A dollar is not just a dollar when it comes to the most expensive degrees in the world.
Whether you have one, are pursuing one or thinking about joining one, the most expensive degrees in the world are like life and liberty. They are priceless.
Sure, it has a price tag — and a big one — but you can’t put a value on a good education.
Unlike buying something from Amazon, the most expensive degrees in the world do not just give you a piece of my paper at the end of it.
They lead you to a world of opportunities. That’s no hyperbole, especially if you pursued any of these coveted degrees abroad.
That’s not to say that if you have one of the most expensive degrees in the world, you’re guaranteed a high-paying job.
The truth is there is neither a guarantee nor a shortcut. Ultimately, it’s what you make of the skills, knowledge, and connections from the degree you graduated with.
Take law, for example. Say you graduated from Columbia Law School, ranked top 25 globally in the QS World University Rankings 2023.
For the 2022-23 academic term, it costs US$82,467 to pursue a Juris Doctor and LLM programme. That’s not including housing, food, personal expenses and academic supplies, which can cost up to US$110,450, according to the law school’s website.
If you didn’t work hard (and law school is hard) and take advantage of the school’s long-standing relationships with top employers from around the globe, alumni network, or renowned faculty, you’ll get nowhere.
Fail, and you may even get deported.
What this shows is the most expensive degrees in the world, used and appreciated in the right ways, are priceless in the seemingly endless list of benefits you stand out of it.
In the long run, it may even be a small price to pay to get you closer to the life and career you want.
With that said, let’s take a closer look at the most expensive degrees in the world. We’ve ranked them below according to:
- how much they cost, including tuition and miscellaneous fees
- the expected salaries (according to data from sites like Glassdoor and the US Bureau of Labour Statistics (USBLS), unless stated otherwise)
- job prospects for graduates
- top unis and programmes in each field
8 of the most expensive degrees in the world that are worth every cent
Here are some of the best law schools in the world:
- Yale Law School, Juris Doctor (US$71,540)
- University of Cambridge, LLB(24,507 pounds, US$30,438.31 for 2023 entry )
- New York University, Juris Doctor (US$73,216)
Apart from being one of the most challenging and longest courses in the world, it’s not surprising to read that studying law is expensive.
Depending on where you study, a law degree, such as a juris doctor degree, can take up to four years to complete.
Pair that with the fact that there are bar exams and a pupillage period to complete, and it can take a lot of time and money for you to qualify as a lawyer.
If you wish to practise in a different jurisdiction, you would need to pass the Bar exam in a specific state or country, which will also cost money.
Despite this, many students pursue this field because of the potential for high-paying careers in law firms, government agencies, and other legal organisations.
- Median salary in the US: US$127,990 (2021)
- Average annual salary in the UK: 73,639 pounds
2. Mechanical Engineering
Here are some of the best universities to pursue mechanical engineering:
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (US$59,750)
- Harvard University (Paulson) Engineering School (US$58,224, according to US World News and Report)
- University of Cambridge, MEng (37,293 pounds, US$46,351.47 for 2023 entry)
If you’re planning on pursuing engineering, know this fact: it will be more expensive for you to study a specialised area of engineering.
Take Blake Hinsey, for example. As a mechanical engineering graduate, he left the US and pursued an MSc in Motorsport Engineering at Oxford Brookes University to land a job in Formula One.
That one-year degree costs 17,800 pounds, making this one of the most expensive degrees in the world.
Generally, engineering programmes require access to advanced laboratory facilities and equipment, which can be expensive to maintain and update, like the Wind Tunnel at the Faculty of Engineering, Imperial College London.
Engineering faculty members and staff, who are experts in their field, usually maintain these facilities. As such, they receive higher salaries due to their specialised knowledge and expertise — salaries that are factored into the fees students pay to attend a university.
- Median salary in the US: US$95,300 (2021)
- Average annual salary in the UK: 40,117 pounds
3. Film Studies
Here are some of the best films schools around the globe:
- USC School of Cinematic Arts, Film & Television Production (US$63,468)
- National Film and Television School, Directing and Producing Television Entertainment (52,000 pounds, US$64,653.42)
- London Film School, MA Filmmaking (65,638 pounds, US$81,610.02)
Like engineering, film studies is one of the most expensive degrees in the world — for good reasons.
In this course, you will familiarise yourself with expensive cameras, fancy video recording equipment, complex editing software, and more for an authentic practical learning experience.
Some film schools require you to create your film as part of the curriculum. These projects cost money and time as you’d need to make props, scout shooting locations, and find actors.
Upon graduation, you’ll likely need to create a few film projects for your portfolio, which you will pay out of your pocket.
The good news is video editing is one of the best skills you can learn to make yourself more employable in 2023.
Since most businesses know the impact of great videos, companies are always on the lookout for professional video editors or videographers to market their business.
