These advanced degrees have proven their worth in today's job market.
Thinking about waiting out the recession by improving yourself at school? You're not alone - especially if you're planning on earning your master's degree.
A 2011 survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Education, "The Condition of Education," found that 49 percent more master's degrees were awarded in 2008-2009 than the decade before.
And statistics show that going back to school could have high returns when it comes to seeking employment. According to the U.S. Department of Labor's 2011 figures, those with a master's degree have a much lower unemployment rate than those who only have a high school diploma: four percent compared to 10.3 percent.
Perhaps the most important choice you could make, especially in today's economy, is which master's degree to pursue.
To help, we looked at Forbes' 2010 list of best master's degrees for this economy. The list took into account salary and job growth data from PayScale and the Department of Labor to determine which master's degrees would likely yield the best job opportunities over the next decade.
Check out five of these master's degrees - and see if any are right for you.
Are you engaging, ambitious, and a natural leader? You could polish those skills and hone your leadership abilities in an MBA program.
- Projected employment growth: 17 percent
- Mid-career median pay: $109,000
- Potential career paths: Business development manager, senior financial analyst, management consultant
An MBA can help you gain real-world skills that could land you managerial or executive positions in almost any industry. It could also help you get your career going. According to an August 2011 Forbes article, hiring is picking up for MBA grads, with 57 percent getting a job offer prior to graduating.
Are you always up to date on the latest gadgets and gizmos, and fascinated by all things high-tech? Then grab your state-of-the-art laptop, and get to work on a master's in information technology.
- Projected employment growth: 29 percent
- Mid-career median pay: $97,200
- Potential career paths: IT project manager, software developer, IT specialist
Students in IT master's programs will receive advanced instruction in how computer systems support the overall operations of businesses and other organizations. And because technology is evolving so quickly among many fields, those with a master's in IT should be sought after to handle these advancements across a variety of sectors, says the Department of Labor.
If you're known as a natural people person, and good at understanding others' needs and concerns, a master's degree in human resources management could be right for you.
- Projected employment growth: 22 percent
- Mid-career median pay: $81,900
- Potential career paths: Human resources consultant, recruiter, human resources manager
Companies large and small require professionals to oversee everything from hiring and training to the sometimes-thorny issues of compensation and benefits. Earning a master's degree in human resources management could help you understand all these and more issues, plus the legal, ethical, and financial aspects of managing employees.
If you've always been immersed in the world of computers, turn that passion into a future with a master's degree in computer science. With the integration of new software programs across economic sectors, this field is expected to reach new heights.
- Projected employment growth: 27 percent
- Mid-career median pay: $111,000
- Potential career paths: Database administrator, information technology consultant, software architect
According to Forbes, this is one of the best advanced degrees to get, due to the combination of growth and pay opportunities. While no two programs are the same, the University of Arizona reports that classes on algorithms, operating systems, networks, and databases could be part of a computer science master's program. The knowledge gained in these types of courses could help students pursue management positions in the technology sector.
If you're the one your friends turn to when they need complicated economic news explained (what's a debt ceiling?), you may fit in well earning a master's in economics.
- Projected employment growth: 19 percent
- Mid-career median pay: $108,000
- Potential career paths: Economist, financial analyst, business analyst
According to the University of North Carolina, classes for a master's degree in economics may include health economics, international trade and development, labor economics, and microeconomic theory. As you can tell from the broad spectrum of topics covered by these courses, an economics degree could help you seek work in a wide variety of fields.
*All worthwhile factors - projected employment growth, mid-career median pay, and potential career paths - information is from Forbes' "Best Master's Degrees for Jobs", May 2010.