How much does it cost to get a masters degree?

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The cost of a masters program is dependent on several factors. This includes the type of institution that students attend and the fields that students pursue their masters programs in. The lowest costs for masters programs are offered at public state colleges and universities, while the highest tuition costs are at elite private institutions. Professional degrees are the most expensive masters programs, although they also have the highest returns on investment (ROI) of any type of masters program.

Masters programs, unlike bachelors and doctoral degrees, do not frequently offer stipends or generous financial aid packages, as they tend to be substantial sources of tuition income for public and private institutions alike. Funding a masters degree, then, is made possible through student loans, as about 70% of all students pursuing masters programs take on debt.

The average accumulated debt you might accrue, as well as the ROI, depends on the field. The lowest ROI tends to be for masters programs in the humanities and social sciences, since students will either pursue doctoral programs after completing their MAs or enter the work force with average salaries that are much lower than their debt accrued. The highest ROI tends to be in the fastest growing professional fields such as engineering, accounting and computer networking.

Although on average, online masters degree programs are more affordable than masters programs offered at traditional institutions, cost differences are not overwhelmingly substantial. However, the value of an online masters degree program is generated through schedule and location flexibility, as online students frequently work full-time in order to avoid taking on substantial student loans.

Average costs for masters degrees

The average cost for masters degree programs vary, depending on the type of program and whether the program is at a public or private institution. For in-state residents, public schools tend to be much more affordable than private colleges and universities, with the exception of MBA programs.

For private schools, the average annual tuition for masters of science programs is about $40,000, while at public schools the average annual tuition is about $15,000. As most MS programs are completed in 3 years, this means that you will spend an average total of $120,000 at private schools and about $45,000 at public schools.

Tuition costs for masters programs in the humanities and social sciences at private institutions are about $36,000, while at public schools in-state residents pay about $16,000 a year. This means that for a 2-year program, students at private schools pay a total of about $72,000, while at public schools they pay $32,000 in tuition.

For MBA programs, tuition costs are not substantially different at private and public institutions. At private colleges and universities you will pay an average of $40,000 a year, while at public schools you will pay about $35,000 if you are a resident of the state. For a 2-year MBA program, students at private schools pay a total of $80,000 in tuition, while at public schools they pay about $70,000.

Average debt owed for masters degrees

The average debt owed for masters degree programs varies depending on the type of program. For students who earn MBA degrees, their cumulative debt is about $42,000. Master of arts students in the humanities and social sciences have an accumulated debt of about $40,500. Professional degrees such as engineering accrue the highest average cumulative debt, at about $99,000.

ROI, which takes into account employability and average incomes, as compared to student debt, ranges for each type of masters program. ROI for MBA degrees tend to pay off over time, although initially the ROI is relatively low at about 17%.

For 1-year professional programs such as journalism and masters programs in the humanities and social sciences, ROI is very low. For example, the average annual salary in journalism for students who graduate from top programs is about $39,000 a year, while cumulative debt incurred is over $40,000.

High ROI exists in fields where demand is growing more quickly than the workforce, such as in engineering. Engineers with masters degrees earn a median salary of about $100,000 a year, which is $24,000 more than students who graduate with a bachelors degree.

As tuition costs and borrowing increase, student loan default rates have also steadily increased. Currently the default rate is at about 9%, nearly doubling the rate from 2005. Schools whose graduates continually default on their federal loans may lose their eligibility to distribute federal financial aid.