GRADUATE DEGREES AND JOBS

Written By
Gustavo A. Mellander

More Hispanic students are pursuing graduate studies. Some graduate degrees lead to enhanced employment opportunities at significantly higher salaries; some don’t.  I report on both.

A look back

PHOTO LICENSED BY INGRAM IMAGE  


PHOTO LICENSED BY INGRAM IMAGE

 

For over 20 years, I have written about graduate education.  I have suggested that Hispanics consider careers other than service professions such as teachers, counselors and nursing. But if they did select those fields, I urged them to pursue graduate degrees.  For more than 10 years, ever since President George Bush mobilized Congress to increase funding for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programs, I have urged Hispanics to consider those fields.
In 2015, 26 percent of recent baccalaureates enrolled in graduate programs. They stated they had been influenced by the significant salary differences between those with advanced degrees and those without them. Employers place a premium in hiring and promoting those with graduate degrees.   
To determine “the best and worst graduate degrees for jobs,” Fortune Magazine contracted PayScale, a careers site, to analyze and rank a wide distribution of Ph.D.s and master’s degrees. I have drawn extensively from that report.  The factors studied were: 1) Long-term outlook for job growth--PayScale projected growth based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’  2014 to 2024 projections.  2) Median pay--the national median total   compensation (base salary plus bonuses, commissions, profit-sharing, etc.) at mid-career or after 10 or more years of experience. 3) Job satisfaction and stress --percentages who reported they were “extremely” or “fairly satisfied” with their jobs and who reported their work was “relaxing” or “not stressful.” 

The top rankings and the lowest

Graduate degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields dominated the top rankings. They commanded starting salaries from $68,000 for a master’s degree in information systems to $117,000 with a computer science Ph.D. Furthermore, in almost all the STEM fields, employees said they were extremely satisfied and less stressed. 
The lowest financial return was for graduate degrees in various education fields. At mid-career, an early childhood educator with a master’s degree can expect annual pay of around $48,700. Still, the majority of education-degree holders reported their jobs offer considerable satisfaction despite the low paychecks. A full 87 percent of reading and literacy teachers report being extremely satisfied with their work. Further, the anticipated job growth rate in education is quite healthy.     

THE BEST 15 GRADUATE DEGREES FOR JOBS

1. Master’s, Biostatistics
Median Salary: $105,900
Projected Job Growth by 2024: 23 percent
Highly Satisfied: 85 percent
Low Stress: 57 percent
2. Master’s, Statistics
Median Salary: $113,700
Projected Job Growth by 2024: 16.4 percent
Highly Satisfied: 75 percent
Low Stress: 57 percent

3. Ph.D., Computer Science
Median Salary: $147,400
Projected Job Growth by 2024: 12 percent
Highly Satisfied: 77 percent
Low Stress: 45 percent

4. Ph.D., Economics
Median Salary: $125,800
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 11.3 percent
Highly Satisfied: 88 percent
Low Stress: 59 percent

5. Master’s, Applied Mathematics
Median Salary: $124,900
Projected Job Growth by 2024: 12.7 percent
Highly Satisfied: 71 percent
Low Stress: 49 percent

6. Master’s, Computer Science
Median Salary: $125,700
Projected Job Growth by 2024: 11.9 percent
Highly Satisfied: 69 percent
Low Stress: 51 percent

7. Ph.D., Pharmacy
Median Salary: $126,000
Projected Job Growth by 2024: 13.8 percent
Highly Satisfied: 81 percent
Low Stress: 32 percent
8. Ph.D., Mathematics
Median Salary: $106,600
Projected Job Growth by 2024: 13.7 percent
Highly Satisfied: 72 percent
Low Stress: 53 percent

9. Ph.D., Physics
Median Salary: $137,800
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 9.1 percent
Highly Satisfied: 82 percent
Low Stress: 49 percent

10. Master’s, Software Engineering
Median Salary: $118,900
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 11.9 percent
Highly Satisfied: 66 percent
Low Stress: 51 percent

11. Ph.D., Physical Chemistry
Median Salary: $134,800
Projected Job Growth by 2024: 8.8 percent
Highly Satisfied: 81 percent
Low Stress: 47 percent

12. Master’s, Information Systems
Median Salary: $116,100
Projected Job Growth by 2024: 11.2 percent
Highly Satisfied: 71 percent
Low Stress: 48 percent

13. Masters, Physician Assistant Studies
Median Salary: $103,600
Projected Job Growth by 2024: 16.7 percent
Highly Satisfied: 77 percent
Low Stress: 25 percent

14. MBA, Management Information Systems
Median Salary: $117,800
Projected Job Growth by 2024: 10.3 percent
Highly Satisfied: 81 percent
Low Stress: 44 percent

15. Ph.D., Political Science
Median Salary: $116,700
Projected Job Growth by 2024: 9.9 percent
Highly Satisfied: 78 percent
Low Stress: 48 percent

THE WORST FIVE GRADUATE DEGREES FOR JOBS

1. Master’s, Curriculum and Instruction
Median Salary: $60,600
Projected Job Growth by 2024: 5.7 percent
Highly Satisfied: 79 percent
Low Stress: 40 percent

2. Master’s, Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) – tied with Pastoral Ministry
Median Salary: $55,000
Projected Job Growth by 2024: 7.5 percent
Highly Satisfied: 68 percent
Low Stress: 36 percent

3. Master’s, Pastoral Ministry – tied with ESL
Median Salary: $60,800
Projected Job Growth by 2024: 5.3 percent
Highly Satisfied: 95 percent
Low Stress: 40 percent

4. Master of Architecture (MArch)
Median Salary: $81,100
Projected Job Growth by 2024: 4.5 percent
Highly Satisfied: 70 percent
Low Stress: 42 percent

5. Master’s, English Literature
Median Salary: $69,500
Projected Job Growth by 2024: 6.2 percent
Highly Satisfied: 68 percent
Low Stress: 33 percent

Bottom Line

This is really a wonderful list. It is surprising at times but very useful and insightful. It could help students solidify their plans. Money should not be the main motivator in selecting a career, but it is a pleasant reward. Satisfaction at work is extremely important as well. 
I was not surprised by any of the 15 best. I was surprised that ESL and Architecture were so low on the least desirable totem pole. 
Pragmatically, STEM professions are the way to go for enhanced income and personal satisfaction. 
More has to be done to encourage young Hispanics to enter STEM fields. Said encouragement must begin in the home as early as the elementary school years. More students should be encouraged to compete in science fairs, attend computer enrichment classes and enjoy the magic of mathematics. “Hard sciences” may require more effort, but the rewards are enormous. •