How Much Does Grad School Cost? A Guide to the Costs of Different Programs
Here, you’ll learn how much grad school costs, read about related expenses, and explore financial aid options.
The cost of tuition varies between programs and schools. On average, public grad school tuition is $12,410, whereas the average tuition in private schools is $26,000.
In-state students generally pay between $25,560 and $51,000 for two-year master's programs. Online master's programs can cost less.
The most expensive graduate programs are those for doctorates and professional degrees. On average, they can cost more than $150,000 in total.
Consider living expenses, relocation and commuting costs, books, and supplies when calculating grad school costs.
For financial aid, consider scholarships, fellowships, grants, work-study jobs, and, as a last option, student loans.
If you're considering graduate studies, you may wonder, “How much does grad school cost?” Earning a graduate degree is a big step that requires a lot of your time and attention, but with proper planning, you'll be well prepared to advance in your academic or professional career.
The average tuition for public graduate schools is $12,410 per year, while in private for-profit graduate schools, the average tuition is $14,289. In private non-profit schools, it's $28,430 per year.
In this article, we discuss factors that affect the overall cost of grad school, the average grad school tuition for different levels of education, and financial aid options.
How Much Does Grad School Cost? [Costs of Different Programs]
Factors that affect the overall cost of graduate school include the type of graduate school type (public, for-profit, and non-profit) and whether you choose to attend class on campus, online, or a mix of the two.
Aside from tuition costs you should set aside money for the books and other materials that you’ll need to buy. You should also set up an emergency fund for unexpected expenses such as car or laptop repairs. In addition, you should allocate a portion of your money to food and utilities. If you don't live near campus, you'll be commuting every day, so you need to consider those costs as well.
Let's go over the tuition cost of grad schools in the US (for in-state and out-of-state students).
Average Graduate School Tuition
According to NCES (National Center for Education Statistics), the average graduate school tuition — not including other costs, such as housing and living expenses — was $19,749 in 2020/21.
Costs vary among public graduate schools and non- and for-profit graduate schools. The average cost of grad school for in-state students in 2020/21 was:
- $12,395 at public graduate schools
- $28,445 at non-profit grad schools
- $14,301 at for-profit graduate schools
In the sections below, we point out the average tuition for three levels of graduate school programs.
Master's Degree Programs
The average cost of earning a master's degree in 2023 was $25,560 annually or $51,130 for a two-year program.
In the table below, you can see the average cost of different master's degree types.
|Master Degree Types||Overall Cost|
|Master of Science (MS)||$67,590|
|Master of Education (M.Ed.)||$59,840|
|Master of Arts (MA)||$78,930|
|Master’s of Business Administration (MBA)||$71,880|
Although some master's programs can cost more than $80,000 for a two-year program, your cost will depend on the program and the university.
Ph.D. Degree Programs
According to EducationData.org, the average cost of earning a doctoral degree is $150,835.
Ph.D. programs may last four to eight years, which is why they typically have the highest overall tuition. For example, on average, a Ph.D. in Education costs $111,900, and a Ph.D. in Psychology costs $132,200.
Professional Degree Programs
Per the research of the Urban Institute from 2016, students who chose law school paid an average tuition of $29,520 in private non-profit and $17,750 in public schools. The tuition for medicine school in 2016 cost per year an average of $32,070 in private and $13,670 in public schools. Considering the inflation, these amounts for the tuition are likely higher.
Cost of Graduate School Over the Years
According to NCES data, tuition increased more than 15% at public institutions between 2010 and 2020, from $10,748 to $12,410. On the other hand, tuition in private schools (for- and non-profit) increased approximately 12% during the same period, from $23,731 to $26,597.
The price of grad school tuition has been rising over the past 30 years: from 1989 to 2020, it increased by more than 130%.
How to Overcome the Cost of Grad School?
In the following sections, you'll learn about financial aid options that may help you pay for your grad school tuition. Keep in mind that options that don't require repayment may be the most prudent.
To determine whether you're eligible to receive financial aid from the federal government, you need to fill out a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) form. Most grad schools also require your FAFSA information before they will decide whether you're eligible for grants or scholarships.
Scholarships and Grants
If you cannot cover your entire grad school tuition, the best approach is to apply for scholarships and grants, which can cover a part or all of your tuition. Grad schools, non-profit organizations, charitable groups, and businesses offer grants and scholarships.
Grants and scholarships usually don't have to be repaid as long as you meet all the requirements, such as maintaining a good GPA and taking enough course credits per semester. Whereas merit-based scholarships and grants are awarded on the basis of academic achievement, need-based awards are granted if you require financial aid.
Be sure to start researching and applying for grants and scholarships long before the application deadlines so that you can seek financial aid from other sources if your original applications are rejected.
Fellowships, which are usually merit-based, usually help to offset tuition and may include a stipend. Requirements for renewal include completing projects, teaching students, participating in research, etc.
If you don't have a job and are looking for additional money to cover the rest of your grad school tuition, federal work-study jobs may be a good option. These jobs can be off campus or on campus, but keep in mind that the aid they provide may not be enough to help you with your entire tuition bill.
You can apply for these programs at your school after enrollment, so take time to research the options online before school starts. Note that your financial need will be evaluated and compared to other applicants' financial situation before a decision is made.
Federal vs. Private Student Loans
You should look at student loans as a last resort. Generally speaking, choosing a federal student loan is a better option.
Banks, private lenders, and credit unions offer private student loans. On the other hand, federal student loans are offered by the Department of Education and include:
- Direct subsidized loans
- Direct unsubsidized loans
- PLUS loans
Here are the key differences between federal and private student loans:
- Federal loans have fixed interest rates (they will stay the same over time); private loans often have variable interest rates that can increase over time.
- Federal loans typically include better repayment plans.
- With federal loans, you can use forbearance or loan forgiveness programs in case of hardships.
How Much Does Grad School Cost — Conclusion
How much you'll pay for tuition depends on your program and the university (public or private). Public schools generally have lower tuition, on average: $12,410 (for in-state students), compared with $28,430 at private non-profit schools.
The median cost of earning a master's degree is $25,560 annually or $51,130 for a two-year program.
Earning a master's degree usually costs between $25,560 and $51,000 for in-state students. It can be double or more for out-of-state students. In recent years, online master's programs have gained in popularity. Depending on the program, that can be a cheaper option.
Ph.D. programs are typically among the most expensive graduate programs. On average, a Ph.D. degree costs $150,835 in total. Tuition for professional degree programs may be comparable.
Aside from tuition, you need to account for possible relocation costs, everyday transportation costs, living expenses, books, and supplies. If you haven’t saved enough, you may be able to find financial aid through grants and scholarships, fellowships, work-study jobs, or student loans (preferably federal).
On average, graduate school tuition for public schools is $12,410, and for non-profit schools is $28,430, according to NCES data. Tuition can vary between schools and programs, and may depend on whether you're an in-state or out-of-state student. Doctoral programs are more expensive because earning a Ph.D. can take up to eight years.
Compared to undergraduate studies, master's programs and professional degree programs (medicine or law schools) are more expensive. However, if you receive a monthly stipend and your tuition and fees are waived, it can be less expensive than earning a bachelor's degree.
There are several reasons why grad school has become more expensive in recent years, such as the need for school to purchase and maintain advanced equipment and resources. Supply and demand also affect price. The better a school’s reputation, the more it is likely to cost.