What is the Cost of a Master’s Degree?

Most master's programs cost over $50K. Students can save money in online and public college programs. Find average master's degree costs in our guide.
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Data Summary

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    The average total cost of a master's degree is just over $30,000 a year.[1]
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    Master's degree programs typically range from $44,000-$57,000 for two years.[1]
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    The most expensive master's degree programs can cost more than $60,000 per year.[2]
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    45% of full-time master's students[3] and 35% of part-time master's students[4] receive scholarships or grants.
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    The average cost of an online master's program is roughly $25,000.[5]
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    The average master's degree-completer graduated with $62,500 in student loan debt -- not counting loans from their undergraduate degree.[6]

Online master's degree enrollment is on the rise, as folks are using a down market to advance in their field or switch careers. But paying for a master's degree is a huge investment.

Master's degrees can send students deeper into student loan debt — especially at private, elite universities. Knowing the cost and value of a master's degree can help you decide on a program or an alternative next step in your career.

This report delves into how much master's degrees cost on average, the range of program costs, and how much you can realistically expect to save with scholarships.

How Much is a Master's Degree?

According to the most recent data from the Department of Education:

  • Master's degrees typically cost between $44,000-$57,000 for a two-year program.[1]
  • The average total cost of a master's degree is $31,046 per year.[1]
  • That includes tuition and fees plus non-tuition expenses, such as books, supplies, room and board, transportation, and personal expenses.
  • The median master's degree cost is $25,566 per year, or $51,132 for two years. (Half of all programs cost less than the median, and half cost more.)[1]
  • The priciest master's degree programs cost nearly $60,000 a year, or over $120,000 for two years.[2]
Master's Degree Total Costs by School Type
School Type Average Master's Degree Cost (One Year) Average Master's Degree Cost (Two Years)
Total (All Schools) $31,046 $62,092
Public $27,359 $54,718
Private, nonprofit $36,286 $72,572
Private, for-profit $24,271 $48,542

Source: National Center for Education Statistics PowerStats, in 2022 dollars[1]

Keep in mind that master's degree program costs range widely. Find the spread below. (The tenth percentile means that 10% of schools charge lower than that stated tuition amount.)

Total Cost for One Year of a Master's Degree: Percentiles
Percentile Total Cost
10 $8,671
25 $15,551
50 $25,566
75 $39,926
90 $59,791

Source: NCES PowerStats, in 2022 dollars[2]

Behind the Numbers

First, 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. Then, we converted amounts to 2022 dollars using the Consumer Price Index Inflation Calculator.[7]

Sometimes this report shows medians along with averages. Medians often better represent what's typical, because averages are more easily skewed by super high or low numbers in a set. And grad school costs range widely — roughly $1,000 to $180,000 per year in 2022 dollars.[1]

Average Master's Degree Tuition

Master's degree tuition makes up about half the total cost of attending a master's degree program. Just like undergraduate tuition rates, nonprofit private schools typically charge more than public or for-profit schools.

Master's Degree Yearly Tuition by School Type
School Type Average Tuition and Fees Median Tuition and Fees
Total, All Schools $15,132 $10,228
Public $11,957 $9,321
Private, nonprofit $19,167 $12,322
Private, for-profit $11,684 $9,507

Source: NCES PowerStats, in 2022 dollars[1]

Master's Degree Yearly Tuition Percentiles
Percentile Tuition and Fees
10 $3,098
25 $5,745
50 $10,228
75 $19,438
90 $33,530

Source: NCES PowerStats, in 2022 dollars[8]

Financial Aid and Net Price for Master's Degrees

Some master's students receive free financial aid, aka grants, scholarships, and grad school fellowships. But, if you're counting on scholarship money to pay for your master's degree, there are a few things you should know:

Scholarships & Grants for Master's Programs Aren't Common

  • Less than half (45%) of full-time master's students receive grants.[3]
  • Grants are even less common for part-time master's students. Just over one-third (35%) of part-time master's students receive aid.[4]

And They Usually Don't Cover All Your Costs

  • The average grant amount for full-time master's students is $13,534.[9] That covers a year of tuition at most schools but not other costs. Plus, it's not necessarily promised every year.
  • The average grant amount for part-time master's students is $6,984.[10]

On Average, Financial Aid for Master's Degrees Curb Total Costs by $3-4K

  • The average net cost of a master's degree program — including tuition and student expenses, minus grant funding — is about $26,000.[11]
  • The median net cost of a master's degree program is roughly $21,900.[11]

Source: NCES PowerStats, in 2022 dollars[11]

Cost of Online Master's Degrees

Online learning often comes with fees, such as technology fees, which contribute to students' total costs. But, online master's degree students might save money on travel, room and board, and campus-related costs.

  • The average total cost of taking a fully online master's program is roughly $25,000 a year.[5]
  • Some of the most affordable online master's degrees may cost as little as $4,000-$7,000 a year.
  • Median prices for fully online master's programs are more than 20% cheaper than in-person master's programs and hybrid programs (where students participate both in class and online).[5]

Source: NCES PowerStats, in 2022 dollars[5]

Master's Degree Cost by Field

Master's degree costs vary by program type. For example, master of science (MS) programs tend to cost more than master of arts (MA) programs.

Source: NCES PowerStats, in 2022 dollars[12]

Is a Master's Degree Worth It?

Having a master's degree might help you qualify for higher-paying jobs in some fields. On average, people with master's degrees earn higher incomes than people with just a bachelor's degree.[13]

However, most master's degree students take on debt to fund their education. And, the average student loan debt for a master's degree is pretty hefty:[6]

  • 6 in 10 master's degree-completers graduate with student loan debt.
  • Roughly 53% have student loan debt from their master's program.
  • In 2015-2016 master's degree-completers graduated with an average debt of $50,290 for their graduate studies alone. In today's dollars, that's about $62,500.