How to Pay for a Masters of Music

A masters degree can do a lot of good for your music career. Before you start graduate school, it’s important to know how to pay for a masters of music.

Hannah B Flute | How to Pay for a Masters of Music

I took time off from school so that I would have a good reason to spend those two years in school. Now, I’m in my masters, and I know I made the right choice.

That being said, the finances are probably the scariest part of being a graduate student. A masters degree can be really expensive, so you need to have a plan on how to pay for it.

Is Graduate School Necessary?

As a musician, graduate school could make a huge difference in your career. If you want to become a college professor, you need at least a masters degree if not a doctorate.

Other career paths don’t require a masters, but having one can improve your chances of getting a job. A masters degree also means you can charge more.

Overall, graduate school isn’t necessary, but it can open up many doors as a musician. If you can pay for a masters of music, then you should definitely consider that advanced degree.

How Much Does Graduate School Cost?

The cost of a graduate degree will depend on where you currently live, where you go to school, and whether you choose a public or private school.

If you want to get a graduate degree for little money, look at public schools in your state. In state tuition is almost always cheaper than out of state, and public schools are usually cheaper than private schools.

You don’t have to limit yourself to your state, because you can find financial aid to help you pay for a masters of music.

6 Ways to Pay for a Masters of Music

There are many methods you can use to pay for a masters of music, and some methods will work better for you than others. No matter which method(s) you choose, make sure you have a plan in place to cover school expenses and the cost of living.

1. Graduate assistantship

One of the most common ways to pay for a masters of music is to get a graduate assistantship. You can get a teaching, research, or administrative assistantship, and different schools have their own assistantship programs.

Some schools will pay your entire tuition, but others will only give you a discount. You still have to pay fees and anything else the assistantship doesn’t cover.

Most assistantships come with a stipend, and some stipends are more than others. A big assistantship sounds nice, but you should also take cost of living into account. A smaller stipend in a smaller city might be better than a larger stipend in a huge city.

2. Loans

Loans are a tricky subject. Odds are, you probably already have student loans from undergrad, and you might not want to take on even more student debt.

One thing that makes graduate student loans scarier than undergraduate student loans is the fact that graduate loans are unsubsidized. Unsubsidized loans start building interest when you take them out, and you’re responsible for paying that interest. Subsidized loans are when ┬áthe government pays the interest while you’re in school.

If you have great credit, you can also look at private loans. A private loan might have a lower interest rate, so it could be a better choice than student loans.

3. Non-assistantship financial aid

Assistantships aren’t the only financial aid option for graduate students. If you don’t get an assistantship, you can also look into graduate fellowships, scholarships, and waivers.

I was lucky enough to receive two generous tuition waivers from my university. One of those waivers is the Midwest Student Exchange Program (MSEP) waiver. Most midwestern states participate, and the program grants discounted tuition from out of state students from the midwest.

Some schools also have their own waivers for students from bordering states or based on your GPA, so you should look into those options at the schools you’re considering.

You can also apply for a fellowship or scholarship. Some schools offer scholarships to first semester graduate students as well as scholarships to fund research opportunities.

4. Help from family members

This is another controversial way to pay for a masters of music, and it’s not available to everyone. I’m fortunate enough to have a great relationship with my parents, and they’re willing and able to help me with some costs associated with going back to school.

If you have parents or a significant other, you can ask them for help paying your expenses. I understand that many people don’t have this option, but if you do it can be a great way to pay for graduate school.

5. Savings

If you have a decent sized savings account, you can take advantage of that to pay for your masters degree. This is something that isn’t available to everyone, but it could come in handy.

I spent about a year and a half working and living at home, so I was able to grow my savings account. Part of that growth was in preparation for going back for a masters degree.

If you have anything in savings, you can dip into your account to pay for some of your expenses. Ideally, you would still keep an emergency fund, but personal savings can help you fund your education.

6. Work

If you don’t have an assistantship, I would highly recommend working part time. On campus jobs are great, because they’re very flexible. The university understands that you’re a student, and (hopefully), they will understand how busy music students can get.

Working off campus is another option, but those jobs won’t always be as flexible.

I currently work from home as a freelance writer, and it’s great for me. I can write articles on my own time, and I can take on as much or as little work as I want.

There are many jobs you can do from home including writing, social media management, or private teaching. If you’re in your masters, you probably want to work as a musician. Teaching private lessons is a great way for music students to make money.

Fund Your Masters

While those six ways are all great ways to pay for a masters of music, you should use at least two of those options. In case something falls through, you want a back up method. You don’t want to have to drop out because you lose your part time job or assistantship.

I’m currently using four of the above methods, and while I hope I don’t lose any of them, it’s reassuring to have that safety net.


If you’re a graduate student, how are you paying for your masters of music? If you’re looking to start your masters, what other questions do you have about paying for it? Let me know in the comments!


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