Is Your Masters Worth It? The Best and Worst Masters Degrees Today

Choosing your Master degree is difficult. While it might sound like sage advice to 'follow your passion', it's worth remembering that following a Master degree is going to affect your purse strings too. It makes sense to consider the earning potential of those with your degree and the number of jobs available for graduates in your field. In-demand industries vary from country-to-country, but there are some global trends. With competition also global, it makes sense to pay attention to these.

By analysing and cross-referencing information in the public domain, Forbes magazine has come up with a list of the ten best and worst Masters Degrees available. How does your course compare?

The High Flyers
Some Masters graduates seem to get snapped up by employers, some industries have high predicted growth rates, and other postgraduates get paid an average of over $100,000 per annum. If you're looking for a safe investment, a Master degree in one of the following subjects might be worth considering:

1. Information Systems
2. Physics
3. Physician Assistants
4. Computer Science
4. Electrical Engineering
6. Occupational Therapy
6. Public Health
6. Nursing
6. Finance
10. Civil Engineering

Most of these courses have a high probability of graduate success around the world. Those related to health and medicine are especially lucrative in the US due to healthcare reforms, but Hong Kong graduates can rest assured that there will always be need of doctors and medical professionals at home too.

Broadly speaking, it is STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) postgraduates who are most in demand. Expertise in a STEM subject is sought after not only in research, but in the day-to-day operations of many of our most successful businesses. Mathematics and IT skills especially are required within every possible industry, making a masters in these areas a wise choice. A GMAC study also found that 75% of surveyed employers intended to hire an MBA graduate in 2013, up from 71% in 2012.

Economy Class
On average, a Master’s degree will earn you more than a Bachelor’s degree, but sometimes the increase barely offsets the price of the masters itself. Some industries also grow at a much slower rate and so there aren't as many career opportunities for certain postgraduates. Forbes identified ten worst degrees in terms of postgraduate opportunity:

1. Library and Information Science
2. Music
3. English
4. Education
5. Public Administration
6. Biology
7. History
8. Counselling
9. Political science
9. Architecture

Of course, many of these degrees have high employment rates, but not exceptionally high pay rates, or vice-versa, so inclusion on this list should not dissuade anyone from considering further study in a subject in which they excel. Likewise, many are in fact fields of passion and without experts in those fields, our society would suffer, public administration and education being the most obvious examples.

When choosing your Master degree, it is important to consider what the experience will teach you personally as well as the prospective financial worth later on. Being proficient in additional languages is also a great way to maximise your employability and earning potential, as well as being a valuable self-development tool. Statistics and league tables help to give you a broad-brush understanding of where a particular Master’s degree might take you, but in order to decide the true worth of a course, as a student you must understand that you will plot your own course through the job market and have the potential to influence on which side of the statistic you end up: the hired or the job-hunting.


*Image courtesy of Photokanok /