How to Pay for a Master's Degree

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If you received your undergraduate degree and are interested in pursuing a master's, you’re one of the select few in the United States. In 2013, the Institute of Education Sciences reported that 7 percent of adults, ages 25 to 29, had completed this feat. Seeking this achievement is commendable, but paying for it may seem like a daunting task. Inventory your resources and connections, and you’re likely to find assistance from an employer, private organization or the graduate school you plan to attend.

Look for a Job on Campus

Many colleges offer part-time employment called a graduate assistantship. As a graduate assistant, you may be asked to teach, help faculty, engage in research or coordinate programs and services for a department. Benefit packages vary but usually include a salary and tuition wavier. Some institutions even provide health insurance. For example, Wayne State University provides a tuition scholarship and a salary ranging from $16,000 to $18,000 for 20 hours per week of employment, at the time of publication. Contact the graduate office or human resources to begin your search for a graduate assistantship.

Ask Your Employer for Assistance

Several companies offer tuition reimbursement for employees. Eligibility varies and may be restricted to education that benefits the workplace. For example, AT&T offers up to $25,000 for graduate education for full-time non-management employees who have worked at the company for a minimum of 12 months, at that time of publication. Similarly, Best Buy offers $5,250 for graduate education for employees and their dependents. If your employer doesn’t have a tuition program, make a case for how furthering your education will enhance your productivity. You may be surprised at the results.

Funding Based Upon Merit

A fellowship is an award that provides select graduate students with the opportunity to go to graduate school, free of charge. In most cases, a fellowship covers tuition, a living stipend and health benefits. Fellowships may be awarded for exemplary scholarship or to attract students with special skills or to those who represent diverse populations. For example, Cornell University offers graduate diversity fellowships to underrepresented students interested in pursuing a research degree. These fellowships are specifically designed to assist students who are first-generation or ethnically diverse.

Apply For Federal Financial Aid

Federal student aid is not just reserved for undergraduate education. You can submit your Free Application for Federal Student Aid -- or FAFSA -- and apply for loans and grants for graduate school, too. As a graduate student, you’ll likely be considered an independent student, so your award will not be based upon your parents’ income. You may also be eligible for direct aid like the William D. Ford Federal loan or need-based aid like the Federal Perkins Loan or Pell Grant. Fill out your FAFSA as early as possible to determine federal aid available.