How Much Does a Master’s Degree Cost?

learning about the cost of a master's degree

Stat: People who have completed graduate school are less likely to be unemployed, with around 97.6% having regular, full-time employment.

Deciding to obtain a Master’s Degree in any field is an important decision which will impact your entire career. That is why, making the right choice is highly imperative to your future success in work. Statistics and research support the claim that having a Master’s Degree diploma improves your career and opens a lot more doors for you.

Statistics indicate that those with graduate degrees have a median annual income of approximately 67,000 USD, compared to around 52,000 USD for holders of a Bachelor’s Degree.

Graduate school is also followed up with more opportunities for increasing your network and is regarded as a prestigious achievement.

Nevertheless, as anything that has such high benefits, it is also accompanied by high costs. Graduate school is a long-term investment, which will impact your future opportunities at work, and as all projects with high return on investment, it also can cost a lot. So how much does a Master’s Degree cost? The universal answer is, it depends!

The cost of Master’s Degree depends on various factors, which not only influence your graduate school tuition, but also your living costs.

So, what are the factors that justify the price?

Choice of Program

Depending on what you want to obtain your Master’s Degree in, the tuition fees will be different. Degrees in education and art are more affordable, while getting an MBA or a degree in Law will cost much more.

Depending on your choices, the average cost of graduate school can be as low as 30,000 USD or as high as 120,000 USD.

The average tuition fees for various disciplines are:

  • Business – average tuition fees of 40,000 USD
  • Engineering – average tuition fees of 20,000 USD, but can go to around 47,060 USD/year, at the John Hopkins University.
  • Law – average tuition fees cost around 20,000 USD/year; however, there are also more affordable options such as the City University of New York where graduate school tuition is around 10,000 USD/year.
  • Medicine – tuition fees can be between 17,000 USD/year and 50,000 USD/year.
  • Computer sciences and IT – the tuition is around 25,000 USD/year.
  • English, history, and humanities programs have the most affordable fees with an average of 20,000 USD/year.
  • Education degrees are available at costs of 10,000 USD/year for international students.

Your choice of program also determines how many semesters and courses you need to complete to get your degree. The higher the duration of the program is, the more expensive it will be. One-year programs will logically cost less than one and a half or two year programs.

Choice of Place

By choice of place, we mean two things:

  • On campus vs. off campus
  • Geographical Location

On campus vs off campus

If you want to experience the joys of student life again, you will most likely choose to take your courses on campus, while if you are a more practical person and want to continue working, you will go for taking courses off-campus.

The difference is not only in the experience, it also translates into the cost.

On-campus degrees are costlier than off-campus ones, simply for the fact that universities also have higher costs for providing resources in class, rather than for example, online.

Those costs to universities go directly to your tuition, and that is why if you have done some research you know that online degrees are more affordable.

Geographical location

In addition, geographical location is also an important factor. The cost of graduate school is much higher in the United States rather than Europe. The differences are not only between continents, but also within different countries.

Universities where the population income is higher tend to charge higher tuitions than those in developing or lower-income countries.

Choice of University

Graduate school tuition will vary across universities too. Ambitious applicants will naturally lean towards higher-ranked schools, but those are the ones which cost the most. Ivy league universities charge much higher tuition than others, taking into account that they have the edge of marketing themselves as offering higher quality.

MBA programs at Harvard or Stanford University cost more than 120,000 USD.

On the other hand, schools which have lower rankings will be more affordable and the cost of Master’s Degree will decrease.

Some of the most affordable Master’s Degree universities in the United States are:

  • California State University Northridge – average tuition fees 8,000 USD/year
  • Marshall University – average tuition fees 11,000 USD/year
  • Depaul University – average tuition fees 25,000 USD/year
  • University of Maryland – average tuition fees 18,000 USD/year
  • Tulane University – average tuition fees 14,000 USD/year

As opposed to this, the cost of U.S Ivy League universities for a Master’s Degree is higher in:

  • Princeton University – average tuition fees 41,300 USD/year
  • Harvard University – average tuition fees 25,000 USD/year
  • University of Chicago – average tuition fees 50,000 USD/year
  • Yale University – average tuition fees 50,000 USD/year
  • Columbia University – average tuition fees 50,000 USD/year

Your graduate school tuition is also dependent on whether the university is public or private. Public universities cost less and they are more affordable, while private universities charge higher prices in order to finance themselves.

Living Costs

If you choose to obtain a graduate degree through an on-campus method, you will have to move to the location in which your university is, and thus will have to afford the living costs there. Depending on the location, living costs such as rent, utilities, food, and others will cost more or less.

If you are in the United States, the states with lower cost of living are:

  • Iowa
  • Georgia
  • Nebraska
  • Alabama
  • Missouri

However, if you would like to be in a different state, with a more vibrant city life, these states are more famous, but have the highest costs of living in the United States:

  • Washington D.C
  • New York
  • Alaska
  • New Jersey
  • California

If the U.S is not for you, and you would like to get a Master’s Degree somewhere in Europe, the highest living costs are in these countries:

  • Switzerland
  • Norway
  • Iceland
  • Denmark
  • Luxembourg

On the other hand, the lowest costs of living in Europe are in these countries:

  • Moldova
  • Ukraine
  • Macedonia
  • Serbia
  • Albania

Scholarship and Financing Opportunities

Depending on the factors that you have selected from above, you will also have the opportunity to apply for different scholarships or financial aid. Different universities and countries have various programs which are aimed at assisting graduate students to excel and finance their education.

Scholarships such as Fulbright International, offer to finance your entire education, including living costs, and are available in most countries in the world. In addition to country specific scholarships, all universities have some form of scholarships which they give based on academic or professional merits.

Besides scholarships, universities are also able to give financial aid upon proof of need, so you will need to complete applications and send necessary documents to prove your willingness and potential for the education with your inability to finance it.

Adding on to scholarships and financial aid, there are other financing opportunities available for potential Master’s students, which depending on your choice, can add up to your graduate school tuition and increase or decrease the total cost of Master’s Degree.

The most obvious choice is applying for student loans, but depending on the country, you can also apply for interest free loans, or normal interest rate loans, which will cover both your graduate school tuition and your living costs.

Opportunity Costs

Besides the full currency and tangible amount that you will have to cover for the cost of graduate school, there are also intangible costs or opportunity costs that go along with it. Potential students who want to complete a Master’s Degree are usually advised to gain some work experience before going back to school, and when you decide to pursue a graduate degree on-campus, you will most likely have to quit your job.

The opportunity cost in this case is the income that you could be gaining from your employment, as well as the opportunities for career advancement that might be presented to you in the years that you will be spending in graduate school.

In order to measure these opportunity costs you will have to estimate your increase in salary compared to the salary that you have now and calculate whether that increase makes up for years spent back in school and financing the tuition and living costs.

In summary…

To wrap everything up, the cost of Master’s Degree can vary depending on:

  • program 
  • university choice and whether it is private or public
  • place as in whether the university is on-campus or off-campus
  • living costs if you choose an on-campus possibility and you have to move from your current residence
  • availability of scholarships and financial aid
  • the opportunity cost of the income that you will be foregoing by attending graduate school

However, people who have Master’s Degree are also presented with a vast list of other career possibilities, and based on those, the cost of financing it is more than paid.

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