their function is very similar to that of a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant, but a nurse midwife’s scope is more specific to the female reproductive health from its onset during adolescence to menopause and even beyond and early family care. And similar to NPs and PAs, nurse midwives work in hospitals, private practices, and community centers. They also work in birth clinics or centers.
How does one become a nurse-midwife?
This role requires a master’s degree in nursing with a concentration in nurse-midwifery. The Accreditation Commission for Midwifery Education must have accredited the program. Typical MS-NM programs require about 50 course credits to graduate, and examples of courses include health assessment, pathophysiology, reproductive anatomy and physiology, obstetric and gynecologic concepts concerning nurse-midwifery, pharmacotherapeutics, biostatistics, and essential midwifery skills such as prenatal care, antepartum, intrapartum, and postpartum care, and other relevant courses.
Tuition fees vary from state to state and between private and public universities but expect tuition fees for an entire MS-NM program to be in the range of $50K to $90K. Fret not, though, as financial aids are available, and just like nurse practitioners, a good return on your investment is to be expected in the future. The BLS forecasts steady and optimistic job growth in this field, and even without the BLS forecast, the demand for the role is expected to grow steadily globally as the global population continues to grow, as well as the demand for reproductive health and family planning education, which nurse-midwives are certified to deliver.
Certification of nurse midwives is governed and administered by the American Midwifery Certification Board. Once passed, nurse midwives can add “CMN” to their names on top of an “RN” title. They must also obtain a state license to practice nurse-midwifery in their state of choice.
Median Annual Salary: $82K
A Speech-language pathologist (SLP) is an allied medical profession focused on diagnosing, treating, and managing speech disorders, including social and communication disabilities or delays (especially among children), language difficulties, and even tongue functionalities that can affect phonology and other linguistic abilities. These challenges can exist both in young and adult populations, especially those that have undergone a stroke or sufferers of dementia.
A master’s degree in SLP or Communicative Sciences and Disorders (CSD) with a concentration in SLP is required to gain entry-level work experience as an SLP. Some schools offer specialization tracks to focus on, such as dysphagia, which focuses on the diagnosis and management of swallowing difficulties in patients, or voice, which focuses on the diagnosis and management of patients’ linguistic, social, and communicative difficulties. A bachelor’s degree in CSD is an advantage coming into graduate studies but is not always necessary. Schools offer almost the same curriculum for those with and without CSD backgrounds, with the difference being that the program length for those with CSD backgrounds is sometimes a term shorter than those without. Also, the sequence of some courses is slightly different between the two curricula. Both curricula combine didactic learning and practical applications, with special courses devoted to family counseling, a clinical practicum, and an externship.
SLPs are projected to have 25% job growth over the coming years. The increasing demand for these roles drives it as more and more studies are being published on the importance of early detection and preventive management of communication disorders. As more people are made aware of these neurophysiological predispositions, especially parents of young kids, this heightens the demand for this profession. SLPs need to be board certified and must also obtain a state license to practice.
Orthotist and Prosthetist
Median Annual Salary: $75K
Orthotists and Prosthetists, or referred to as O&P, are allied medical professionals, who under the direct orders of a physician, usually an orthopedic surgeon or rehabilitative physician, customizes appliances to be used by injured patients requiring rehabilitative medicine. The work of an orthotist is different from that of a prosthetist. However, the training, especially in graduate school, is designed and delivered into one master’s program.
An orthotist custom fabricates or modifies a stock splint or brace to fit the specific injured body part perfectly. The brace or splint is used to hold the injured body parts together – muscles, tissues, and bones – and induce healing while therapy is also done.
On the other hand, a prosthetist develops artificial body parts, usually limbs, to facilitate movement for patients who have had to undergo severance of body parts leading to disabilities.
Both roles usually work in either hospitals or rehabilitation centers. As for becoming one, only a handful of universities across the country offer an accredited Master’s program in Prosthetics and Orthotics. Accredited MS in O&P programs can be found in the following states: Alabama, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Texas.
The curriculum for the master’s program is a combination of didactics and clinical rotations. Graduates may sit for the certification exams for both orthotists and prosthetists. Curriculum courses include anatomy, biomechanics, research methods, orthotic management, prosthetic management, practice management, counseling, physical examination, technical and safety skills, and other relevant topics.
