Higher education often comes with a high price tag, but if it's a graduate school degree the cost may be worth it.
"The fastest growth is projected in occupations assigned to the master's degree level; these occupations are projected to grow by 21.7 percent," according to a 2012 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics that analyzed projected job growth between 2010 and 2020.
Determining which graduate program to pursue can be difficult, but U.S. News can help. Released today, the 2015 Best Graduate Schools rankings include admissions information for those aspiring to study law, business, medicine, education and engineering, as well as specialties within each area.
Graduate schools in the five main disciplines ranked annually are evaluated on standardized test scores of newly enrolled students, opinions from experts on each program's quality, acceptance rates and other criteria. Because each graduate program is different, the rankings methodology varies across disciplines. The law school rankings, for example, take into account a program's state bar passage rate, relative to the state’s average, while medical schools for research are judged by the total dollar amount of their research activity.
[Video: Learn how to use the rankings to make your graduate school decision.]
Business: There was little movement among the top business schools this year. The Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania moved up from third place to tie with Harvard University and Stanford University for the No. 1 spot. The University of Chicago's Booth School of Business moved up to No. 4 from sixth place, while the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University fell from fourth to sixth place. The Sloan School of Management at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which tied for fourth last year, is now ranked No. 5.
One of the most noteworthy changes came from the Lindner College of Business at University of Cincinnati, which climbed from a tie at No. 99 to a three-way tie at No. 60 this year.
Among part-time MBA programs, the Haas School of Business at University of California—Berkeley, Chicago's Booth School of Business and Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management again came in at Nos. 1, 2 and 3, respectively. The Anderson School of Management at the University of California—Los Angeles moved up one spot and is now tied with the Stern School of Business at New York University for fourth place. The Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech had one of the more significant drops, going from a tie at No. 34 to a five-way tie at No. 46.
[Photos: View the 20 top-ranked business schools.]
Law: Yale University and Harvard University again placed first and second, while Stanford University dropped down to third among the top law schools. Former No. 11 Duke University School of Law moved up to join University of Michigan—Ann Arbor in a tie for the No. 10 spot. Marshall-Wythe School of Law at the College of William and Mary inched closer to the top of the list, climbing nearly 10 spots to land at a tie for No. 24 with University of Washington. Meanwhile, Washington and Lee University saw a significant drop, moving from a tie at No. 26 last year to a tie with University of Colorado—Boulder at No. 43.
D.C. schools continue to top the rankings of part-time law programs, with Georgetown University and George Washington University coming in again at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. There were significant changes elsewhere among top-tier schools. Loyola University Chicago, for example, fell from a three-way tie at sixth place to tie for No. 23 with the Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago-Kent College of Law.
[Photos: See which law schools topped the rankings.]
Medicine: Many of the top medical schools for research kept their same placement as last year or moved by just a few spots. Harvard University remains No. 1, and Stanford University remains No. 2. University of Washington ranked 10th, up two places from its previous rank.
A change in rankings was more visible among primary care programs. University of Washington stole the top spot from University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill, which is now ranked second. University of Massachusetts—Worcester rose from No. 9 to No. 5. The University of Colorado—Denver slid from No. 5 to No. 13 and is now tied with the Geffen School of Medicine at University of California—Los Angeles and University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine.
Engineering: The top engineering schools are Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and University of California—Berkeley, which again came in at first, second and third, respectively. Case Western Reserve University saw one of the largest climbs in the engineering rankings, moving from a tie at No. 51 to No. 46, where it is tied with six other schools.
Education: The new top graduate program in education is Johns Hopkins University, which switched places with No. 2 Vanderbilt University. One noteworthy change came from University of California—Davis, which rose from a tie at No. 60 to a tie at No. 45 with Syracuse University and Washington University in St. Louis. Meanwhile, University of Tennessee—Knoxville dropped from a tie at No. 51 to a six-way tie at No. 64.
Searching for a grad school? Get our complete rankings of Best Graduate Schools.