Highly Desirable Master’s Degrees According to Hiring Experts
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employees with a master’s degree earned a median annual salary of $1,434 per week in 2018. By comparison, these employees outearned those with bachelor’s degrees by more than $200 per week — or more than $10,000 per year. Master’s degree holders also face lower unemployment rates than those with only a bachelor’s, and many popular career paths require a master’s or higher for entry-level roles.
Some students pursue master’s degrees to prepare for new professional roles or to transition into a different career field. Others want to improve their skill sets and qualify for advancement opportunities. Many Ph.D. and doctoral programs only admit candidates with master’s degrees, making it a suitable stepping stone for these high-level graduate programs. Top master’s degrees in demand offer many advantages, but some represent higher earnings and more job security than others due to employer demands, job growth, and other factors. Overall, the top master’s degrees for jobs vary by industry, but here are what career advisors and human resource experts say about the top 10 master’s degrees for landing a job in today’s market.
What Makes a Master’s Degree Desirable to Employers?
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 across the country. 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 (HRI).
HR GM at Lucas Group
Alexander Lowry is a professor of finance at Gordon College where he brings a unique “bilingual” perspective to the academic world, having spent 15 years in senior executive positions in international business and finance. He’s a frequent speaker at gatherings of business leaders, corporate events, and academic conferences. his views are often cited in the media, including in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Economist, Forbes, Reuters, radio, and the major television networks.
Here are their picks for the top 6 things hiring managers are looking for from master’s degree holders:
- Relevant Skills and Knowledge: Students should pursue degrees related to their career interests to increase their hireability. Aram Lulla, human resources general manager for Lucas Group, says that the ideal degree for any student depends on their desired career path. ‘In my field of expertise, human resources,’ Lulla says, ‘we like to see people with a master’s in human resources management, industrial/organizational psychology, or an MBA (ideally with a concentration in HR).’
- Collaborative Experience: Group projects at the graduate level require classmates to engage in intensive, thoughtful collaboration. These activities often mirror professional group work, and employers encourage job seekers to discuss successful projects when applying for jobs. ‘As far as educational experience, having project work with deliverables during their course of study would be a plus,’ Lulla says. ‘Strong verbal and written communication skills coupled with collaboration skills would be a significant benefit.’
- Practical Training: Graduate programs with internships, practicum courses, or other hands-on components effectively prepare students for real-world work settings. Alexander Lowry, who leads the financial analysis master’s program at Gordon University, says hiring managers seek candidates with established skill sets who can ‘hit the ground running’ once they begin working. ‘Internships, ideally more than one, are essential,’ he adds.
- Networking Expertise: Master’s degrees enable students to network extensively with their classmates, professors, other faculty members, and alumni. Internships and practicum courses may also lead to networking opportunities, which can benefit job seekers. Lowry urges students to begin networking on day one. ‘When you’re a student, you have a golden opportunity to contact all your school’s alumni who are in your field,’ he says. ‘Alums are happy to take those calls and help. But that advantage disappears once you graduate.’
- Management Potential: To many employers, a master’s degree signals strong leadership skills. Employees with master’s degrees often advance to management positions more quickly than those with only a bachelor’s or lower. ‘Not always, but having a master’s degree can give you a leg up when seeking management roles,’ Lulla says. ‘Many employers prefer their senior leadership to possess a master’s.’
- Emotional Intelligence: In today’s work environment, people skills such as communication and interpersonal effectiveness help graduates succeed. Many employers consider the master’s degree a strong indicator of emotional intelligence (EQ) and book smarts. Lowry believes both carry equal importance. ‘You must have EQ to match IQ,’ he says, ‘especially in the multi-generational workforce we’re all facing today.’
The 10 Most In-Demand Master’s Degrees for Employers
With insight on what hiring experts are looking for in mind, we’ve determined the most We have based our picks on several factors, such as postgraduate employment rates, projected job growth, salaries for entry-level and experienced employees, and diversity of career options. To determine the best master’s degrees for the future, we use higher education data from several reputable sources, including the BLS, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), PayScale, and the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
We have listed the degree fields in alphabetical order. Please visit the links in each profile to learn more.
Tips for Master’s Graduates Entering the Workforce
Piotr Sosnowski is the head of HR and co-founder at Zety. He boasts seven years of experience in recruitment in top companies and managing teams and HR projects. He has expanded the InterviewMe and Zety team from three people to over 50 in less than four years.
Here are his top 6 tips for master’s graduates entering the workforce:
The Importance of Accreditation for Online Master’s Programs
Most colleges and universities undergo a comprehensive assessment known as accreditation to demonstrate high levels of quality in various areas, such as course curricula, campus resources, and student outcomes. Organizations known as accreditors conduct the accreditation process, which can take months.
Accreditation is voluntary, but a school’s accreditation status may impact its students’ eligibility for federal loans, scholarships, and grants, and their ability to transfer course credits. For these reasons, students should carefully research the accreditation status of each potential institution before settling on a school for their master’s degree.
Accreditors award two types of accreditation to colleges and universities. The first, institutional accreditation, applies to the school as a whole and further subdivides into two categories. Regional accreditation normally applies to private, nonprofit schools and four-year public universities emphasizing a liberal arts education. National accreditation, on the other hand, typically applies to for-profit institutions and vocational and professional schools.
Most regionally accredited schools do not accept transfer credits from nationally accredited ones, which may restrict students who begin their education at a nationally accredited institution.
The second type of accreditation, programmatic (or specialized) accreditation, applies to degrees, departments, and smaller schools belonging to larger institutions. Programmatic accreditation primarily covers graduate-level studies, though it may also include undergraduate programs in certain majors, such as law, psychology, and nursing. Many colleges and universities receive both institutional and programmatic institution.
Two separate organizations oversee the approval and designation of accreditors: The Department of Education (ED), a cabinet of the U.S. government, and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), a non-government organization. The ED and CHEA websites each maintain a list of recognized regional, national, and programmatic accreditors. Visit these directories to ensure your top schools hold full accreditation in all applicable areas.
Additional Resources for Students
Master's Degree Hub
This page lists the best schools with online master’s programs for the 2018-19 academic year, along with top degree fields and an overview of graduate-level education requirements.
How to Choose a Graduate Program
This guide provides a comprehensive rundown of graduate degree types and fields, application requirements, financial aid options, and other important considerations for prospective grad students.
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