These roles, which combines art, science, and service, is projected to have a steady uptick in job growth at 17%, thanks to an aging population who will be needing one or both services due to chronic diseases such as diabetes and organ disease(s) that are known to cause limb severance or atrophy of muscles and bones.
Career Field: Humanities, Liberal Arts, Physical Sciences and Social Sciences
Median Annual Salary: $108K
Economists study how populations use whatever available resources they have and how scarcity gives birth to other economic phenomena such as inflation, unemployment, deficits, recessions, financial crises, etc. They use various tools at their disposal, such as data (even more so now with the advent of data science) and statistics in inferring projections and stating observations about economic trends within a population, country, continent, region, and globally.
While a master’s degree in economics is not normally required to gain entry-level experience in the field, it demonstrates an added layer of expertise. The core courses in any master’s in economics program will almost always include econometrics, micro and macroeconomics, and quantitative analysis. Most programs will also require students to demonstrate aptitude or take various mathematical courses as a prerequisite to graduate school. These math courses include calculus, algebra, probability, real analysis, and others. The median tuition fee for a master’s in economics program is $20K to $30K. The fee for local public schools is usually around $20K to $30K which means if you opt to pursue your master’s degree at a local public university, not only will the tuition be lower thanks to residency, but public universities are known to charge way less for matriculation.
Job growth is plotted at 14% over the coming years, largely driven by the versatility of the role. Whether certified or not, economists thrive in think tanks, research-driven organizations, the academe, federal or state offices, and private firms.
Median Annual Salary: $125K
Think of political scientists as similar to economists. Political scientists try to understand and analyze the inner workings of the government, the people behind it, and its operations which are largely driven by the strengths and weaknesses of human attitudes in the face of power and authority. It also studies its effect on communities and populations.
While it draws a basis from the liberal arts, political science is also considered a science because of the methodical way it analyzes human behavior in a political setting or governance nature and how this interrelates with local politics, national politics, and global politics. It tries to answer “why” by drawing inspiration and basis from history, sociology, and even statistics.
A master’s degree in political science is not a requirement to gain entry-level work experience in the field, but it does open more doors for career options. The work of a political scientist takes many shapes and is versatile across industries and sectors, for one, academia. Those with advanced degrees can also hold more senior staff positions in federal or state government, think tanks, non-profits, and contribute as lobbyists, policymakers or policy analysts, expert correspondents, or researchers. They can also build a career as political journalists and editors. And aside from public administration and non-profits, they can also hold senior managerial positions in the private sector. One of the more popular corporate pathways for political scientists is in leadership and consultancy roles. Indeed, politics does drive group human interactions, whether in the public or private sectors.
The demand for political scientists with advanced degrees is at a slow but steady rate of 6% in the coming years. The demand will be largely driven by the public sector’s growing need for analysts, fact-checkers, highly competent speechwriters, and proactive chief of staff, all of whom are required to not only be experts in their field in the traditional sense but also in the virtual space as politics has now transcended social media. The private sector will also need its share of political scientists to address the growing demand in leadership, human behavioral research, and consultancy roles.
Median Annual Salary: $86K
Whereas economists and political scientists examine human behavior through different lenses – one through the lens of human activity and its consumption of resources (or lack of) and the other through the lens of human activity and the power struggles behind the supposedly transparent doors of governance and leadership – sociologists study human interactions through methodical research methods using a much broader perspective and several parameters or qualifiers such as gender, socioeconomic class, race, age, educational attainment, beliefs or religion, and many others.
Sociologists are similar to economists and political scientists in one aspect, all three roles do not require a master’s degree to practice their professions, but as mentioned, it does give these professionals just the right amount of spring in their steps so they can pursue more advanced roles in both the private or public sectors. For sociologists with advanced degrees, their versatility will allow them to transcend different industries because of their interdisciplinary approach to their roles.
The BLS projects a 4% job growth for sociologists, similar to that of political scientists – it is also slow and steady. Expect continued growth for this role, especially in the corporate sector, where tech firms are ramping up their sociology or social scientist hires to address the need for a more humanized and social culture in their workplaces. And as emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the internet of things (IoT) are being designed to become more intuitive to mimic human behaviors and interactions, the need for social scientists and sociologists to contribute to these advancements will become more palpable. Further, since the job market for these roles is far from saturation (for now), the median pay could increase.
