The USA is by far the world’s most popular study destination, but just how expensive is it? What are the typical Masters fees in America? What scholarships are available? And how easy is it for domestic and international students to find funding for a Masters in the USA?
This page will help you answer those questions, with detailed information about fees and funding for American students and international scholarships for Masters in the USA. If you’re looking for other information about studying in America, check out our detailed guide to Masters degrees in the USA. Or, if you’re already sure that postgraduate study in America is for you, why not get started searching for your ideal Masters in the USA?
Masters fees in the USA
It’s no secret that the cost of a Masters in the USA can be quite high. At the same time, it’s important to bear in mind that a relatively small number of students in America pay the full cost of their programmes. Instead many receive Masters funding from their institution or from a wide range of other organisations.
Masters fees at public and private universities in the USA
America is home to one of the world’s largest and most complex higher education systems, with a wide range of institutions setting different fees for Masters degrees. Fees can also differ between academic and professional Masters programmes.
All of this can make the cost of US graduate programmes difficult to summarise with a simple guideline figure. What follows is a general range, but you should remember that fees for actual programmes may be higher or than the amounts suggested here.
Masters fees at public – or ‘state’ – universities in the USA are usually lower than private alternatives, with prices offset by state funding. Public universities also base fees on a student’s residency, with students from out-of-state paying at a higher rate (this also applies to international students).
There’s still plenty of variation in public university fees, but, as a rule, you can expect to pay between $20,000 and $60,000 per year for their Masters programmes.
The fees given above refer to typical academic programmes. Prices for professional Masters programmes in the USA are likely to be higher – particularly in the case of MBA programmes, offered by renowned business schools.
Do international students pay more to study a Masters in the USA?
No – despite its reputation as an expensive study destination, you won’t normally be charged more to study abroad in the USA. This is because Masters fees at public universities in the USA depend on your state-residency, not your nationality.
- If you’re an American citizen from the same state as the university, you’ll pay a lower ‘in-state’ fee.
- If you’re from outside the state that hosts and funds your university, you’ll pay a higher ‘out-of-state’ fee, regardless of whether you’re a domestic or international student.
This approach is designed to reflect the way public universities are funded, with a benefit to those whose taxes (or whose parents’ taxes) have helped support their state university system.
Private universities (which don’t receive their funding from the state) don’t tend to distinguish between in-state and out-of-state students in this way. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll charge more to international students.
The full cost of a Masters degree in the USA usually includes a few supplementary charges, most of which are associated with the applications process. You should try to budget for these as you plan for your graduate study:
- Application costs – Applying for a Masters in the USA can be quite a complex process and you’ll usually have to pay a small administrative charge to cover this. The exact amount will vary, but won’t normally be more than $50-100. Bear in mind that if you apply to more than one institution, you’ll need to pay multiple application fees.
- Graduate entry tests – Most American graduate programmes will ask for applicants to submit scores from graduate entry tests, such as the GMAT or GRE. The charges for these are separate to your tuition fees, but you should still bear them in mind when working out how much a Masters in the USA will cost you. Most tests cost between $200 and $1,250, but you can use the same score for multiple applications for up to five years. See our guide to applying for a Masters in the USA for more information.
- Visa fees – It may not cost more to study as an international student in America, but you will have to pay for your student visa to be processed. If you're arriving on an F-1 visa, there’ll usually be a $350 fee to register with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), plus additional application and visa issuance fees for citizens of some countries. You can find more information in our guide to student visas in the USA.
Masters funding from US universities
Most larger universities maintain scholarship packages to help support students and these may be need-based (awarded to economically disadvantaged students) or merit-based (competitively awarded to the best applicants).
University funding will potentially be available to students regardless of nationality, but some awards may be reserved to support domestic or international applicants.
There are two main types of Masters funding available from universities in the USA:
- Scholarships are awarded to cover the cost of tuition fees, though some also include a grant or regular stipend to help pay for accommodation and living costs. Your university will either pay you a lump sum, calculated to be sufficient for your programme, or it will simply waive the cost of your fees up to a certain amount. You should note that some scholarships for Masters in the USA are merit-based; if so, you may be required to maintain a certain GPA score in assessments during your course. You can read more about the GPA system in our guide to the assessment of US Masters degrees.
- Assistantships are slightly different to scholarships. Instead of simply awarding a grant or bursary for graduate study, assistantships provide a fee waiver and / or stipend in return for services to the institution. This may involve teaching and demonstrating for undergraduates or assisting in a lab or workshop. Assistantships are more common for research students, but they can be offered as a means of funding for Masters students in the USA.
Federal loans for US Masters students
If you are a US citizen you may be able to borrow money from the federal government to help pay for your graduate studies. This could be through a Direct Unsubsidized Loan or a Direct PLUS Loan.
Amounts and interest rates
For Direct Unsubsidized Loans, your university determines how much money you’re eligible to receive, up to an upper limit that depends on your personal circumstances. Find out more about Direct Unsubsidized Loan limits. Interest rates are currently set at 6.54%.
Direct PLUS Loans don’t award a set amount. Instead you can borrow up to the full cost of your Masters programme, minus any other forms of financial support you are receiving for it. Interest rates are set at 7.54% for the 2022-23 year.
To be eligible for a Direct Unsubsidized Loan or a Direct Plus Loan you must:
- Be a US citizen – Some non-citizen green-card holders may be eligible in certain circumstances, but federal loans are not intended to fund international students studying abroad in the USA.
- Be studying a course at 50% intensity or more – Part-time programmes are eligible for direct plus loans, provided you study on a ‘half-time’ basis or greater.
In addition, you’ll need to have a good credit history to be eligible for a Direct PLUS Loan. You won’t normally be able to receive a Direct PLUS Loan if you have a record of credit default or overdue debt for existing loans. In some cases a parent or other US citizen may endorse your application as a guarantor.
As a Masters student you won’t repay your loan until six months after you cease to be enrolled on your course. Note that this repayment period will normally still come into effect if you exit your graduate programme early.
Actual repayment plans vary, but you can view a set of guides from the US Department of Education.
You can read more about federal loans for graduate students and Masters degrees in the USA (as well as other forms of financial support for American students) at the US Federal Student Aid website.