By Yolanda L Salazar

That is the question on many grad students’ minds! The reasons to go to graduate school are many and varied. Some students want to ensure that they will have higher earning power and others want to enhance their education — two very good reasons.

graduationWhile having a graduate degree does not always instill a higher earning power, it is something that gives you a higher potential for advanced positions, thus helping the bottom line of making more money. For individuals with a Bachelor’s Degree who have worked and are thinking about going back to school, graduate school is definitely good for advancing your career or perhaps allowing you to make a career change.

It takes a very responsible, mature and committed person to tackle graduate school. It can be very expensive as well as stressful which could cause emotional, physical and financial strains on your family and/or relationships. As I said before, there is no guarantee that you will receive a higher salary; however, it could very well be a worthwhile investment in your future.

The opportunities that can open for you are endless, from working on specialized programs or projects to getting recognition. It can also give you a deep feeling of self-satisfaction and accomplishment.

Whether you decide to go to graduate school or not, I would like to offer you some of the top 10 colleges around the country that are great for 5 very popular fields in today’s workplace. Check these out!

Healthcare Administration

healthcare-administrationA career in Healthcare Administration would certainly merit earning a Master’s Degree. A quote from Tim Dugger, a longtime career coach at Career Café, a provider of one-on-one career coaching programs, says, “If you have a clinical background, this is definitely a degree that is going to enhance your career.

The general business education topics contained in these programs, coupled with the increased knowledge of hospital and practice operations make this one a clear winner, both personally and financially.”

Potential Career Path: Medical or Health Services Manager

Median Annual Salary*: $88,580

Top 10 Percent of Earners: $150,560

Bottom 10 Percent of Earners: $53,940

The Department of Labor also says that if you already work in the medical field, a Master’s Degree in Health Services Administration or a related field could be necessary to move into more advanced positions. For example, if you’re a registered nurse, this degree could help prepare you to pursue a position as a Nursing Service Administrator, according to the Department.

Top 10 Online Master’s Degree Program in Healthcare Administration

  1. Colorado State University
  2.  Penn State University
  3.  Ohio University
  4.  University of Cincinnati
  5.  Louisiana State University-Shreveport
  6.  University of Memphis
  7. Saint Joseph’s University
  8.  University of Maryland
  9.  Bellevue University
  10.  George Washington University

Psychology and Counseling

PsychologyIf you already have a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, it would probably be wise to consider going after a Master’s Degree. It should definitely be a great investment.

Mr. Dugger says, “In areas such as mental health, marriage and family counseling, industrial and organizational psychology, therapy, and counseling, a Master’s Degree is the entry-level ticket to admission in this high-growth field.”

Potential Career Path: Marriage and Family Therapist

Median Annual Salary*: $46,670

Top 10 Percent of Earners: $75,120

Bottom 10 Percent of Earners: $25,540

To have a career in marriage and family counseling, a Master’s Degree is a requirement. Marriage and family therapy programs typically teach students how different types of relationships function, and how they affect mental and emotional disorders. In addition to this degree, you will need a license which requires an  additional two years of supervised clinical practice.

Top 10 Master’s Degree Programs in Psychology and Counseling

  1. Columbia University
  2.  University of Wisconsin
  3.  Pepperdine University
  4.  Princeton University
  5.  University of Pennsylvania
  6.  Harvard University
  7.  Stanford University
  8.  Carnegie Mellon University
  9.  John’s Hopkins University
  10.  University of California

Business Administration

business-administrationIf you have a business background and would like to move up the career ladder, a Master’s Degree in Business Administration is your ticket. An MBA can be different and Tim Dugger explains why: “It all depends on your area of expertise. In general, undergraduate technical degrees (in areas like science, tech, engineering, or math) married with some kind of graduate business education can create a well-rounded and more promotable individual. For these people, an MBA is a powerful career enhancer.”

He goes on to say that if you’re not in a technical field, not to worry. He says you could still do well with an MBA if you look specifically at a concentration in finance.

“I’ve seen this degree make the difference in numerous hiring situations. Finance done right is a ‘big picture’ field and so it only makes sense that a finance MBA with its broad focus is viewed as an asset by hiring managers,” he says.

