How to Pay for Grad School: Ideas for Masters and Doctoral Students

Once I first decided to go back to school for a masters degree, I thought long and hard about how to pay for grad school. I knew my parents weren't going to cover my tuition. And I knew that I didn't want to graduate with a mountain of student debt.

Because of those factors, I had to get creative. Luckily, there are many ways to save money on a graduate degree. So far, I've used a combination of scholarships, working, and personal savings.

But your situation may be different, and you may need other ideas for how to pay for grad school.

More School, More Money

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We all know that the cost of college is always rising. And regardless of the price of tuition, getting a graduate degree is going to be more expensive than stopping after your bachelor's.

After all, when you're in school longer, you're using more resources from your college. You take more classes, participate in more activities, and you eat on campus more.

That's not to mention that going to grad school means you may take a pay cut, thus cutting your budget even further. But if you know how to pay for grad school, you can take advantage of being a student without stressing about the finances.

Should you go to grad school?

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It depends. There are many reasons to get a graduate degree, but there are plenty of reasons to skip it altogether. If you decide to go to grad school, make sure it's for the right reasons.

Getting an advanced degree can give you more experience in your field, and you may be able to earn a higher salary. However, you shouldn't use grad school as a way to avoid the real world.

Before you commit to that extra time and money, consider why you want a graduate degree. You should also plan to take advantage of your time in grad school.

And of course, if you know how to pay for grad school, you won't have as much stress on your plate.

Not undergrad

Another thing to consider before jumping at the chance to attend grad school is that it's not the same as an undergrad. The classes are different and often more intense. You may have to do a lot more reading and writing than with your bachelor's.

And while grad school is just as expensive as undergrad, financing a masters or doctorate doesn't work the same as with a bachelor's.

Grad students can take on assistantships within the university. Your class schedule is also a bit more flexible to allow for work outside of school.

Masters vs. Doctorate

Once you know you want to go to grad school, you need to choose the right program for you. Before you decide on a specific program, you should know what degree you want to get.

The two most common graduate degrees are the masters and doctoral degrees. A masters degree is usually two years, whereas a doctorate can take five years or more.

The two degrees also have slightly different methods of funding.

The cost

Grad school is expensive, and knowing how to pay for grad school is important regardless of the program you choose. Tuition for grad students is often higher than undergrad tuition, even at the same school.

Of course, grad students typically take fewer credits in a semester, but that doesn't make it any cheaper. As with undergrad, grad school will be less expensive if you go to a public school. Schools in your state will be the most affordable.

On the other hand, private schools will be the most expensive. Then there are different ways to fund a graduate degree.

At the master's level, you typically still have to pay tuition. Depending on your school and program, you may be able to take on an assistantship to offset the cost. However, your assistantship may not cover the entire cost of tuition.

Then there are doctoral programs, which usually offer more funding, and some programs are completely free.

The kicker here is that doctoral programs can take years to complete.

The timeframe

One of the benefits of a master's degree is that you can complete it in two years. Many people are able to work while pursuing a master's degree, which is an excellent option when deciding how to pay for grad school.

However, doctoral programs aren't so simple. Many doctoral programs take five or more years to complete. At this level, you have a dissertation. A dissertation can take months to write, and you usually have to defend your dissertation and pass that defense.

How to Pay for Grad School

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So you know you want to go to grad school for the right reasons. You have decided on the best degree and program for you. Now, you just need to figure out how to pay for grad school.

We all know college at any level isn't cheap, and that's especially true after your bachelor's. Here are some ideas for how to pay for grad school.

Graduate assistantship

One of the most popular ways to fund a grad degree is by taking a graduate assistantship. This is where you work for your major department. Some assistantships involve teaching undergraduate courses, while others are primarily for helping professors do research.

Other assistantships might be more administrative with a focus on helping various areas of the department.

Some graduate assistantships cover your entire tuition, while others only cover a portion of the cost. However, they don't usually cover student fees -- though you might also get a stipend to use however you like.

Graduate scholarship

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Believe it or not, there are scholarships for graduate students. Typically, graduate scholarships require a certain GPA to receive them or maintain them for the next semester.

But if you did well in your bachelor's, you might be a great candidate for one or more graduate scholarships.

Like assistantships, graduate scholarships are an excellent choice for how to pay for grad school. It's free money, so you don't have to worry about paying it back.

Student loans

While not ideal, student loans can take the burden of tuition off your shoulders. Loans will have to be repaid, and at the graduate level, they can start racking up interest while you're still in school.

If you do decide to take out a loan, make sure you do so responsibly. Don't take out more money than you need, and don't be afraid to start paying them off as soon as you have extra cash.

Get a job

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If you can't land a graduate assistantship but want to work, look for a job outside of your school. Working a job is an excellent answer to how to pay for grad school.

Finding a job within your chosen field is also a fantastic way to gain experience. You may even be able to transition from part-time to full-time after you graduate.

However, any part-time job is great. You can earn some extra cash to pay for school.

Personal savings

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If you have a decent amount of money in savings, you can use some of that money to cover your tuition. Of course, you shouldn't drain your savings.

You want to make sure you still have enough money in savings to cover an emergency.

However, some savings can help cover extra expenses when other sources of funding fall short. If you're able to plan accordingly, your savings can be a huge help when determining how to pay for grad school.

How Will You Pay for Grad School?

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How are you paying for grad school? Are there any important ideas we missed? Comment below with your thoughts!

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