25 Careers that Require a Master’s Degree

Students entering bachelor’s degree programs often set their sights on management-level positions as a long-term goal. Earning a master’s degree in their field of choice is one of the first steps to reaching a position that allows for more variety, decision making and earning potential. Knowing in advance where you want to go in your career and who you want to impact can help students to decide which degree programs to pursue, making it a good idea to explore master’s degree options sooner rather than later. Here, we’ve profiled the top 25 careers that require a master’s degree as the entry-level education, with salary and projected job growth information to help you make informed choices about your higher education goals.

Top 25 Careers that Require a Master’s Degree

Career Description Median Salary (2017) Projected Growth Rate (2016-2026)


Anthropologists and archeologists study the history of humans, including origin, development and behavior in an effort to learn from the past. They work all over the world in fields and laboratories to collect information, analyze data and compile samples that tell more about human life, culture and origins.



Post-secondary Teacher

Post-secondary teachers work in colleges and universities, teaching students in a specific academic or technical area. These teachers need to have a master’s or doctorate in the subject they teach, often with real-life experience as well.



Computer and Information Research Scientist

Computer and information research scientists work to solve new problems in computing and technology and research how to use technology in new ways. They work in a variety of fields, including medicine and business. Different specializations include data science, robotics and programming.



School or Career Counselor

Counselors work in many different fields, including in schools, as private practitioners and in social service. They help individuals and groups to deal with social and academic issues, to overcome trauma and to work through challenges at home, school or work. In addition to a master’s degree, public school counselors in all states are required to hold licenses, while licensure for career counselors may or may not be necessary.




Economists help businesses and the government understand the need for resources, goods and services. They collect and analyze data and trends to make forecasts about what is needed in a number of fields. Economists study things like the cost of health care, energy or products or they look at exchange rates, taxes, inflation, employment and business cycles.



Education Administrator

Education administrators manage schools and school programs or operations and work to provide safe environments for students and teachers alike. They also help design learning opportunities and manage the day-to-day operations of schools and school districts. Education administrators work in schools and offices, ensuring that students meet graduation requirements, maintaining academic records, planning commencement ceremonies and meeting with current and prospective students. Many work as teachers before moving on to this role.




Epidemiologists work in public health to research the causes of disease and injury among the population. They plan and manage health care programs and find ways to prevent a variety of diseases and other public health problems. Most epidemiologists work in offices and laboratories and can specialize in areas like oral health, mental health, chronic disease, infectious disease, environmental health or another area.



Social Worker

Social workers work with a variety of people in communities, typically those in financial need, to help them cope with everyday challenges. They also assist families going through crisis situations or those looking to adopt. They can work in a wide variety of environments, including schools, community centers and health care offices.




Historians have a passion for tracing the historical profile of a specific person, place or event and often present their work to build public knowledge. They analyze and interpret information to determine if it’s valid and accurate and write reports and presentations based on what they find. They typically work in academic settings, museums or historical societies.




Psychologists work in different environments, such as in private practice, research, schools or as part of the health care system. They identify psychological, emotional, behavioral and organizational issues to diagnose disorders and create treatment or intervention plans. Being a psychologist requires a license in most states. Higher education requirements depend on the specialty, ranging from master’s degrees to educational specialist (Ed.S.) degrees or doctorates.



Instructional Coordinator

Instructional coordinators work in schools and businesses to create curriculum and learning opportunities for teachers and business leaders. They analyze student data to ensure the right curriculum materials are used for the population and help instructors and teachers develop the right teaching methods.




Librarians work in public, academic and medical libraries to help patrons find the information they need. They also teach children and adults how to conduct research, plan programs for different groups and research what resources are needed in their community to better serve its citizens.




Mathematicians support those in business, engineering and the sciences to solve complex mathematical rules, theories and concepts. They help other industries to interpret data needed to improve business decisions. Doctorate degrees can be useful for advanced positions in the field, though a master’s is usually sufficient.



Nurse Anesthetist

Also known as advanced practice registered nurses, nurse anesthetists are responsible for caring for patients who are undergoing surgical, therapeutic and diagnostic procedures. They have close contact with patients to ensure they feel no pain during the procedure. Up-to-date licensure is also required.



Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists help injured, sick and disabled patients to better complete everyday activities. They develop treatment plans for patients and help to educate the patient’s family and employer about accommodations the patient needs. They often work in hospitals, specialty health care offices or home care.



Orthotist and Prosthetist

Orthotists and prosthetists create medical devices like artificial limbs and braces for patients who want to regain or improve their mobility. They ensure the devices fit and function properly and teach patients how to use and care for them.



Physician Assistant

Physician assistants (or PAs) work with physicians and other health care professionals to treat patients. They perform many of the same duties as physicians, the extent to which is determined by the state in which they practice. This in-demand career is now essential to the health care system in rural and urban communities alike.



Political Scientist

Political scientists research political subjects to better understand and forecast political, economic and social trends. They also work as policy analysts in organizations that are concerned about public policy, including government, labor unions and political groups. Some political scientists also go on to teach in high schools and post-secondary institutions.




Sociologists study group culture, social institutions and social behavior to better understand communities and society. The work they do is beneficial to lawmakers, educators and social workers form public policy and solve social issues. Some sociologists also work in crime, helping to study the cause and effect of crime.



Speech-Language Pathologist

Also known as speech therapists, speech-language pathologists work with people who have communication and swallowing disorders caused by hearing loss, brain injury, developmental delay, Parkinson’s disease and other factors. They identify treatment options and create individualized plans that address each patient’s needs.



Survey Researcher

Survey researchers design and conduct surveys in an effort to test new ideas and gauge attitudes and opinions about different topics. They then compile the survey results to analyze the data and summarize it in different ways. Survey researchers are also known as market research analysts.



Urban and Regional Planner

Urban and regional planners identify ways to use land in urban areas and create plans and programs that revitalize facilities, accommodate population growth and create thriving communities. They often work with community leaders, public officials and others to research and collaborate to find the best possible solutions.




Curators, archivists and museum workers are responsible for authenticating and appraising historical documents for display in museums. Many also help with acquisition and storage of significant collections and help organize events and educational opportunities for the public. Many curators earn their master’s degrees in history, library science or political science.



Genetic Counselor

Genetic counselors work with patients to determine individuals’ predisposition for certain genetic disorders. They use this information to provide information and educate patients about genetic risks and inherited conditions. By 2016, the U.S. had a total of 33 master’s degree programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling, demonstrating the growing demand for these professionals.



Industrial-Organizational Psychologist

Organizational psychologists apply their training to the workplace to help improve the quality of time employees spend at work. They work to improve employee morale, help with employee and management work styles and improve productivity. Many work as consultants or full-time employees for large corporations.



Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Payscale

Steps to Earning Your Master’s and Starting a Career

Students must have a bachelor’s degree under your belt to pursue a master’s degree, making it helpful to research programs and career goals before starting college. Having an educational track in mind allows students to take the right prerequisite courses as part of a bachelor’s program and ensures you’re on the right path to success. Find out how to go from a bachelor’s degree student to do a master’s degree graduate.

