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Online Masters Degrees

Online master's degrees are widely available and help working professionals increase their knowledge base and improve career options. Online master's degrees, like on-campus ones, usually require 1-2 years of full-time study. But many students, especially at online colleges, attend part time so they do not have to leave their current jobs. Part of graduate studies programs of colleges and universities, masters degrees typically involve demanding coursework and greater student participation.

Masters Degrees & Career Earnings

Earning a master's degree can benefit you intellectually and personally. But there can be practical benefits, too. As the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) points out, those with master's degrees typically earn more money than those with associate or bachelor's degrees. Consider these 2014 statistics from the BLS concerning average weekly earnings and unemployment rates by degree-level:

  • Associate degree: $792/week, 4.5 percent unemployment
  • Bachelor's degree: $1,101/week, 3.5 percent unemployment
  • Master's degree: $1,326/week, 2.8 percent unemployment
  • Professional degree: $1,639, 1.9 percent unemployment
  • Doctoral degree: $1,591/week, 2.1 percent unemployment

The Top 20 Most Popular Master's Degree Programs

Earning your master's degree can communicate to employers that you have advanced thinking skills and are serious about your career. Here are the 20 most popular master's degree programs in the U.S, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) for the school year 2012-2013 (the last year for which statistics are available).

1. Business
One in four students earning a master's degree in the U.S. last year studied business, and those graduates went on to jobs as information security analysts, human resources specialists, financial and management analysts, and a broad range of other jobs. Many of these graduates are in high demand. For example, according to the BLS, the demand for information security analysts, who earned a mean salary of $91,600 in 2014, will grow 30 percent between 2012 and 2022.

2. Education
In addition to teaching, students who earn a master's degree in education may move into jobs as education administrators and guidance, school or vocational counselors. Although the demand for administrators at the elementary and secondary level is expected to slow down in the coming years, the demand for postsecondary administrators and counselors is expected to grow 20 percent by 2022, the BLS reports.

3. Health professions and related programs
One in 10 students who graduated college with a master's degree in 2012 were in health professions and related programs, and went on to get jobs as healthcare social workers, nurse practitioners and nursing instructors at the postsecondary level. The demand is greatest for nurse practitioners and teachers, where the number of jobs is expected to grow 30 percent by 2022, the BLS reports.

4. Public administration and social services
Five percent of the master's degree graduates in 2012 earned their diploma in public administration and social services, moving into jobs working for the government or for agencies that provide social services. Jobs for social and community service mangers is expected to grow faster than average from 2012 to 2022.

5. Engineering
Master's degrees in engineering can be focused on a wide variety of fields, including petroleum engineering, nuclear engineering, civil engineering, mechanical engineering and other fields. The demand varies: while jobs for nuclear and mechanical engineers are expected to grow slower than average, the demand for mining and geological engineers will grow faster than average, the BLS says.

6. Psychology
Earning a master's degree in psychology can lead to a job as a psychologist, which also requires an internship or residency training. Job growth for psychologists, who the BLS reports earn mean annual salaries of $89,810, is expected to be a little faster than normal in coming years.

7. Social sciences and history
Students graduating with a master's in social sciences and history often go into jobs as teachers, writers or antique dealers. Many work for libraries and museums, and some go to work for law enforcement agencies. Jobs for museum technicians and conservators is expected to grow slower than average in the coming years, while demand for curators will grow 11 percent from 2012 to 2022.

8. Computer and information sciences
Job growth in the computer field for students with a master's in computer and information sciences will vary in the coming years. Those who go into network architecture will see brisk job growth, while computer programmers will see slower-than-average growth, the BLS reports.

9. Social sciences
Graduates in this field are expected to see above-average growth in jobs for sociologists, who earned mean annual wages of $78,810 in 2014, working for research organizations, colleges and universities, governments and consulting firms, the BLS reports.

10. Visual and performing arts
The demand for art teachers is on the rise, with job growth expected to be between 10 and 20 percent through 2022. At the postsecondary level, art teachers make mean annual salaries of $75,350 per year.

