Highly Desirable Master's Degrees According to Hiring Experts
Some bachelor's degree-holders continue their education with a master's degree. The most desirable master's degrees let students specialize in a more concentrated area than bachelor's degrees.
Earning a master's degree can help graduates increase their earning potential. Some employers prefer candidates with a master's degree. Earning a master's degree can also prepare learners for Ph.D. programs.
This page lists the most in-demand master's degrees through 2026. These programs help graduates enter growing fields with high potential salaries. For example, accounting, software engineering, and public health degrees all made the list.
The Benefits of a Master's Degree
Master's degrees let students hone in on a chosen specialty. More focused than bachelor's programs, master's programs prepare enrollees for specific jobs. For example, some schools offer master's degrees in nonprofit management or creative psychology. These same schools may not offer these topics at the bachelor's level.
The best master's degrees can give graduates a competitive edge in the job market. Master's degree-holders earn $240 more per week than bachelor's degree-holders, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Some professions require a master's degree for advancement or certification. For instance, employers may prefer nurses with a master of science in nursing over candidates with only a bachelor of science in nursing.
- 1. Relevant Skills and Knowledge
Earning a master's degree helps learners develop field-specific skills. Aram says that in the HR field, hiring managers prefer candidates with master's degrees in HR or industrial-organizational psychology. These desirable master's degrees prepare enrollees for HR careers.
- 2. Collaborative Experience
Many employers look for candidates with experience working on a team. The best master's degrees give learners this experience through group projects. Aram encourages students to keep their project deliverables to show hiring managers. Group projects can also help learners hone their verbal and written communication and collaboration skills.
- 3. Practical Training
Hiring managers like to see candidates with some practical experience in their desired field. Alexander says experience lets new hires hit the ground running. Some of the best master's degrees require enrollees to complete an internship or practicum in order to graduate. Some programs pair students with companies or professionals to complete these experiences.
- 4. Networking Experience
Networking can help students find new opportunities and learn new skills. The best master's programs often help facilitate networking with other students, alumni, and faculty. Internships and practicums provide other networking opportunities.
Alexander encourages students to network during their program and take advantage of their alumni network. Degree-seekers can contact their school's alumni office or office of engagement to explore networking opportunities.
- 5. Management Potential
Many employers and hiring managers see a master's degree as an indication of leadership skills. Master's programs often include leadership training. Master's degree-holders may feel more comfortable taking ownership of ideas and leading projects than their peers without a graduate degree.
Aram notes that a master's degree can sometimes give professionals a leg up for management roles. Many employers prefer their senior leadership to possess a master's.
- 6. Emotional Intelligence
Employers typically seek candidates with high emotional intelligence (EQ), which includes communication skills and interpersonal effectiveness. These skills can help employees work effectively.
Some of the best master's degrees include classes that cover emotional intelligence. Enrollees can also hone these skills during internships and group projects. Many employers see a master's degree as a sign of high EQ.
Meet Our Experts
Aram Lulla is the general manager of national executive search firm Lucas Group's human resources division. With nearly 20 years of experience in HR recruiting, Aram currently leads a team of more than 50 recruiters in 11 U.S. cities. At Lucas Group, Aram designed, developed, and implemented the business plan that led to the launch of the company's HR recruiting team. He previously served in a variety of HR and HR recruiting roles at companies including Randstad and Human Resources International.
Alexander Lowry is a professor of finance at Gordon College. He brings a bilingual perspective to the academic world. He spent 15 years in senior executive positions in international business and finance. Alexander is a frequent speaker at gatherings of business leaders, corporate events, and academic conferences. Media outlets including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times often cite his views.
Highly Desirable Master's Degrees According to Hiring Experts
Our experts, Aram Lulla and Alexander Lowry, have created a list of the most in-demand master's degrees. These degrees are linked to high job growth and earning potential.
The Importance of Accreditation for Online Master's Programs
Students should only apply to accredited schools. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation oversees several regional and national accreditors. These accreditors ensure colleges and universities maintain a certain level of education standards. Some organizations accredit entire schools. Individual programs may also feature programmatic accreditation.
Accreditation also means that students can transfer credits to another accredited school if they change institutions. Learners can research schools' accreditation status online.
The 10 Most In-Demand Master's Degrees for Employers
See below for 10 of the most in-demand master's degrees based on factors like job growth and earning potential. We use higher education data from several reputable sources, including the BLS, the National Association of Colleges and Employers, Payscale, and the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
- 1. Accounting
Master's degrees in accounting prepare students to work as accountants. Learners build upon bachelor's-level skills to specialize further. For example, enrollees may specialize in areas like forensic accounting or auditing.
Accountants and auditors earn a median $73,560 annually. The BLS projects jobs for these professionals to grow 7% from 2020-2030, which is about as fast as average. Financial managers earn $134,180. The BLS projects jobs for these professionals to grow 17% during the same time frame.
