Top 12 Jobs That Require a Master’s Degree in 2021

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Top 12 Jobs That Require a Master’s Degree in 2021
portrait of Stephen Gaffney
by Stephen Gaffney
Published on October 12, 2021
Edited by Colin Weickmann

Marriage and Family Therapists | Occupational Therapists | Orthotists and Prosthetists | Curators | Computer and Information Research Scientists | Mental Health Counselors | Genetic Counselors | Speech-Language Pathologists | Epidemiologists | Physician Assistants | Statisticians | Nurse Practitioners


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 ages 25 and over whose highest degree is a master's doubled from 2000-2018 — up to 21 million people.

For many professional occupations, holding a master's degree can result in a higher annual income. 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 12 jobs that require a master's degree.

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

Marriage and Family Therapists

Marriage and family therapists work with individuals, couples, and families to help them manage problems stemming from family relationships. Through the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy and goal-oriented approaches, these therapists help clients process difficult thoughts, feelings, and beliefs so that they can replace them with positive, life-enhancing ones.

These professionals work in a variety of clinical settings, including mental health centers, substance abuse treatment centers, and hospitals. Many marriage and family therapists also work in private practices and Employee Assistance Programs.

true Job Outlook

As reported by the BLS, jobs for marriage and family therapists are projected to grow 16% between 2020 and 2030. This growth is expected to be driven by the increasing use of integrated care, where multiple specialists seek to treat several problems at once. Marriage and family therapists earn an annual median pay of $51,340, with the highest 10% earning more than $92,930.

Educational Requirements

A master's degree in psychology, marriage and family therapy, counseling, or a related mental health program is generally required to land a position as a marriage and family therapist. After graduation, you'll be required to complete 2,000-4,000 clinical hours through an internship or residency. All states require marriage and family therapists to be licensed.

Occupational Therapists

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 they 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 17% job growth for occupational therapists from 2020 to 2030 — much faster than the average rate for all occupations (8%). Employment growth is expected to be fueled by aging baby boomers as they seek to 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 professionals may hold a doctorate degree. All states require candidates to be licensed and to pass the national examination administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.

Orthotists and Prosthetists

Orthotists and prosthetists 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 an orthotist or prosthetist include cerebral palsy, arthritis, stroke, spina bifida, and scoliosis.

Orthotists and prosthetists generally work in coordination with a 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 18% between 2020 and 2030, according to the BLS. This growth will likely be driven by the needs of the aging U.S. population and advancements in technology. Orthotists and prosthetists take home a median annual salary of $70,190.

Educational Requirements

To become an orthotist or prosthetist, 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 need to complete a one-year residency program accredited by the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education. Some states require additional licensing.

Curators

Curators often work in museums, government institutions, and educational service settings overseeing collections of valuable artwork and historical items. They work to acquire, preserve, and store historical documents and objects so that people can enjoy them for years to come. Curators may also perform administrative tasks and help manage their institution’s research projects, educational programs, and public events.

true Job Outlook

According to the BLS, jobs for curators are projected to grow 22% between 2020 and 2030. Much of this growth is due to recovery from the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The median annual pay for curators is $56,990 per year, with the top 10% earning more than $91,800.

Educational Requirements

A master’s degree in art history, history, library science, political science, or public administration is typically needed to become a curator. While most employers do not require certification, many require previous work experience in collection management, research, exhibit design, restoration, and database management.

Computer and Information Research Scientists

Computer and information research scientists create and design uses for new and existing computing technology, such as artificial intelligence and robotics. Many of these professionals also work to improve the way data is managed or displayed. Computer and information research scientists work in a variety of industries, including software publishing, engineering, design, and higher education.

true Job Outlook

Jobs for computer and information research scientists are projected to grow 22% between 2020 and 2030, according to the BLS. The median annual pay for computer and information research scientists is $126,830, making these positions some of the highest-paid on this list.

Educational Requirements

Computer and information research scientists typically need a master's degree or higher in computer science, information systems, or computer engineering to land competitive jobs in the private sector. However, a bachelor's degree in computer science may be sufficient for some federal government jobs in this field.

Mental Health Counselors

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 a strong job growth rate of 23% between 2020 and 2030 for counselors specializing in mental health, substance abuse, and behavioral disorders. 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.

Genetic Counselors

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

true Job Outlook

Jobs for genetic counselors are projected to grow an impressive 26% from 2020-2030, 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 Pathologists

Speech-language pathologists work with children and adults to diagnose and treat speech, language, and swallowing disorders. These conditions 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 29% for speech-language pathologists between 2020 and 2030. These professionals earn a median annual salary of $80,480, with the top 10% making more than $122,790 per year.

Educational Requirements

To become a speech-language pathologist, you 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.

Epidemiologists

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 epidemiologists have 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 30% between 2020 and 2030 — much 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 a concentration in epidemiology is generally required to become an epidemiologist. Many epidemiologists working in clinical settings also hold a medical degree.

Physician Assistants

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 may 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 a strong job growth rate of 31% for physician assistants from 2020-2030 — 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 a passing score on the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination, which is administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants.

Statisticians

Statisticians typically work to design surveys, studies, experiments, and opinion polls to collect data related to a specific question or problem they are trying to solve. Statisticians then analyze the data to identify trends and relationships within the data and present these findings to inform decisions within their company or industry. These professionals work in a variety of settings where thorough data analysis is valued, including education, government, healthcare, and research and development.

true Job Outlook

The BLS projects an extremely high growth rate of 35% for statisticians from 2020 to 2030 — one of the fastest-growing occupations in the country. This high growth is largely expected due to the increasing use of statistical analysis to inform business, healthcare, and policy decisions. The median annual pay for statisticians is $92,270, with the highest 10% earning more than $150,840 per year.

Educational Requirements

To become a professional statistician and land jobs in the private sector, students typically need to earn a master's degree in mathematics or statistics. In many federal government jobs, candidates need at least a bachelor's degree with significant coursework in mathematics or data analysis.

Nurse Practitioners

Nurse practitioners serve in a variety of specialty and primary care settings, delivering advanced nursing services to patients and their families. Nurse practitioners typically care for a certain population of people, including adults, seniors, children, or those with psychiatric and mental disabilities. Their basic duties include assessing patients, determining how to improve or manage a patient's health, and integrating health promotion strategies into a patient's life.

true Job Outlook

According to the BLS, jobs for nurse practitioners are projected to grow by a staggering 52% between 2020 and 2030. Employment growth is expected to be fueled by an aging population with increased demand for healthcare services. Nurse practitioners earn a median annual income of $111,680.

Educational Requirements

In order to become a nurse practitioner, professionals must have at least a master's degree from an advanced practice nursing program. However, before they can pursue an education in advanced practice, nurse practitioners must be licensed as a registered nurse in their state. After graduation, nurse practitioners must also pass a national certification exam and earn an advanced nursing license in their state.


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Looking for a job that doesn't require a bachelor's? Learn about 20 in-demand jobs you can get with a two-year degree. Explore our list of the top 12 jobs for career changers based on demand and earning potential. Learn about these jobs and their education requirements. Not every career requires a bachelor's degree. If you're considering entering a vocation, check out these popular — and lucrative — trade school jobs.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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