Best of the Village
Product Manager at Castlight Health
It is smart to be thinking about the cost of going to grad school - congrats for already having that in mind before you decide to go. There has been a lot of research recently about the increasing graduate student debt burden. For example, here is a report you might have seen - http://www.newamerica.net/publications/policy/the_graduate_student_debt_review
The press release says - "According to the data, in 2004, the median level of indebtedness for a borrower who earned a Master of Arts degree was $38,000. In 2012, that figured jumped to $59,000, after adjusting for inflation. Debt levels for other master’s degrees, such as a Master of Science or a Master of Education, show similar trends."
So in general, unless (or even if) you are able to get scholarships, teaching/research assistantships, sponsorships, or grants, you will likely graduate with some debt. In addition, there is the opportunity cost of the time you are out of the workforce when you could be earning a salary and gaining work experience. Two things to consider on the financials as you look at grad programs are (1) the job placement rates and starting salaries of people who have finished graduate degrees, and (2) the interest expected on your loans, so you can weigh the debt with how soon you think you can pay it off after you finish your degree. On a tactical note, the FAFSA will count your savings in their loan calculations, so you might consider researching how this works before deciding to open a savings account or 529.
All that said, financials are only one piece of the decision, because some intangibles of getting a graduate degree may pay off in other ways over your career. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:
-Is a graduate degree a requirement to getting a job or advancing in your chosen field, or is it common to work one's way up without it?
-What will you gain from "book learning" in a university vs. learning "on the job"? -How much do you want to specialize at this stage in your career? -What will you gain from the specific graduate program you are looking at? (for example, a better brand from a well-known graduate school that will open doors? A better network?) Are these things you have to go back to school to get?
Hope that helps, and best of luck!