Best Graduate Degrees for the Future

With thousands of new college graduates entering the work force, a report from Forbes pegs national unemployment at just over nine percent and underemployment at nearly 19 percent – resulting in fresh graduates begging off a weak job market to purse a graduate degree. We help you review the best graduate degrees for the future based on interests, location and current education achievements. A graduate degree – also called a master’s – is an academic specific degree awarded to a student who has demonstrated mastery of or high achievement in a field of study or area of professional practice.

The Benefits of Earning a Graduate Degree

The benefits of pursuing a graduate degree may not immediately come to mind for recent graduates, especially because of the costs involved. According to Tara Kuther, Ph.D. and Professor of Psychology at Western Connecticut State University, the price of a typical graduate degree can range from $10,000 a year at a public state college to more than $30,000 annually at a top tier or private university. That being the case, there are many reasons to consider a post-graduate or master’s degree, among them:

Higher salaries. The difference between a graduate degree and a bachelor’s degree in certain fields can be several thousand dollars annually. For instance, a bachelor’s degree in accounting is worth about $46,000 a year, while a graduate degree in the same field may result in a first year salary of nearly $51,000. The difference in engineering is even more pronounced. According to CareerBuilder, a bachelor’s degree is worth about $54,000 while someone with a master’s degree may command $69,000 initially.

Greater respect. Many people with graduate degrees report they have more respect for themselves because of the path they chose, while colleagues often express the same sentiment.

More job opportunities. Career advancement in many fields and at many companies often requires advanced training, translating into a need for an advanced degree to purse jobs that otherwise may not be available.

The chance to work with top educators in their field.

Bulletproof Your Future with These Graduate Degrees

There are, of course, no guarantees when it comes to a graduate degree translating into more job opportunities or higher earnings, but many experts have uncovered data that points to the best master’s degrees for job seekers in different fields related to earning and job growth potential.

Physicians Assistant

A physician’s assistant is a medical professional who provides diagnostic and preventative healthcare services under doctor supervision. According and Forbes, there is a 39 percent increase in job opportunities for the professionals between 2011 and 2008. The average mid-career salary is about $101,000.

Computer Science

A graduate degree in Computer Science can lead to top positions in research institutions, technology companies, government agencies, and colleges and universities. Mid-career professionals with this degree can earn as much as $109,000 with a projected jobs increase of 27 percent.

Civil Engineering

A professional with a graduate degree in Civil Engineering often works on designing, constructing, and maintaining works like roads, bridges, canals, dams, and buildings. According to Forbes it offers a mid-career salary of more than $96,000 with a 24 percent increase in job demand.


For those pursuing a graduate degree from a dental school, U.S. News & World Report says these professionals earned a median salary of $142,000 in 2009 in a field expecting 15 percent job growth between 2008 and 2018.


A graduate or master’s degree in Mathematics is worth about $87,000 a year for a mid-career professional. Projected job growth in this field is estimated at 22 percent.

Management Consultant

If you have earned a master’s degree in Business (MBA) and work as a Management Consultant, a mid-career salary may be worth $114,000 at IBM or $127,000 at Deloitte, according to U.S. News & World Report.


As reported by the Wall Street Journal, nursing jobs are plentiful nationwide, with many people pursuing this as a secondary career. For those with a graduate degree in the middle of their career, this field can pay as much as $85,500 and offers a 22 percent increase in job growth.


Nearly 90 percent of physicists work in medicine, education, industry, or other professions, according to This is another graduate degree with six figure earning potential, topping out at $115,000 for mid career earners, says Forbes.

Occupational Therapy

An occupational therapist – someone who helps people with physical, mental, developmental, and or emotional disabilities perform daily tasks and maintenance independence – can expect to earn upwards of $78,000 mid way through their career, according to Forbes and

Political Science

A professional with a graduate degree in Political Science has mid career earning potential of about $87,000 a year and fills jobs such as a paralegal or legal assistant, or government affairs director, among others. These professionals often go on to careers in education, journalism, or other government positions where their skills are in demand.

Top Graduate Schools

Many factors come into play when considering which graduate school to attend, chief among them cost, location, and scheduling issues. What are some of the top graduate schools in America? It depends on the field you are most interested in.

For instance, students wishing to pursue an advanced business degree specializing in accounting, finance, management, or marketing may choose from top programs at Stanford, Harvard, or MIT.

If you are leaning toward an advanced degree in education with an eye on a career in teaching or education policy, U.S. News & World Report lists Vanderbilt, Harvard, and the University of Texas-Austin as the top three choices.

Students leaning toward a graduate degree in engineering may choose from MIT, Stanford, or the University of California-Berkley, while those pursuing a medical or Earth Science degree can opt for the University of Pennsylvania or the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Best Graduate Degrees for the Future in Summary

Selecting the best graduate degree to pursue is more than simply a decision about earnings potential. It also depends on your skills and interest in a particular field, and the level of commitment necessary to succeed academically and in the job market. As with any decision, research your options, and consider the pros and cons before making a final choice on what graduate degree is your best choice for the future.