forbest best masters degreeTimes have been tough, and I still get questions about the viability of the Physician Assistant profession, so news that Physician Assistant Studies tops the list of Forbes’Best and Worst Master’s Degrees for Jobs 2014 should be well received.

According to the Forbes, the rankings are based on Payscale.com‘s salary data for 45 of the most popular masters degrees, and considered along with the US Bureau of Labor Statistics data on projected growth in each degree’s field.  In addition to being #1 this year, PAs were the #1 Best Masters degree in 2012 and #3 in 2013 as well.

Salary

The Payscale.com data identified the mid-career median salary for all 45 degrees.  Salary for Physician Assistants came in at $97,500.  This number is somewhat lower than estimates identified by survey data in our youtube video on PA Salary about one year ago.  In that report, Clinical Advisor and Advanceweb for PAs and NPs identified 102K as the average annual salary of their respondents.  Keep in mind that that number represents the average of all PAs who are practicing, not the “mid-career” median salary used by by Forbes.  Whatever the discrepancy, one fact remains clear: being a PA pays pretty damn well, particularly compared to other Masters degrees.

Job Growth

In terms of job outlook, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projected PA job growth of 38% in the next 10 years.  38% is HUGE, people.  For every 100 PAs out there today, in 10 years you can expect 138!  Obviously, this field has much growing left to do.  Although I did not participate in that projection, I should add I was consulted by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics when they published their opinions on the profession this year.

Forbes Top 10 Masters Degrees for Jobs, 2014:

  1. Physician Assistant ($97,500, 38%)*
  2. Physical Therapy ($81,200, 36%)
  3. Mathematics ($97,000, 26%)
  4. Occupational Therapy ($81,600, 29%)
  5. International Relations ($97,500, 21%)
  6. Civil Engineering ($102,000, 20%)
  7. Health Care Administration ($86,300, 59%)
  8. Political Science ($93,000, 21%)
  9. Computer Science ($117,000, 15%)
  10. Nursing ($85,800, 19%)

Forbes Top 10 Worsts Masters Degrees for Jobs, 2014:

  1. Journalism ($72,000, -13%)
  2. Music ($59,800, 5%)
  3. Library and Information Science ($53,500, 7%)
  4. Biology ($78,900, 5%)
  5. Chemical Engineering ($115,000, 4%)
  6. History ($79,000, 6%)
  7. Criminal Justice ($65,300, 8%)
  8. Industrial Engineering ($106,000, 5%)
  9. English ($66,000, 8%)
  10. Mechanical Engineering ($111,000, 5%)

My Take

What do these rankings tell us about graduate training and jobs in the US?  Plenty, I think:

  • First, thanks to Obamacare, health care has become America’s #1 growth industry.  Like it or not, jobs and our very economy are becoming more reliant on our ability to care for our own aging population as the Baby Boomers age.
  • Some traditionally top-of-the-pack jobs are no longer so choice.  Journalism is dying a slow and painful death as the internet finishes consuming most of the newspaper, magazine, and book industry.  Engineering (other than the computer type) is contracting, which seems to be a direct result of the loss of manufacturing in the US.
  • America’s economy is pivoting from manufacturing to innovation and services.  This is a much more competitive, global economy to excel in.
  • Health Care is one field that cannot easily be shipped overseas, and as our population ages, it is a prime source of industry and revenue.
* One page of the Forbes article incorrectly lists the BLS job growth projection for PAs at 20% (should be 38%) and Forbes has been notified of the error.