How to Pay for a Master’s Degree in Education

  (Updated February 4, 2022)
Dr. Selena Kiser
Dr. Selena Kiser
Second grade teacher; Ed.D. in Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis
Piggy Bank on a desk with Tuition Fees? Written on chalkboard

There are a myriad of benefits in attaining a master’s degree in education. Educators increase their content-level knowledge within education, allowing them to have more opportunities in the field.

As a teacher that has completed a bachelor’s, master’s, and a doctorate in education, I encourage teachers to further their education by obtaining a master’s degree. It is definitely worth the time, energy, and money required. I am thankful I pursued graduate degrees at the beginning of my education career.

I have been given the opportunity to teach in the classroom, serve as a school administrator, work at the school board office, and teach higher education with my graduate degrees. The prestige and respect that come with having a master’s degree in education are also an advantage.

My hesitation was how to pay for grad school and managing many tasks along with my responsibilities. However, the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Why Do Teachers Pursue Master’s Degrees?

Many teachers pursue master’s degrees after completing their undergraduate degrees. Although, most classroom and resource teaching positions do not require a master’s degree in the teaching profession. However, increasing positions within the school system require a master’s degree or additional courses to be qualified to teach specific curricula. In many cases, teachers are placed in positions where they must further their education in graduate-level programs, and they are expected to pay for these out-of-pocket.

There are many different options to explore when deciding how to pay for master’s degrees.

How Do Teachers Pay for Master’s Degrees?

Grants and Scholarships

There is a plethora of federal student loans: subsidized, unsubsidized, and public service loan forgiveness programs. The “free money” (doesn’t have to be paid back) includes scholarships, grants, fellowships, and assistantships.

There is need-based aid (scholarships and grants) and merit-based aid (scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships/paid internships). Again, this is a way of how to pay for grad school without loans and are funds that you don’t have to pay back as long as you meet the minimum requirements of the programs.

All students should complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will determine eligibility for additional aid, including state financial aid, work-study, or federal student loan options. If your state provides graduate financial aid, you will learn if you qualify. When searching for graduate programs, students should look at the state’s website to see if they support graduate financial aid and explore those opportunities.

Work-study and internships allow students to be placed in a job opportunity on campus to help pay for the cost of attendance. This is a good way to pay for the program’s cost or make money for needs such as rent, food, and other living expenses. Schools have subsidized a portion of the pay from the federal program; school divisions have more options to help pay for the loans.

Teachers should meet with their school boards to check on any applicable funding for furthering their education. Oftentimes, they will pay for the master’s degree if the teacher agrees to teach in a specific content area after completion. Another option is local economic development authorities trying to attract talent to their area by offering loan forgiveness.

Federal Student Loans

There are federal student loans available for teachers, and they may be available to assist in paying for your graduate program. The Graduate PLUS Loan is credit-based and has a higher interest rate than Federal Direct Loans.

Students should always consider public service loan forgiveness if they work in a field that meets the loans’ criteria. Examples of these are teachers who have worked in a shared, poverty-based school for ten years and make on-time payments.

Payment Plans

Payment plans are an option of how to pay for graduate without loans. There is typically a registration fee, but teachers can make payments over an established period to avoid having to take out big student loans.

Out of Pocket

Out-of-pocket is another payment option for teachers that want to pay for their graduate program up-front. If students or families have enough spendable money to pay for their education from a checking or savings account, this is better than taking out a loan. Still, one should always be careful to budget over needs and living expenses appropriately.

Private Student Loans

As far as private graduate loans, these are also available and may save money over time. Teachers may work with local banks, and these loans are based on credit worthiness. These could be either fixed or variable rates based on each financial institution.

Students should always consider the loan repayment options available to them. Many federal and private student loans offer options to pay-as-you-go or defer payments until a time period after graduation. Some may offer income-based repayments which look at your income and monthly expenses to consider what the graduate can afford to repay.

*Updated February 2022
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