2021 Best Master’s Degrees for Career Change

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Getting a master’s degree can be strategic if you have career-changing aspirations, but you might wonder how to choose the best master’s degrees for career change.

Master's Degrees for Career Change

It’s helpful to know that there are online masters programs that accept students who have different undergraduate degrees.

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What may be most important is assessing your own professional talents and interests and getting insights into which masters programs are likely to deliver the best job prospects down the road.

Master’s Degrees for Career Change

The best graduate degrees for you depends on your career goals. Only you know what fields best fit your own aptitudes and work preferences, but here are some popular fields in which getting a graduate degree could be a game changer for career changers.

Both of these fields offer plenty of opportunity for growth, a lot of different job prospects, and plenty of job security.

Master of Business Administration (MBA)

business professionals in a meeting

If getting a high-level management position in business appeals to you, a Master of Business Administration may be the way to go.

As an MBA student, you may learn entrepreneurial skills, methods, and strategies for managing large organizations. You may take courses in entrepreneurship, management, organizational leadership, business analytics, and marketing strategy.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, getting an online MBA may equip you to launch a career as a management analyst. This position makes a median annual salary of $87,660. You may also pursue a career as an administrative services manager, earning an average of $98,890 on average.

You may even work your way up to a top executive role, which has a median salary of $107,680. With the skills and insights you may gain in your online MBA program, you might join a start-up, help lead a large business, or find your way to a position with a leading business, marketing, or leadership consulting firm.

Master’s in Computer Science

Computer network architects working together

If you like technology, think analytically, and have an interest in math or engineering, a masters in computer science can open doors to one of today’s fastest growing career sectors.

A master’s in computer science equips students with skills in computer programming, software development, and computer engineering. You’ll likely study programming languages, computer network architecture, and information security.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer systems analysts earn a median annual salary of $93,730. Computer network architects make an average of $116,780, and computer and information research scientists earn an average of $126,830.

These are the kinds of lucrative careers you might pursue with an online masters in computer science.

Master of Education

college professor teaching in university

If you like teaching and want to switch to a career that offers consistent job opportunities in local schools, you may want to consider an online masters in education.

Although teaching in elementary or secondary schools may only require a bachelors degree, holding a masters can help you enter a new field with more advanced qualifications.

Having a few years of teaching experience, the necessary state licensure, and a graduate degree in education will often qualify you for school leadership positions too. For example, you may work as a curriculum lead or site administrator.

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High school teachers earn an average salary of $62,870 while postsecondary education administrators earn an average of $97,500 (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

When you study for your masters in education, you may learn cutting-edge curriculum design skills. You may also learn about educational trends through the lenses of psychology and public policy.

Other experienced educators might give you insights and methods for managing a range of teacher challenges, including behavior management, grading policies, and effective curriculum development and assessment strategies.

Master’s in Finance

Financial Managers working together

The business world creates consistent demand for a range of finance professions. With an online masters in finance, you may unlock doors to senior roles in business, banking, and investing.

In a masters in finance program, you may learn high-level corporate finance concepts, including financial economics, financial modeling, and financial reporting. You’ll likely get training in global finance as well and learn about analyzing corporate financial metrics and evaluating corporate valuations.

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When you have a master’s degree in finance along with any needed professional certifications, you’ll likely find yourself equipped to pursue a range of lucrative reporting, analyst, and management jobs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these jobs include financial analyst, accountant and auditor, and financial manager. These positions make an annual average salary of $83,660, $73,560, and $134,180 respectively.

Master’s in Healthcare Management

Healthcare Managers in a meeting

A master’s in healthcare management might also be among today’s most valuable master degrees. This complex organizational space can be a great choice for talented individuals with the right mix of leadership and management aptitudes.

Leaders in healthcare management often have strong business, finance, and organizational leadership skills. It is also beneficial to have knowledge of healthcare laws and regulations as well as familiarity with medical and healthcare information technologies.