Potential Career Path: Financial Analyst

Median Annual Salary*: $88,580

Top 10 Percent of Earners: $150,560

Bottom 10 Percent of Earners: $53,940

While you may be qualified to pursue this gig with a bachelor’s degree in a field like accounting, economics, or business administration, many employers now require an MBA, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Additionally, The Department of Labor says an MBA or a Master’s Degree in Finance can improve your chances of advancing to positions like portfolio manager, in which you might oversee a team of analysts. Another career you could advance to with a Master’s is Fund Manager, in which you would be in charge of big portfolios for single investors.

Top 10 Master’s Degree Programs in Business Administration

  1. Pepperdine University
  2.  Quinnipiac University Online
  3.  Northeastern University
  4.  Arizona State University
  5.  University of Massachusetts
  6.  Drexel University
  7.  University of Louisiana Monroe
  8.  Ball State University
  9.  University of Nebraska Lincoln
  10.  Texas A&M Commerce

Public Administration

public-administrationIs the government a field you would like to explore? If your goals are to one day pursue a career in the political system, then, you definitely should check out a Master’s Degree in Public Administration. This is what Mr. Tim Dugger feels as well.

“Most people pursuing this degree are seeking a career in some area of government. This is yet another degree that can be a significant contributing factor in a person’s advancement potential within government roles.”

There is one caveat, however: If you ever want to switch career tracks and transition out of government, this degree could hold you back – in terms of both general preparedness and marketability, says Dugger. That’s because it may be more difficult for employers to relate to the skill set this degree may have given you.

Potential Career Path: Political Scientist

Median Annual Salary*: $102,000

Top 10 Percent of Earners: $155,490

Bottom 10 Percent of Earners: $49,290

For this career, a Master’s Degree is imperative, since the U.S. Department of Labor lists a Master’s Degree or Ph.D. in Public Administration, Political Science, or a related field as a requirement for this career track. Most students in an MPA, Master of Public Policy (MPP), or Master of Public Affairs program can choose a specific area of interest, says the Department of Labor. And political scientists with a Master’s Degree could also qualify for teaching positions at community colleges, the Department notes.

Top 10 Master’s Degree Programs in Public Administration

  1. Syracuse University Maxwell
  2. University of Georgia
  3.  Indiana University
  4.  Harvard University
  5.  University of Kansas
  6.  University of Southern California
  7.  Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey
  8.  American University
  9.  New York University
  10.  George Washington University


nursingPursuing a career in Nursing may get you to thinking that there is no need for a Master’s Degree. However, in many states, nurse practitioners with a Master of Science in Nursing can perform many of the same functions as a physician, to include physical exams and writing prescriptions.

Joe Weinlick, Vice-President of Marketing at, a career network website that helps people grow and succeed professionally states, “Nurses don’t necessarily need a Master’s Degree to find good jobs, but getting a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) can open up additional doors and opportunities.”

For example, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) says that a job as a nurse practitioner can be highly rewarding and also pays as much as 50 percent higher than a registered nurse. And Weinlick agrees, but says you’ll need to hurry to cash in. “Today an RN can become a nurse practitioner in most states by obtaining an MSN. Starting in 2015, a Doctor of Nursing Practice will be required, according to the AACN,” he adds.

Potential Career Path: Nurse Practitioner

Median Annual Salary*: $89,960

Top 10 Percent of Earners: $120,500

Bottom 10 Percent of Earners: $64,100

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, you’ll need a Master’s Degree to move forward in your career to a position as an advanced practice registered nurse which includes nurse practitioners. And here’s an important point: In addition to earning your MSN, you must also be licensed as an RN, the Department says.

Top 10 Master’s Degree Programs in Nursing

  1. Georgetown University
  2.  John Hopkins University
  3.  Western Governor’s University
  4.  Duke University
  5.  Capella University
  6.  Drexel University
  7.  Kaplan University
  8.  Loyola University New Orleans
  9.  University of Florida
  10.  University of Texas Tyler

* All salary information from the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Employment and Wages data, May 2012.

Excerpts from article entitled “Is Grad School Worth It? Five Degrees That Are” by Andrea Duchon