If you choose to go to graduate school, chances are you're looking to pursue a career you find fulfilling.
Yet even students who follow their passion likely want those extra years of studying to increase their earning potential. While salaries for workers with graduate degrees are as varied as the degrees themselves, earning an advanced degree in law, business, engineering, or any of the other programs included in our Best Graduate Schools rankings can boost your take-home pay.
That's assuming you land a job, of course. Finding the right position, much less a high-paying one, can be a challenge in this slowly recovering economy. But some graduate school career centers report students are seeing improvements in the job market this year—welcome news for anyone who will soon have a diploma.
Julie Morton, associate dean of career services at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, says three-quarters of the school's M.B.A. students who expect to graduate in June have job offers. "That's significantly ahead of where we were a couple of years ago at the height of the recession," she says. "So we've definitely seen marked upticks in firms' appetites."
[For job-hunting advice, visit U.S. News Careers.]
Hoping to increase your earning potential with a graduate degree? Here are a handful of jobs that pay more than $100,000 a year:
Dentist: With four years of dental school under your belt, you could expect to make about $142,000, the median annual salary for dentists in 2009, the Labor Department reports. Dentists who specialize can bank even more. This occupation also has a positive outlook for growth—15 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the Department—which increases your chances of finding a job when you need one.
Management Consultant: For M.B.A. graduates, advising companies how to be more efficient is a popular way to make a living. At IBM, management consultants earn an average of about $114,000 annually, according to Glassdoor.com, a website that offers insight into careers and companies. Deloitte pays an average of nearly $127,000, Glassdoor.com reports.
Petroleum Engineer: Figuring out how to extract oil and gas from deep inside the earth can bring you around $109,000 a year, the median salary for this occupation in 2009, according to the Labor Department. Petroleum engineer positions aren't as common as common as, say, civil engineers, but the Labor Department projects growth in demand for these workers to increase 18 percent between 2008 and 2018.
[See the 50 Best Careers of 2011.]
Family-Practice Doctor: There simply aren't enough doctors to go around; the number of jobs for physicians and surgeons nationwide is expected to increase by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018, the Labor Department reports. And family-practice doctors, or general practitioners, are among those in demand. After medical school and residency, these doctors can bring home an annual salary of $161,000, the median in 2009.
Psychiatrist: Mental-health doctors, too, are in demand, earning about $160,000 annually, the Labor Department reports. Like a physical-wellness doctor, becoming a psychiatrist requires four years of medical school plus a residency.
[Advance your career with an online degree.]
Financial manager: With a master's degree in business administration, finance, or economics, you could find yourself strategizing the long-term financial goals of an organization. These employees earn about $101,000 each year, according to the Labor Department's 2009 figures.
Lawyer: Particularly with law, your salary is likely to reflect the size of firm you work for. The median annual pay for lawyers is $113,000, reports the Labor Department, but Glassdoor.com lists average salaries with top firms in the $175,000-$200,000 range. Though the recession hit the law industry hard, forcing some law schools to rethink their curricula, law can be a money-maker of a profession nonetheless.
Searching for a grad school? Get our complete rankings of Best Graduate Schools.