Obtaining a post-graduate degree can give one a sense of overwhelming accomplishment. It's also the only way to gain access to the highest-paying jobs available. According to Simplyhired.com, the average salary for someone with a post-graduate degree is $57,000; nearly 25% greater than those with a just a bachelor's degree. The top five highest-paying jobs have two things in common: they require a post-graduate degree, and all have starting salaries over $100,000.
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Sitting mightily at the top of the list, the MBA is the most lucrative and malleable of graduate degrees. Its specialties include business, finance and accounting. It can be applied to any type of management operation. Considering its high ranking, the fact that it requires only a master's degree gives it the highest cost-reward ratio as well. MBA programs have become so popular that they can even be completed online, or by attending school part-time for less than $10,000. The average salary for a management position is $105,000 whereas CEOs pull in an average of $1,352,000 according to Salary.com. (For related reading, see Alternatives To Business School.)
The medical field has been an in-demand sector for employment for many years, but no medical career path is as grueling and rewarding as becoming a doctor. Obtaining a medical doctorate is a monumental undertaking that requires three to four years of post-graduate study before moving on to a residency program that can last as long as seven years. However, the personal gratification of saving lives and earning a median annual salary of $180,000 is healthy compensation. For those with entrepreneurial spirits, starting one's own practice can bring in well over $1,000,000 yearly.
Earning a juris doctorate degree is the highest degree possible for those seeking a career in law. After three years of law school, one must pass the bar exam in order to practice as a lawyer. This degree is also the most popular for politicians. Legal professionals typically earn $130,000.
Engineering degrees are popular at every level, but obtaining a Ph.D. earns top honors. These professionals cover fields such as computers, chemicals, aerospace and more, but the highest paying sub-specialty is petroleum. While the push for green energy is still a priority, the oil industry is the number one manufacturer of power and shows no signs of slowing down. Working offshore on oil rigs may be a lonely lifestyle, but their annual income of $128,000 gives them plenty of spending money when they come back to shore.
Teachers are usually thought of as being underpaid, but college professors are definitely the exception to the rule. A Ph.D is required, along with original research for most collegiate institutions. An aspiring professor must have more than just a degree to apply for a position. They must have several published writings and experience as a teacher or assistant professor. Becoming tenured is well worth the hard work though because average income hovers around $100,000 annually.
The Bottom Line
Continuing college education at the graduate level is a hefty commitment of both time and money, but the potential payoff can be enormous. When considering what field to study, the quality of the job itself should be considered instead of simply looking at monetary figures. The Bureau of Labor Statistics breaks down every occupation by degree requirements and salaries, making it easier to find the right path that combines pay with career satisfaction.