Urban and Regional Planners
Median Annual Salary: $75K
Urban and Regional Planners are roles that require not only an eye for design and aesthetics but also a sense of functionality, sustainability, and familiarity with different local policies like building codes, zoning codes, environmental law, and the other legalities of transforming a bare land, a reclaimed land or an aging community to a thriving and sustainable one that is also future-ready and calamity-proof (if possible).
Urban and regional planners identify communities that need transformation or local areas that need development. They are in constant communication with city engineers, city administrators, zoning officers, and other state-level officers in charge of reappropriating land use. While the government decides for exactly what purpose the land should be used – residential, commercial, industrial, environmental – it is up to the urban and regional planner to decide if the government’s original plan for use is feasible after their thorough evaluation of the land. They also do the same for submitted proposals by private firms and contractors.
Urban and regional planners can be a role for just one person or can be two different roles. The skills and perspectives required of urban planners are different than regional planners because of the different geographic conditions in metropolitan areas or cities. In the regional areas, the common geographic conditions consist of agrarian, dry, or undeveloped land that can become a commercial revenue maker for the government and bring communities together, like a commercial hub or township.
A bachelor’s degree in this field will only allow its graduates to work as assistants. So, if you want to call the shots or lead a team, a master’s degree in this field, along with previous experience in this line of work, maybe needed to ramp up your credentials. While you don’t need to have a bachelor’s degree in architecture, engineering, urban development, rural development, or even environmental science, it may provide you with a good jumpstart to make your entry to the master’s program seamless. A typical master’s program in this field may require about 50 course credits for graduation. It will include courses in design, economics, sociology, administration, ethics, spatial analysis, data analysis, 3D modeling, architecture, sustainability, environmental compliance, project management, facilities management, risk management, business continuity, and many more. It truly is a multi-faceted career the combines skills from different disciplines. Certification and state licenses are not always required by employers.
The job outlook for these roles is predicted to grow at 11% over the coming years. With more and more communities needing redevelopment not only for modernization but also for sustainability and environmental compliance, the demand for these roles will continue to grow, especially in local or state-level government offices.
Education Administrators (Principals)
Median Annual Salary: $97K
Education administrators, or school principals in the secondary levels and below, oversee the entire operation. Among their responsibilities include overseeing student admissions, hiring of faculty members, creation of curricula, managing school finances and budgets, managing parents’ participation (in the secondary levels and below), managing student engagement to improve student retention and reduce student attrition (especially in the post-secondary levels) and for those employed in public educational institutions, complying with policies set by the school district and or the state.
A master’s degree, as well as significant experience in teaching, is required for these roles. A typical master’s program for aspiring administrators or principals is a Master’s in Education, Master’s in Education Leadership, Master of Science in Education Policy, Master of Science in Higher Education, and many others. It is offered in so many variations depending on the student’s preferred concentration: policy, international education, medical education, urban teaching, and many other interesting tracks. These programs usually run for about two years. Certification is not necessary, but a state license must be obtained to practice the profession in the chosen state. A 4% job growth is expected in the career field. Though the number may not be that impressive, administrators and principals will continue to demand as long as schools exist. Even without its brick-and-mortar counterparts and only the online schools remain operational for now because of the pandemic, remote education will still need a knowledgeable and experienced leader to steer the ship of education in the right direction.
Mathematicians and Statisticians
Median Annual Salary: $91K
Mathematicians and Statisticians have distinctive functions, but their roles are connected. An individual can be both, though. Both roles pay exceptionally well, with more than 50% of mathematicians in the country are being paid in the range of $84K to $112K, while more than 50% of statisticians in the country are being paid in the range of $97K to $167K. The median salary listed above is the average of these figures to develop a balanced and healthy figure, so you do not set your expectations too high or too low.
Mathematicians design numerical experiments using established theorems or concepts. Sometimes, they get creative and device new ones to base their experiments and calculations on to develop mathematical models for research or new processes to be implemented in organizations, corporations, or enterprises.
