Attaining a master’s degree broadens your career path and results in a lower unemployment rate as compared to those with less education. You can even expect to make around 20% more than your bachelor degree-holding counterparts. However, this benefit and many more come at a cost. Exactly how much does a master’s degree cost? According to Sallie Mae, a master’s degree costs an average of $24,812 per year for 2016-2017 full-time graduate students.
Costs differ based on the type of college you attend. For the academic year 2015-2016, those attending private colleges averaged $23,919 in tuition per year while those attending public universities averaged only $11,303. Since most students spend 2-5 years in graduate school, they could spend anywhere from $22,000 to $120,000 in total.
Trends in Master’s Degree Costs
The current price of a master’s degree follows the trend in rising tuition costs. From 1989 onward, tuition prices have steadily increased, jumping up anywhere from $300 to $1000 depending on the year. The National Center for Education Statistics found that just ten years prior, master’s students owed $11,621 per year or around $13,915 when accounting for inflation. That is a 33% increase from 2007 to 2017. In the past ten years, public college tuition has increased by 45% while private college tuition has increased by 16% when accounting for inflation.
Online Master’s Degree May Cost More
Those hoping to attend online school might face even higher tuition costs. New trends indicate that many universities charge more for the convenience of at-home learning. State and public universities use online learning to help earn extra income and gain tax support. At some schools, your online master’s degree could end up costing as much as $28,000 more than a traditional degree. For many, the convenience of learning from home while working full-time outweighs the upcharge.
Master’s Degrees Contribution to National Student Loan Debt
Unfortunately, master’s students are all too familiar with student loan debt. Nearly 40% of the trillion dollar U.S. student loan debt funded professional and graduate degrees. Research by Urban Institute in 2018 stated that graduate students borrow three times as much as undergraduates on average. They borrow $18,210 as compared to the average undergrad’s $5,460 loan. Plus, student loans cover roughly 53% of costs. While in graduate school, many students also choose to put their bachelor’s degree loans on deferment. Although this prolongs monthly payments, interest continues to build.
Some students do have tuition waved or a reduced rate. Others have arrangements where the university even pays them a stipend in exchange for research, teaching, or working for the school. These 15% of students graduate with no or below average debt. A small group, just 8%, has the means to pay tuition outright.
Master’s Degree Cost Based on Degree Program
When considering the question, “how much does a master’s degree cost?” General figures prove inaccurate. The cost changes drastically depending on your degree program. You can study nearly any subject at the master’s level, but the most popular relates to health professions, business, and computer sciences. Nearly 24% of students graduated with an MBA, 19% in the IT field, and 14% in health-related professions.
A 2012 study by NewAmerica.org found that the degree you pursue does impact your student loan debt. When combining undergraduate and graduate loans, researchers found the average debt graduate students have based on their field of study:
- Master of Arts: $58,539
- Master of Education: $50,879
- Master of Science: $50,400
- MBA: $42,000
- Medicine and Health Sciences: $162,772
- Law: $140,616
- Other: $55,489
Here are the latest medical school debt numbers.
Graduate Degree Enrollment Numbers
Despite the monetary cost, people enroll in graduate school in increasing numbers. Sixty-three percent do so within 12 months of their undergrad degree. Whether they hope to get a leg up in the job market or pursue a career requiring further education, around three million people were enrolled in post-baccalaureate (doctorate or master’s) education in 2017. Come May 2018, 790,000 will graduate with their Master’s degree. These numbers reflect the slight but steady incline in first-time graduate school enrollment noted over the past five years. Looking forward, however, experts expect a plateau as fewer international students opt to study in the United States.
Hidden Costs of a Master’s Degree
Aside from student loan debt, graduate school comes with other costs. If you attend full-time, those are two or more years you will not spend working full-time. This puts your career on hold and means you will lose out on the benefits of full-time work. These include health insurance, contributions to your retirement fund, disability benefits, paid sick leave, and paid time off. Not to mention that you are losing out on money that could pay down your undergraduate student loans.
While you study, your bachelor degree counterparts earn an average of $57,000 per year, money you miss out on. Students who do work full- or part-time while studying to make up for these losses often end up taking around three to five years to finish.
For some, earning your master’s degree in person often requires relocation. Those who relocate may have to uproot their family or move far from loved ones. This can play a huge emotional toll, especially for tight-knit families. These individuals, who cannot live at home, must then find an apartment and means to pay rent. Unfortunately, many up their student loan amount to cover the cost.
Deciding to Pursue Your Master’s Degree
So, how much does a master’s degree cost? It depends on your perspective. In many cases, the ability to pursue your professional and academic goals outweighs all costs. In fact, only 12% of students choose their graduate school based on its price. A large remainder, 86%, cares more about the school’s quality or convenience.
When deciding for yourself, weight all of the factors. Tuition factors greatly into the cost of your degree, but things such as relocation, your emotional health, and lost earnings should too. As with any investment, you should also calculate the return on your degree. No matter what you choose, go into graduate school with a plan for paying off student loan debt. Attending a public university, using financial aid programs, and working full-time while attending part-time can help relieve the stresses of paying for school.
Compare the Best Student Loan Refinance Rates
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Student Debt Relief Loan Refinancing Advertiser Disclosure
College Ave: College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine.
1 – The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as the borrower or cosigner, if applicable, enrolls in auto-pay and authorizes our loan servicer to automatically deduct your monthly payments from a valid bank account via Automated Clearing House (“ACH”). The rate reduction applies for as long as the monthly payment amount is successfully deducted from the designated bank account and is suspended during periods of forbearance and certain deferments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
2 – $5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees. Information advertised valid as of 04/26/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
3 – This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.
ELFI: Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. To qualify for refinancing or student loans consolidation through ELFI, you must have at least $15,000 in student loan debt and must have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an approved post-secondary institution.
LendKey: Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
CommonBond: Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate.
Splash Financial: Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval.com
Earnest: To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest’s fixed-rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with autopay) to 7.89% APR (with autopay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.50% APR (with autopay) to 7.27% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms of 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 0.26% and 5.03% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 23, 2019 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay Discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 04/23/19. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice.
Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 303 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.