5 master’s degrees that are worth the investment

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Advanced degrees in science, tech, and engineering can pay off in the long run.

Master’s degrees can be a timely and costly investment for an early or mid-career professional.
But after graduation, employees with a masters make on average 38% more than their peers.
An advanced degree in STEM, business, or education can be more valuable than in other industries.
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We’ve all heard that a „Master’s is the new Bachelor’s,” and while that’s certainly not the case for most professions or industries, it’s true that a Master’s degree can help you secure a lift in salary, an average of a 38% bump in salary across all industries. Over the course of your earning lifetime, that degree could make a big difference for your financial security. And of course there’s the prestige that comes with having a secondary degree, which can be a real source of pride.

But Master’s degrees don’t come cheap, costing between $30,000 to $120,000, according to FinAid. It’s worth running the numbers to see if your investment in the program will truly pay off over the long haul. At HerMoney, we did a little leg work for you to help you determine if a master’s degree is the right move for your educational and career future.

1. STEM

STEM is the umbrella of science, tech, engineering, and math-based programs. There’s a constant demand for graduates in these fields, particularly women, as these fields have typically been male-dominated. The median annual earnings of a bachelor’s degree in STEM fields were higher than all others at $60,800, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

However, with a master’s degree, most STEM fields earn up to 33% higher wages than those with only a bachelor’s, bringing annual earnings up to around $80,864, not including specialty or experience, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average student loan debt to acquire a Master of Science is $67,362 according to Education Data, but one big plus for these industries is that STEM majors have a higher likelihood of retaining one full-time job instead of having to cobble together several part-time or gig jobs, creating the space for future raises and better benefits.

2. Healthcare

Since the pandemic, healthcare workers in the country have finally received the praise and attention they deserve, and demand for employment in these fields is expected to grow within the next 10 years, more than any other occupation group, according to the US Labor of Statistics. The only question is, does more education pay off?

To advance from a registered nurse (RN) to an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), you’d receive an average salary increase of $40,000 annually, taking you from $70,000 to $110,000 according to the Master’s Programs Guide. However, the student loan debt acquired for an APRN is between $40,000 and $54,999 according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Thankfully, the healthcare field will always be there, and a career in this field – no matter your level of education – will set you up for future success.

3. Law

The annual median wage for lawyers, attorneys and judges was $126,930 in 2020, but how much does it cost to become one? A JD at Harvard Law School will set you back nearly $105,000 per academic year, but an online Masters of Legal Studies degree, another potential degree for advancement in the legal field, ranges between $15,000 and $38,000 in total tuition, according to US News and World Report.

There’s also a master’s degree in law, beyond just getting a JD, known as an LLM. According to Prodigy Finance, lawyers with an LLM make $130,000 in their first year out of school. The costs and time involved for advanced degrees within the legal profession vary greatly, but that can be a good thing – you have so many options for advancement.

4. Education

Remember when you aspired to be an elementary school teacher, with unfettered access to fun school supplies all year long? (Or maybe that was just me?) These days, a Bachelor’s in Education will help you earn a salary of $35,000 to $60,000; however, with a master’s degree, teachers can earn up to $5,285 more annually than those without, according to the National Council of Teacher (NCTQ). But let’s keep costs in mind – if you pursue a Master’s in Education in addition to your Bachelor’s, you could be looking at average student loan debt of more than $48,000, according to Education Next, an education reform publication.

Thankfully, there are many teacher student loan forgiveness programs, along with public service loan forgiveness. Whenever you’re running the numbers on the value of your degree, don’t forget to calculate the number of years that your earning power will be boosted. The more years you have to teach, the better the payoff for your Master’s.

5. Business

An MBA, a Master’s of Business Administration, is a general business education degree that can be applied to many different industries when thinking about management or leadership roles. MBA graduates generate around ​​$66,300 in student loan debt, according to data from NerdWallet.

But there’s good news on the other side of your cap and gown – you can expect an average median salary of $115,000 when you graduate. And it’s arguable that anyone with CEO dreams should seriously consider an MBA, because there’s a good chance your competition will have one – the number of students who have received MBA degrees rose 14.2% from 1971 to 2021.

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