Friday, August 19, 2011

Top Moneymaking Master's Degrees - and Those to Avoid

Advice for College 2011 Seniors

A recent article from offers some strategies and pearls of wisdom for college seniors. In essence, the article suggests networking.  Not particularly earth shattering advice, but there are some nice tips that may be more....acceptable to our children when given by a neutral, credible sources such as Glassdoor.

According to Forbes, in 2010 there were about 1.6 million graduating college seniors. It's probably safe to assume that there will be a similar number this coming May. We all know that jobs are scarce, so it is logical to assume that many college seniors will decide to pursue a Master's Degree. 

In the past, we have posted on the most valuable and least valuable college degrees (this post also included links to other interesting career-related articles, such as top retail jobs, top jobs for women, etc.). It stands to reason that, similarly, all Master's Degrees are not created equal.  So, we went scouting around and, lo and behold, has done some interesting analysis on the issue.

Best and Worst Master's Degrees - A Trend Emerges

An article posted a few months ago on discusses the best and worst out of 35 considered Master's degrees.  I have compared this article to one published last year by Forbes on the same topic (2010 was the first time that Forbes had performed analysis of Master's Degrees).
Forbes' analysis paradigm is, in my view, excellent.  It primarily takes into account current availability of jobs and earning potential, as deduced from a number of credible sources. 
Here is what I found.
In 2011, the most valuable Master's Degree was: Physician Assistant.  That was also true in 2010.  So, if you have an interest in medicine, and don't have the grades or finances to get into medical school, it is clear that a Physician Assistant Master's Degree is a great idea.
In second place in 2011? Computer Science. Again, this was also the case in 2010.
Least valuable Master's Degrees?  In 2011, Forbes opined that Master's in Music, Education and Social Work were unlikely to aid you in starting a career, and typically yield 1/2 of the long-term earning potential of many of their counterparts.  In 2010, Education and Social Work again ranked at the bottom of the heap.

Comparing the Value of Masters Degrees to That of Undergraduate Degrees

The Forbes study of Master's Degrees bears striking similarities to studies evaluating the value of various undergraduate degrees.
On such study we have discussed in the past, by an outfit called Capitalbay News, ranked the least "least valuable" and "most valuable" college degrees. It appears that their studies take only salary figures into account (in other words, they do not consider the availability of jobs in a given industry to determine degree value).   Nevertheless, when viewed side by side with the Forbes' Master's Degree study, certain trends are revealed.
In the undergraduate category, and without taking into account job availability, Elementary Education and Social Work were at the very bottom of the pile, and Music majors did not fare much better.  At the other end of the scale were degrees in Engineering and Computer Science.

Just to be sure on the rankings for best paying and worst paying college degrees, I looked at Time's rankings for undergrad degrees:


• Mining and Mineral Engineering

• Metallurgical Engineering

• Mechanical Engineering

• Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering

• Electrical Engineering

• Chemical Engineering

• Aerospace Engineering

• Mathematics and Computer Sciences

• Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences and Administration

• Petroleum Engineering


• Health and Medical Preparatory Programs

• Visual and Performing Arts

• Communication-Disorders Sciences and Services

• Studio Arts

• Drama and Theater Arts

• Social Work

• Human Services and Community Organizations

• Theology and Religious Vocations

• Early-Childhood Education

• Counseling and Psychology

Seems largely consistent with the Capitalbay News findings.


*   Education and Social Work are very rewarding careers, and who doesn't love music.  Yet, despite intrinsic rewards, you aren't going to make much money with an undergraduate degree in those areas (assuming you can find a job in the first place) and getting a Master's won't help all that much.

*   With regard to the Physician's Assistant degree, it seems as though it is somewhat unique, because one does not need a degree in a "core major" in order to be accepted into a Master's program for such studies.  According to Forbes, any undergraduate major will do, provided one has at least some core science subjects under one's belt.  On the other hand, according to Time, it does not seem as though one with a degree in Health and Medical Preparatory Programs will have an easy time finding work in the Physician's Assistant field without a Master's Degree.

*   The Computer Science Master's Degree, on the other hand, may be a bit over the top (at least at first).  It appears that "computer science" is a core area in the USA, and that one can do well with only an undergraduate degree (perhaps thereafter attending a Master's program while gainfully employed).

*   In general, "hard science" degrees appear far more valuable than "social science" degrees.

Hope you found this information helpful, and very best of luck going forward.

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