Average Cost of a Master’s Degree

by Gail Flores

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A master’s degree can elevate your career, skills, and earning potential. But how much does a master’s degree cost, and what are the keys to consider when making such an investment?

In this article, we’ll take a close look at everything you need to know about the cost of earning a master’s degree, from the average costs of different majors to a comparison of on-campus and online programs.

We’ll also dive into the cost of attending some of the highest-ranked schools in the country. We’ll cover:

  • The benefits of having a master’s degree
  • Median and average tuition costs for master’s degrees
    • By type of institution
    • By residency status
    • By full-time vs. part-time study
  • Online vs on-campus master’s degree costs
  • The average cost of a master’s degree in top state schools
  • Comparison of master’s degree cost across different programs
  • Additional costs and expenses in master’s degree programs
    • Application fees
    • Books and supplies
    • Living expenses
  • Financial aid, scholarships, and grants for master’s degrees

So let’s get started!

Average master’s degree costs top statistics

  • The average cost of a master’s degree for 2023-2024 is $36,702.
  • The median cost of a master’s degree is $29,707.
  • Public institutions have an average master’s degree cost of $12,394. 
  • Among nonprofit universities, the average cost of attendance for a master’s degree is $35,482.
  • The average cost of a master’s degree in private for-profit universities is $21,428.
  • The average cost of an online master’s degree is approximately $24,300 per year.
  • Median earnings for male master’s degree completers are $101,540, representing a 23.27% increase over bachelor’s degree holders.
  • Women with a master’s degree have median annual earnings of $76,160, a 23.68% increase over those with only a bachelor’s degree.
  • The average cost of a Master’s degree in Arts is $78,930
  • The average cost of a Master’s degree in Science is $67,590
  • Other Master’s Degrees such as those in Public Administration, Public Health, Social Work, Political Science, and similar fields average $81,430.
  • The average cost of a Master’s degree in Business Administration is $71,880.

Benefits of a Master’s Degree: An Overview

1. Jobs that require a master’s degree are projected to grow by almost 17% from 2016 to 2026, the fastest of any education level. (US Bureau of Labor and Statistics).

2. On average, people who complete a master’s degree earn 23.48% more than those who have only completed a bachelor’s degree.

3. The median earnings of male master’s degree completers are $101,540, 23.27% higher than those who have completed a bachelor’s degree.

4. Women who complete their master’s degree have median annual earnings of $76,160 or 23.68% higher than those who only have bachelor’s degrees.

5. A master’s degree can provide several benefits, including higher earnings, better employment opportunities, and advanced knowledge and skills. 

Median and average tuition costs for master’s degrees

6. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average cost of a master’s degree is $36,702.

7. The median cost of a master’s degree is $29,707. (NCES).

8. 10% of universities charge an average of $8,546 for a master’s degree.

9. The average cost of a master’s degree in 25% of institutions is $14,930.

10. In 50% of master’s degree-granting institutions, the average cost of a master’s degree is $24,250.

11. 75% of universities charge an average of $37,923 for a master’s degree.

12. 90% of schools charge an average of $61,722 for a master’s degree.

Public institutions

13. Master’s degree costs vary according to the type of institution.

14. The average cost of a master’s degree in public institutions is $12,394. (NCES).

15. The cost of attendance in public institutions, which includes tuition and fees and other expenses such as housing and books, averages $24, 942.

16. The median cost of attendance in public institutions for master’s degree students is $22,837.

17. When institutional grants are considered, the median cost paid for tuition and fees in public institutions is $8,410.

18. 25% of public institutions have tuition costs at or below $10,915 for master’s degrees.

19. The average cost of a master’s degree in 50% of public institutions is at or below $14,291.

20. 25% of the public institutions have tuition costs at or below $17,515

Nonprofit universities

21. Among nonprofit universities, the average cost of attendance for a master’s degree is $35,482. (NCES).

22. The average tuition fee for a master’s degree in private nonprofit universities is $18,113.

23. When institutional grants are considered, the median cost paid for tuition and fees in private nonprofit universities is $12,310.

24. The median cost of attendance in public institutions for master’s degree students is $28,236.

25. 25% of the nonprofit universities have tuition costs at or below $16,953 for a master’s degree.

26. In 50% of the nonprofit universities, the average tuition cost for a master’s degree is at or below $28,797.

27. 25% of the nonprofit universities have tuition costs at or below $52,567

For-profit universities

28. The average cost of a master’s degree in private for-profit universities is $21, 428.

29. The average tuition and fees minus institutional grants in private for-profit universities is $7,886.5

30. When institutional grants are considered, the median cost paid for tuition and fees in private for-profit universities is $7,912.

31. The median cost of attendance in private for-profit universities for master’s degree students is $19,300.

By full-time vs. part-time study

32. For part-time students, tuition is paid per credit hour. The cost per credit hour for graduate students varies depending on the institution and the specific program.

33. For example: At the University of Maryland, College Park, the tuition fee is $828 per credit hour for in-state residents and $1,805 per credit hour for non-residents.

