So, you have completed your Bachelor’s Degree Program and perhaps have also had workplace experience. What is the next step in your career trajectory? One key way to truly get ahead in the professional arena is to pursue a Master’s Degree. For instance, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) is a degree that can open doors across a wide range of fields. According to www.mba.com, the website of the GMAT graduate management aptitude test that is frequently used for gauging admissions into Masters Degree programs, 92 percent of respondents in a recent survey reported having a job after graduation, and three out of four alumni from the class of 2012 said they could not have obtained their job without the skills, knowledge, and abilities attained through their graduate management education.
Graduate Education – A Worthwhile Investment
Of course, Master’s Degree programs come in many shapes and sizes – and with various price tags. Nevertheless, while it may seem daunting to invest money in education, study after study indicates that the investment is worth it.
Like everything in life, planning is essential for making a Master’s degree worth it. Knowing why you want or need it is important, but you still need to be realistic about the time commitment you are making. In general, Master’s degrees take between a year and a half and two years to complete, assuming you pursue your studies full-time.
Taking Out Loans to Fund Graduate Studies
There are several alternatives open to students looking to finance their Master’s Degree. The most common way to finance a Master’s Degree program is by taking out student loans to cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and sometimes also living costs or various expenses. Student loans are available from many different lending institutions to citizens and permanent residents of the United States. It is important to keep in mind that the terms and conditions of student loans vary widely. Many of these student loans are available at reasonable rates, but some can have difficult conditions or exorbitant interest rates. It pays to shop around, do sufficient research on the various options available to you, and make a smart and informed comparison of the different loan options. It is also important to keep in mind that once you complete your Masters Degree program, most lending institutions grant borrowers a grace period of six months to find a job before they must start paying back the loans.
Stafford loans pay out up to $20,500 a year. The loans carry a 6.6 percent interest rate and a fee of about 1 percent, and a lifetime maximum of $138,500. All graduate Stafford loans are unsubsidized, so interest accrues during the entire time borrowers are enrolled, though payments aren’t required until six months after graduation. This money can be used to cover tuition and living costs, as well as other education-related expenses.
In addition, Graduate PLUS loans are available at 7.6 percent interest plus about 4 percent in fees.
Private student loans are also an option. Sallie Mae’s fixed loan rates for graduate students range from 6.00 to 10.23 percent, and variable loan rates range from 4.50 to 10.11 percent.
Potential borrowers can get a sense of the total loan tab – and perhaps size it up against an expected starting salary – using a student loan calculator, like the one available at StudentAid.ed.gov. Certain state, federal and school-sponsored repayment programs also offer adjusted rates or loan forgiveness for qualifying graduates pursuing careers in the nonprofit or public interest sectors and certain in-demand fields such as teaching and primary care.
Work-Study Programs and Teaching Assistantships
Another option for financing a Master’s Degree program is to become a research or teaching assistant at your chosen school or find another work-study program within the school that allows you to earn money for an on-campus job that you do in parallel with your studies. Not everyone can count on this option to finance his or her Master’s Degree, as it is usually only available in larger universities. However, it is worth inquiring if any possibilities of work-study programs exist at your chosen institution, as this can be a smart way to finance your education while gaining work experience in a professional setting.
Scholarships for Master’s Degrees
In addition, many types of scholarships are available to students wishing to pursue a Master’s Degree. Scholarships are given out by universities and colleges, private and public organizations, and various foundations. In contrast to loans, scholarships are considered “gift” money and it is not necessary to pay them back. There are numerous kinds of scholarships available. Some need-based scholarships are available to students who have demonstrated academic ability but who may not be able to finance their Master’s Degree alone. Other scholarships are given to students who the university or scholarship-granting organization deems as exceptional candidates for higher education. There are also special scholarships available to students of a particular gender, or a certain ethnic, religious, or family background.
Every prospective grad student should know that by applying much earlier than the deadline, you put himself on the radar of the social work school, which can contact you about applying separately for a fellowship and possibly a stipend in exchange for part-time research, teaching or other work.
Working During Your Studies
You may discover that even if you receive some form of financial aid, it will be necessary to work at least part-time to finance your Master’s Degree. This will require some creativity and flexibility on your part, as you will have to fit your work schedule around your classes or vice versa. While this can be difficult, many students manage to do it and often find that the organization it requires even makes them better, more focused and more organized students. Keep in mind that organization, determination and hard work now pays off in the future.
Research and teaching assistantships generally cover at least part of tuition and pay a periodic stipend in exchange for research or classroom instruction. Like scholarships, assistantships are often presented by individual departments.
Being proactive is key; once a student knows the specific topic he or she wants to study, it’s important to zero in on relevant programs and find faculty members in the field who might be willing to take the student on as an assistant. Doctoral students typically have a better shot than master’s candidates, since they’re presumably considering a professorial career.
How to Find Out About Financial Aid Available To You
If you are looking to find out what financial aid is available to you, of course, it is key to get in touch with the financial aid office of your chosen school, as financial aid counselors specialize in helping you with this information. It is also important to complete or estimate your federal income taxes for the previous year. You will need this information to complete the financial aid forms, which will be used for grant and loan applications.
Prepare well by checking out The Guide to Federal Student Aid, which is an extremely informative guide that can help orient you. We at Florida National University (FNU) have provided this document, downloadable from our website by clicking HERE.
Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is a requirement for all federal student aid programs as well as for many state and institutional aid programs. You should then submit the FAFSA to the school where you have applied for admission.
Once you have been admitted to a graduate program, it is time to apply for financial aid.
Inquire with both the financial aid office and your particular department or program for possible teaching assistantships or field-specialized scholarships. At many schools, financial aid is given out by academic departments or the specific graduate school instead of a central financial aid office, so students may have to do some digging. A graduate admissions official or someone affiliated with the desired program can help students sort through the options. Experts advise applying for funds as early as possible to ensure access to the full pot.
Of course, don’t forget to check on the Internet for possible sources of aid not administered by your graduate institution. There are thousands of scholarships available each year, so doing research can sometimes turn up further options. Be sure to stay aware of all application procedures and relevant deadlines.
Work With Your Employer to Facilitate Your Education
If you are employed, check with your workplace about the possibility of reimbursement or tuition assistance programs if your degree is related to your present job. Check with your supervisor or with the human resources department of your company, if applicable, for further information on how advancing your education can be beneficial to your company. You can also check to see if there are other possibilities open within the organization, or check on how the company can work with you to facilitate your studies.
Many companies looking to boost their collective skill set without hiring will sponsor all or part of an employee’s graduate schooling through tuition reimbursement. In 2018, 50 percent of the more than 3,000 employers responding to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management offered some form of financial assistance for graduate school.
Most firms require that the coursework have some connection to the employee’s job role and some companies require that the employee work at the firm for a certain period after school or pay back part of the tuition. Up to $5,250 of such tuition assistance qualifies as a tax-free benefit.
If your company doesn’t have an established tuition remission program, workers can often earn assistance if they demonstrate to the boss how a course of study could add value. After all, your education will benefit your employer too!
Graduate Education at Florida National University
At FNU, we are proud to offer an online MBA program that could be your ticket to a wealth of career advancement options and greater earning potential. To find out more about our program and how to finance your graduate education, contact one of our academic advisors today. Your future is waiting!