Statisticians, on the other hand, analyze data using various statistical models. The data could be provided by mathematicians or could be gathered from other sources. Statisticians also have a solid background in programming and scientific computing, and this is one of the things where statisticians edge out mathematicians. This is also why they get much more than mathematicians do. They are knowledgeable with data analytics, statistical software, and to some extent, data science.
Here’s a simple way to illustrate the differences and similarities of these roles: remember that a mathematician is concerned with theoretical computations. Whether those calculations are feasible or probable in the real world is for the statistician to determine through models, surveys, experiments, polls, questionnaires, statistical software, and sampling tests.
A master’s degree in both fields is not always necessary to work in this field, but it can provide you the boost you need to earn a six-figure annual salary. Another good way to boost your value is if you already have a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, then transition to statistics or applied statistics through a master’s degree. While pursuing a master’s degree in mathematics alone also has its benefits – you can work for government offices, think tanks, or be part of the academe in higher education – pursuing a master’s degree in statistics has a better job outlook in terms of placement and industries on which you can build a career. You can go into private non-profit, private for-profit, or government-funded research facilities, government offices, finance, information systems, data banks, social media marketing and sales, healthcare and insurance, and of course, the academe, and these are just a few. Statisticians are looking at a 33% job growth in the coming years, largely driven by the demand for data scientists with a background in statistics.
Career Field: Information Technology
Computer and Information Research Scientists
Median Annual Salary: $126K
You might be surprised to see this role here, especially with the ongoing trend initiated by tech firms like Apple, Tesla, and Google to onboard new team members based on skills and not degree attainment. It might also come as a surprise to read that the BLS projects a 15% job growth in this field, even if the automation is also projected to leave a significant number of skilled workers unemployed.
But without negating the growing notion that you do not need a degree to thrive in information technology, there are notable tech innovators with advanced degrees whose contributions to the field are as significant as the creation of Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, SpaceX, or Tesla.
The point of the preceding paragraph is that despite hiring trends, or your IT heroes not having advanced degrees and a possible job displacement in the future thanks to automation, there is still merit to having a master’s degree in the field of computer science and information technology. Although Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates have proved that you can be successful in the field without any degree, that only holds for a small percentage of the population. Having a degree, even more so an advanced degree, ensures that you can get a good return on your educational investment and live comfortably for the years to come without having the pressure to be the next Elon Musk or Steve Jobs.
Career Field: Business Administration and Management
Marketing Manager and Sales Manager
Median Annual Salary: $130K
To be in marketing and sales, you also do not need a master’s degree or an MBA to gain entry-level working experience. But you will need one, whether it is an MBA, a master’s degree in sales, or a master’s degree in marketing, if you want to climb up the corporate ladder real high and real fast.
To further illustrate, an individual who attained a bachelor’s degree in business administration is looking at competitive salaries to begin with. Whether they enter the field as financial or marketing analysts, sales specialists, accountants, public relations officers, auditors, or researchers, they are looking at an annual salary within the range of $50K to $80K. But leaping from an undergraduate degree to an MBA or any related master’s degree (although an MBA would provide the most versatility as skills gained through an MBA are transferrable across industries) would also bump the annual salary potential within the range of $99K to $135K. Sure, MBAs are costly, but some schools offer the program a more reasonable tuition fee, thereby maximizing your future returns.
Going into graduate school is mostly a matter of how badly you need that career and salary bump for these career fields. Most firms would place an individual with advanced degrees in managerial ranks and leadership roles. Many companies help their employees attain a master’s degree by sponsoring their education partially or in full. If they would opt to hire externally, having advanced degrees in your resume will make you more competitive during the selection process.
IT Manager and Business Operations Manager
Median Annual Salary: $109K
Most firms nowadays, regardless of industry or work, are IT-driven, thanks to the growing footprint of enterprise resource planning platforms (ERP) or business software platforms. Its growing footprint among enterprises has created a niche in the job market known as techno-functional or functional consultants. These professionals are technically skilled in their previously held software testing, development, or application engineering roles. They can marry technical concepts into business processes seamlessly.
This is the foundation upon which ERP platforms like SAP are built upon. It marries the technical side, which may be abstract to end-users, with the business side of things, in which those working in the background may not appreciate it. Nowadays, these two roles are combined, and the expectation is you know and can explain what is happening in the backend and the frontend.
