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The Most Affordable Types of Master’s Degrees

The Most Affordable Types of Master’s Degrees

Most prospective master degree students are furthering their academic credentials with career goals in mind. A common strategy is to calculate potential earnings increase against the price and time commitment of a master’s degree. Sometimes this is a straightforward calculation, but other times real world variables make it difficult to predict the future, turning prospective students into risk/reward financial speculators. Going to grad school for a master’s degree with higher earning potential will be more expensive, such as law, business administration, or engineering, and will force graduates into highly competitive and saturated job markets, which can backfire into vicious student loan debt cycles. More affordable degrees often come with the added bonus of better job placement opportunity, making master’s degrees in fields such as nursing, social work, education, and computer science a safer and more practical choice for prospective grad students. Additionally, there are often grants and scholarships available for students looking to enter careers with civic responsibilities. Here’s a closer look at the expected investment and earning potential in these fields:


Teachers who get certification with their bachelor’s degree enter a field with high demand upon graduation, qualifying them to be elementary, middle, or high school teachers, who earn an average salary of about $57,000 per year. Earning a master’s degree in education allows graduates to become community school professors, or if they have specialized work experience they can become professors at private institutions. Having a master’s degree can also specialize someone in a particular field of teaching, or allow them to become headmasters or principals at their school. For reference, here is a ranking of the 10 best online Masters in Education Leadership.

  • Average cost of an online master’s degree in education: $12,000
  • Average salary for Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals: $92,510
  • Number of Jobs, 2016: 251,300
  • Job Outlook, 2016-26: 8%


Having a bachelor’s in nursing (BSN) will qualify graduates to become Registered Nurses (RN), who earn an average salary of $68,450, which is very solid earning potential for an undergraduate degree. However, if nurses want to earn a promotion, there is great potential for increased earnings in their field. A master’s in nursing will qualify graduates to become Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, or Nurse Practitioners, which comes with a large bump in average salary, making it a safe investment for a master’s degree. In particular, anesthetic nurses have very high earning potential, though this comes with increased liability and less flexible hours. For reference, here’s a list of the 25 best online Master’s of Science in Nursing degree programs.

  • Average Cost of an Online Master’s in Nursing: $22,500
  • Average Salary for Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners: $107,460
  • Number of Jobs, 2016: 203,800
  • Job Outlook, 2016-26: 31%

Social Work

While some social workers can land jobs with only bachelor degrees, this is mostly a sign of the high demand in the job market. In order to become a clinical social worker, they must have a master’s degree and licensure in their state. Because of the demand for social workers, as well as the civic nature of the job and the typically low salaries, a master’s in social work will often be paid for by their school, making it particularly important to research financial aid and scholarships if you are planning to pursue one. A master’s degree in social work is one of the most affordable types of master’s degrees, and comes with great job stability. While the salary is lower than other fields that require master’s degrees, social workers find their careers to be highly gratifying. For reference, here is a ranking of the 10 best online Master’s in Social Work (MSW) degree programs.

  • Average Cost of an Online Master’s in Social Work: $15,000
  • Average Salary for Social Workers: $46,890
  • Number of Jobs, 2016: 682,100
  • Job Outlook, 2016-26: 15%

Computer Science

Many jobs that sustained the American middle class in the 20th century have been lost to automation. Computer Science is the field that is benefitting the most from this trend, and the number of skilled professionals has yet to catch up to the skyrocketing job market. Bachelor degrees in Computer Science allow many graduates to get their foot in the door and obtain salaries that range from $52,000 as Computer Support Specialists, to the $80,000 for positions like Database Administrator and Computer Systems Analyst. Taking the next step and earning your master’s degree in computer science will allow you to leapfrog other applicants with bachelor degrees, while also qualifying you for positions that earn well into six digits. If you can handle spending your workday in front of a computer screen, earning a master’s degree in computer science is one of the quickest fields to make back your investment, making it one of the most affordable master’s degrees. One of the many positions that require a master’s degree in the field of computer science is Computer and Information Research Scientist, who invent new practical applications for existing technology, and predict potential developments for hardware functionality. For reference, here’s a list of 10 best online master’s in computer science.

  • Average Cost of an online Master’s Degree in Computer Science: $25,000
  • Average Salary for Computer and Information Research Scientists: $111,840
  • Number of Jobs 2016: 27,900
  • Job Outlook, 2016-26: 19%