Before You Enroll in That Master's Program, Read This

Nancy Anderson
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Earning your master's degree is an effective way to enhance your resume, learn valuable new skills and further your career. That said, there are certain master's degrees that provide significantly more value than others, and it's worth your time to thoroughly research before applying to any specific program. Here's a list of the highest ranking master's degree programs, according to PayScale.

How They're Ranked

PayScale focuses on seven key factors for this list: early-career pay for those new to the industry, mid-career pay for those with at least 10 years of experience, salary growth, job satisfaction, stress level, job meaning and market projections for job growth from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. All seven factors are weighed equally to create a well-rounded overall rating for each master's degree program.

The Best: Biomedical Engineering

Biomedical engineering takes top honors on PayScale's list. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, degree holders in this industry "combine engineering principles with medical and biological sciences to design and create equipment, devices, computer systems and software used in health care." In the early stages of your career, you can expect to earn a median wage of $70,200. By mid-career, your compensation increases dramatically to as much as $129,300. Degree holders also report high levels of job satisfaction and meaning, with top graduates going on to successful positions at top U.S. companies, such as GE Healthcare, Accenture and Merck.

Other Good Bets

Computer Science ranks a close second on the list of best master's degree programs for jobs, and physics ranks third. Graduates of physics programs often remain in the academic world, with many taking on positions as professors. Those who don't may end up at places like NASA, and can command salaries up to $124,800 by the mid-point of their careers. Other notable rankings for master's degree programs include corporate finance, math, statistics and general and strategic management.

The Worst Choices

A master's degree in Graphic Design pulls the lowest rank on PayScale's list. This is largely due to a much slower rate of salary growth, with pay rising from $51,800 to $68,800 by mid-career. Moreover, a staggeringly low percentage of degree holders say they're satisfied with their jobs. Other low-ranking master's programs include interior design, writing, art history and early childhood education.

PayScale's list of best master's degree programs is not the final word in continuing education. You choose the best program for your interests and goals. However, due to the substantial investment in time, energy and money you may be making, it's worth it to conduct thorough research on the master's degree programs you're interested in. The programs with the highest ranking on this list are most likely to provide a great return on your investment.

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