- 2. Computer Science
Enrollees pursuing a master's degree in computer science learn coding languages and analyze algorithms. Students can specialize in areas like computer networking or software development.
Computer and information research scientists earn a median $126,830 annually. The BLS projects jobs for these workers to grow 22% from 2020-2030.
- 3. Dietetics and Nutrition
Students pursuing a master's in dietetics and nutrition study the biology of food and nutrition. Coursework may cover food-distribution policies and developing food technologies. Common concentration options include nutrition education and food science.
Nutritionists and dieticians earn a median $63,090 annually. The BLS projects jobs for these professionals to grow 11% from 2020-2030. Agricultural and food scientists earn a median $68,830 annually. The BLS projects jobs for these professionals to grow 9% from 2020-2030.
- 4. Human Resources
Master's degrees in human resources programs cover topics like workplace law, conflict resolution, and innovative recruiting. Concentration options may include employment law and recruiting and staffing.
Human resources managers earn a median $121,220 annually. The BLS projects jobs for these managers to grow 9% from 2020-2030. Training and development managers earn a median $115,640 annually. The BLS projects jobs for these workers to grow 11% during the same time period.
- 6. Library Science
Master's in library science programs teach students how to use libraries' digital systems. Classes cover digital libraries, database management, and literacy programs. Students may also learn about research methods and how to help library users with their research.
Librarians and library media specialists earn a median $60,820 annually. The BLS projects jobs for these workers to grow 9% from 2020-2030.
- 7. Mechanical Engineering
Mechanical engineering master's programs cover highly specialized topics. Learners explore the design, construction, and use of machinery of all kinds. Students may specialize in manufacturing, automation, or nuclear energy. Graduates may work as aerospace engineers, architectural engineers, or petroleum engineers.
Mechanical engineers earn a median $90,160 annually. The BLS projects jobs for these engineers to grow 7% from 2020-2030. Engineer managers earn a median $149,530 annually. Aerospace engineers earn a median $118,610 annually.
- 8. Mathematics and Statistics
Learners pursuing a master's degree in mathematics and statistics study advanced math concepts. Concentrations for this in-demand master's degree include risk management, big data, and information technology. Graduates may work as actuaries, operations research analysts, or statisticians.
Mathematicians and statisticians earn a median $93,290 annually. The BLS projects jobs for these workers to grow 33% from 2020-2030. Actuaries earn $111,030 annually. The BLS projects jobs for these workers to grow 24% during this same time frame.
- 9. Nursing
Master's in nursing programs teach nurses the skills and concepts they need to take on greater responsibility in patient care. Master's degree-holders may work as nurse practitioners (NPs), occupational therapists, or nurse midwives. Registered nurses who earn a master's degree may increase their salary and promotion potential.
NPs earn a median $117,670 per year. The BLS projects jobs for NPs to grow 45% from 2020-2030.
- 10. Public Health
Master's programs in public health teach students about healthcare systems on a broader system than provider-to-patient care. Students learn how to identify, evaluate, monitor, and treat health issues on a group level.
Graduates may work as health services managers, epidemiologists, or public health analysts. Health service managers earn a median $104,280 annually. The BLS projects jobs for these professionals to grow 32% from 2020-2030.
- 11. Software Engineering
Students pursuing a master's degree in software engineering study algorithms, database architecture, and coding. Enrollees may also study quality assurance and debugging.
Graduates may work as software engineers. These professionals earn a median $110,140 annually. The BLS projects jobs for these engineers to grow 22% from 2020-2030.
Tips for Master's Graduates Entering the Workforce
Piotr Sosnowski is the head of HR and co-founder at Zety. He has seven years of experience in recruitment in top companies and managing teams and HR projects. Piotr grew the InterviewMe and Zety team from three people to over 50 in less than four years.
Here, he shares six tips for master's graduates entering the workforce:
Start networking while earning your master's degree. Build a professional network of contacts and reach out to the companies and thought leaders you admire. Follow their steps and interact with them. LinkedIn is a great place to start. This platform lets you create a presentable, professional profile and connect with people who can play a significant role in your career. Attend networking events and industry workshops. Consider joining online groups and webinars to keep up with your industry.
Learn how to create an entry-level job application that highlights your uniqueness. Search online for guides and tutorials for help creating your resume and building your online presence.
Prepare a Winning Entry-Level Application
If you aspire to work for a particular business, look for job openings and apply for the roles.
Reach Out To Your Dream Companies
Many companies organize recruiting events or open days. Always bring your resume and arrive prepared with an elevator pitch.
Attend Companies' Open Days and Job Fairs
An internship lets you get your foot in the door. Companies often keep the employees they trained themselves rather than looking for new ones. Even if you do not end up working for a particular company, the internship experience may open other doors.
Start With an Internship
Once part of a company, seek a mentor and learn. Learn a lot. This is your time to shine and show what you can do. Show as much initiative as you can.
Find a Mentor