Masters degrees: the key to a higher salary and better future earning potential?

In today’s highly competitive job market, it’s important to invest your time, money and efforts in areas that will best enable you to fulfil your career ambitions. For many grads, the prospect of not seeing a return on their mounting student loans is a real concern.

If a Masters degree is one of the investments you’re considering, it’s worth taking some time to identify how it might act as a stepping stone to your professional development, future job opportunities, personal fulfilment and earning potential.

Does a postgraduate degree lead to a better salary?

While various factors can affect your lifetime earning potential, education – specifically higher education – is one of the key differentiators. As a general rule, the higher your level of learning, the higher you can expect to rise on the pay scale.

Findings from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that the difference in earnings between a Bachelors degree or undergraduate degree and a Masters degree is approximately 15% for those in full time work. Furthermore, those with a Masters can expect to earn upwards of 100% more than individuals without a high school diploma.

What Masters degree leads to the highest paying job?

If future earning potential is a key factor in deciding which subject, discipline or career is right for you, then identifying the average salary for each can provide useful information. You should also take into account the type of Masters you want to pursue. For example, a Master of Science qualification may lead to a higher salary than a Master of Arts.

Here are the top 10 highest paying master’s degrees in the UK – based on the median salary earnings of graduates five years after the end of their programme:

  1. Master of Business Administration (MBA) – average salary £70,400. Careers in the business, management and leadership space are wide-ranging and span all industries.
  2. Economicsaverage salary £51,100. Graduates often work in stock brokerage, investment banking, asset management, corporate finance and as economists.
  3. Medicine and dentistry – average salary £47,100. Careers extend throughout the healthcare sector, with roles such as physician associates, nurse practitioners, nurse anaesthetists and physician assistants.
  4. Engineering – average salary £44,500. Engineers can work across different sectors such as electrical engineering, manufacturing, aerospace, defence, and many others, either in specialist roles or engineering management.
  5. Computing – average salary £44,500. Careers include computer systems and software engineering, artificial intelligence, information systems, programming and IT project management.
  6. Mathematical sciences – average salary £43,400. You could apply your mathematical knowledge and skills to fields such as financial trading, insurance, statistics and big data.
  7. Pharmacology, toxicology and pharmacy – average salary £43,400. Job sectors include drug design and development, public health and clinical practice.
  8. Business and management – average salary £39,100. These programmes are often popular with college graduates pursuing positions such as marketing manager, entrepreneur, business development manager and project manager.
  9. Politics – average salary £38,700. Graduates may choose to work in local or national government, human resources, journalism, marketing, policy analysis and development, or other related fields.
  10. Architecture, building and planning – average salary £37,600. Many students go on to pursue professional accreditation – for example by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) or the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Your starting salary will vary according to job role, industry, and professional work experience and background. However, with additional years of experience and responsibility, you can progress to top salaries and increased lifetime earnings.

What is the most common Masters degree?

Selecting a subject area or skill set in high demand is another way to increase your employability and job prospects.

According to FindAMasters analysis of Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data, the top 10 most popular Masters degree programmes and subjects in the UK are:

  1. nursing, healthcare, and other subjects allied to medicine
  2. education and teaching
  3. business and management
  4. social sciences
  5. law
  6. psychology
  7. computer science and information technology
  8. creative arts and design
  9. medicine and dentistry
  10. architecture, building and planning.

In this job market, many of the most popular degrees with grads are also among the highest paying.

What are some other benefits of studying a Masters degree?

There are many reasons you might choose to study a postgraduate degree. As well as helping you meet current job requirements, it can also help boost your employability more generally while broadening your career options, allowing you to switch roles or industries, follow a specific interest or develop a new skill set. Many opt for postgraduate study in a bid to increase annual salary and future earning potential.

Plus, by studying an online Masters, you can gain other benefits.

  • Cost-savings – tuition fees may be slightly lower than in-person programmes, and you’ll save money on costs associated with accommodation and commuting.
  • Option to learn at your own pace – many universities, business schools and training providers enable asynchronous learning via their online platforms, meaning you can study and complete modules and assignments/coursework when it suits you.
  • Flexible start dates – unlike campus-based programmes – which usually have one or two fixed start dates throughout the year – online Masters programmes often offer multiple start dates for enrolling, allowing you to begin your studies at a convenient time. Plus, full-time, part-time and fully flexible options allow you to balance your studies with existing commitments.
  • Accessibility – many people cannot attend in-person learning environments for any number of reasons. Distance learning removes this barrier – and also means you end up in a far richer, more diverse, international cohort
  • Greater choice – learning online means geographical restrictions and limitations don’t apply, giving you more freedom to search for institutions that offer the best fit anywhere in the world.

What online Masters degrees are available at the University of York?

You’ll have the opportunity to choose from a range of popular, in-demand subject disciplines and specialisms.

Business and management 

Computer science 

Master of Public Administration

Master of Business Administration

The University of York is a member of the elite Russell Group, a marker of the quality of our research and teaching – which feeds into your learning. We’re also passionate about delivering the best possible learning environment and programme content, and proud to rank joint 17th overall in the Complete University Guide 2024.

Are you ready to take the next step on your career path by gaining an advanced degree? Browse our available online Masters programmes now and come and join us at the University of York.