Grad School ROI Calculator

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Is grad school worth it? Use this grad school ROI calculator to see how much you'll earn with and without a grad school degree.

Going to grad school is a big decision. While it feels a little scary, it's also exciting and may lead to a brighter future.

But how can you be sure it's worth it?

With this grad school ROI calculator, you'll find out:

  • Your future earnings with a grad degree
  • Your future earnings without a grad degree
  • The total ROI of your grad degree after 25 years

Grad School ROI Calculator

Then, find out what other points to consider, the pros and cons of grad school, and tips for saving up your tuition costs.

What is the ROI of a master's degree?

To calculate the ROI of your master's degree, follow the steps below:

  1. First, enter the annual cost of your grad school program (your school should provide this info).

  2. Enter the number of years it will take to complete your graduate program.

  3. Then, add your current annual salary and the expected annual salary after earning your master's.

  4. Enter the salary increase you expect to receive each year after earning your master's.

  5. Finally, enter your current savings and the average returns that your savings earn.

The calculator will show you how much your earnings with a master's degree compared to your earnings without a master's degree. If the ROI is high enough (roughly 7+%), then it may be worth it for you to get your master's degree.

Is a master' degree worth it?

If the grad school degree will lead to concrete career benefits, like better jobs or higher pay, that's a definite plus.

But ultimately, the degree will be worth it if those benefits outweigh the following downsides:

  • The total costs of going to grad school (tuition, living expenses, materials, etc.)
  • Any income you'll forgo by going back to school, plus other opportunity costs
  • The debt that you'll have to pay back (if you borrow money for school)

According to U.S. Department of Commerce, Americans earned an average of $53,536. Those with a bachelor's degree had average earnings of $67,763, and those with an advanced degree averaged $98,369.[1]

Average student debt for grad school graduates:[2]
  • Grads from public universities: $54,500
  • Grads from private nonprofit universities: $71,900
  • Grads from private for-profit universities: $90,300

Pros and cons of going to grad school

Review these pros and cons for a quick takeaway to decide if grad school is a wise investment for you.


  • Sets you apart in a large talent pool
  • Grows your professional (and personal) network
  • Potential for greater job earnings
  • Expand your knowledge
  • May give you the ability to change careers


  • Likely to incur more debt
  • May temporarily decrease your income while in school
  • Higher earnings not guaranteed
  • Can be a stressful, demanding experience
  • Likely requires 2+ years

What master's degree has the best ROI?

A good way to think about degree ROI is to look at the average debt-to-income ratio of workers with that degree.

This is how much you earn compared to how much debt you have. The lower the debt-to-income ratio, the higher the ROI may be.

These degrees come with the lowest debt-to-income ratio: [3]

Grad School DegreeAverage Monthly Debt-to-Income Ratio
Electrical Engineering3.2%
Mechanical Engineering4.4%
Civil Engineering4.9%
Management Sciences and Quantitative Methods5.9%
Clinical Nursing/Nursing Administration6.1%
Bioethics/Medical Ethics6.3%
Business Administration and Business/Commerce6.6 - 7.2%
Computer Sciences and IT Administration Management7% - 7.4%
Management Information Systems and Services7%
Homeland Security7.5%
Medical Illustration and Informatics7.5%
Instructional Media Design7.5%
Educational Administration and Supervision7.7%

These numbers were calculated by reviewing the average student debt and income from graduates of over 200 master's degrees at more than 1,500 colleges.[2]

What to consider before going to grad school

Still on the fence about grad school? Take some time to think about how it will affect your life and what you want out of it.

Here are a few important things to consider:

  • What is your primary motivation for going to grad school?
    Is it higher pay? More experience? The pursuit of knowledge? Or will grad school provide more direction in your career?

    These are all valid reasons to go to grad school. But it's best to have some idea of what job you want to end up in when you're done. For some fields, the costs may outweigh the benefit.

  • What sacrifices might you make?
    Costs aren't only monetary. Will you have to put off other big life goals to go back to school? And if so, how may that affect your family, kids, or partner?

    If you get an excellent financial aid package, there may be opportunity costs in other areas of your life.

  • Is there a more affordable way to get experience?
    If the degree isn't crucial for your career path, there may be other ways to get the benefits of grad school. Look into certification programs, internships, or other opportunities to take advantage of.

    Your school may also offer special part-time or accelerated programs that cost less. Be sure to ask your grad school rep about all your options.

  • How much is the total cost?
    This is the big one. On average, one year of grad school tuition can range from $30,000 to $40,000. But that doesn't include books, food, board, and other everyday expenses.[4]

    According to Education Data Initiative, the cost of a Master's degree ranges between $30,000 and $120,000. The cost varies depending on where you study and the length of the program.[5]

    Think about how you'll pay for everything while in school. Do you have savings, financial aid, or income to offset the costs?

How to save money for grad school

Grad school costs may seem overwhelming, but don't worry.

You have many opportunities to cut costs, earn extra cash, and save up to soften the blow of that tuition bill. Here are a few tips for saving up your grad school costs.

  • Open an account for your grad school savings. This is your first step. Think about opening a high-yield savings account, a CD, or other low-risk account with modest returns.

  • Automate your savings. Setting up automatic contributions to your grad school account is the best thing you can do. You won't have to remember to contribute and the savings will add up sooner than you think.

  • Fine-tune your budget. You don't have to completely change your lifestyle, but it may help to use a budgeting app or calculator to cut costs and allocate savings to your grad school account.

  • Get creative to earn extra cash. There are endless options for earning extra cash: sell off unwanted items, use a delivery driver app, take advantage of cash back apps or find a new side hustle.

Looking for ways to save up for tuition? Find our essential tips at the end of this article, or check out our guides for earning an extra $100 or even $1,000 per month.

Bottom Line

Grad school is a decision you shouldn't take lightly. With this calculator and tips, you'll hopefully have a better idea of how a grad school degree will fit into your life and finances.

Remember to consider not only the financial effects of grad school, but how it will affect your day-to-day life, relationships, and well-being. Grad school can be an amazing opportunity but rest assured, it's not the only way to gain valuable career experience.


  1. ^ U.S. Department of Commerce. Spotlight on U.S. Educational Attainment , Retrieved 3/11/2022
  2. ^ "Trends in Student Loan Debt for Graduate School Completers": National Center for Education Statistics, 2018.
  3. ^ "The 15 Master's Degrees with the Best Return on Investment": Money, 2021.
  4. ^ How much money did you spend for grad school?, Retrieved 3/11/2022
  5. ^ Education Data Initiative. Average Cost of a Master's Degree, Retrieved 3/11/2022

Holly Zorbas is a assistant editor at CreditDonkey, a personal finance comparison and reviews website. Write to Holly Zorbas at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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