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Four Online Master’s Degrees That Can Pay Off | Context

Four Online Master’s Degrees That Can Pay Off

Some students pursue graduate-level studies to evolve within their current line of work, and others hope to complement previous education with a degree that can help them make a fresh start in a new field — but what both types of students are often seeking to achieve is professional and financial growth. Pursuing a master’s […]

To Put This in Context:

Today you can find online master’s degrees in nearly every field of interest, offering more ways than ever to help you develop new skills on your schedule and work toward increasing your paycheck. Let’s take a fresh look at some of the up-and-coming graduate programs for those who want to boost their career (and earning) potential.

Some students pursue graduate-level studies to evolve within their current line of work, and others hope to complement previous education with a degree that can help them make a fresh start in a new field — but what both types of students are often seeking to achieve is professional and financial growth.

Pursuing a master’s degree is a sizable commitment of time and effort, and those thinking about continuing their education need to carefully consider the industry they want to focus on and its projected earnings. According to Payscale’s 2016-2017 College Salary Report [1], here are four online graduate degrees in such popular areas as nursing, operations, computers, and finance that are projected to offer a range of opportunities for growth.

Master of Nurse Anesthesia


What differentiates an anesthesia focus in nursing?

Nurse anesthetists work as part of a health care team to consult patients and administer anesthesia for their treatments. As a graduate student in this field, you should gain competency in a range of medical conditions, and understand the types of drugs that should be considered when serving people with different medical histories. You should also work to develop the strong communication skills needed to collaborate effectively with other staff within a hospital or outpatient center, as well as deliver compassionate and informative consultations to patients and their families.

Did You Know?

Jobs for advanced practice registered nurses — a group which includes nurse anesthetists — are expected to grow 31% from 2014 to 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is much higher than average. [2].

Potential Careers

Depending on your experience, location, and skill level, those who specialize as a nurse anesthetist (CRNA) can earn an average salary of $137,288 a year, with the upper end of the scale reporting incomes as high as $181,975 [3]. Pursuing a management role in this same field as a chief nurse anesthetist sees a significant spike in potential earnings, with median salaries reported at $162,113 and reaching as high as $230,222. [4]

Master of Operations Research


What can you learn in an operations research program?

This degree is focused on preparing students for management careers in the public or private sector overseeing production of goods and services, and development of budgets and sales goals, among other responsibilities that keep a business running efficiently. Operations roles can include managing retail stores, restaurants, or hotels and resorts, as well as executive-level directing for businesses and nonprofit organizations. Pursuing a master’s degree in this arena can help you develop the critical thinking, data-mining, forecasting, and communication skills that are valued across various industries.

Potential Careers

Today’s technology-driven marketplace demands smart, analytical, and effective management to help support company growth, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that employers favor hiring those with graduate degrees or higher across most positions. [5] The salaries for many of these roles offer attractive compensation for those with strong leadership abilities. An operations research analyst stands to earn a median income of $74,651, and can go as high as $111,758 [6]. A typically higher role such as operations director can typically earn a median salary of $86,593, and can reach as high as $158,558. [7]

Master of Computer Engineering


What fields does a master’s in computer engineering serve?

Computer engineering plays a critical role in driving new advances in technology as a whole, which means that the professionals who choose to work in this field influence the software and hardware used throughout nearly every industry, including business, entertainment, communications, the military, and much more. While master’s programs vary in their curriculum, areas of focus typically cover the advanced study of programming languages, data architectures, interface design, networking, and operating systems — skills that are transferable to multiple roles and industries.

Potential Careers

The average pay for a software engineer is $80,778, with some of these professionals earning up to $119,520 based on the type of company, their education, and experience. [8] Moving into a senior software engineer role sees median wages jump to $106,720, and up to $142,651 at their peak. [9] More specialized careers in this field include roles like firmware engineers, who can earn an average salary of $81,404. [10]

Did You Know?

The demand for software engineers is projected to be 14% higher than that of hardware engineers by 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. [10]

Master of Finance


Why Earn a Master’s in Finance?

There are a number of options when it comes to expanding your business education with a focused master’s degree, including business administration and accounting. However, pursuing a master’s in finance can help set you apart with curriculum that typically stresses more technical skills related to banking, investment, and more. It’s an industry where experience is an asset, and earning your graduate degree can help open new career opportunities as a subject matter expert in a consulting or leadership role.

Potential Careers

Investment analysts offer carefully researched insight for individuals and groups on where to best allocate their assets and help to develop strategic investment portfolios. Earning a master’s in finance puts the median salary for this role at $67,407 [11], compared to bachelor’s graduates who average $45,565. [12] Leadership roles in this field include finance director, which depends on such skills as financial forecasting, strategic planning, and team management. The median salary is $107,106, and can reach as high as $156,877. [13]

Ready to start your online degree?

A master’s degree is an investment of multiple resources, and the program you choose should yield a high return in personal, professional, and financial reward. Whether you value new skills, monetary benefits, job security, or all of the above, there is an online degree to fit your career goals in these or a number of other growing industries.

Did You Know?

Connecting with your professors can be key to successfully navigating an online master’s program. Get more tips from real online students now.

James Gregory


James has been a copywriter for Context since January 2016. He previously spent 12 years working in education marketing as a copywriter and blogger for Full Sail University and three years as a news writer for the music website His work has also been featured in publications like the Orlando Sentinel, Post Magazine, Alternative Press, Sentimentalist Magazine, and more.