You’ve graduated from college and have made the decision to go to graduate school. Or you’re working at a job and need to supplement your Bachelor’s degree with more education to further your career. As our society has continued to evolve, education has become the most favorable route to professional success: pursuing a graduate degree is the best way to receive training and gain expertise in a specific field. Higher education is an essential ingredient. Employers increasingly use degrees to determine salary offers and award raises. You want your salary to reflect your credentials.

Graduate degrees are being pursued by professionals who see them as a means to increase their salary potential and improve their professional expertise. But how do you pay for it? You should explore the following options:

Complete the FAFSA

The first step in securing funds for higher education is to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This application is required if you plan to receive any funds from the government or take out student loans to pay for your education. Colleges also require you to fill out the FAFSA before they can disburse any funds in the form of grants, loans, or work study.

Loans

Borrowing to finance your graduate degree is always an option. There are two types of Graduate Stafford loans: subsidized and unsubsidized. Subsidized loans are awarded based on financial need. You will not be charged interest before you begin repayment or during periods of deferment. The federal government “subsidizes” the interest during these time periods. Unsubsidized loans are not awarded based on financial need. Any eligible student can take out unsubsidized Stafford loans. You will be charged interest from the time the loan is disbursed until the time the loan is repaid in full. You may borrow up to $20,500 per year of graduate study. A word of caution: before you incur debt, you should familiarize yourself with the repayment information and check the repayment calculators to assure you will be able to repay these loans.

Grants and Scholarships

You can check at Meritaid.com for scholarships associated with your institution. This site allows you to search by major or by college and gives you grant and scholarship information related to each. Many graduate degrees have specific grants set aside for graduate students in certain areas of study. Do some research regarding your field of study and investigate private scholarship opportunities on scholarship sites such as FastWeb.com.

Fellowships, teaching assistant positions, and research assistants

Once you have been admitted to a graduate program, ask about and apply for fellowship positions if they’re available. These are awards funded by government agencies for students studying specific fields, most of which have a research component. In addition, ask the head of your department or program if there is research or teaching assistantship positions available while you are pursuing the degree. These are paid positions and can help defray the cost of your degree.

Tuition reimbursement

If you are getting a graduate degree to enhance your knowledge of something that’s related to your current area of employment, check with your employer to see if they offer tuition reimbursement. Many employers will reimburse you for graduate tuition if you get a B or higher in the courses you are taking.

Continue working

Many students opt to continue working part-time while pursuing their graduate degree. This income can not only help pay for the degree itself, but provide you with necessary living expenses. You could also consider attending classes while retaining your present full-time job and utilizing the “pay as you go” option. This might increase the time required to complete your degree plan, but graduating without debt is certainly an attractive option.

If you are interested in discovering how much you can expect to earn once your graduate degree is completed, you can find that data at Payscale.com. This information will help you determine if the long-term benefits of the degree outweigh the costs based on your expected salary increase.

Have you considered a graduate degree? We can help you find the right college.

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