- Median salary in the US: US$79,000 (2021)
- Average annual salary in the UK: 43,961 pounds
Here are some of the best unis to pursue music:
- University of Aberdeen, BMus (20,800 pounds for the 2023/24 academic year)
- University of Cambridge, Music (32,064 pounds for 2023 entry)
- Berklee Collee of Music, Bachelor of Music (US$21,325 – US$24,415)
Are you an aspiring musician? You might think that a degree in music is unnecessary, especially when social media can help you to become a viral sensation overnight.
While that may be true, a music degree can open a world of opportunities for those who want to work behind the scenes in music production while combining their passion with practicality.
Yes, it can be an expensive major — but the benefits are immense. Imagine accessing top-notch tutoring, state-of-the-art facilities, recording equipment, and networking opportunities with industry shapers.
John Mayer, Lady Gaga, Miles David and Paul McCartney hold music degrees — which they’ve used to great success.
Upon graduation, you’re set to join them and are well-prepared to manage musicians, produce music, or even become a session musician for an artist’s album recording or live concert.
- Median salary in the US: US$30.49 per hour (2021)
- Average annual salary in the UK: 29,317 pounds
Here are some of the best flight schools to kickstart your aviation career:
- University of North Dakota, Commercial Aviation (B.S.Aero.) (US$37,499.04)
- Ohio State University, Bachelor of Science in Aviation (US$39,650 for the 2022-23 academic year)
- Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Bachelor of Science in Aeronautics (US$485.00 per credit hour)
Major airlines generally prefer candidates with a four-year degree in aviation. They can expedite your career progression, thanks to skilled instructors who are often retired pilots.
Be warned, though. Tuition at flight school can add up quickly due to aircraft procurement and maintenance costs, cutting-edge technology, and expensive fuel needed to carry passengers and cargo.
That said, the statistics show that pilots earn impressive salaries.
Pair that with various allowances and paid accommodations, and you’ll find that aviation is one of the most lucrative careers available today.
- Median salary in the US: US$99,640 (2021)
- Average annual salary in the UK: 69,679 pounds
Here are some figures to show why an MBA is one of the most expensive degrees in the world:
- Harvard Business School (US$112,764 for the full two-year programme)
- MIT Sloan School of Management (US$82,000 for the 2023-24 academic year)
- NYU Stern School of Business (US$82,326 for the 2023-24 academic year)
If you are considering pursuing an MBA, it’s normal to be concerned about forking out a considerable amount of money only to graduate without job security and fear of being laid off — and rightfully so.
Last month, Bloomberg reported that McKinsey & Co. announced plans to eliminate around 2,000 jobs, while KPMG had cut almost 700 professionals from its US advisory practice. Others, such as EY, are also bringing down their hiring targets by thousands.
Despite this, an MBA is still worth it and relevant.
Earning an MBA can enhance your career opportunities, increase compensation and lead to better job opportunities. Recessions come and go but the power of an MBA remains.
- Median salary in the US: US$76,570 (2021)
- Average annual salary in the UK: 69,679 pounds
7. Fashion Design
Here are the best fashion schools in the world:
- Fashion Institute of Technology, Fashion Business Management BS Degree (US$10,846 per semester)
- London College of Fashion, BSc (Hons) Fashion Management (25,970 pounds, US$32,220.07 per year)
- Parsons School of Design, Fashion Design (US$27,794 per semester)
Have you watched the reality TV show, “Project Runway”? Despite the glamorous appeal of fashion, it takes time, effort, and a creative eye to design clothes that can easily capture people’s attention.
If you plan to study at a school in a major fashion capital like New York, your tuition fees will be more expensive.
The good thing about studying in a fashion capital is that you are close to the best connections, renowned fashion fairs, and industry practices — vital factors that can fast-track you to becoming a designer, buyer, or celebrity stylist.
- Median salary in the US: US$77,450 (2021)
- Average annual salary in the UK: 28,734 pounds
Here are a few figures to show how expensive it is to study dentistry:
- King’s College London, Dentistry BDS (50,760 pounds, US$62,972.60 per year)
- Karolinska Institutet, Dentistry (1,900,000 SEK, US$180,988.30 for five years) – this programme is taught entirely in Swedish.
- University of California Los Angeles, Doctor of Dental Surgery (US$19,626 per year)
It’s hardly surprising to read that dentistry is one of the most expensive degrees in the world.
You’ll need to complete a five-year degree in dentistry approved by the General Dental Council, followed by one to two years of postgraduate dental training.
In some cases, you are required to complete a Dental Admission Test to be admitted into dental schools in the US and Canada or the University Clinical Aptitude Test in the UK.
That’s not including the dental equipment you’ll handle at uni, the cost of clinical rotations, or your cost of living as an international student.
- Median salary in the US: US$163,220 (2021)
- Average annual salary in the UK: 57,326 pounds