Earning a graduate degree is perhaps one of the most time intensive yet rewarding challenges that a seeker of knowledge can undertake. Few people, however, consider the big picture when it comes to the entire financial aspect of earning a master's degree. Tuition will undoubtedly be one of the biggest expenses, but there are other things to consider as well. Does your degree program allow you to work while you attend school or will the schedule be too demanding? If you cannot work, one needs to consider living expenses and funds for emergencies.
The cost of tuition for a master's level degree ranges from $12,000 at smaller colleges to in excess of $80,000 at some of the Ivy League schools. On average, at a state university, a student can expect a total cost of about $40,000. Be aware that these are just tuition costs. Traditionally, there are also costs for each book, registration fees, and application fees as well as possible fees for parking depending on your school.
Then, there is also the cost of living. You know more about your unique financial situation than anyone else. So, it is up to you to decide how you will handle this. Be sure to interview people in the academics department, career services office as well as current students if you can. This way, you will get a more accurate portrayal of life at the school. You can then determine whether or not you will need to work full time, part time or not work at all. If you are in a financial situation that does not require you to work during your degree, you may consider volunteering at a company that operates in your chosen field of study. Or, the career services office may be able to help find an internship near your school. True, these options may add a part time job to your schedule, but you will be better off in the long run for a couple of different reasons. First, internships allow you a place to network among peers in the industry. I am sure you are aware of the old adage, it is not what you know, but who you know. If you play your cards right, you might just find yourself a job before you have completed your degree. Second, even if you do not find a job with the company you volunteer at or intern with, you will gain valuable insight into the industry while providing yourself with professional references and experience.
Finally, you should always have money set aside for emergencies as well as health insurance. Too often, people fail to plan in these areas and end up making a costly mistake because of an unforeseen circumstance.
So, you need to decide how much it will cost you to live every month. Do not be afraid to put yourself on a budget and adhere to it! Outside of that, planning ahead is the best action that you can take to ensure your success in school.