How Much Does Grad School Cost?

The average cost of grad school comes out to roughly $38,200 per year. Discover the average cost by program, as well as average graduate debt amounts and earning potential.
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Data Summary

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    The average total cost of graduate school comes out to roughly $38,200 per year.[1]
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    Private, nonprofit institutions cost the most, but this is before factoring in financial aid, grants, and scholarships.[2]
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    The median cost of a two-year master's degree program was $52,200.[3]
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    Online master's degree programs are typically cheaper than in-person programs by 20% or more.[4]
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    The average cost of a Ph.D. totaled $166,800-$333,700 for a 4-8 year program before grants and assistantships.[5]
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    The average cost of graduate school has increased by nearly 140% in the past 30 years.[6]

The average total cost of graduate school comes out to roughly $38,200 per year. This includes the average cost for all master's, doctoral, and professional programs.Note Reference [1]

Knowing the cost and value of a graduate degree can help you decide whether it is right for you. This report covers average graduate student loan amounts, average costs by institution type and degree program, and earning potential for graduates with advanced degrees.

Average Cost of Graduate School

The average cost of graduate tuition and fees is $19,700 per year. The average total cost, which includes housing and course materials, is around $38,200 per year. The median cost is less at $30,400 per year.Note Reference [1]

Private, nonprofit institutions cost the most, but this is before factoring in financial aid, grants, and scholarships. Private, for-profit schools cost nearly $20,000 less than private, nonprofit schools.

Behind the Numbers

To calculate the costs in the tables, we started with data from the 2015-2016 National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey of Graduate Students (NPSAS:GR), a nationally representative student survey conducted by the Department of Education. We then converted the amounts to 2022 dollars using the Consumer Price Index Inflation Calculator.[7]

Cost of Graduate School by Program Type

The cost of graduate programs can vary depending on the length of a program, the institution type, and the degree type. The following sections break down costs by program type, including master's, doctoral, and professional programs.

Research Graduate Programs

Research-based programs are intended for those pursuing academic positions. These program types are not typically chosen to prepare for professional practice.

Master's Degree

The median cost of a master's degree amounts to $26,100 per year, or $52,200 for two years. Costs vary by institution and can range anywhere between $48,000 and $73,000 for a two-year program.Note Reference [3]

The median cost of other master's degrees — excluding those for education, business, arts, and sciences — is the highest of all master's degree types. Master of science (MS) degrees cost the second highest with a median total cost of $27,300 per year.[8] As shown in the chart below, living expenses and course material costs can double or even triple the actual cost of attendance.

Online master's degree programs are typically cheaper than in-person programs by 20% or more.Note Reference [4]

  • Some of the most affordable online master's degrees may cost as little as $4,000-$7,000 a year.
  • The average total cost of completing a fully online master's program totals roughly $25,000 a year.Note Reference [4]

Ph.D. Programs

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average total cost of a Ph.D. comes out to roughly $41,700 per year.Note Reference [5] Since students typically take 4-8 years to complete a Ph.D. program, it can cost anywhere from $166,800-$333,700 before grants and assistantships.

While Ph.D. programs take longer to complete than other graduate programs, doctoral students receive more financial support on average than master's degree and other progressional graduate degree students. This includes tuition waivers or stipends in exchange for teaching or research.

In 2019, roughly 68% of all graduates from doctoral programs graduated without student debt. For mathematics and computer science Ph.D. graduates, the figure was as high as 84%.[9]

Professional Graduate Programs

Unlike research-based graduate programs, professional graduate programs are intended to prepare students for professional practice. This includes degrees in dentistry, business, law, medicine, and nursing.

Average Tuition and Fees for Full-Time, Full-Year Students in Professional Practice Fields, 2015-2016
Field Public, In-State Public, Out-of-State Private, Nonprofit
Dentistry $38,100 $62,500 $71,800
Medicine $33,300 $56,400 $53,600
Optometry $25,800 $44,100 $26,500
Osteopathic Medicine $32,700 $54,100 $44,300
Pharmacy $22,500 $40,100 $39,700
Podiatry $38,700 $39,400 $23,400
Veterinary Medicine $25,100 $49,100 $37,000
Law $28,700 $41,000 $47,300
Source: Urban Institute[10]

Cost of Graduate School Over Time

The average cost of graduate school has increased by nearly 140% in the past 30 years.Note Reference [6]

  • At public institutions, it rose from about $4,100 to $12,400: 200% increase.
  • At private schools, it went from roughly $16,000 to $26,600: nearly 70% increase.

Is Grad School Worth It?

Is graduate school worth the money? Having a graduate degree may help you progress faster in your career or qualify for higher-paying jobs. It is important to also weigh the costs, however, including both time and money.

Graduate Student Loan Debt

In 2015-2016, most master's and professional doctorate graduates completed their programs with loans.

The figures below account for all institution types. However, private, for-profit institution graduates held the highest percentage of loans. For example, 90% of professional doctorate recipients at these institutions owed in 2015-2016.[11]

It is worth noting that the table shows the percentage of those with loans who also graduated. It does not account for those who did not finish their degree programs, in which case the percentage of students with student loans would be much higher.

Less than half (45%) of full-time master's students received grants, and the average grant amount totaled $13,500.[12], [13]

Those who completed a master's degree held an average loan amount of $66,000 in 2015-2016. Among Ph.D. research graduates, the average loan amount was $108,400 in 2015-2016. Those who completed a professional doctorate had an even higher average loan amount of $186,600.Note Reference [11]

Average student loan amounts for graduate school completers have increased for all degree types since the turn of the century. For research doctorate graduates, the average amount doubled between 2000 and 2015, going from $53,500 to $108,400.Note Reference [11]

Earnings Potential

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that higher levels of education correlate with higher income levels. According to the BLS, high school graduates made a median income of $50,400 in 2021, while those with doctorates earned a median of $263,300.

Average Household Income Based on Education Level, 2021
Education Level Median Income Average Income
High School Graduate $50,400 $68,800
Some College $61,000 $82,000
Associate Degree $70,500 $89,000
Bachelor's Degree $105,600 $139,100
Master's Degree $124,300 $161,100
Professional Degree $154,300 $214,500
Doctorate Degree $263,300 $208,400
Total $72,000 $104,200
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau[14]