The best graduate schools
Graduate school opens the door to career paths not available to undergraduates. A master’s program can distinguish you from the competition, even for jobs which do not traditionally require a master’s degree or doctorate.
Completing graduate school is also correlated to higher earnings. A study by the National Center for Education Statistics found that the 2020 median earnings of those with a master’s degree or higher were 17% more than earnings of those with a bachelor’s degree only.
How to choose the right grad school
Federal student loans can provide the opportunity to access graduate schools and associated higher median earnings. However, unlike undergraduate lending, there are no meaningful lending caps on grad school loans.
This lack of lending constraint has predictably led to higher tuition costs and debt, as universities realize students are able to borrow extra to finance their graduate education and are thus less inclined to provide financial aid. Many of the worst offenders are elite universities, where high demand allows for tuition increases divorced from true value for students after graduation.
Graduate school rankings
Our graduate school rankings are meant to provide potential students with tools to determine whether a graduate program is worth it. We measure and compare the median earnings and debt of graduates from each program. We also measure the median earning difference between master’s and undergraduate students in the same field of study, to determine the overall value of different graduate programs at the macro level.
The debt-to-earnings ratio and comparative earnings by program are aggregated into an economic score, which is used to rank master’s programs. For a detailed examination of how this score is calculated, please visit our methodology page.
Best business schools
A good graduate business program offers students the leadership and business perspective needed to take the next step into corporate management.
1. Dartmouth College
2. University of Pennsylvania
3. Louisiana Tech University
Best engineering schools
While most engineering positions require only an undergraduate degree, a lot of practical experience, and in some cases, PE licensure, getting a master’s in engineering can help facilitate a transition into upper management and leadership roles as well as accelerating career advancement.
1. Oakland University
2. Mercer University
3. Utah State University
Best graduate schools for education
Students get their master’s in education in order to increase earnings potential and career opportunities. Graduate programs in education also offer certification for students that did not complete education-focused undergraduate degrees.
1. Relay Graduate School of Education
2. Kansas State University
3. California State University, Fresno
Best nursing schools
Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs have been designed to help registered nurses develop skills for specialist roles. Practitioner-track MSN programs are the path to becoming an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) or a certified nurse in a specialist field. Non-practitioner tracks lead to careers in nursing education, leadership, or administration.
1. Texas A & M International University
2. Central Connecticut State University
3. CUNY Hunter College
Best psychology schools
A master’s in psychology is a versatile degree, with graduates pursuing a range of careers, including counseling, human resources, and social services. With the exception of school and industrial-organizational psychology, licensure as a psychologist will require a doctoral degree. However, a master’s in psychology can improve your chances of acceptance into a PhD program.
1. California State University, Long Beach
2. Minnesota State University, Mankato
3. California State University, Fresno
Best social science schools
- Best master’s in communication programs
- Best graduate English programs
- Best colleges for history
- Best master’s in political science programs
Additional information on graduate schools
America’s graduate schools are world-renowned for the quality and diversity of graduate programs offered. Within the graduate sector, master’s degrees are the fastest growing type of degree.
Whether the master’s degree is deemed valuable due to the additional flexibility and earning potential provided to graduates or as a symptom of degree inflation is an open question. The proliferation of professional doctorates – a result of more widespread licensure requirements and demand-side preference – points to the latter.
Make sure you do your research before picking a graduate program. Students have been indoctrinated to strive for acceptance at the most prestigious universities, but our economic valuation shows that most prestigious does not necessarily equal superior economic circumstances long term.
There are a number of lesser-known programs that are extremely cost-effective and produce graduates with excellent relative earning potential – 2 of the most important considerations, in our view, when choosing a graduate program.