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In your master’s in healthcare management program, you’ll likely be immersed in healthcare industry knowledge. You may also learn ethical and sound business practices and gain insights into evidence-based approaches for effectively enhancing your organization’s human and social capital.

Medical and health services managers can earn an average of $104,280 (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Other jobs in healthcare leadership include administrative services manager ($98,890) and human resources manager ($121,220).

Master’s in Information Technology

database manager working in data center

Anyone switching careers might want to consider a masters in information technology. Today’s digitally connected world relies on evermore complex webs of information technology systems, architectures, and innovations.

Graduate programs in information technology will provide you with advanced training in web design, computer networking, database management, and information security. You may also learn about how to plan, implement, analyze, and monitor complex information networks.

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Your online master’s in information technology degree should help you qualify for well-paid senior roles in IT management (Bureau of Labor Statistics). These jobs include network and computer systems administrator (average of $84,810), top IT executive ($152,480), and computer and information systems manager ($151,150).

Your online master’s in information technology may open doors to jobs in organizations of all types and sizes, spanning both the public and private sectors.

Master’s in Marketing

marketing team planning for a project

If you have a creative streak combined with analytic thinking skills, you may consider a masters degree in marketing.

Switching careers to work in marketing means you may also find a range of opportunities for entrepreneurial work, freelance or consulting work, or in-house employment in organizations both large and small.

Programs in marketing will often give you insights into strategies and decision-making processes for brand development and for designing promotional campaigns.

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A marketing program often covers customer profiling and segmentation as well as analytic concepts and tools for implementing and evaluating marketing campaigns. You may also learn about the analytics of promoting and pricing products and services.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you may earn over $100,000 as a senior marketing professional. Sales managers make an average annual salary of $132,290 while marketing managers earn an average salary of $142,170.

Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)

nurse taking care of a patient

Some careers in the nursing field are expected to grow at an eye-popping rate of 45% over the next decade (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Registered nurses earn an annual salary of $75,330 on average while advanced practice registered nurses earn an average of $117,670. A Master of Science in Nursing may qualify you for job opportunities right where you live and may allow for more flexible work hours and working arrangements.

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If you like the idea of earning good pay in a high-skill and challenging field, a job in nursing will likely keep you both on your feet and on your toes.

Master’s in Project Management

Project Managers working together

Whatever your career preferences and interests, getting a master’s in project management may be a great way to open doors to a range of new opportunities.

In fields as diverse as construction, healthcare, government, and business, there’s a steady demand for talented individuals who can successfully manage complex projects. If you can step back and see the big picture while also exercising sustained attention to detail, you may be excited to switch to a career in project management.

Project managers are often key players in initiatives that involve cost tracking, regulatory compliance, multi-team collaborations, and any number of timelines, deadlines, and logistical complications.

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With a masters in project management, you may learn about cutting-edge tools and methods for mapping out and tracking complex management timelines and logistics. You may also learn leadership strategies for helping teams set and meet goals through effective collaboration.

With these skills you might launch a career as a management analyst, budget analyst, or operations research analyst. These positions earn average salaries of $87,660, $78,970, and $86,200 respectively (Bureau of Labor Statistics). You may work in-house in senior management roles or work as a business or leadership consultant.

Admissions Requirements

Master's degree student researching online

Admissions requirements will vary from university to university, but you will typically need a bachelors degree. In most cases, admissions requirements will include:

  • Proof of an undergraduate degree
  • Submission of all college transcripts
  • A satisfactory college GPA (usually 3.0, 3.5, or higher)
  • GRE or GMAT scores, if required

The kinds of prerequisites that are required—in terms of test scores, work experience, or prior coursework—will also vary by school and program. It can be strategic to check with admissions officers about what’s required and expected in order to be a competitive applicant.

Accreditation

Master's degree accreditation

Regional accreditation helps ensure that you’re attending a school that meets defined standards for academic quality and integrity.

Other institutions and prospective employers are more likely to honor your degree and accomplishments if they’re earned at an accredited institution. Organizations such as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) have more information about the accreditation process and can help you identify accredited universities.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

financial aid for master's degree students

Even if you can’t cover the costs of an online degree upfront, you may be able to move forward with the help of financial aid.

