Everything to Consider Before Applying for a Master’s Degree

Blog | December 26th, 2021

The decision to go to graduate school should not be taken lightly. Earning a Master’s degree may have significant payoffs in the long run, but it is a substantial commitment of time and resources. It’s critically important that you understand the costs and have as much information about the process before matriculating.

Let’s look at everything you need to consider before applying for a Master’s degree. That way, you can carefully evaluate your options and make the best decision for your future.

Do You Qualify?

The first factor to consider is whether you qualify for the program you want to apply to. Some programs will require that you hold a Bachelor’s degree in specific fields, while others want you to have completed certain undergraduate courses.

Every program at every school is different. Carefully research prerequisites before doing anything else.

Entrance Exams

As you conduct this investigation, you’ll probably notice that many Master’s programs require test scores. They might be the GRE (Graduate Record Examination), GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test), or another field-specific exam. 

These tests cost money every time you sit for them; at the time of this writing, most entrance exams cost more than $200. In addition, consider:
  • The costs of a prep course 
  • Prep materials (such as a book)
  • The time commitment of studying for them

Application Fees

You may not remember these fees from your undergraduate years if your parents paid for them, but every application you submit will come with a fee

The fees vary widely depending on the school and can be anywhere from $40-$150 each. It’s a wise idea to apply to multiple schools to better your chances of admission, but these fees will add up.


Hands-down, the most considerable expense of going back to school for a Master’s degree is tuition. First, understand how schools calculate tuition. Most universities charge per credit hour at this level, and most courses are three hours. 

Tuition can range widely between public and private, in-state and out-of-state tuition rates. In general, public universities in the state you reside in will be the most affordable option, but sometimes private schools have funding opportunities. Be sure to take careful notes and speak with your future school’s financial aid department to make it work.

Many people take loans to pay for graduate school. It’s a significant decision to take on that much debt. Be sure you understand interest rates and everything else before you accept loans.

Time Off From Work

Another factor in your decision to attend graduate school is taking time off from work. It makes more sense to throw themselves into school 100% for some people. That way, you finish sooner. Doing this usually makes more sense for people hoping to transfer fields or looking for a career change. 

If you’re planning to stay in the same field, though, you may want to go to school part-time, take more time to finish, but be able to work at the same time. That way, you may not have to take as many student loans. You may also be planning to stay with your current company but at a better pay rate or in a higher position.

Part-Time vs. Full-Time vs. Online

There are many ways to go to school these days, and no method is suitable for everyone. As we mentioned above, it depends on many factors, including whether you want to change careers or fields, whether you can survive financially without working full time, and more.

One of these factors is your level of motivation and self-discipline. Some people can put their noses to the grindstone and attend school full-time online while working full time. 

Some people need the accountability of attending in-person classes. Be honest with yourself about your abilities. Also, consider the costs of in-person courses, including gas, meals, snacks on the go, and any entertainment. 

Potential Pay-Offs 

Earning a Master’s degree is only worth it if it’s going to get you closer to living the life you’ve imagined. If you can’t advance in your career, can’t make enough money, or can’t work in the field you want because of your lack of a degree, taking the next step into graduate school might be the best option.

If you don’t need to go or are feeling ambivalent about the commitment, take some time to evaluate your readiness, mentally, financially, and otherwise. You’re the only one who can make the best decision for yourself.

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