34. At North Carolina State University: $83.33 per credit hour for in-state residents and $1,805 per credit hour for non-residents.

Online programs vs. on-campus programs

31. Universities may charge the same tuition and fees for all students regardless of what state they study from.

32. The average cost of an online master’s degree is roughly $24,300 per year. (Best Colleges).

33. On-campus students may need to budget for transportation, housing, and other living expenses, which can add to the overall cost of the program.

34. Online programs often offer tuition discounts for distance learners, including out-of-state students who may pay the same tuition rate as in-state residents.

By residency status

35. In-state tuition is the tuition rate that students pay when attending a public college or university in the state where they reside while out-of-state tuition is for those attending in a state other than their residence.

36. NCES does not collect data to distinguish the tuition fees between in-state and out-of-state students, but institutions show a clear difference between the two. (Forbes).

37. For example, at the University of Arizona, the average cost of attendance for in-state graduate students is $40,784. For out-of-state students, this goes up to $62,698. (University of Arizona).

38. At Georgia Institute of Technology, the tuition for in-state students was $11,764. Non-residents pay $32,876 for Georgia Tech out-of-state tuition.

39. Overall, out-of-state tuition can be two to three times higher than in-state tuition.

The average cost of a master’s degree in some popular state schools

Here are the average costs of attendance for full-time graduate students in some of the best-ranked universities: 

State UniversityCost of attendance of in-state studentsCost of attendance of in-state students
University of Arizona$40,784$62,698
Georgia Institute of Technology$15,570$49,218
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor$54,552$82,080
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill$26,062$56,402
University of Virginia$22,323$58,950
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)$18,136$33,238
University of Wisconsin-Madison$12,251$25,577
University of Georgia$26,280$43,584
University of Florida$31,100$35,840
University of Texas at Austin$12,036$22,952
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign$17,572$36,068
University of Washington$21, 186$36,888
University of Maryland, College Park$8,922$18,692
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities$31,499$50,739
University of Colorado Boulder$33,466$60,716 
University of Pittsburgh$26,142$43,504
University of Massachusetts Amherst$29,745$41,550
University of Delaware$19,906$39,844
University of New Hampshire$16,470.00$30,110.00
These figures still vary whether you live off campus, on campus, study part-time or full-time, and secure financial aid.

Comparison of master’s degree cost across different programs

40. The type of program significantly affects the tuition and fees for master’s degrees.

41. The average cost of a Master’s degree in Arts is $78,930. (Education Data Initiative).

42. The average cost of a Master’s degree in Science is $67,590. (Education Data Initiative).

43. Other Master’s Degrees such as those in Public Administration, Public Health, Social Work, Political Science, and similar fields average $81,430. (Education Data Initiative).

44. NCES has not published recent aggregate data for the average costs of master’s degrees for different programs. However, universities publish information on the tuition and fees on their websites per program.

Education: Average Cost of a Master’s Degree

45. Education is among the most affordable types of programs to get a master’s degree.

46. According to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of a Master’s degree in Education is $59,840.

47. Teachers College, Columbia University, is the first and largest graduate school of education in the United States. For 9 credits, the average tuition and fees are $21,065 to $22,422 for 2023-2024.

Business: Average Cost of a Master’s Degree

48. According to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of a Master’s degree in Business Administration is $71,880.

49. In the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, the estimated total cost of attendance for an MBA is $122,160 for the two-year program (financial aid excluded) or 2023-2024.

50. The estimated cost of attendance for a one-year MBA program at Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management is $162,395.

51. For the two-year program, the cost goes up to $120,432.

52. At the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, the estimated cost of an MBA for the first year is $124,476.

53. For the two-year program, the cost goes up to $122,476.

Law: Average Cost of a Master’s Degree

54. The cost of attending the highest-ranked law schools in the US can go above $100K each year.

55. The Stanford Law School charges a tuition of $22,308 per quarter, not including other fees such as books and living expenses.

56. At Yale Law School, the average cost of on-campus attendance is $100,009.

57. According to the University of Chicago Law School’s website, the tuition fee for a master’s degree in law for the 2023-2024 academic year is $76,479 (excluding non-tuition expenses).

58. Among more affordable law schools, the cost of a graduate degree can range between $300 to $2000 per credit hour. (Grad School Center).

59. At the University of the District of Columbia (Clarke) for example, in-state tuition is $13,438, and out-of-state tuition is $25,874. (Juris Education).

60. At the University of Wyoming, among the more affordable law schools in the US to get a graduate degree, the tuition fee is $532 per credit hour for residents and $1,136 for out-of-state students. (Grad School Center).

Engineering: Average Cost of a Master’s Degree

61. Among top-ranked schools, the cost of a master’s in engineering can range between $13K to more than $60K, excluding non-tuition expenses.

62. According to the University of California – Berkeley’s website, the cost of a master’s degree in engineering ranged from $13,028 to $35,822 for in-state students, and from $19,151 to $39,051 for out-of-state students. 

