If you have considered going to graduate school, you have no doubt lined out what you would like to study and where you would like to attend, but have you determined how to pay for grad school? For most people, the thought of taking out student loans is either one they can't bear or one that isn't even an option, depending on their current student loan status. If you can't take a student loan or can't handle the thought, then finding alternative methods for financing your dreams of going to graduate school may be in order. Here are a few tips to show you how to pay for grad school without taking out loans.
Do you currently have a bachelor's degree, but want to take it a step further and obtain a master's degree? Then you will be looking at a graduate school for that degree. Grad school offers classes for advanced academic degrees, and the two main requirements for grad school are that you must have earned an undergraduate degree (a bachelor's) and you maintained a high grade point average while in that degree program.
Some grad schools also require that you keep a high GPA while you are enrolled in graduate classes with them. While a full course for an undergraduate degree is four classes a semester, a graduate degree considers two classes a semester a full load, because the work is more in-depth and takes more time.
However, for most graduate programs, you will not have to take as many classes to earn the degree as you did earn your undergraduate degree because the courses are focused on your area of study. One thing these programs do not tell you, though, is how to pay for grad school. That is why you need to know your options before you even apply for a program.
What Are the Benefits?
Aside from figuring out how to pay for grad school, the process for application is generally quite easy. Most schools will have their own requirements, which can be found on the school's website. You will also need to meet with an academic advisor to make sure you are selecting the right courses for the degree you want to earn. There are several benefits to grad school as well. One is that people with graduate degrees get paid more. In general, people with a bachelor's degree get paid an average of $61,000, annually.
Those with a master's degree get paid roughly $78,000, annually. For some fields of study, you can't get even an entry-level job without a master's degree. For others, you can get an entry-level position, but you cannot advance in your field until you advance your education. Another benefit to having a graduate degree is understanding your job better and polishing up your area of expertize. You can also benefit from networking with other advanced professionals, which can help you find a better job or help you improve the job you currently have.
How to Pay For Grad School
Now that you have made up your mind on moving forward with advancing your education, it is time to figure out how to pay for grad school without taking out loans. Here are several options for you to consider. Note that these may not be applicable to every school, so check with your academic advisor before settling on a method. Additionally, a few of these methods may need to be combined to cover the full cost of your tuition.
Have your employer pay for it
One way to pay for graduate school is to have your employer pay for it. In some fields, employers create job security for you and them (thereby decreasing the employee turnover rate). This saves the company money on rehiring and retraining and allows them to promote from within, so they know they have an employee they can trust.
For these benefits, employers will offer to pay for a portion or all of your graduate school. In return, you will most likely sign a contract saying you will work for the company so many years after you graduate, or else you must refund them the money they paid. If you like your job and want to move up within your company, this is one way to pay for grad school that could be beneficial to you.
Get a scholarship
Another option for paying for grad school is getting a scholarship. Graduate programs award scholarships based on merit, but the specifics vary from school to school. At most schools, though, the individual academic departments will grant scholarships, not the financial aid office, so check with your advisor to see if there are scholarships available. The application process also varies, but will generally include submitting an application and an essay, a copy of transcripts, resume, and other paperwork that may be relevant. You should apply for funds as soon as possible to ensure you get enough financial help.
Work for the school
There are many ways to pay for grad school while working for the school you are attending. Assistantships usually cover part of tuition as well as providing you with a small stipend that you can put toward the remaining tuition costs. In exchange, you will work on research or classroom instruction for a professor at the school. Assistantships are presented by the individual departments, so check with your advisor or dean of your program for available opportunities.
If you are planning to pursue a doctoral degree to become a professor, this is a wonderful opportunity to learn the ins and outs of teaching in a college classroom and for gaining hands-on, in-class hours that can sometimes count toward degree credits, which is another way to save money while you earn money. Many of these assistantships have flexible hours, too, so you can maintain another job while working for the school.
Prepare in advance
This one may seem like a no-brainer, but there are several things you can do to prepare for graduate school, and the financial hit, before you even apply for a program. First, you can start saving money, now. If you don't make enough money to do that with your main job, getting a second job may be an option. Even a few months at a part-time job can really make a huge difference when paying tuition for graduate school.
You can also choose a school that isn't expensive or a far drive. This will save you on commuting costs. There are many top-rated schools that don't have a hefty price tag for an advanced degree and finding one that offers your program may not be as difficult as you'd imagine. When determining how to pay for grad school, the best tip is to save costs by not have too much to pay for, at all, and a little research goes a long way to saving you money.
Look for a one-year program
One thing to consider when you are choosing your area of study is if you can find a program at a school that offers to earn it in a one-year degree. Instead of going per semester, these degrees allow you to take one course per six weeks until you are done. Others streamline the program, cutting out anything unnecessary, which saves you both time and money and allows you to have your degree in one year, rather than two.
Remember, a full course load for grad school is two classes. If you are able to do more, you will not only finish faster, but many schools will offer a discount on classes over the full load, which can save money, so you are not spending as much and you will start earning more money, faster. For example, if two courses cost $8,000, and a third is only an extra $2,000, you have saved $2,000, and you are one class closer to graduating.
When deciding how to pay for grad school, you do not have to settle for taking out student loans. There are several options available to you, from saving money in advance, working a second job, having your employer pay your tuition in exchange for you signing a work contract to stay with the company for a certain number of years, or getting a scholarship. You can also choose schools that offer one year programs or discounts on multiple classes in a semester.
Choosing a good school doesn't have to break the bank, either, and you can get a graduate degree at a great school for a fraction of the cost of other schools if you take some time to do your homework and research degree programs and schools before applying. The bottom line is that grad school will cost you money, but how much and how you pay for it is up to you. In the end, your advanced degree will help you earn more money and open the doors for career advancement, which helps you earn back all the money you spent obtaining the degree- and then some!