The 13 Best Master’s Degrees to Future-Proof Your Career

The 13 Best Master’s Degrees to Future-Proof Your Career
The light speed advancements in information technology and brisk gains in science and medicine are creating exciting new career paths with strong futures and commanding salaries. Image from Pexels
Lucy Davies profile
Lucy Davies August 24, 2021

How do you navigate the ever-accelerating changes in technology and the labor market? These 13 master’s degrees will help make you a valuable and competitive candidate in the expanding industries of clean energy, healthcare, and statistical analysis—and may just be the ticket to future-proofing your job.

Cybersecurity and Data Science Programs You Should Consider

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Our world is changing rapidly, and careers and job opportunities are constantly evolving as a result. The light speed advancements in information technology and brisk gains in science and medicine are creating exciting new career paths with strong futures and commanding salaries.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected the top five fastest growing occupations for 2019-2029, all five of which are science, data, and technology-based jobs in solar and wind energy, healthcare, and statistical analysis. They further illustrate a strong inverse correlation demonstrating that the higher the degree, the higher the median salary and the lower the unemployment rate. In 2020, holding a doctorate degree correlated with 2.5% unemployment, while those with a high school diploma experienced a joblessness rate of 11.7%.

So how can you best navigate both the breakneck changes in technology and resulting opportunities in the labor market? As a current analysis from BLS seems to indicate, the key may be in pursuing a master’s degree in one of the growing industries outlined below. We’ll take a look at the purpose of each degree program, several graduate schools that offer these online degrees, and the expanding list of jobs that they’ll prepare you for.

The 13 best master’s degrees to future-proof your career

  • Master of Science in Computer Science
  • Master of Science in Data Science
  • Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence
  • Master of Science in Computer Engineering
  • Master of Science in Cyber Security
  • Master of Science in Network Engineering
  • Master of Technology Management
  • Master of Business Administration
  • Master’s in Supply Chain Management
  • Master of Science in Informatics
  • Master of Science in Nursing
  • Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies
  • Master of Energy Engineering

Master of Science in Computer Science

If you currently hold a bachelor’s degree in computer science, engineering, or a similar field of study, you may find that
pursuing a Master of Science in Computer Science (MSCS)
can raise your salary and level of responsibility. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes “Employment of computer and information research scientists is projected to grow 15 percent from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations. Job prospects are expected to be excellent.” Jobs like software development engineer, computer scientist, or security engineer are in high demand, but you may want to seek out these positions with a MSCS already in hand.

Master of Science in Data Science

Being able to read data and give detailed and thoughtful data analysis is valuable across all industries, and can help with product development, innovation, and healthy growth. With the expansion of the internet, big data, and technology in medicine, manufacturing, and business, the volume of information has grown exponentially. It’s a goldmine, if you have trained people to process the data, and the industry uniquely requires that you begin at entry level with a data science master’s, and soon after consider a doctorate. Programs like the one offered by the University of Virginia School of Data Science emphasise the importance of collaborative work in a fast-growing and critical new world of communication.

Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence

Anyone who leaves the household vacuuming to a little round robot can appreciate AI, but artificial intelligence and machine learning are much more than clean floors. With the annual salary of entry level jobs like computer vision or robotics software engineer starting at nearly six figures, there is a clear demand for skilled labor in new technologies. SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering lists an online MSCS with a specialization in AI, allowing one to continue to work (and not completely disrupt one’s life) while pursuing this degree.

Master of Science in Computer Engineering

Computer engineers concentrate on computer hardware and how to make it smaller and more efficient in positions like network architect, hardware or firmware engineer, or computer systems analyst. Many of these jobs will require a graduate degree for even entry level jobs, but those roles will pay close to six figures, making the investment in the advanced degree worth the time and money.

Master of Science in Cyber Security

The expanded growth of the internet and the new worlds that have opened up for banking, trade, and communication has given rise to the need for information security and protection of all the sensitive data now being shared and stored. Protecting information systems commands a high starting salary for those with a master’s degree, and might land you a job as a cyber security engineer, director, architect, consultant or investigator with numerous opportunities in government and in the private sector. The University of Tulsa offers an online master’s in cybersecurity, with the tagline, “An industry in high demand solidifies your future”, and like many online programs offers the flexibility of studying as a working professional.

