When COVID hit in early 2020, leaving countless individuals furloughed or laid off, earning a master’s degree became a popular option to combat the uncertainty of the pandemic. As a result, a critical eye turned towards the tangible value of master’s degrees.
But while earning an MFA or master’s in history may not translate to increased salaries, and job opportunities, a sizeable list of advanced academic tracks offer training that leads to leadership roles, prized technical proficiencies, and expanded earning potential.
Within the following page, we explore ten of the best master’s degrees for the future. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we consider master’s tracks that commonly lead to high median salaries within a growing job market. Keep reading to learn about the degrees you can bet on to boost pay and advance your career.
10 Best Master’s Degrees for the Future
While this list is by no means exhaustive, you can glean some overarching themes: mainly that STEM degrees supplying graduates with technical proficiency offer top pay within a growing job market. Often these master’s degrees open up access to leadership roles—managerial positions almost always pay the most. Continue scrolling to see which degrees stand out. In addition to highlighting general degree information, we’ll also highlight common careers for master’s grads.
1. Computer Science
A bachelor’s in computer science often prepares graduates for various entry-level roles. Still, a master’s in the field allows students to distill their knowledge while expanding career opportunities and earning potential. Careers for quality assurance analysts and software testers are projected to grow by 22% between 2020-2030 while boasting a median annual salary exceeding $110,000.
Earning a master’s in computer science can open a broad spectrum of tech-based careers. Students lean on academic specializations to personalize their degrees while focusing on academic and career goals. Popular academic concentrations include areas such as robotics, cybersecurity, data science, and machine learning. In addition to traditional coursework, many programs also require that degree-seeker complete an internship.
- Median Salary: $110,140
- Job Outlook: 22%
2. Human Resources
Often preparing master’s grads for careers of human resources managers or training and development managers, a master’s in human resources can expand job opportunities and earning potential. BLS projects that both of these careers should grow by about 10% by 2030. Additionally, both roles boast median salaries exceeding $100,000 per year.
A master’s in human resources can lead to various careers, including labor relations specialists, human resources managers, and benefits managers. Additionally, academic concentrations include topics like employment law, organizational development, recruiting and staffing, and compensation and benefits. Full-time learners can often graduate in just one year.
- Median Salary: $121,220
- Job Outlook: 9%
3. Supply Chain Management
Utilizing the theoretical and technical knowledge learned through master’s coursework, logisticians analyze, coordinate, and manage various parts of an organization’s supply chain. Growing by 30% over the next decade, the top 10% of experienced professionals earn a salary exceeding $122,000 per year.
Typically requiring students to complete between 30-45 credits on coursework, a supply chain management master’s allows students to hone a variety of essential proficiencies in topics spanning from operations management to various financial concepts. Standard academic requirements include topics like inventory management, freight transports, and IT systems and supply chain integration. Before graduating, students often complete a degree-culminating project.
- Median Salary: $76,270
- Job Outlook: 30%
4. Software Engineering
Similar to other tech-based careers, graduates with a master’s in software engineering can expect to enter a rapidly growing workforce with six-figure salaries. Between 2020-2030, BLS projects software developer jobs to increase by 22%. Median salaries for these professionals fall around $110,000 annually, while top earners can expect to earn more than $170,000 per year.
A master’s in software engineering explores areas spanning from computer engineering theory to software design, whether on-campus or online. Standard coursework includes classes such as advanced scientific computing, discrete mathematics for computer science, and web geographic information systems. In addition to standard degree requirements, students can also select academic concentrations in software development, project management, and software architecture.
- Median Salary: $110,140
- Job Outlook: 22%
Over the next decade, BLS projects for accounting roles to grow by 7%; this translates to about 135,000 job openings each year. Additionally, while the median salary for accountants sits around $73,000 annually, the top 10% of earners pull in over $125,000 per year. Students should also consider that accounting can lead to a broad list of career opportunities, with roles as financial managers growing by 17% while earning a median salary of over $124,000 annually.
Standard career options for accounting grads include budget analysts, financial advisers, and financial managers. In addition to typical master’s degree requirements, accounting students can select from academic concentrations in information systems, accounting systems analyst, auditing, and corporate accounting.
- Median Salary: $73,560
- Job Outlook: 7%
6. Cyber Security
While many cyber security positions only require a bachelor’s degree for entry-level positions, a master’s degree is a practical way to earn the skills necessary for career advancement, leadership positions, and expanded earning potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, information security analysts earn a median salary of over $103,000 with a projected growth of 33% between 2020-2030. Additionally, the top 10% of earners raked in more than $163,000 annually.
Typical positions for cyber security grads include network administrators, software developers, and security analyst roles in the public and private sectors. Standard coursework for a master’s in cyber security includes foundations of information assurance, digital risk management, fundamentals of network security, and forensics and network intrusion.
- Median Salary: $103,590
- Job Outlook: 33%
7. IT Management
Boasting future job growth of 11% by 2030, IT management roles lean on both technical knowledge and leadership skills. Along with steady growth, experienced IT leaders can earn more than $200,000 annually. These professionals evaluate evolving computer hardware and software needs, manage budgets, handle hiring responsibilities, and direct a team of IT professionals toward set goals.
IT management master’s programs typically take 2-3 years to complete. Throughout their coursework, students build business knowledge while synthesizing both tech needs and business functions. Typical master’s-level coursework includes digital technologies in operations management, digital ecosystem infrastructure, platform-based analytics, and AI in business. Before graduation, students complete a capstone project.
- Median Salary: $151,150
- Job Outlook: 11%
8. Health Informatics
A master’s in health informatics can lead to a wide variety of administrative and leadership roles within a medical setting. This degree supplies students with critical knowledge to evaluate healthcare data through a critical lens while relying on financial, clinical, and operational information. Medical service managers often rely heavily on health informatics, and graduates enter a field that’s anticipated to grow by 32% over the next decade.
Full-time graduate students typically take about two years to complete this degree and take classes such as introduction to clinical thinking, data management principles, and legal and ethical issues in healthcare. Standard academic concentrations include clinical informatics, health data analytics, public health informatics, and health technology informatics.
- Median Salary: $104,280
- Job Outlook: 32%
In addition to BLS’ projected 9% growth between 2020-2030, the top 10% earning nurses earn over $116,000 per year. Earning a master’s degree in nursing can lead to managerial and administrative roles and allows students to concentrate on areas outside of clinical practice with specializations in topics like informatics, leadership, and various clinical areas.
Common career paths for individuals earning a master’s in nursing include nurse practitioner, nurse anesthetist, nurse midwife, and nurse administrator. For full-time students, earning a master’s in nursing takes about two years to complete. Common classes include topics such as advanced research in nursing, primary care management, and nursing leadership.
- Median Salary: $75,330
- Job Outlook: 9%
10. Data Science
A master’s in data science relies on extensive technical and theoretical skills applicable to various career fields. One example, operations research analysts, can expect their field to grow by 25% by 2030. And while the median $86,200 salary falls below other careers on this list, the top 10% earners still enjoy a salary exceeding $144,000 annually.
Students tackling a master’s in data science can expect to take classes such as applied machine learning, legal and ethical issues in data science, and natural language processing with deep learning. Alongside standard academic requirements, students can often select from concentrations like data acquisition management, computational intelligence, big data informatics, and business applications.
- Median Salary: $86,200
- Job Outlook: 25%