A graduate degree can cost upwards of $100,000 or more, especially when you factor in living expenses, technology, textbooks and accrued interest from debt. In light of these costs, there's one big question:
Is it worth it?

In the end, a simple "yes" or "no" can't answer this question. Your education is an investment that you can leverage, regardless of what your specialty is and what school you decide to attend. No matter what, you need to be able to market yourself in a field where you can succeed, and of course, success is measurable through a range of interacting qualities like happiness, money, career growth, and more. Regarding these qualifying factors, some people might tell you that graduate school isn't worth it, while others say it is the best decision that they ever made. The difference isn't about luck. It's about your plan and whether it's a plan that works for you.

Above all, graduate school is a time to specialize. Building upon what you did as an undergraduate, graduate programs help you refine a niche set of skills. Before you decide where to go or what to do, you need to pinpoint a specialty that makes sense. Even if you're still in college or don't have work experience you should - at the very least - understand what skills the job market demands.

Here are six types of degrees that will equip you with highly practical skills. You probably won't get rich quick, but if you work hard, you'll have a solid set of marketable skills:

Northwestern University's Master of Science Program in Predictive Analytics
Located in Chicago, Northwestern University offers a Master of Science program in Predictive Analytics. This program caters to people who are interested in data analysis across fields and discipline is practical for people who are interested in data modeling, management, communication and analysis. These skills are essential for people who are interested in sales planning, market research, marketing and business analytics - all fields that accommodate a variety of backgrounds ranging from finance to healthcare and media. Designed for working professionals, the degree is 100% online and equips students with a marketable and unique skills portfolio.

A Graduate Degree in Demography
Demography is the study of population dynamics, which means that students analyze topics including fertility, immigration and migration. Integrated with these themes are topics of risk analysis, consumer insights and trend extrapolation, which are all highly relevant to the business world. Because the field is data-driven, students of demography learn how to analyze and communicate patterns using sophisticated statistical methods. Currently, U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Irvine, the University of Pennsylvania and Penn State University offer graduate programs in demography. Programs in demography are relatively rare and are frequently listed under population studies or sociology.

Programs in Specialized Communications
The University of Southern California (USC) features a number of master's programs through its Annenberg School of Communications. These programs feature diverse tracts, ranging from specialties in broadcast journalism to specialties in online communities and new media. Currently, programs are available in communication management, global communication, journalism, public diplomacy and strategic public relations. In the fields of public relations, marketing and online media, and strong communication skills are invaluable.

Public Health, Epidemiology and Biostatistics Programs
Graduate programs in public health equip students with the skills to thrive in a research, business or nonprofit environment. Students can specialize in healthcare communications, or they can pursue a mathematical track in epidemiology or biostatistics. These programs cater to analytically-minded students who are interested in health but don't want to pursue careers as practitioners. The healthcare industry is one that will always be important, and people with this degree provide a unique perspective to the field. Public health, epidemiology and biostatistics programs are available at a number of academic institutions throughout the United States.

Public Affairs Programs
Public affairs graduate students tend to specialize in topics related to local, state or federal government, completing courses in public finance, management, research and budgeting. Even though students study topics related to government, they do not necessarily pursue careers in government - options are available at think-tanks, nonprofits and consulting firms throughout the United States. These specialized degrees enable broad applications. Public affairs programs are available at institutions throughout the United States.

Graduate programs in informatics train students in computer applications across industries. For instance, health informatics curriculums include coursework in patient record administration, clinical data management, research and programming. The skills are practical for researchers in business and nonprofit entities.

The Bottom Line
Your graduate degree is what you make of it. A niche degree is something that you can leverage, especially if the skills that you'll develop are in high demand. Economics 101: know your market, and know where supply undershoots, meets, or overshoots demand.

Related Articles
  1. FA

    Paying for College: Utilize These Top Hacks

    Saving money for college is difficult for many families, but it doesn't have to be. Here are some overlooked hacks to save money on college costs.
  2. Credit & Loans

    Student Loan Deferment: Live to Pay Another Day

    Extending your principal repayment date can increase your chances of fighting off default.
  3. Credit & Loans

    Fund Your Schooling with PLUS Loans

    Find out what they and are whether you're eligible to apply for these no-maximum loans.
  4. Savings

    Fund College for a Grandchild: 529 vs. HEET

    For some grandparents, a HEET is a desirable option for funding their grandchildren's college education. Here's what you need to know about this trust.
  5. Credit & Loans

    College Loans: Private vs. Federal

    Not all student loans are the same. Know what you're getting into before signing on the dotted line.
  6. Credit & Loans

    Student Loan Debt: Is Consolidation The Answer?

    Consolidating student loans entails taking out a new loan to pay off existing loans. It sounds simple, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
  7. Professionals

    Top 5 Post-Grad Degrees That Lead To High Pay

    Although completing a post-grad degree is tough, the payoff is usually worth it. These five jobs typically pay well over $100,000 a year.
  8. Professionals

    Increase Your Odds of Getting a Job After College

    Economists still say college is the best path to a high-paying job. Nowadays, it just requires a little more thought before heading off to the university.
  9. Professionals

    What To Expect On The CFA Level III Exam

    The Chartered Financial Analyst Level III exam, which is only offered in June, is the last in the series of three tests that CFA candidates must pass.
  10. Professionals

    The Real Cost Of An MBA

    Completing an MBA can cost as much as buying a house, so deciding whether to pursue one is a choice that requires much deliberation.
  1. What’s the difference between the two federal student loan programs (FFEL and Direct)?

    The short answer is that one loan program still exists (Federal Direct Loans) and one was ended by the Health Care and Education ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Student loans, federal and private: what's the difference?

    The cost of a college education now rivals many home prices, making student loans a huge debt that many young people face ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. Can I use my IRA to pay for my college loans?

    If you are older than 59.5 and have been contributing to your IRA for more than five years, you may withdraw funds to pay ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. Can my IRA be used for college tuition?

    You can use your IRA to pay for college tuition even before you reach retirement age. In fact, your retirement savings can ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. Can I use my 401(k) to pay for my college loans?

    If you are over 59.5, or separate from your plan-sponsoring employer after age 55, you are free to use your 401(k) to pay ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What are the best MBA programs for corporate finance?

    Opinions vary based on which publications you consult, but the best MBA programs for a career in corporate finance are at ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Hot Definitions
  1. Black Friday

    1. A day of stock market catastrophe. Originally, September 24, 1869, was deemed Black Friday. The crash was sparked by gold ...
  2. Turkey

    Slang for an investment that yields disappointing results or turns out worse than expected. Failed business deals, securities ...
  3. Barefoot Pilgrim

    A slang term for an unsophisticated investor who loses all of his or her wealth by trading equities in the stock market. ...
  4. Quick Ratio

    The quick ratio is an indicator of a company’s short-term liquidity. The quick ratio measures a company’s ability to meet ...
  5. Black Tuesday

    October 29, 1929, when the DJIA fell 12% - one of the largest one-day drops in stock market history. More than 16 million ...
  6. Black Monday

    October 19, 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) lost almost 22% in a single day. That event marked the beginning ...
Trading Center