5 Fields Where a Master's Degree Can Mean a 100K Salary

In some occupations, earning a master's degree, coupled with experience you already have, can open the door to a $100,000 salary

By Neil Johnson
Posted 2012

100k Careers with a Master's Degree
100k Careers with a Master's Degree

A recent U.S. Census Bureau report shows adding a master’s degree to your resume can increase your salary by $20,000 or more and may bring in as much as a half million dollars during a career.

But that kind of payoff is mostly for rosy-cheeked grads looking at 20 or 30 years in a career.

For someone already in a career, that long-term payoff might not be so large. But there are fields where a master’s degree can push your paycheck to six figures.

Find a Program for You

Get MatchedU.S. News University Directory can match you with online programs that meet your criteria in a few simple steps.

Shoehorning graduate school into an already busy life is a challenge. Knowing that, colleges and universities have developed an explosion of distance learning masters programs with flexible schedules.

More than 6.1 million students were enrolled in online programs in 2010, according to U.S. News& World Report, and online enrollment doubled between 2007 and 2011. U.S. News also examined more than 580 master’s degree programs in fields that included nursing, education and information technology.

Those are some of the fields where a master’s degree, usually coupled with experience you already may have, could open the door to a $100,000 salary.


A bachelor’s in nursing is already in demand and adding a master’s in a specialized area such as a disease, setting like OR, group such as pediatrics or type of care such as rehabilitation can help qualify you as a clinical nurse specialist, according to the ExploreHealthCareers.org website.

The role of clinical nurse specialists can include treatment and diagnosis in their specialty. They also can provide direct patient care and act as consultant for a nursing staff, the website said. Pay can reach $100,000 and there are not enough clinical nurse specialists to meet the demand, the site said.

Information Technology

This field can be entered with a bachelor’s degree, but many employers prefer someone with a master’s for higher level jobs such as computer systems analyst where companies look for workers with an MBA and top earners can make $119,000, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said.

Employers also prefer someone with an MBA as a database administrator or as an information security analyst or computer network architect, the BLS said. The top end of the pay range for a security analyst is $120,000 while a network architect’s pay can be up to $137,000 and a database administrator salary can reach $115,000, according to the BLS.

[Explore Computer and Technology Master's Programs Now]

Technology Management

The field of computers and technology shows no end and that also means someone has to supervise and manage the information departments and workers. These jobs require a blend of computer expertise and business management knowledge.

The BLS said most tech management workers have a bachelor’s in a computer-related field. But a master’s degree can push you into management with many employers preferring something like an MBA to open jobs such as chief technology officers, chief information officers or IT managers, the BLS said.

Pay can range from $101,000 in the healthcare field to $123,000 in computer system design, the BLS said.

Education Administration 

A primary way to advance in education is move from the classroom to administration and most districts want school principals to have a master’s degree in education leadership or administration, the BLS said.

The upper end of school administration positions pays $129,000, the BLS said.

You’ll need a bachelor’s in education, school counseling or similar degree to enter a master’s program for education leadership or administration, according to the BLS.

A master’s also could lead to a job in post-secondary administration such as in an administration or registrar’s office where the top 10% of the workers make $164,000, the BLS said.

Criminal Justice or Homeland Security

A master’s degree in the criminal justice field can set you apart from many co-workers and opens doors into some of the field’s better-paying jobs such as an FBI agent where an advanced degree and experience can lead to pay topping $100,000, according to CriminalJusticeProfiles.org.

The CIA is another agency where an advanced degree and experience can lead to six-figure salaries, the website said.

With experience, a forensic accountant who investigates white collar crime can make over $125,000, the site said. An MBA in accounting will put you on the path for that career.

Featured Schools Offering Degrees in Art & Design

We recommend