Top 10 Jobs That Require a Master’s Degree in 2021

Top 10 Jobs That Require a Master’s Degree in 2021
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By Stephen Gaffney

Published on April 21, 2021

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Mental Health Counselor | Occupational Therapist | Physician Assistant | Orthotist | Economist | Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner | Epidemiologist | Genetic Counselor | Speech-Language Pathologist | Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

More and more job openings require candidates to hold a master's degree, and more people are choosing to stay in or go back to school as a result. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people aged 25 and over whose highest degree is a master's has doubled to 21 million since 2000.

For most professional occupations, holding a master's degree can result in a higher paycheck. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that the median annual salary for professionals with a master's degree is around $13,000 more than that of bachelor's degree-holders.

If you want to earn a graduate degree but aren't sure which career path to take, check out our list below of the top 10 careers that require a master's degree.

10 Fast-Growing Jobs That Require a Master's Degree

Mental Health Counselor

Mental health counselors treat patients with behavioral disorders and mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, stress, and addiction. These professionals may work for schools, mental health clinics, hospitals, private practices, social services agencies, and government agencies.

true Job Outlook

The BLS projects an extremely strong job growth rate of 25% between 2019 and 2029 for counselors specializing in mental health, substance abuse, and behavioral disorders. This is one of the highest projected growth rates among all occupations.

The median annual salary for mental health counselors is $47,660, with the top 10% earning more than $78,700. Government positions offer the highest rate of pay.

Educational Requirements

A master's degree in counseling, along with supervised clinical experience, is generally required to obtain licensing as a mental health counselor. Licensing requirements vary by state. The American Counseling Association offers a directory of all state professional counselor licensure boards.

Occupational Therapist

Occupational therapists help patients with injuries, illnesses, or disabilities manage the activities associated with everyday life. Occupational therapists may work with people of all ages and backgrounds or may specialize in helping a specific population. Basic tasks include developing specific exercise programs for patients and educating patients on the use of specialized therapeutic equipment.

true Job Outlook

The BLS projects 16% job growth for occupational therapists from 2019 to 2029 — much faster than the average rate for all occupations. Employment growth is expected to be fueled by aging baby boomers as they remain active later in life. Occupational therapists earn a median income of $86,280 per year.

Educational Requirements

A master's degree in occupational therapy is generally required to land an entry-level position as an occupational therapist, though some have a doctorate. All states require candidates to be licensed and to pass the national examination administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.

Physician Assistant

As medical professionals, physician assistants work in collaboration with or under the supervision of physicians in a variety of specialty and primary care areas. These assistants perform many of the same tasks as doctors, including diagnosing illnesses, conducting physical assessments, developing and managing treatment plans, ordering and interpreting tests, and prescribing medications.

true Job Outlook

The BLS projects an extremely strong job growth rate of 31% for physician assistants from 2019 to 2029, one of the fastest projected growth rates among all occupations. The median annual salary for physician assistants is $115,390.

Educational Requirements

A master's degree from an accredited physician assistant program is normally required to become a physician assistant. All states also require licensing and the passing of the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination, administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants.


Orthotists are healthcare professionals who help fit people with orthopedic supportive devices such as braces and splints in order to assist with mobility issues and/or relieve discomfort. Common conditions that may require the attention of orthotists include cerebral palsy, arthritis, stroke, spina bifida, and scoliosis.

Orthotists generally work in coordination with the patient's orthopedic surgeon and primary care doctor to develop a treatment plan.

true Job Outlook

Jobs for orthotists and prosthetists are projected to increase 17% between 2019 and 2029, according to the BLS. This growth will most likely be driven by the needs of the aging baby-boom population and advancements in technology. Orthotists and prosthetists take home a median annual salary of $70,190.

Educational Requirements

To become an orthotist, you must have a master's degree in orthotics and prosthetics from a two-year program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

After earning a master's degree, candidates will need to complete a one-year residency program accredited by the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education. Some states require additional licensing.


Economists predict economic trends, forecast sales, analyze data, monitor supply and demand, and advise on policy. These professionals are experts in understanding how society produces, distributes, and uses goods and services on both a regional and global scale.

true Job Outlook

The BLS projects that jobs for economists will grow 14% from 2019 to 2029. Economists work in a variety of industries, including insurance, manufacturing, transportation, government, agriculture, banking, technology, and healthcare. Economists make a high median income of $108,350 per year.