11. Theology and religious vocations
Students graduating with a master's in this field often find work teaching or leading a religious congregation. The mean annual wage for clergy in the U.S. is $47,730, and the number of jobs is expected to grow about as fast as normal, according to BLS data.

12. Biological and biomedical sciences
Jobs for biomedical engineers are growing much faster than average, and those jobs are paying salaries of $91,760 per year, according to the BLS. Zoologists and wildlife biologists, on the other hand, are seeing slower job growth and lower pay.

13. English language and literature/letters
Students earning a master's in English find work in teaching, publishing, editing and many other fields. Although the demand for editors is generally declining, the demand for teachers is above average, the BLS reports.

14. Communication, journalism, and related programs
The demand for journalists is decreasing, but the demand for public relations specialists is expected to grow about as fast as average. The mean wage for a PR specialist in 2014 was $64,050 a year, according to BLS data.

15. Architecture and related services
A master's degree in architecture can be a prelude to working as a professional architect, usually after an internship or residency. Architect jobs are growing faster than normal, and pay a mean annual wage of $80,490, according to 2014 data from the BLS.

16. Homeland security, law enforcement, and firefighting
Graduates with an advanced degree in security, law enforcement and firefighting can quickly find work with the federal government or for airports. Other jobs are available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Transportation Security Administration.

17. Multi/interdisciplinary studies
Master's degree holders in interdisciplinary studies combine the study of up to three different areas in an effort to develop a holistic understanding of a particular topic. This allows them to develop an expertise that makes them valuable to industries that must deal with the same topic or problem. Students also learn how to blend multiple fields of study, such as applied economics and sociology, in a way that makes them effective problem solvers.

18. Library science
Students with a master's degree in this field may see a job market growing slightly slower than average. Still, librarians can find work with governments, schools and hospitals, and they earn a mean annual salary of $58,110.

19. Parks, recreation, leisure, and fitness studies
Graduates in these fields go on to work for health clubs, health and fitness centers, and parks and recreation departments for local, state and federal governments. Some become recreation therapists, earning $46,060 annually, the BLS reports.

20. Physical sciences and science technologies
This broad category encompasses many fields and can lead to a wide variety of jobs. Some of those jobs that require a master's degree include anthropologists, archeologists, economists, epidemiologists, hydrologists, and more. In May 2014, the mean pay for anthropologists and archeologists was $61,980, and jobs were growing faster than average, the BLS says.


Sources:

  1. 6 Hot Jobs for MBA Graduates, U.S. News and World Reports, http://www.usnews.com/education/best-graduate-schools/top-business-schools/articles/2015/03/17/6-hot-jobs-for-mba-graduates
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/home.htm
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Arbitrators, Mediators and Conciliators, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/arbitrators-mediators-and-conciliators.htm
  4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Biomedical Engineers, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/architecture-and-engineering/biomedical-engineers.htm
  5. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Clergy, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2008/may/oes212011.htm
  6. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Information Security Analysts, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/information-security-analysts.htm
  7. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Legal Occupations, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/legal/arbitrators-mediators-and-conciliators.htm
  8. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Librarians, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/librarians.htm
  9. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Life, Physical, and Social Science Occupations, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/home.htm
  10. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Public Relations Specialists, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/media-and-communication/public-relations-specialists.htm
  11. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Recreational Therapists, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/recreational-therapists.htm
  12. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Sociologist, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/sociologists.htm
  13. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/zoologists-and-wildlife-biologists.htm
  14. Department of Homeland Security, http://www.dhs.gov/homeland-security-careers/recent-grads
  15. Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies, Oregon State University, http://gradschool.oregonstate.edu/master-arts-interdisciplinary-studies-mais
  16. Master of Homeland Security, http://www.masterofhomelandsecurity.org/master-of-homeland-security-degree-holder-average-salary.html
  17. Salisbury University, What Can You Do with a Graduate Degree in History? http://www.salisbury.edu/careerservices/Students/GraduateMajors/History.html

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