Which Grad School Programs Have the Best Return on Investment?

Part of the reason of going to graduate school and getting another degree is to set yourself apart from the field of competition. Going for a Master's degree or PhD shows the world that you've dedicated extra years of your life to becoming more of a master in one area than others, and these skills are usually rewarded with more prestigious positions and higher pay…but not always. While you'd never throw money away by becoming professionally educated, not every grad program is created equally and there are some that definitely rise to the top when it comes to return on investment.

Master's in Business Administration

An MBA is one of the most solid degrees you can get for yourself, as it zooms you into a new pay scale altogether. It's an intense period of study and one that most schools require several years of related full-time work before you can even start. The application process is extremely selective and the degree itself is a rather pricey one…but it's worth it by far.

Cost of Degree: This price varies, but attending a top school leads you to a better ROI, like Harvard ($58,875), Stanford ($61,875), Wharton ($68,210) or Dartmouth ($61,605). On the plus side, if you've managed to get into a top-named school, it's likely because you already have a good job, which means a higher chance of your employer footing part, if not all, of your bill.

ROI: You're in line for big raises if you got into Harvard ($30,000), Stanford ($35,000) or Wharton ($35,000), with these amounts signalling your jump in yearly salary.

Electrical Engineering

As a faithful reader, you're already familiar with how much we've been saying engineering is one of the top programs you can invest in, but we've mainly focused on the undergraduate side of things. Despite that, engineering still carries its cachet over to the graduate level, but electrical engineering in particular is the hotspot within the industry.

Cost of Degree: Again, this depends on which school you go to and how much of the degree your employer is willing to pay for, but expect to see a bill for $43,210 at MIT (or $21,605 per term), $59,400 at Stanford ($1,320 per unit for 45 units) or $39,990 at Caltech.

ROI: Over a 30-year period, getting a Master's in electrical engineering will net you an extra salary in the form of $1.43 million from Stanford, $1.61 million from MIT, and $1.99 million from Caltech.

Computer Science

There's always the possibility that you can go the Mark Zuckerberg route and learn computer science on your own, but a more surefire path is to get a Master's degree in it. And unless you're dead set on building your own start-up, a grad degree tells employers you have what it takes to be accepted, and they'll reward you handsomely for it.

Cost of Degree: A Master's degree in this — for it to be worth it — isn't cheap, ranging from $11,220 at UC Berkeley and $29,500 at Cornell to $40,000 at Carnegie Mellon.

ROI: In 30 years' time, you can look forward to an extra $1.12 million in your account from Cornell, $1.18 from UC Berkeley, and $1.22 from Carnegie Mellon.

Physician Assistant Studies

A degree in this field won't make you a doctor, but it'll be pretty darn close. The biggest difference is you'll be working as a doctor did in the past, so while actual physicians pay hundreds of thousands in tuition and have to sacrifice years of their lives just to learn the most current information, you can skip right over that and start earning money now.

Cost of Degree: There are a few schools that rise to the top in terms of quality, and skipping over them because of the price tag isn't worth it. However, $40,720 at Duke, $34,800 at Emory and $13,000 per semester at George Washington ($39,000 per year for three semesters each year) will still make you blink hard.

ROI: Calculating this is the most volatile of all the Master's programs listed here because the work you can do varies so drastically. You can take your degree overseas and work in a settling like Doctors without Borders, stay at home and research or teach, work in your own clinic, be employed by a doctor or hospital, or teach. However, the average salary for graduates is about $96,200.

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