Wondering if it's really worth it to go back and get that graduate degree you've always dreamed about? The short answer is probably yes, but you'll get the most return on your educational investment if you choose one of the following most profitable graduate school degrees.
Based on a comparison of graduate degrees ranked highest by Forbes.com, BusinessInsider.com, Fortune.com and HuffingtonPost.com, these degrees are financially rewarding and soul-satisfying.
Any degree with engineering in the title is guaranteed to provide great financial incentive, but biomedical engineering appears at or near the top of almost every list of great graduate degrees. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says this career involves combining "engineering principles with medical and biological sciences to design and create equipment, devices, computer systems and software used in health care."
According to Forbes.com, its mid-career median salary is $129,000 with 74 percent of respondents reporting high levels of job satisfaction and 80 percent reporting feeling a deep sense of personal meaning in their work.
For those who are mathematically minded, you can't go wrong with a graduate degree in statistics. Fortune.com reported those with this degree have a median salary of $131,700, and by 2022 careers in this field will have grown by 23.7 percent. Be warned, however, it's not for the faint of heart. Almost 70 percent of respondents reported high levels of stress on the job.
It might seem like the generic, go-to degree everyone defaults to when they don't know what other graduate degree to pursue, but there is still a lot of value in that Master's in Business Administration degree.
For instance, MBA graduates of Brigham Young University have a 92 percent placement rate and their average base salary is $102,850. Higher base salaries exceeded $150,000 per year. The flexibility of having an MBA means it applies to almost any career you might currently have or be interested in.
It's no surprise that computer science degrees are as profitable as ever and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Those interested in creating the next generation of technology innovations can earn a median salary of $144,800 according to Fortune.com and they have an 80 percent satisfaction rate. Their stress level remains relatively high, with 45 percent of respondents reporting high stress on the job, but that's the price you pay for high wages and high satisfaction.
It might seem surprising that this degree could make it so far up the list, but Dr. Stefan Norrbin, Director of FSU's Applied Master's Program in Economics, told Huffingtonpost.com it's because economics is an analytical degree. "Big data has become hot in recent times. Lots of companies have lots of data but not much knowledge about what to do with it," he explained. And that's exactly what economists do, he said, they learn to analyze growth and change. "That's exactly what the employers want," Norrbin said. "They want somebody who can think and process data at the same time." Graduate school educated economists can pull in a median salary of roughly $114,000.
Doctors will always have a niche in the list of most profitable degrees in America, but it takes a special dedication and skills set to make it through the decade of training required to practice in most fields of medicine.
Still, you can make a median salary of $180,000, with private practice doctors making even more, in addition to the opportunity to improve people's health and save lives. If those long years of training are daunting, The Huffington Post suggests considering being a physician's assistant, which can still make a six-figure salary with a little less schooling.
Looking for something that might take you into the outdoors? Biology and life science will allow you to connect with nature and still make that sizeable paycheck. Business Insider says you can make $104,000 with a graduate degree in biology and demand for this career is so high, there's just a 1.9 percent unemployment rate for graduate degree-holding biologists.
Here's a job title that sounds like it comes straight out of a science fiction novel, but it's really a fairly straightforward career. The BLS explains, HCI is the science of "exploring cognitive models of human behavior as it relates to computer usage, and developing guidelines for screen layout and system dialogues." It's a high-stress job, according to Fortune.com, but you can make an average of $115,000 a year with a graduate degree in this discipline.
NASA might not be sending astronauts to the moon again anytime soon, but that doesn't mean you can't shoot for the stars. With an engineering degree in aerospace, you can design the future of flight transportation and be paid handsomely for your work. You can make a median of about $100,000 and be employed by such prestige names as Boeing, SpaceX or Lockheed Martin. Forbes.com says you can expect high levels of satisfaction and personal meaning on the job, as well.
If you were one of those kids growing up who couldn't keep their hands off the fireworks, the baking soda and vinegar, or the lighters and the flammable material, a graduate degree in chemistry might be right up your alley. Business Insider says experienced graduate degree holders in chemistry can make an average of $111,000 per year and enjoy a mere 2.3 percent unemployment rate.