Graduate Degrees With the Best Return On Investment

So you’ve graduated high school and made it through undergraduate school with a degree and have come out the other end with a job that pays the bills but is less than fulfilling.  A few internet searches and several dozen pamphlets later and you’ve decided that a graduate degree may be just the higher education ticket you need to land that career of your dreams.  Upon further research, however, the cost of tuition hits you like a load of bricks.  It doesn’t help that everywhere you turn talking heads on tv and in print are questioning the usefulness and cost effectiveness of higher education.  Maybe you even begin to doubt your newly chosen educational path.

While it’s true that rising costs of tuition and a changing job market have come together to modernize how employers view advanced or graduate degrees, that doesn’t mean adding another feather to your graduate cap is off the table.  Whether you should consider seeking a graduate degree all comes down to your return on investment, or ROI.  In many fields, spending that extra time and money won’t have much of a payoff in the long wrong.  In others, it can be your golden ticket to career success.  Not sure which category your profession falls into?  Read on for some of the top fields in which having a graduate degree still makes good financial sense.

The STEM Fields

STEM fields, a handy acronym for careers in the genres of science, technology, engineering or math, are great examples of positions that have significant lifetime earning potential and require advanced education.  If you ever wore a lab coat as a child or dreamt of building complex structures out of metal and glass, this could be the gig for you.

Careers in the STEM field space aren’t numerous, however, and they certainly aren’t phone it in type of 9-5 jobs.  Expect to be using your feet and brains a good portion of your day.  That’s if you can land a career making opportunity in one of these highly competitive positions to being with.  If you do end up in a STEM profession, here’s some salary stats you can look forward too:

  • Engineers and Scientists have quite the salary range.  As an entry level position you can expect to make somewhere in the neighborhood of $50k per year.  With experience and a little bit of luck in the right sub-field, over the years a solid six figure salary of $150k isn’t unheard of.
  • Nationwide, the average salary of a mathematician is around 83k per year.  That’s not too shabby of a number if you like crunching figures and calculating geometric angles for a living.  Top salaries average $130k per year.  Any way you do the numbers, that equals a pretty decent living.

Science Jobs, Technology Jobs, Engineering Jobs, Math Jobs

Save the World with a Degree in Humanities and Social Sciences

It’s a broad category, but an equally rewarding one.  Graduate degrees in the humanities and social sciences fields prep you for a variety of careers.  From teaching to politics to counselors, people with degrees in this area do good and get a lot accomplished in the process.  And when it comes to salaries, well that’s not too shabby either.  Some quick stats include:

  • A political science career will average you around $58k, with an upwards limit of about $112k.  
  • Government salaries can range depending on specific field and federal or state, but generally expect to earn anywhere from $33k to $123k.
  • Help people and your financial self with a career as a therapist where compensation can range from $20k to $60k
  • Take the counseling up a notch with a career as a psychologist and you can expect to make up to $117k in your field

Can’t go Wrong with a Degree in Health

It’s a fact of life that we all get sick, age or get ourselves into mishaps that will require the care and attention of qualified medical staff.  From doctors to nurses to occupational rehab professionals, the health field is one that’s in demand and provides a great deal of job security.  But does an advanced degree in the health field make good financial sense.  We have some numbers to answer just that:

  • If there’s any career more rewarding than caring for people as a nurse, we certainly haven’t heard of it.  And with salaries that range from $35k to $87k, its not too bad on the pocketbook either.
  • If you want to take things up a notch, go for an advanced medical degree that will land you a career as a doctor, audiologist, physical therapist or other medical professional and you’ll be looking at a maximum average salary of $123k or beyond.

Nursing Jobs, Physical Therapist Jobs, Audiologist Jobs

General Thoughts on Advanced Degrees

Whether undergraduate, trade or graduate school, you’ll have a host of points to consider before deciding whether to set your sights on higher education.  Consider the overall cost of the program in addition to your earning potential in a given career field before signing on the dotted line.

Keep in mind the short and long term outlooks of a field for job stability and growth.  You should also take into consideration the location of jobs the degree would qualify for and make sure cost of living makes sense given total compensation.  Finally, consider whether your degree offers you flexibility in employment options if your first career choice doesn’t come through.

Obtaining a degree, advanced or otherwise, is a big life choice and one that shouldn’t be entered into lightly.  You should also remember that careers aren’t exclusively about the financial bottom line.  Happiness and fulfillment may often come in a variety of packages and your love of a chosen career path should factor into any monetary analysis.  Think things through clearly and rationally with an eye to the future and you’ll be well on your way to a lifetime of personal and professional happiness.

This article was updated from the original on July 28, 2017