Educational Requirements

A master's degree in economics is typically required to become an economist, though a bachelor's degree may suffice for some entry-level positions. A bachelor's degree in mathematics, economics, statistics, or a similar field is the usual path into a master's program.

Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner

Psychiatric nurse practitioners help meet the mental health needs of adults, children, and families. These healthcare professionals perform many of the same duties as psychiatrists with regard to the diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions. Duties include making assessments, developing treatment plans, prescribing medication, offering counseling services, and educating patients.

true Job Outlook

Although the BLS doesn't provide statistics specifically for psychiatric nurse practitioners, it does project an exceptionally strong growth rate of 52% for all nurse practitioners between 2019 and 2029. Nurse practitioners earn a high median annual salary of $111,680.

Educational Requirements

A master's in nursing from an accredited psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner program is normally required to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner. Graduates must then earn certification from the American Nurses Credentialing Center.


Known as "disease detectives," epidemiologists work in the public health sector to track the spread of a disease and investigate its origin. The profession has recently gained greater public awareness due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as epidemiology has been instrumental in responding to the outbreak.

Work may involve collecting data, conducting surveys, analyzing samples, developing preventative programs, identifying at-risk populations, and educating the public.

true Job Outlook

According to the BLS, jobs for epidemiologists are projected to grow 5% between 2019 and 2029 — only slightly faster than the average growth rate for all jobs. The median annual pay for epidemiologists is $74,560, with the top 10% earning more than $126,040.

Educational Requirements

A master's degree in epidemiology or in public health with an emphasis in epidemiology is generally required to become an epidemiologist. Many epidemiologists working in clinical settings also hold a medical degree.

Genetic Counselor

Genetic counseling is an emerging field that helps individuals determine how they may be affected by genetic conditions. Genetic counselors screen people for genetic risk of developing cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and blood disorders. For parents expecting children, these counselors identify genetic conditions that could affect the baby during infancy.

true Job Outlook

Jobs for genetic counselors are projected to grow an impressive 21% from 2019 to 2029, according to BLS data. This growth will likely be fueled by continuing research in the field of genomics and by the increased use of genomics tests by health insurance companies. Genetic counselors earn a median annual income of $85,700.

Educational Requirements

A master's degree in genetic counseling or genetics from an accredited program is typically required to work as a genetic counselor. Most employers require genetic counselors to obtain certification from the American Board of Genetic Counseling. Some states require licensing and certification.

Speech-Language Pathologist

Speech-language pathologists work with children and adults to diagnose and treat speech, language, and swallowing disorders, which may occur as a result of stroke, trauma, brain injury, hearing loss, developmental delay, autism, or other causes.

These professionals work in a variety of clinical and educational settings, including hospitals, private practices, rehabilitation facilities, and public and private schools.

true Job Outlook

The BLS projects a very strong job growth rate of 25% for speech-language pathologists between 2019 and 2029. These professionals earn a median annual salary of $80,480, with the top 10% making more than $122,790 per year.

Educational Requirements

Aspiring speech-language pathologists must have a master's degree in speech-language pathology or communication sciences and disorders from an accredited program. Upon graduation, you'll likely need to complete a one-year clinical fellowship and pass a certification exam. Most states also require licensing.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) are advanced practice registered nurses who administer anesthesia and provide related care before, during, and after medical procedures requiring their assistance.

CRNAs work in coordination with surgeons, anesthesiologists, dentists, and other healthcare professionals in hospitals, dental offices, ambulatory surgical centers, and other trauma and surgical facilities.

true Job Outlook

The BLS projects solid 14% growth for nurse anesthetist jobs between 2019 and 2029. More CRNAs will likely be needed in rural areas where there are fewer anesthesiologists. The median annual salary for nurse anesthetists is an extremely high $183,580.

Educational Requirements

To become a CRNA, you must have a bachelor's in nursing, a registered nurse license, acute care experience, and a master's degree from an accredited CRNA program. The final step is to pass the National Certification Examination, administered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists.

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