Nearly half of master’s degree programs leave students financially worse off—and just one subject results in a starting salary over $100k


With Generation Z poised to become the most educated generation ever, those seeking to distinguish themselves among the plethora of college graduates might consider pursuing a master’s degree. However, caution is advised—it's not necessarily a guaranteed path to high salaries and assured success. Recent research indicates that nearly half of the master’s degree programs leave students in a worse financial position. While 23% of bachelor's degree programs offer a negative financial return on investment, this figure almost doubles to 43% for master’s degrees, as reported by the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity. "Even the MBA, one of America’s most popular master’s degrees, often has a low or negative payoff," the report cautions.

The foundation used data from the Department of Education’s College Scorecard and the Census Bureau to estimate the ROI for over 53,000 degrees and certificate programs, finding that negative ROI programs exist in all higher education sectors. Master’s degrees are particularly poor performers due to their high costs, time out of the workforce, and often modest earnings. The median ROI for all master’s degrees is around $50,000, rising to $101,000 for MBAs. By contrast, bachelor’s degree programs boast a median ROI of $160,000, even including those with lower-paying majors like drama and art. Bachelor’s degrees in fields like engineering, computer science, nursing, and economics can yield payoffs of $500,000 or more.

One factor for the poor financial performance of MBA programs is that students often have high preexisting earning potential from high-ROI undergraduate majors like finance and economics, meaning the MBA adds minimal value. 

For Gen Z students determined to surpass graduates with more qualifications, focusing on technology or business fields could significantly enhance earning potential. Specifically, a master’s degree in computer and information sciences might lead to a six-figure starting salary. The National Association of Colleges and Employers found that the 2022 class with a master's in this field enjoyed an average starting salary of $105,894, approximately $20,000 more than those with a bachelor’s degree in the same area.

Predictably, most of the top 10 master’s degrees with the highest average starting salaries are in STEM fields. Graduates with a Master of Engineering earned an average starting salary of about $98,040, while those with a master’s in mathematics and statistics started with salaries upwards of $83,000. Even bachelor’s degree holders in mathematics and statistics secured jobs with salaries over $76,000.

Here are the 10 master’s degrees with the highest average starting salaries:

1. Computer and information sciences: $105,890

2. Engineering: $98,040

3. Engineering technologies and related fields: $90,610

4. Business management, marketing, and related services: $87,980

5. Transportation and materials moving: $84,100

6. Mathematics and statistics: $83,440

7. Legal professions and studies: $74,650

8. Liberal arts and sciences, general studies, humanities: $72,680

9. Multi/interdisciplinary studies: $71,940

10. Health professions and related programs: $70,960  

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post