Dream of going to graduate school, but if have significant student loan debt from your undergraduate years? You might be hesitant to add to that pile of debt.
Statistically, people with graduate degrees earn more in their lifetime than peers who don’t have one. But that doesn’t mean paying for grad school isn’t without financial hardship. Luckily, there are a few ways to pursue a graduate education without taking out any student loans at all.
1. Work At A University
The popular financial blogger known by her pseudonym, “Mrs. Frugalwoods,” recently shared how she attended graduate school without taking on any student loans. The key, she said, was impeccable planning.
Knowing that many people who work at universities attend graduate school for free, she spent significant time researching schools in the Washington, D.C. area with job postings that matched her qualifications.
She also carefully researched the qualifications necessary to earn free tuition at various institutions. Some universities required a year of working for them before they would fund a graduate education. Others only required four months.
Because of her research, she decided to accept a job at American University, a graduate school that would typically come with a pretty hefty price tag. She began work in August so that when January came around, she could start a brand new semester with her school totally paid for.
It definitely wasn’t easy — jugging graduate school with a full-time job is grueling, but it can be worth it if you don’t have to pay for your graduate education.
2. Try a Graduate Assistantship
A graduate assistantship is basically a part-time job at the university where you will be enrolling for your graduate degree, except unlike the example above, your priority is your school work and the assistantship serves to help give you experience in your chosen field. In fact, this is how I funded my graduate education.
Assistantships are not available for every type of graduate school. For example, you cannot get an assistantship to help pay for medical school, since most medical schools don’t allow part-time work.
However, you can get an assistantship to help pay for many Ph.D. and other master’s degree programs. An assistantship can involve a variety of jobs, but usually they are research- or teaching-based.
During my graduate assistantship, I worked for two different professors grading their papers and even teaching a couple of lessons. I was also a research assistant for a local museum and helped with other various tasks.
Assistantships usually offer a tuition waiver as well. For example, although my assistantship paid a pittance at around $14,000 per year, agreeing to work for my department as a research and teaching assistant allowed me to do meaningful work while having my tuition completely waived.
3. Find a Job With Tuition Reimbursement
Many companies encourage employees to continue their educations and learn new skills, so they will offer tuition reimbursement. Some examples include large companies like Apple, Ford, Gap, and Home Depot, who all offer up to $5,000 towards tuition for their employees.
Like the other options above, before joining a company that offers tuition reimbursement to employees, it’s important to do your research.
Once you find companies that offer tuition reimbursement as a perk, network and contact their current employees to find out how well they managed going to school part-time while working. Find out as much as you can about the program and the agreement before before committing to the idea.
It can be difficult to juggle your many responsibilities, enroll in graduate school, and convince your employer to reimburse you. But you will not only further your knowledge, you’ll show your bosses that you are dedicated to your field. You might even get a raise after you earn your degree!
Ultimately, it’s important to know that you can get through graduate school without taking on any student loan debt. Whether you put in extra work or are lucky enough to find a job that will pay you to go back to school, take your time and do your research so that you make the best possible investment in your educational future.
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