Get Schooled: The long-term payoff from advanced degrees
More and more college students are choosing to stay in school after graduation. The rate of enrollment in graduate schools has grown by about 3% per year over the past 20 years, according to the Council of Graduate Schools.
“This is a reflection of changes in the workforce and the needs of our economy,” a council spokesperson said. “Careers in the 21st century require high-level skills in leadership, innovation, project management and problem-solving. These are the types of skills that graduate education is designed to develop.”
While it’s fairly common knowledge that there are certain fields, like medicine and law, where graduate degrees are required, master’s degrees are becoming increasingly mandatory for certain careers, according to the council.
“We expect that graduate education will continue to be highly valued by students, employers and job seekers,” the council spokesperson said. “An advanced degree is a good investment that pays off through higher earnings and job security.”
But what careers are really worth the extra time — and money?
While many careers in the field of medicine require a graduate degree of some sort, the one that’s popular right now — and set to get even more popular — is the physician assistant. The job outlook is set to grow by 30% between 2010 and 2020, which is much faster than average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. Physician assistants earn approximately $86,410 per year, or $41.54 per hour, according to the bureau.
Elementary and Middle School Teachers
Many states, including New York, require teachers to obtain a professional teaching certificate, often through a graduate program, in order to get a permanent job in the public school system. Teachers without a master’s can obtain initial certification and teach for up to five years before being required to get their master’s and their professional certification. Teachers with master’s degrees also make $400,000 more over a lifetime than those without one, according to “The College Payoff: Education, Occupations, Lifetime Earnings,” a report from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.
Formal requirements to become a lawyer usually involve earning a bachelor’s degree, three years in law school and passing a bar exam, according to the bureau. The extra time in school is worth the $112,760 median annual salary, though. Job opportunities for lawyers are expected to grow by 10% by 2020, which is about average, according to bureau; competition is expected to stay steep.
“Green” jobs are hot right now, and eco-centric jobs as a category are expected to see continued growth. Environmental economists analyze data and determine whether various environmental protection programs are economically feasible, according to O*Net Online, a partner of the American Job Center network.
Though entering the field requires only a bachelor’s degree, according to the BLS, 32% of surveyed environmental economists have a master’s degree and 61% have doctoral or professional degrees (i.e., law degrees), according to O*Net Online. Median pay for the position, according to the BLS, is $89,450 per year or $43 per hour.
But while green jobs are in demand, the growth in job outlook for this career specifically is expected to be slower than average.
If you want to work in medicine, consider a career as a pharmacist. It’s a changing field, with more and more companies pushing their pharmacists to be more than pill dispensers but also information sources, assisting customers with medicine-related questions.
A doctor of pharmacy degree is required, as well as a license, which involves passing two exams, according to the bureau. Median pay is $111,570 annually or $53.64 per hour, and the job outlook through 2020 is expected to be faster than average, at 25%.