15 Cities Where a Graduate Degree Actually Increases Your Annual Income

Modesto is the county seat and largest city of Stanislaus County, California, United States.
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For many professional positions, a bachelor’s degree has become the minimum standard requirement for an entry-level position. To set themselves apart, and to hopefully increase their salary, many people are seeking graduate degrees, which means a few more years of schooling, more cost, and often, more debt.

Is a graduate degree worth it? It depends in part on where you live. Here are the areas where a graduate degree pays the most, compared to a bachelor’s degree.

Where a Graduate Degree Increases Your Income the Most

Here are the cities where having a graduate degree actually increases your income. 

Modesto, California

In Modesto, California, the average annual income for someone with a bachelor’s degree is $67,882, while someone with a graduate degree averages $94,748, a difference of $26,866.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

In Santa Fe, New Mexico, getting a graduate degree will increase your average annual income by $27,797, from $41,676 with a bachelor’s degree to $69,473 with a graduate degree.

Melbourne, Florida

If you have a graduate degree and live in the Melbourne, Florida, area, you’ll earn an average of $83,711. That’s a premium of $28,026 over the average salary of someone with a bachelor’s degree, which is $55,685.

Fort Walton Beach, Florida

In Fort Walton Beach, Florida, along with the surrounding towns of Crestview and Destin, the average annual salary if you have a bachelor’s degree is $51,767. Earn a graduate degree, however, and that goes up by $28,026 to $79,793.

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East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania

Those with a bachelor’s degree in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania earn an average of $59,763, while those with a graduate degree average $88,280. That’s a difference of $28,517.

Fresno, California

Those who hold a graduate degree and live in Fresno, California earn an average of $86,422. This is $28,853 more than the average annual salary of a bachelor’s degree holder, which is $57,569.

Salinas, California

In Salinas, California, you can earn an extra $29,056 with an advanced degree. The average annual salary for someone with a bachelor’s degree is $62,104, compared with $91,160 for those with a graduate degree.

Visalia, California

You can earn $30,023 more per year if you live in Visalia, California and have a graduate degree. You’ll take home an average of $92,941, compared to an average of $62,918 if you have a bachelor’s degree.

Provo, Utah

If you live in Provo, Utah, you’ll earn an average of $82,607 per year with a graduate degree. That’s $30,782 more than the $51,825 you’d average with a bachelor’s degree.

San Francisco, California

In San Francisco and the surrounding area, which includes Oakland and Berkeley, California, the premium for a graduate degree is $31,449. That’s the difference between the average annual salary of $89,031 for those with a bachelor’s degree and the $120,480 you can command with a graduate degree. People in this area are getting the message — 22% of the population aged 25 and over has a graduate degree.

Merced, California

In Merced, California, the average annual salary for someone with a bachelor’s degree is $61,801. The average for someone with a graduate degree is $94,532, a difference of $32,731. About 5% of adults 25 and older in Merced have a graduate degree.

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St. George, Utah

In St. George, Utah, those with a graduate degree earn an average of $33,691 more than those with an undergraduate degree. This is among the highest percentage differential, however, as the average salary for those with a bachelor’s degree is $40,181 versus $73,872 for those with a graduate degree. About 14% of adults (aged 25+) in St. George have an advanced degree.

Princeton, New Jersey

In Princeton, New Jersey, those with a graduate degree average $102,967 per year, compared to $67,321 for those with only an undergraduate degree — a difference of $35,646. Jut over 20% of adults who are 25 or older in the Princeton area, which includes Trenton, have an advanced degree.

Huntsville, Alabama

In Huntsville, Alabama, you can add an average of $36,139 to your annual salary with a graduate degree. Those with a bachelor’s degree earn an average of $62,477, compared to $98,616 for those with an advanced degree. In Huntsville, 18% of adults aged 25 and over hold a graduate degree.

San Jose, California

The place where a graduate degree makes the biggest difference in salary is the San Jose, California area, which is in the heart of Silicon Valley and includes Sunnyvale and Santa Clara. Your graduate degree will get you an average of $48,067 more in annual income, or $150,281 compared to $102,214 for an undergraduate degree. 26% of adults over 25 in this area have an advanced degree.

Which Graduate Degrees Pay the Most?

Besides location, the type of graduate degree you earn has a lot of bearing on how much you will make. Unsurprisingly, advanced degrees in science and technology fields are in high demand and tend to pay more. An advanced degree in business is also a good option.

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Physicians are among the highest paying professionals, so an M.D. is probably the graduate degree that will result in the biggest pay bump. The time commitment to earn it, however, is significant, since you need to follow your undergraduate program with four years of medical school, plus another three to seven years of residency. Other graduate degrees that provide a big salary hike are PhDs in engineering, computer science and other scientific fields.

In some fields, a master’s degree is sufficient to ensure a higher salary. The median starting salary for someone with a master’s in business administration, for example, is $115,000. Master’s degrees in computer-related fields are also in high demand.

Pursuing a graduate degree in a high-demand field can mean that you may not have to pay as much as you think. Some employers offer tuition reimbursement for graduate courses that pertain to your existing job, and there are scholarships and fellowships available for some fields that are seeking to increase the number of holders of advanced degrees.

Whether or not a graduate degree makes economic sense depends on where you live and your area of study. Before you commit to several more years of school, and the costs that go along with it, it makes sense to look at the payback in terms of salary down the road. Then you can determine if an advanced degree is right for you.

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