According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median annual earnings of individuals with a professional or graduate degree was $63,174 in 2008 – $15,321 more than those who held a bachelor s degree and a whopping $35,726 more than high school graduates.*

But a fat paycheck is not the only reason people choose to pursue graduate degrees. For many, a master s degree fulfills one or more of the following goals:• It helps them get a competitive edge over their rivals in the job market.

• It helps them gain expertise in and deeper understanding of a field.

• It helps them switch careers by training them in a new field.

• It helps them increase their value by enhancing their skills.

• It helps them advance in certain careers that require master s degrees for growth.

• It helps them quench their thirst for knowledge.

• It helps them command the respect of their family, friends, co-workers, and employers.

While a lot of students go straight from undergrad to graduate schools, some professional graduate degrees may have prior work experience as one of the eligibility criteria. These degrees are extremely popular with professionals who return to school after working for a few years. Many students these days enroll in online graduate programs, which allow them to learn and earn at the same time.

Let s look at some popular graduate degrees:1. Master in Business Administration: A master s degree in business administration has the capability to skyrocket your career to dizzying heights. Graduates are often lured by big companies, who offer them leadership roles, attractive compensation, choicest postings, and more.

A Master of Business Administration degree imparts advanced business education to students and prepares them for middle and senor-level management roles in a variety of organizations. Depending on their interest and area of specialization, students can choose from a wide range of business areas including sales, marketing, operations, finance, human resources, etc.

Your paycheck may depend on factors such as your organization, role, geographic location, etc. However, a business manager can hope to earn anywhere between $30,000 and $100,000.**

2. Master s in Nursing Administration: This program is specifically designed for Registered Nurses or RNs who return to school for professional advancement. The master s degree in nursing administration trains them in the non-clinical aspects of healthcare and prepares them for management roles through courses like health services economics, issues in managed care, nursing leadership, etc.

According to the Department of Labor, employers are increasingly looking to fill management-level nursing roles with professionals who have a graduate or advanced degree in nursing or healthcare administration.

Armed with a master s degree, nurses can advance from being a head nurse to more senior and challenging roles of assistant director, director, vice president, or chief of nursing.

3. Master s in Healthcare Administration: The Department of Labor states that 10 of the 20 fastest growing occupations are related to the healthcare industry.*** Healthcare administration is amongst the most popular and promising occupations within the field.

A graduate degree is usually the standard requirement for this profession, which makes the master s in health care administration one of the most high demand programs. The degree is designed to provide business education and management training to healthcare professionals.

Healthcare administrators or managers will continue to enjoy excellent employment opportunities, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. An increase in demand for an occupation is usually accompanied with higher salaries and the same is true for healthcare administrators. Healthcare managers can easily earn upwards of $80,000 depending on their level of responsibility and the type of facility they re employed with.****