  1. Earn your bachelor’s degree at an accredited college or university. In order to pursue a master’s degree, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree. It’s helpful to hold a bachelor’s degree in a similar field as what you’d like to pursue at a post-bachelor level.
  2. Research master’s degree programs. Before choosing a master’s degree programs, it’s important to do your research and find one that meets your personal and professional needs. Things like program delivery (online, in-person, evening classes) and program accreditation are important considerations. You’ll also want to know the placement rate of graduates and whether financial assistance is available.
  3. Choose a master’s program. Each program will have its own requirements and prerequisites, so it’s important to know what those are so you know whether or not you qualify. You’ll also want to know the deadline for application and enrollment as some programs run on a cohort basis and only start at certain times of the year.
  4. Pass the necessary prerequisites. If you don’t have all the necessary classes under your belt for the program you’re applying for, be sure to do this well ahead of the application deadline. Getting a passing grade in prerequisite classes is essential – don’t let those grades slip! Also make sure that all prerequisites are earned at an accredited school.
  5. Take the right standardized assessments. Most master’s programs ask for certain standardized test scores as part of the application. Many general programs require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) as part of the application process. Degrees in more specific fields may have their own tests, like the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) for master’s in business administration programs or the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) for medical school.
  6. Fill out applications. Contact an enrollment counselor at your school of choice to find out what applications are required for the university and for the program you’re interested in. Give yourself plenty of time to compile all the required essays, transcripts and letters of recommendation.
  7. Apply for scholarships. Earning a master’s degree can be expensive, so apply for scholarships that are both industry- and school-specific. If you’re currently working for an organization that allows tuition reimbursement, take advantage of that but know in advance what the repayment requirements are if you don’t remain employed in the organization after you receive your degree.
  8. Identify research and internship opportunities. Depending on your field of study, there may be opportunities for you to work with professors or industry professionals through research and internships. Both provide hands-on experience that will be invaluable assets for your resume after graduation.
  9. Network in your field to increase employment opportunities. When you earn a master’s degree, you’re more marketable for leadership positions in your industry. Networking with other professionals through trade organizations and associations or even local leadership groups is a great way to meet people who might make hiring decisions later.
  10. Apply for necessary certifications or licenses. Depending on your field of study, you may be required to earn certifications or licenses before starting a career. Find out what’s available in your industry; holding the certifications or licenses with your master’s degree may be essential to growth and flexibility in your career.
  11. Apply for jobs. Many universities have job placement assistant. If your master’s degree allows you to promote to a new position in your current company or in another organization, be sure to keep your eyes open for new opportunities.

Spotlight: Careers that Require a Doctorate Degree

A doctorate is usually the terminal, or final, degree available in a specific field. It usually takes longer to complete a doctorate than a master’s degree, meaning it will likely cost more. However, it’s not always necessary to earn a doctorate in your field. Master’s degrees are typical for more business-minded individuals and careers, while doctorates are designed for those who want to focus more on research-based careers. At the same time, not all doctorate programs require a master’s degree for admission; going straight from a bachelor’s degree with work experience to a doctorate program can be the norm in many cases. Below is a list of a few careers that require a doctorate at the entry level.

Career Description Median Salary (2017) Master’s Degree First?


Anesthesiologists are responsible for the pain relief and care of surgical patients. They work with surgeons to administer anesthetics during procedures and monitor the patient’s vital signs while under their care. Most anesthesiologists work in hospitals or surgical centers.


It is not necessary to earn a master’s degree before pursuing a doctorate in this profession.


Astronomers and physicists study how certain forms of matter and energy interact with one another and develop theories and models to explain properties of the world and space. Astronomers work in laboratories studying celestial bodies and use research to help increase knowledge of space and matter.


It is recommended to earn a master’s in the field before pursuing a doctorate.


Biochemists work in laboratories and offices to study chemical and physical principles of living things. They conduct research, often in teams, and present results in papers and to other scientists.


It is recommended to earn a master’s degree prior to pursuing a doctorate in this field.


Dentists can choose from among a variety of specialties, such as surgical, radiology, orthodontia and periodontics. They diagnose and treat patients to ensure their teeth and gums are in good health. They also educate patients on good oral hygiene.


It is not necessary to earn a master’s degree prior to pursuing a doctorate in this field.


Lawyers work with businesses, individuals and the government to provide support and advice on legal matters. They work in courtrooms and offices, interpret laws, prepare legal documents and conduct research to assist clients. There are a number of unique specialties for lawyers, like environmental law, family law, tax law and the like.


It is not necessary to earn a master’s degree prior to pursuing a doctorate in this field.


Psychiatrists work in the medical field and mental health physicians. They diagnose and treat mental illnesses and help patients find solutions through behavioral changes, therapy, pharmaceuticals and other methods. They often work in medical offices or private practices.


It is not necessary to earn a master’s degree prior to pursuing a doctorate in this field.

Postsecondary teacher

Postsecondary teachers work in colleges and universities to teach in their subject area. They develop curriculum for their courses and work with colleagues to modify the curriculum for specific degree and certificate programs.


It is recommended to earn a master’s degree prior to pursuing a doctorate in this field.


Veterinarians are responsible for the treatment and care of animals, including pets, livestock and other animals. They work in medical offices or out in the field to vaccinate animals, prescribe medication, advise owners and euthanize animals when needed.


It is not necessary to earn a master’s degree prior to pursuing a doctorate in this field.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Payscale