8 best master’s degrees to help you land that big promotion

best master's degrees
The best master's degrees serve as a career booster, helping you move to upper-level management, positions with more security and potentially a role with higher pay. Source: AFP

In an uncertain economy with a future that can seemingly change in the span of one day (remember COVID-19?), the best master’s degrees in the world can give us security.

Known as the new bachelor’s degree, this postgraduate programme is one of the easiest ways to help us stand out from the crowd when applying for jobs today, which all seem to want more education.

More than one in four (27%) of employers now require master’s degrees for roles in which historically undergraduate degrees sufficed, according to a 2020 survey by CareerBuilder.

Already have a job? The best master’s degrees in the world are still worth the investment as they:

  • Can bump up your salary by 25% up to 60% and even 150% (graduates from top MBA programmes reportedly take home six-figure salaries)
  • Can give you skills that can’t be replaced by AI and automation
  • Can help you rediscover your passion

The best part? If you pursuing one of the best master’s degrees in a new country, you can go on an exciting journey where your academic and personal horizons expand.

It can also be a stepping stone onto a global stage where different cultures and perspectives enrich your knowledge. Imagine coming from India and collaborating on a research project with a classmate from Brazil. 

Having experience abroad is not only good for you, but for the company. Bosses see them as better and more creative problem-solvers, according to management researchers.

They’re also likelier to get promoted and create new businesses and products.

Travelling to a foreign land away from the comforts of home might seem a little daunting at first. But the rewards you get in return make it all worth it. 

Nonetheless, there is still some cost to earning one of the best master’s degrees in the world.

The average prices of a master’s degree at these top study abroad destinations are as follows:

  • Australia: 22,000 (US$15,045) Australian dollars to AU$50,000 (US$34,192)
  • Canada: 1,075 Canadian dollars (US$797) to CA$65,000 (US$48,190) per year
  • UK: 5,000 pounds (US$6,093) to over 30,000 pounds (US$36,559) per year
  • US: US$65,134

These are no small sums — thus it pays to know all the options you have before deciding on what’s set to be the biggest chapter of your life.

What is a master’s degree?

A master’s degree is an advanced academic credential typically pursued after completing an undergraduate or bachelor’s degree.

Successful completion of a master’s programme will equip you with enhanced expertise and knowledge in your chosen field, along with a range of more advanced soft skills and transferable abilities.

The typical timeframe for earning a master’s degree in a full-time programme is around two years in the US and one year in the UK and Europe.

However, the specific duration can vary depending on factors such as the particular postgraduate program, institution, and study location.

You may have come across terms like “postgraduate diploma” and postgraduate certificate” as well. They’re typically referred to as PgDip and PgCert respectively.

While they cover coursework that is more advanced than at the bachelor’s level, they’re not considered master’s degrees as they usually do not meet the requirement for sufficient teaching or research hours.

best master's degrees

CEO of Apple, Tim Cook has a master’s in business administration from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Source: AFP

8 best master’s degrees in the world 

1. Master of Business Administration

An MBA, or Master of Business Administration, remains the #1 most popular master’s degrees in the world.

It’s known to be among the most versatile and sought-after postgraduate degrees worldwide.

In World University Rankings – Full Time MBA: United States 2022 alone, over 280 business schools were featured.

It’s easy to understand why the MBA is so highly in demand. As it equips you with a comprehensive understanding of business principles, management strategies and leadership skills, this making it applicable to various industries and career paths. 

Many employers also view the degree favourably — with some even making it a condition for promotion to senior leadership roles.

The financial benefits of earning an MBA are substantial, with studies consistently showing that MBA graduates command higher salaries than those with only a bachelor’s degree.

According to the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the median base salary of MBA graduates in the US exceeded US$115,000 in 2020. 

Here are the best universities to earn an MBA:

  • University of Chicago, US
  • London Business School, UK
  • Melbourne Business School, Australia
best master's degree

Healthcare administration is one of the best master’s degrees to pursue as the sector is rapidly growing due to increasing life expectancy globally. Source: AFP

2. Healthcare Administration 

A master’s degree in Healthcare Administration is one of the best master’s degrees in the world, especially with healthcare constantly evolving.

There is always a need for skilled professionals who can effectively manage healthcare organisations in a world that’s expected to peak at about 10.4 billion people in the 2080s and remain at that level until 2100.

This degree allows you to direct the operation of a healthcare facility, such as a hospital, clinic or health system.

According to data from the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, employment in healthcare management is projected to grow significantly faster than the national average, with an increase in the number of job opportunities. 

This growth is reflected in competitive salaries, with healthcare administrators consistently earning above-average incomes. 

The importance of healthcare administrators can be seen in their efforts to optimise healthcare delivery, improve patient outcomes and ensure the efficient operation of healthcare facilities.

For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare administrators were crucial in coordinating responses, managing resources and ensuring healthcare institutions could meet the surging demand for care. 

Other potential jobs you can get with a health care administration master’s degree include chief nursing officer, if your background is in nursing, or executive director of a hospital or health care system.

