What Is the Average Cost of a Master’s Degree?

cost of a master's degree

Did you know that just over 13 percent of the population has a master’s degree or higher level of education? The day and age of a bachelor’s degree have long gone. Now, a master’s degree is becoming the new standard for many jobs. 

There is plenty of incentive for going on and getting a master’s degree. One of those reasons is higher pay. On average, those with advanced degrees earned almost four times more than high school dropout students. 

The cost of a master’s degree can vary between states and private or public school institutions. You should know what to look for in schools and costs before applying. 

If you have an interest in getting your master’s degree, then keep reading on for more information!

Undergraduate vs Graduate Degrees

Undergraduate degrees vary in intensity and cost compared to graduate degrees. It is important in understanding the different degrees out there and how they can affect loans, scholarships, and more. 

For starters – if you are applying to master’s programs then you have likely completed an undergraduate degree. These are your standard bachelor’s or associate’s degrees.

The average college tuition of attending an undergraduate program is over $30,000. Private schools are almost double the cost of public schools and out-of-state tuition typically has higher costs than in-state tuition.

A master’s program cost follows similar guidelines. Graduate programs include a college master’s degree, doctoral degree, and other higher level of education degrees such as professional schools. Typically, graduate programs require the completion of a 4-year bachelor’s degree before applying. 

Cost of a Master’s Degree

College costs are on the rise. For a better understanding – the average cost of a four-year public institution in 1970-1971 was just over $400 dollars. Compared to the average loan rate of $30,000 for a bachelor’s degree, you can see how much inflation has soared in the education sector.

Unfortunately, there is a broad fluctuation of costs associated with a master’s degree. Some statistics show that a master’s degree costs as low as $30,000 or as much as $120,000.

There are also many other factors outside of college tuition that you should consider. Some of these other costs include textbooks and living expenses. 

If you get into a program close to home, you will likely save money versus relocating across the country. Different states are more expensive for living in than others as well. 

Transportation can also be a huge expense. If you live in an area where there is easy public transportation then that can save you the added expense of purchasing a car. However, flying or driving home can add on hundreds of dollars.

Finally, some programs are too rigorous for a part-time or full-time job. Without steady income, make sure you factor in daily living expenses like groceries. 

Differences in College Tuition 

So – what causes the difference in cost? There are two main components: the type of institution and programs. 

For example, private schools, including Ivy League institutions, cost significantly more than some public schools. The average cost of an MBA program at Harvard was over $120,000.

On the contrary, California has some state universities that can cost under $10,000 per year. Additionally, tuition fees are sometimes neglected in the overall cost.

Graduate degrees in business have some of the highest fees at around $40,000. On the contrary, English or humanitarian degree fees are around $20,000.

The type of program you go into also plays a large role in the costs and how much you can make afterward. 

Program Cost vs Benefit

The type of program you attend not only affects how much you pay but impacts how much you earn. While a master’s degree sounds great, it may not pay dividends in the long run. 

Be sure you research the programs that interest you and look at the average median salary. This will give you a good idea if you will make more money than your bachelor’s degree to offset the debt. 

In 2019, the average median income for those who held a bachelor’s degree was just over $65,000. The average median income for those with a college master’s degree was over $80,000. 

There were more substantial increases in yearly income with doctoral or professional degrees. These individuals made between $113,000 and $127,000 on average. 

Debt is not necessarily the same thing as college tuition costs. A college institution may have a set rate of tuition and fee costs per year. This doesn’t factor in scholarships or private payments. 

The average debt of master’s students is more telling than the yearly tuition cost. In fact, over the past years, graduate student debt has only increased.

Currently, those attending schools for master’s programs had an average debt of over $54,000. This only accounted for public universities. Student’s attending a private university accumulated almost $20,000 more in debt.

Before you jump ship and decide to go for a doctoral degree – the average debt increases to almost $100,000. You may not even want to ask yourself the question, ‘how much is medical school?’ 

Professional degrees are hit the hardest out of all higher education degrees. These include law and medical programs. You can accumulate over $200,000 in debt alone from attending one of these programs. 

How To Pay For Master’s Programs

Now that you know how much the average master’s programs cost, you can determine how you can pay for it. If you’re lucky and have a secret trust fund, then you might not have to worry about paying for college.

However, most students resort to other means. This includes loans, grants, and scholarships. In fact, almost 40% of graduate students qualified for grants

It helps in knowing what you can apply for so that you can curb the costs of your degree.