As these consultants rise to the corporate ranks, many of them are promoted to managerial positions. But similar to marketing and sales managers, they would also need to equip themselves with management, finance, and leadership concepts, theories, and styles that they can apply into the ever-evolving workplace of the ever-expanding tech industry; education that can only be attained through a master’s degree with a business concentration or an MBA that is specifically catered to a computing professional. While an MS in computer science may also be beneficial, its curricula are more IT or computer systems-centric than management. An effective IT manager or business manager in tech would need to leverage their undergraduate degrees in IT or computer science and improve their value and marketability through an MBA. Those with degrees in computer science and business management are not limited to just working for an organization. They can put up their tech startups as well.
The job outlook for these roles is projected at 11% but expect that number to steadily grow as more enterprises, whether large firms or startups, migrate their traditional systems to ERP platforms, in which IT and business managers will be largely in demand.
Career Field: Finance
Median Annual Salary: $129K
A financial manager has a broad set of responsibilities that center on a ton of reports which illustrate a company’s internal (organizational costs) and external (profit and loss) financial health, projections, statutory compliances like taxes, market trends, business opportunities, and budgeting and appropriation, all of which seek to derive at substantiated financial decisions for the company and its future.
In theory, this role does not require a master’s degree. Still, the number of responsibilities entailed with the role plus the fact that most financial managers work for medium to large enterprises, a master’s degree in finance or even an MBA will be strongly beneficial not only from the standpoint of being more suitable and equipped to handle the responsibilities attached to the role of a financial manager but also from the perspective of asking salary. While financial managers who only attained a bachelor’s degree can also earn six-figure salaries maxed out at $122K, those with a master’s degree are better positioned to earn a higher salary at a faster rate. They can command the ceiling rate of a financial manager with only a bachelor’s degree as their starting salary and go upwards from there. That is the power of a master’s degree.
Jobs for financial managers are projected to grow 15% in the coming years. Their contributory skills of intellectual insight and foresight, plus their skills in managing a portfolio of investments, controlling internal and external spending, risk assessment, and people management and engagement, will continue to be in demand, even during a recession.
Median Annual Salary: $108K
An Actuary is a mathematician, statistician, finance expert, and business management expert all rolled into one. With the growth and evolution of the finance sector, particularly the expansion of insurance policies which now include pet insurance, actuaries are more sought after than ever. The BLS projects its job growth at 18%, which is positive. It would not be long until consumers and insurance companies think of a new item to create an insurance policy, then actuaries would be in demand again.
Actuaries and financial managers have somewhat similar responsibilities. They perform risk assessment, use foresight, history, and trends in forecasting risks and opportunities, and leverage information extracted from available data to make substantiated recommendations. Financial managers advise and make decisions, while actuaries only advise or provide insight. And another difference is that financial managers are more financially well-rounded in their approach while an actuary’s approach is risk-centric – the prevention of loss, the promotion of profit, and the management of both.
Actuaries need to be certified to practice even at the entry-level. Two organizations administer the certification exams, the Society of Actuaries (SOA) and the Casualty Actuary Society (CAS). A master’s degree may not be required for entry-level experience, but it does speed up one’s promotion and salary bump, similar to the other professions listed here. An entry-level actuary can earn as much as $63K during their first year on the job to as much as $80K after four years, the point in which professionals contemplate the possibility of going into graduate school. The salary for this role does go up in time, but it begs the question: Are you willing to work for up to ten straight years to hit the median salary of $108K? In which case, you have to factor in inflation. Or, will you gamble on getting your master’s degree while working so you can bump up your salary at a faster rate?
In fact, in all of the professions listed here, this is the question one needs to answer. You can work your way slowly but with no guarantees of a raise, or if there may be a raise on the horizon, it may no longer be that valuable monetarily, thanks to inflation. Some gamble with their time and money, working and getting their master’s degrees simultaneously, so by the time they get a salary bump, it has not been affected much by inflation yet; there is a significant return on investment and the promise of living comfortably.
In times like these, with the coronavirus showing no signs of eradication or control, look forward but don’t lose sight of reality. Imagine a plausible scenario in your future given the current parameters, and make an intelligent decision and risk assessment.