Highest-paying postgraduate degree specialisations to consider in 2021

Backed by a master's degree, registered nurse anesthetists are among the highest-paid professionals in the US.

By Shekinah Kannan 

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Many pursue an advanced qualification like a postgraduate degree for many reasons, and the economic uncertainty spurred by the pandemic is also one of them.

Last year, CGTN reported that China’s Ministry of Education said it expected to see a whopping 3.77 million applicants — a jump of 360,000 over the previous year — attend its 2021 national postgraduate entrance examination.


Many education pundits also agree that upskilling during a pandemic can help professionals future-proof themselves and advance their career.

WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management MBA Careers Center director Dr Christine Menges said it’s essential for professionals to ensure their skills are up-to-date to enhance their employability.

“If you want to do an MBA and advance your career, it’s a good time to do it now because once the crisis is over, companies will be looking for talent that are most usable to them,” she previously told U2B.

It’s clear that the increasingly competitive job market has forced many students and professionals to become lifelong learners and pursue postgraduate qualifications.

Upskilling can bring with it a multitude of benefits — it can open more doors to employment opportunities, or help you advance your career or start a new one.

If you’re looking for a specialisation that has the best ROI, here are some of the highest-paying postgraduate degree specialisations to consider for 2021:

Business administration (MBA)

Many senior executives at big corporations have MBAs. While acquiring an MBA can be expensive, the returns are always rewarding.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) projects that the average starting salary for the Class of 2021 MBA graduates will be US$87,966. This figure is a whopping 11.3% higher than the average starting salary among 2020 grads.

Among the 132 ranked full-time MBA programmes that reported salary data to U.S. News in an annual survey, the overall average base salary plus bonus paid to 2020 graduates was US$101,034, said U.S. News and World Report.

While it’s no easy feat to be at the helm of an organisation, its clear that the responsibility can come with hefty paycheck. 

In 2019, the median salary among chief executives was US$184,460. They also often receive stock options and performance bonuses. An MBA lays a solid foundation for aspirants looking to achieve a leadership role. In just a year or two of study, those who take this route learn about business, strategy, marketing, finance, and management. 


Reports suggest there will be greater demand for marketers in jobs of the future. David Rice, of the Schulich School of Business previously told U2B that dramatic changes are occurring in marketing, adding that digital transformation in the industry is changing both jobs and the training required to succeed.

“Marketing technology is increasing job opportunities within the industry,” he said, adding that technology is changing the types of jobs that a marketer might do.

“With advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), marketers now have to become better ‘intermediaries’ and manage the interaction between the marketing function and AI.”

Many find it challenging to choose between an MBA and a master’s degree in marketing, however, either route can come with many possibilities. The industry expected to grow eight percent by 2028.

Computer science

Computer and information systems managers are in high demand across the globe. These graduates often go on to take on the role of an IT manager and may be responsible for directing the maintenance and improvement of their organisation’s technology systems.

The median salary for these professionals was US$146,360 in 2019, according to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS). It also projects a 10% growth in jobs from 2019 to 2029.


Nurse anaesthetist

Nurse anaesthetists aid in medical procedures by administering anaesthesia to patients. In addition to a master’s, these professionals need certification to practice. 

US News reports that qualified nurse anaesthetists made a median salary of US$174,790 in 2019. The best-paid 25% made US$203,730 that year, while the lowest-paid 25% made US$148,110. What’s more, the overall employment of nurse anaesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners is projected to grow 45% from 2019 to 2029 — much faster than the average for all occupations.

Political science

The American Political Science Association notes that political science is the study of governments, public policies and political processes, systems and political behaviour.

Its subfields include political theory, political ideology, political economy, policy studies and analysis, comparative politics, international relations, among other fields.

A master’s degree in political science prepares graduates for a career in a variety of political fields. 

This robust qualification can lead to an attractive salary of US$125,350 per year, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Employment of political scientists is also projected to grow six percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than the average for all occupations.