For many students, paying for college will mean combining multiple sources of financial assistance. These include federal and state grants, employer programs and incentives, merit-based and need-based scholarships, and student loans.

If you’re applying for need-based assistance, you may be required to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You may also find it helpful to check with admissions and financial aid officers about financial assistance at the schools you’re interested in.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Master’s Degree Online?

Master’s Degree student studying online

The time it takes to get an online master’s degree will vary by university and program, but in general a master’s degree is likely to take 1 to 2 years. There are certain online programs that are designed to accelerate your time to completion.

If you follow a traditional 16 week semester and study full-time, your masters program will likely take at least 2 years. By following an 8 week semester with continuous year-round enrollment, you might be able to finish some programs in as little as 18 months. There are even one year masters programs online that may be of interest to you.

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When calculating how long it will take you, you may want to take into account not only the required courses but also the time it may take to complete a masters thesis or other capstone project.

Which Masters Degree Is Most in Demand?

financial analysts in a meeting

One could argue that the most valuable masters degrees and the most useful masters degrees are the ones in the most in-demand fields. Two quickly growing fields you may want to consider are computer science and finance.

An online masters in computer science may help you launch a career as a software developer or computer and information research scientist. Jobs for software developers are anticipated to grow 22% over the next decade, and jobs for computer and information research scientists are project to grow 15% (Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Finance is another field forecast to have high demand. Jobs for financial managers are anticipated to grow 15% through the next ten years while jobs for accountants and auditors are expected to grow 4%.

With the right certifications and a masters degree in finance or a related field, you may be on your way to a promising career.

Can You Get a Graduate Degree in a Different Field?

Graduate Degree students attending class in university

Yes, you can get a graduate degree in a different field at some universities. That said, the requirements to apply and to effectively compete for admissions will vary from university to university.

Your undergraduate coursework and degree may already qualify you for some programs. If not, you may find that you can qualify based on additional work experience, professional certifications, or completion of specific prerequisite courses.

If you have questions about admissions, you can check the university’s website or speak with an admissions officer.

What Masters Degree Should I Get?

Master's degree student studying at home

While switching careers is possible, deciding which is the best masters degree for you may require some soul searching.

Your online masters program may require intensive study, so it may be beneficial to choose a field that excites you and is aligned with your professional aptitudes and skill sets.

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Once you’ve inventoried your own individual interests and preferences, you may want to consider which relevant masters degrees can open doors to the kinds of career opportunities and earnings that you desire.

Is a Master’s Degree Worth It?

business professionals planning for a project

Yes, a masters degree is worth it for many students. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs requiring a master’s degree for entry are set to grow at 15% over the next 10 years, faster than the average for all occupations.

Common masters-level careers include education administrator, computer and information research scientist, advanced practice registered nurse, and a variety of leadership and management roles.

For most people who are switching careers, getting a graduate degree will require planning and perseverance, but a masters may open doors to career advancement and higher pay.

Pursuing a top graduate degree in information technology or another well-paid field with growing demand might be a strategic way to launch your career change.

Getting Your Master’s Degree Online

Getting Your Master’s Degree Online

If you are seeking well-defined career goals or are seeking to switch to a new and more rewarding career field, then getting a masters degree online may be a strategic move.

Whether you want an accelerated study timeline or plan to enroll in one of the growing number of part time masters programs to maintain your job, you may discover online masters programs that are suited to your personal needs and preferences.

Today’s accelerated social and technological changes can drive exceptional job demand in both traditional and emerging career fields. Career changers may find there’s no better time than now to get into an accredited online masters program and launch a new career!

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Keith Nickolaus
WRITTEN BY
Keith Nickolaus
Keith has a Ph.D. and a M.A. in Comparative Literature from the University of California - Berkeley and a B.A. in Literature from the University of California - Santa Cruz. A retired educator, Keith lives in Berkeley and researches and writes about trends in education leadership, innovation, and policy.