Many universities worldwide offer a master’s in healthcare administration that will ensure you are career-ready. Here are some of the best: 

  • Cornell University, US 
  • King’s College London, UK
  • Curtin University, Australia
best master's degrees

Computer science professionals are in high demand across various industries. Source: AFP

3. Computer and Information Sciences

We’ve seen how the internet defined the last two decades and how AI is changing the workplace in leaps and bounds within the last year alone.

The demand for skilled professionals in this field has skyrocketed in an increasingly digital world. According to the US BLS, it is predicted that computer science employment will increase by 15% by 2031

With so much potential in this field, this makes a master’s in computer and information sciences one of the best master’s degrees in the world.  

Many companies in cybersecurity, information systems management or software development are in need of professionals who can write codes in many programming languages and develop software systems.

But you can also find computer science, and IT gigs in almost every sector out there, setting you up for a career in a place you love.

Many entities will seek your expertise, from nonprofits and government agencies to technology hubs and beyond.

Earn your computer science qualification from one of these universities:

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US
  • University of Oxford, UK
  • University of Melbourne, Australia
best master's degrees

According to the BLS, the job outlook for registered nurses is expected to be nine per cent through 2030. Source: AFP

4. Nursing 

With an ageing population and more pandemics looming, the demand for highly trained and specialised nurses has never been greater — making this one of the best master’s degrees to pursue.

According to BLS, the demand for registered nurses is expected to grow by 46% by the year 2031. This surpasses the average growth rate of 8% across all professions in that same time period. 

With a master’s in nursing, you can seek higher-level positions and open the doors to teaching roles. An advanced degree lets you dive deeper into specialised areas that interest you too.  

While demanding, nurses are well compensated. Registered nurses in the US earn a salary of US$92,712 a year, making it among the highest-paid jobs in the country.

To become a registered nurse, complete your master’s at one of these top universities for nursing:

  • Emory University, US
  • King’s College London, UK
  • University of Melbourne, Australia

5. Economics

One of the best master’s degrees is in economics, as it is widely regarded as one of the most versatile and intellectually rewarding disciplines. 

A master’s in economics will give you a deeper understanding of how societies allocate resources, make decisions and address complex challenges.

This advanced knowledge is highly valued in the public and private sectors, as businesses, governments and organisations increasingly rely on economic analysis to inform policy decisions, manage resources, and address global issues such as climate change and income inequality.

The best part is that you don’t have to worry about securing a job, as the demand for a financial analyst is expected to increase by 9% by 2031.

Get a master’s in economics from some of the top universities in the world to secure a successful career. Here are the top universities for a degree in economics:

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US
  • University of Oxford, UK
  • Monash University Clayton, Australia
best master's degrees

AI is in demand because of humanity’s quest to replicate the behaviour and characteristics of a human, in a machine. Source: AFP

6. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

A master’s degree in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) is increasingly becoming among the most sought-after and promising educational choices in the 21st century. 

The growth of AI and ML technologies has led to a significant demand for professionals with expertise in these fields.

For instance, according to industry reports, data scientists and machine learning engineers consistently rank among the top-paying positions. 

The influence of AI and ML extends into virtually every aspect of our lives, from self-driving cars and virtual personal assistants to healthcare diagnostics and recommendation systems.

The success of platforms like Netflix and Amazon, which employ ML algorithms to recommend content and products, further shows us the practical impact of these technologies. 

As AI and ML continue to advance and expand their applications, the need for highly trained professionals with specialised knowledge in these fields is only expected to grow.

BLS predicts that the investigation and security services sector will grow 6.5% by 2029, faster than the average of 3.7% for all industry workers.

If you are looking to pursue a degree in AI and Machine Learning, consider these top universities:

  • Stanford University, US
  • University of Oxford, UK
  • University of Technology Sydney, Australia
best master's degrees

Petroleum engineers are amongst the highest paid in the sector. Source: AFP

7. Petroleum Engineering 

Engineers work in various industries, applying math and science principles to develop solutions to technical problems.

One area in which a master’s degree in engineering can be beneficial is the petroleum industry, a fast-growing and prominent industry in the US and globally.

Petroleum engineers earn a median wage of US$128,230 annually, which is the highest of all engineers.

To become a petroleum engineer, however, most companies require a master’s degree.  needs a master’s degree to explore and produce oil and gas to meet people’s energy needs worldwide. 

Kickstart your career in this field by attending these universities renowned for their engineering programme: 

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US
  • Imperial College London, UK
  • University of New South Wales Sydney, Australia

8. International Relations 

This is widely considered one of the best master’s degrees in the world as globalisation is on the rise and businesses are constantly hiring professionals who can move seamlessly between cultures and nations.

This degree equips students with deeper knowledge and skills to analyse international issues, engage in diplomatic negotiations, and contribute to the resolution of global challenges. 

With a master’s in international relations, graduates can pursue various careers, including roles in international organisations, government agencies, and think tanks. and at more senior levels.

For example, the United Nations employs numerous professionals with this degree, working on issues such as peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and international development.

Arm yourself with a master’s in international relations from one of these top universities: 

  • Georgetown University, US
  • University of Oxford, UK
  • Australian National University, Australia