Spring means graduation, but many college seniors who are about to don cap and gown are not waving goodbye to academia. Instead, they will head back to campus in the fall in pursuit of a master’s or Ph.D. In fact, 26% of new or recent graduates were enrolled in postgraduate studies in 2015. That’s due partly to the vast pay gap between those with advanced degrees and those without, as well as the growing emphasis employers place on higher education for hiring and promotion.

But before you write that tuition check for several more years of study, consider the cost vs. benefit of grad school as it relates to career opportunities. In the United States, average tuition for a master’s degree can be nearly $30,000 at public universities and $40,000 at private institutions. And that’s in addition to the average $35,000 debt per graduate in 2015, according to an analysis of public and private loans.

But some graduate degrees are better career investments than others.

To determine the best and worst graduate degrees for jobs, Fortune asked the careers site PayScale to run the numbers. PayScale’s analysts ranked a wide range of Ph.D.s and master’s degrees and rated them based on these factors:

  • Long-term outlook for job growth. PayScale did a projection of the percentage of growth for a given job based on on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest Employment Projections data from 2014 to 2024. Those exceeding the 6.5% average rate of employment growth for all occupations are considered fast-growing positions.
  • Median pay. This is the national median total cash compensation (base salary plus any bonuses, commissions, profit-sharing or tips) at mid-career or at 10 or more years of experience.
  • Job satisfaction and stress. This is the percentage of degree-holders who said they were “extremely” or “fairly satisfied” with their jobs and who reported their work as “relaxing” or “not stressful.”

 

 

Graduate degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields dominate the top rankings, commanding starting salaries from $68,000 with a master’s degree in Information Systems to $117,000 with a computer science Ph.D. And in almost all the STEM fields considered, workers said they were extremely satisfied and were more likely to say they were less stressed.

PayScale’s senior editorial director Lydia Frank points out, though, that the added cost of a doctorate degree in computer science may not ultimately be worth the increase in earning potential. With college costs rising, code schools—which are dedicated to teaching programming languages and can be completed for a fraction of the cost and time—are gaining traction. “The best of these programs are getting support from the federal government via the TechHire initiative,” says Frank, adding, “It remains to be seen whether employers will fully embrace graduates from coding schools and bootcamps.”

New to the list this year is physician assistant. This master’s degree leads to a position in the rapidly growing health care field and offers newly minted graduates a shot at $87,700 early-career median pay. In the United States, physician assistants are nationally certified and state licensed to practice medicine under the supervision of a physician.

The lowest financial return on investment is dominated by graduated degrees in various areas of the education field, accounting for nine of the bottom 15 slots. At mid-career, an early childhood educator with a master’s degree can expect annual pay of about $48,700. Still, the majority of education-degree holders say their jobs offer much satisfaction despite the low paychecks. A full 87 % of reading and literacy teachers report being extremely satisfied with their work. And PayScale’s Lydia Frank points out that the anticipated growth rate in education hovers around the 6.5% growth rate for all occupations. “It’s only in comparison to the most competitive and emerging fields that the job growth stats for education seem low,” Frank says, “when, in fact, the grad degrees most in demand are far above what’s typical.”


Best 15 Graduate Degrees For Jobs

1. Master’s, Biostatistics

Median Salary: $105,900
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 23%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 85%
Low Stress: 57%

2. Master’s, Statistics

Median Salary: $113,700
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 16.4%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 75%
Low Stress: 57%

3. Ph.D., Computer Science

Median Salary: $147,400
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 12%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 77%
Low Stress: 45%

4. Ph.D., Economics

Median Salary: $125,800
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 11.3%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 88%
Low Stress: 59%

5. Master’s, Applied Mathematics

Median Salary: $124,900
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 12.7%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 71%
Low Stress: 49%

6. Master’s, Computer Science

Median Salary: $125,700
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 11.9%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 69%
Low Stress: 51%

7. Ph.D., Pharmacy

Median Salary: $126,00
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 13.8%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 81%
Low Stress: 32%

8. Ph.D., Mathematics

Median Salary: $106,600
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 13.7%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 72%
Low Stress: 53%

9. Ph.D., Physics

Median Salary: $137,800
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 9.1%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 82%
Low Stress: 49%

10. Master’s, Software Engineering

Median Salary: $118,900
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 11.9%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 66%
Low Stress: 51%

11. Ph.D., Physical Chemistry

Median Salary: $134,800
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 8.8%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 81%
Low Stress: 47%

12. Master’s, Information Systems

Median Salary: $116,100
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 11.2%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 71%
Low Stress: 48%

13. Masters, Physician Assistant Studies

Median Salary: $103,600
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 16.7%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 77%
Low Stress: 25%

14. MBA, Management Information Systems

Median Salary: $117,800
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 10.3%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 81%
Low Stress: 44%

15. Ph.D., Political Science

Median Salary: $$116,700
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 9.9%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 78%
Low Stress: 48%

Worst 15 Graduate Degrees for Jobs

1. Master’s, Fine Arts (MFA)

Median Salary: $46,600
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 3.5%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 67%
Low Stress: 43%

2. Master’s, Early Childhood Education

Median Salary: $48,700
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 5.4%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 83%
Low Stress: 36%

3. Master of Divinity (MDiv) – tied with Elementary Education

Median Salary: $59,900
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 5.1%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 83%
Low Stress: 32%

3. Master’s, Elementary Education – tied with Master of Divinity

Median Salary: $54,700
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 5.8%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 78%
Low Stress: 34%

5. Master’s, Reading & Literacy

Median Salary: $58,200
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 5.8%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 87%
Low Stress: 27%

6. Master’s. Theology

Median Salary: $57,800
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 5.6%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 76%
Low Stress: 37%

7. Master’s, Special Education

Median Salary: $59,200
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 6.5%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 72%
Low Stress: 28%

8. Master’s, Graphic Design

Median Salary: $72,700
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 4%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 60%
Low Stress: 57%

9. Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS)

Median Salary: $61,200
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 4.7%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 77%
Low Stress: 53%

10. Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT)

Median Salary: $60,100
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 5.8%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 77%
Low Stress: 38%

11. Master’s, Curriculum and Instruction

Median Salary: $60,600
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 5.7%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 79%
Low Stress: 40%

12. Master’s, Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) – tied with Pastoral Ministry

Median Salary: $55,000
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 7.5%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 68%
Low Stress: 36%

12. Master’s, Pastoral Ministry – tied with ESL

Median Salary: $60,800
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 5.3%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 95%
Low Stress: 40%

14. Master of Architecture (MArch)

Median Salary: $81,100
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 4.5%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 70%
Low Stress:42%

15. Master’s, English Literature

Median Salary: $69,500
Projected Growth in Jobs by 2024: 6.2%
Percentage Who Are Highly Satisfied: 68%
Low Stress: 33%