Master of Science in Network Engineering

Network engineers help build and integrate new technology into existing digital infrastructure, and work in conjunction with network architects who design, and administrators who maintain complex computer networks. Larger companies might employ an entire team of network engineers to implement changes, and the parameters of the job can vary depending on the project or the business. Holding a master of science in network engineering should give you a boost in salary (particularly if you have these skills), and the confidence to both grow and lead in the industry.

Master of Technology Management

Jobs in technology management combine a deep knowledge of information technology and the experience of complex project management, and a master’s in this field will position you for greater career options in leadership roles. The focus of your coursework will prepare you for jobs that focus on long-term business goals with challenges that technology can help solve, including the know-how to navigate away from outdated systems and toward modern technology design. You’ll use your leadership skills and training to transform communication within existing systems and help businesses better plan for the future.

Master of Business Administration

Earning a master of business administration (MBA) might be one of the more obvious choices for an advanced degree. An MBA is a starting point for any high level position, indicating a commitment to entrepreneurship and expertise on the executive level in government and in the private sector. With competitive MBA and EMBA programs offered by Howard University School of Business in-person and online, there are lots of options for study without career interruption. SMU’s Cox School of Business offers an immersion program for online students in London and Singapore for real-world experience in a concentrated format. These programs offer training for careers on the executive level, and are a must-have for entry into the C-suite.

Master’s in Supply Chain Management

As the Covid-19 pandemic has illustrated, the need for goods and services to move quickly and efficiently around the world is critical in a global economy. Managers of these complex systems require a tight skill set, and knowledge of global politics, trade, logistics and data science. A master’s in supply chain management can land you a position as a global commodities director, or in management positions in production, operations, purchasing, procurement, logistics, transportation and storage, or move you up in salary if you are already working in the industry. While an advanced degree might not be necessary to work in supply chain management, a master’s might provide new career options and lead to increased pay.

Master of Science in Informatics

Health informatics focuses on collecting and analyzing data, with the goal of improving healthcare outcomes for patients and delivery systems for healthcare providers. With modern medical systems relying heavily on data collected for billing, insurance, and patient medical records, specialization in organizing and sorting data for more efficient research and application grows more complicated, and requires training and a higher education level for statisticians to stay current and up-to-date. Job growth in healthcare continues to expand, and schools like the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences are providing flexible options for students to study while continuing to work in the field, keeping the pursuit of a master’s degree within reach for those looking to move up in positions in health insurance, research laboratories, public health organizations, and medical practices.

Master of Science in Nursing

An associate or a bachelor’s degree in nursing can only get you so far in the medical field, and with lightning-quick changes in technology in healthcare, further study might serve you well. With salaries for nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, administrators, and educators starting in the six figures for those with master’s, aquiring that graduate degree might be a very good investment of time. Master’s programs in nursing will prepare you for clinical work with patients, and also for research and education, or in management and administration—providing a range of opportunities for those hoping to advance their career. The University of Michigan offers high ranking online study with specializations in primary care family nursing, adult-gerontology, and in leadership, analytic,s and innovation, with all the flexibility offered by an online master’s program.

Master of Science in Physician Assisted Studies

The role of the physician assistant (PA) is critical to medical practices in doctor’s offices, pediatric clinics, and busy hospital emergency rooms. PAs perform a variety of tasks including overseeing medical histories, assisting in surgical procedures or performing medical exams, interpreting and reporting lab data, and providing guidance for improving health practices. For registered nurses, EMTs, paramedics or others with work experience in hospitals and private practices looking for job opportunities in the growing and changing world of medicine, a master of science in physician assisted studies could be a valuable tool and a move toward securing a position in a stable, growing industry.

Master of Energy Engineering

In the age of global warming, when the need to produce and store clean energy in efficient and lasting ways is critical, energy engineering is becoming an increasingly vital position for problem solvers. Growth in solar, geothermal, and wind energy is creating positions like a green building engineer, with a focus on structural efficiency and design, or energy systems engineer, maintaining a broader focus on managing and improving energy systems. As the world-wide demand for energy continues to grow, and the shift to cleaner sources becomes absolutely essential to planet health, this industry will expand to meet advances in technology and will need a workforce to match.



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The Future is unwritten

While current information strongly indicates that careers in computer science, technology, engineering, medicine and business are continuing and projected to grow, you should always focus on your own interests in order to ensure your future career path is satisfying and rewarding.

Pursuing a master’s degree in any of these fields requires a huge investment in time and money, and, as always, you should weigh your investment in both. The choices you make at each step should reflect your commitment and goals, so that your contribution to the world relates to what fulfills you—and makes your efforts in work and study worthwhile.

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About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

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