63. At Stanford, the cost of a master’s degree in engineering is $62,580 (excluding non-tuition expenses).

64. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the full graduate tuition per term for a master’s degree in Engineering is $29,875.

Additional costs and expenses in master’s degree programs

65. Tuition forms a significant portion of the total cost of attendance for earning a master’s degree, but other costs such as application fees, books, and living expenses add to the total cost of earning a graduate degree.

Application fees

66. The application fee for graduate programs ranges between $50 to $70. (Lantern Credit)

67. Graduate programs charge $66 per application on average. (Best Colleges).

68. On average, international students pay $8 more per graduate application than U.S. learners. 

Books and supplies

69. The cost of books and supplies also varies according to the institution and the type of program.

70. Books and supplies can range from $800 to $2,400 per year.

71. Some universities offer electronic textbooks, which can be accessed on various devices and may cost between $60 to $100 per course. (Franklin University).

72. Some programs may require additional materials, such as lab equipment or software, which can add to the overall cost of the program

Living expenses

73. Living expenses involve room and board, food, and other lifestyle expenses. It can vary depending on the city, state, and lifestyle choices.

74. The estimated cost of living in the US for students is around $10,000 to $18,000 per year, averaging around $1000 to $1500 per month. (Shiksha).

75. The cost of accommodation in the US can range from $9,800 to $11,100 per academic year at public and private four-year colleges, respectively. (Masters Portal).

76. Other expenses that studying may incur include transportation, medical insurance, and food.

Financial aid, scholarships, and grants for master’s degrees

There are options available for students who are looking to have a portion of their tuition covered by scholarships or financial aid.

77. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 45% – 58% of full-time master’s students receive scholarships or grants.

78. In some universities, the number of students who receive financial aid is higher than average. At the University of Arizona for example, 54% of first-year students received need-based financial aid.

79. 35% of part-time master’s students receive scholarships or grants

80. About 14% of graduate students receive employer support. (NCES).

Frequently asked questions

What is the average cost of a master’s degree?

The average cost of a master’s degree for 2023-2024 is $36,702.

How do master’s degree costs vary across different types of institutions?

Public institutions have an average master’s degree cost of $12,394, nonprofit universities have an average cost of $35,482, and private for-profit universities have an average cost of $21,428.

What is the cost difference between online and on-campus master’s degree programs?

Learn more about other statistics:

Sources

BestColleges. “How Much Does a Master’s Degree Cost?” BestColleges, 19 Sept. 2023.

College Tuition Compare. Graduate School Tuition at University of Wisconsin-Madison 

College Tuition Compare. Graduate School Tuition at The University of Texas at Austin 

Education Data Initiative. “Average Cost of a Master’s Degree: 2023 Analysis”

Forbes. “Cost Of A Master’s Degree: What To Know Before You Enroll

Franklin University. How Much Does a Master’s Degree Cost: 8 Things to Know | Franklin.edu 

Grad School Center. The 25 Most Affordable Master’s in Law (M.L. or LL.M.) Grad Schools in 2023 – GradSchoolCenter 

Lantern Credit. How Much Are Grad School Applications? | Lantern by SoFi 

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Costs < MIT 

Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management. Full-Time MBA Tuition and Financial Aid | Kellogg School of Management 

SoFi.  University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill Tuition and Fees | SoFi

SoFi. University of Pittsburgh Tuition and Fees | SoFi

Stanford University. 2022-2023 Graduate and Professional Tuition Rates | Student Services 

Stanford University. Estimated Expense Budget | Graduate Admissions 

University of Arizona. Cost: New and Current Graduate & Professional Students | Office of Scholarships & Financial Aid 

University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Full-Time MBA Cost | The University of Chicago Booth School of Business 

University of Chicago. Financial Considerations | University of Chicago Law School 

University of Delaware. Cost of Attendance | Graduate College | University of Delaware 

University of Georgia. Costs – UGA Student Financial Aid 

University of Maryland. Graduate Tuition & Fees | Student Financial Services and Cashiering 

University of Massachusetts – Amherst. Graduate Costs: UMass Amherst 

University of Michigan. Estimating Costs | Financial Aid | University of Michigan 

University of New Michigan. Graduate Tuition & Fees | Business Services 

University of Florida. Graduate Cost | UF Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships 

University of Washington. Graduate And Professional Tuition Dashboard | Office of Planning & Budgeting 

US Bureau of Labor and Statistics. Employment outlook for graduate-level occupations. [PDF File]. 

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Postsecondary Student Aid Study: 2020 Graduate Students (NPSAS: GR).

US News and World Report. 2023-2024 Best Graduate Schools – US News 

US News and World Report. University of Virginia – Tuition and Financial Aid | US News Best Colleges 

US News and World Report.University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign – Tuition and Financial Aid | US News Best Colleges 

US News and World Report. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities – Tuition and Financial Aid | US News Best Colleges Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. MBA Tuition Costs, Fees & Financial Aid Info

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