Apply for Scholarships

Scholarships can help decrease costs but many times students don’t know where to look for them. Instead of just blindly Googling for scholarships, try and gear your focus to search engines that look at only scholarships.

If you have a school or university in mind, then be sure and contact your financial advisor and discuss scholarship options. They will have the most in-depth knowledge of resources you can use. Also, look into the department you are specializing in. 

Sometimes these departments offer their own scholarships. Lastly, some universities provide scholarships based on prior academic performance. Again – be sure and talk to the financial aid office or your advisor about the university’s specific requirements. 

You can sometimes find other easy scholarships through online searches or by reaching out to banks. These scholarships typically follow certain criteria and can require an essay submission for further consideration.

Don’t Forget FAFSA

There are federal aid options for graduate students. You may have already filed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You might be surprised that by filling out this application you could qualify for grants or loans.

There are no FAFSA income limits and you should always apply as the application is free and there are no penalties. Graduate student loans can be expensive and you may find yourself qualifying for grants. 

Do you have to pay back grants?

In short – no. However, Pell grant eligibility is only for those who have not completed an undergraduate degree. Some of the grants available for graduate students are the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grant. 

The only exception for graduate students and Pell grants are teacher certification programs. 

Types of Loans

Loans are one of the more common ways that students pay for school. However, be careful of private loans – they often cost more in the long run than federal student loans. 

You can only accept federal student loans if you fill out a FAFSA application first. If you qualify for grants, be sure and take those ones first since they don’t require repayment.

Loans do require repayment, but there are different types out there. Graduate students can borrow just over $20,000 each year in federal student loans. They have lower fees than private loans and many students still qualify with poor credit scores. 

Federal loans also account for a deferment period. This means that you can postpone payment on your loans if you qualify for economic hardship for up to three years. 

There is also less interest on the loan on average when compared to private loans. Typically, there are two main types of federal student loans – subsidized and unsubsidized. 

Typically, subsidized loans have a slight edge, but they are only available for undergraduate students. Unsubsidized loans require that you pay interest, but you can usually qualify for more money. In total – you can borrow up to $138,500 in unsubsidized loans. 

Working in School

Sometimes, working at universities can have its benefits. If you qualify for work-study programs through FAFSA, then you could receive some financial aid. This does not guarantee you a job but may open the door to job opportunities at your school and within the department you have an interest in.

There are plenty of research or teaching positions at universities that also offer incentives for students. These positions can cover part of your tuition or fees. These are usually dependent on the departments and can be competitive.

Do your research and contact the department early on and express an interest. If you can’t find any jobs for working at the university, then consider applying for the federal Lifetime Learning Credit

This credit can help you pay for costs associated with tuition. At most, you can qualify for $2,000 each year off of your tax returns. This only applies to individual students who make less than $67,000 on their modified adjusted gross income or $134,000 for those who are filing jointly. 

Master’s Programs Earnings

What are some of the best master’s programs out there? Ultimately, you should determine what your interests are. Even if one degree pays more than the other, you want to pursue something you enjoy and love.

Next, consider your bachelor’s degree and earnings and compare that to various master’s programs that interest you. Now that you have a better idea of the costs of a master’s program, you can better decide if the cost makes sense.

Lastly, pursuing a master’s degree takes time and dedication. Often, the coursework is more challenging than undergraduate programs and can be more time-consuming. If you are planning on working during this time, then check with advisors or past students on how rigorous the coursework is.

The last thing you want to do is lose your scholarships or other funding because you didn’t meet the required academic standings.

If you still have an interest, then here are some of the expected master’s degree earnings once you graduate.

Computer science degrees can qualify for IT and senior positions at top-tier companies. This means you could make well over $100,000 or $150,000. Along those lines, the field of science is always marching forward.

A master’s in Artificial Intelligence could give you the cutting edge into engineer jobs that also offer a six-figure paycheck.

Computer engineering and information systems also offer great benefits for going on and getting a graduate degree. Both jobs can help you qualify for jobs that make at least $100,000.

A Master’s of Nursing is a great field for those who want a taste of the medical field without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a medical degree. This degree costs much less and has an average salary of just under $100,000.

Fund Your Education

The cost of a master’s degree can pay off in the long run. If you have a desire for continuing your education and training, then there are plenty of financial aid options out there for you. 

Additionally, if you want to keep up on the latest about college tuition costs and student loans, then be sure and check out our website for the most up-to-date information. 

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