How to Manage the Cost of Earning a Masters Degree

The masters degree is a wise investment to make in your future. People with masters degrees have a higher level of financial security, more job opportunities, and a higher standard of credibility in your field. This can be costly to students, but there are ways to help reduce the burden, and the gains from the degree will be worth the money you spend.

Why earn a Masters Degree?

In most careers, having a masters degree will help you financially. It will increase your credibility to employers, and will increase your earnings. You will have a greater knowledge of what goes into the career, and it shows that you have personality traits that appeal to employers such as determination and persistence.

In what fields are you required to get a Masters Degree?

There are some careers where getting a masters degree is necessary to securing a job.Teaching is one example of this. It is a requirement in many states that you need a masters degree within five years of completing your undergraduate work in education. The masters degree does not have to be in the field of education (if you are a music educator, for example, you can get your masters in vocal performance, conducting, etc.).

If you are planning on going into any education related field, even if you are not directly teaching (for example, positions such as student services coordinator, admissions counselor, or academic advisor), you need a masters degree to even be considered for a job.

People in the field of social work (marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors) are required to have masters.

How much does a Masters Degree cost?

The tuition range for a Masters degree is between $30,000 and $120,000. There are three major factors that will affect the cost of your degree:

  • The type of institution you attend (public vs. private).
  • The type of academic program.
  • Whether you live in or out of state.

Public vs. Private Schools

Public schools are generally cheaper than private schools (unless you are paying out-of-state tuition for public state-funded colleges). People who attended public schools paid on average $21000 less than people who attended private universities.

Out of state vs. In-state tuition

If you do not live in the state of the college you are attending, tuition rates become much steeper. For example, in Maryland out of state tuition is for the majority of schools, at least $10,000 higher than the tuition for in-state students, more than doubling the latter.

How can that be reduced?

In some regions, even if you live out of state, there are reciprocity programs- agreements between states to provide discounts to students in nearby states- that will help you reduce the cost of graduate school. These programs will charge a maximum of 150% of tuition- the original amount plus half that, which is much less steep.

The New England Regional Student Program only allows the tuition reduction if you are studying a major not offered in your state.If you live in the region of the, you can study in any state the program covers for the first in-state tuition.If you are planning on attending a private university, you are in luck, since they are not funded by the state, but by tuition.

What is the difference in cost between Online vs. Traditional School?

Online programs are a convenient way to become more educated. Be warned, however, that the majority of online programs are more expensive than traditional education. For example, at Regis University, a Jesuit university in Colorado, an MBA costs 7% more if you obtain it online. While an online education has its benefits, be aware of the financial cost.

How diverse is degree selection?

Your master's degree can be in any subject area. For example, if you are going for your Masters in Business Administration (MBA), your undergraduate studies could have been in political science, music theory and various other fields completely unrelated to business.

Ways to reduce the financial burden of a Masters degree?

Look into the school you want to attend, and see if they have school-specific scholarships that you are eligible to apply for.

Becoming a graduate assistant is a great way to reduce tuition costs. Graduate assistantships involve working for a professor and performing various administrative and logistical tasks for him. They also teach classes when the professor is away (or running late, as is often the experience), and are responsible occasionally for taking attendance. The stipend for doing so often includes reduced tuition, and some schools will reduce the rate of your tuition to in-state tuition if you are an out-of-state student.

What is the financial impact of having a masters degree?

On average, people with a master's earn 15 percent (which translates to $400,000 more during their lifetime) than people who only have their bachelors degree.

Becoming a graduate assistant is a great way to reduce tuition costs. Graduate assistantships involve working for a professor and performing various administrative and logistical tasks for him. They also teach classes when the professor is away (or running late, as is often the experience), and are responsible occasionally for taking attendance. The stipend for doing so often includes reduced tuition, and some schools will reduce the rate of your tuition to in-state tuition if you are an out-of-state student.

For most careers, the trend is for the median annual income to increase by at least $10,000. However, many professionals will give you annual pay increases averaging greater than $20,000 per year and $25,000 per year in some careers. This is especially the case in the sciences (especially biology and biochemical sciences). In what many deem the "soft sciences," such as sociology and psychology, there is still an increased earning potential averaging $16,000 per year.

For most types of engineering, it would benefit you to obtain your master's degree- the average increase in annual pay is $27,000. However, there are some interesting anomalies in this field.

For example, if you are going for a degree in architectural engineering, know that the median pay increase for this career is the lowest, with only $1,000 per year more, going from $80,000 to $81,000.

Economics is another field with an extremely high financial return. For economics, with masters, you will see about $33,000 increase in pay. For business economics, you will see $25,000.International relations and public policy are high up there as well, making $28,000 and $27,000 respectively.