Financial Aid and Scholarship Guide for Online Graduate Students

Written by Grad School Center Team We are a passionate team of experienced educators and advisors at, dedicated to guiding students through their graduate education journey. Our experts, with advanced degrees across various disciplines, offer personalized advice, up-to-date program information, and practical insights into application processes.

Reviewed by David Krug David Krug is a seasoned expert with 20 years in educational technology (EdTech). His career spans the pivotal years of technology integration in education, where he has played a key role in advancing student-centric learning solutions. David's expertise lies in marrying technological innovation with pedagogical effectiveness, making him a valuable asset in transforming educational experiences. As an advisor for enrollment startups, David provides strategic guidance, helping these companies navigate the complexities of the education sector. His insights are crucial in developing impactful and sustainable enrollment strategies.

Updated: February 29, 2024, Reading time: 8 minutes

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Master’s and professional degree holders have the lowest unemployment rates in the United States, according to Education Data Initiative research. The unemployment rate for those who earned graduate degrees was only 1.9% from 2010 to 2022. 

Master’s degree holders are estimated to earn an estimated $123,829 annually. As they say, the more you learn, the more you earn. This means that a master’s degree is an excellent investment for your future.

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Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Why Many Choose to Pursue Graduate School

Why Many Choose to Pursue Graduate School - Image

A lot of students who decide to pursue graduate studies often enter master’s degree programs for the following reasons:

They want to pursue graduate studies for personal and professional development.

Graduate degree programs combine advanced discipline-specific coursework with crucial skills, including analytic ability, time management, and critical thinking, which can be easily transferred to other career paths. 

Aside from that, earning a master’s or doctoral degree proves that your persistence, determination, passion, intellect, and ability to handle challenges are all desirable for employers who look for candidates with discipline, leadership, and stamina. 

They want to have a good start in a new career in their chosen professional field. 

A professional field is defined as an occupation that requires applicants to have completed both an academic degree and licensure examination to be eligible for employment. 

Some individuals choose to earn a master’s degree and qualify for a leadership or managerial position in a professional field. 

They want to prepare for a doctoral degree.

Some professionals want to dig deeper into the field they are interested in. They want to have the tools that will allow them to make significant research contributions, which will allow them to develop innovative theoretical approaches that can be applied to their professions. 

They want to have more job prospects.

A master’s or doctoral degree can open more job opportunities for degree holders. This is because such a degree proves that they have a greater ability for advancements in their chosen career paths. Graduate school is no walk in the park, and those who graduate from it have undergone rigorous training that has honed their knowledge and skills.

They have a passion to learn.

Some people can have an insatiable hunger for learning. They are passionate about learning new things all the time. What better way to acquire in-depth knowledge and professional experience than to pursue a master’s or doctoral degree? 

Studying master’s can greatly improve your analyzing, research, and writing skills. It also trains you to become a more skilled problem solver so you can tackle more complex projects. On top of that, graduate studies can expand your expertise and prepare you for lifelong learning. 

They want to increase their earning potential.

Because having a master’s or doctoral degree can give degree holders a competitive edge and open better opportunities for them, having finished graduate school can also significantly increase your earning potential. 

A Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce research indicates that higher salaries continue to be attributed to advanced education levels. It shows in the report that those with a graduate degree earn an average of 38.3% more than those with a baccalaureate degree in the same field.

Why Financial Aid Is Crucial to Online Graduate Students

One of the things that may hinder people from pursuing graduate studies is the cost. Fortunately, online graduate students can apply for financial aid to help minimize the total cost of tuition and fees. 

Now that distance learning has become prevalent, those who want to pursue graduate studies can easily do so by enrolling in an online degree program. Moreover, even online graduate students can take advantage of financial aid and scholarships from various sources.

The main reason why financial aid is crucial for online graduate students is that it can help reduce the loans that you will need to apply for and pay for in the future. You don’t need to pay for assistantships, grants, fellowships, and scholarships while or after you finish the graduate program. 

You can also apply for as many scholarships as you want to minimize the student loan debt you will incur as you finish your graduate degree. 

How Online Graduate Students Can Apply for Financial Assistance

Generally, applying for financial aid for graduate or professional school is the same as applying for undergraduate financial assistance. 

The first step is to check the Federal Student Aid website where you can submit or send your FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid after completing it.

These are the next steps you need to take to apply for graduate school financial aid.

Financial Assistance Available to Online Graduate Students

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Fortunately, those who are passionate about pursuing a master’s or doctoral degree may be eligible for financial aid from the following federal student aid programs:

William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program

It is the biggest federal student loan program offered by the U.S. Department of Education. The lender is the education department and not other financial institutions.

Direct Loans

Graduate students can apply for either of the two types of Direct Loans:

Federal Pell Grant

The Federal Pell Grant does not require you to repay it because it is not a loan. It is for students who are enrolled in post-baccalaureate teacher certification programs.

Employer Reimbursement or Partnerships

Federally, employers may pay up to $5,250 annually for their employees’ education-related fees. Some companies have tuition reimbursement benefits or partnerships with local institutions that allow online graduate students to pay reduced tuition rates. 

If you’re not sure whether your employer offers such, you should ask them about it. Be prepared with a convincing argument as to why a company-funded graduate education is beneficial for you and your employer. 

Private Student Loans

Online graduate students may also apply for private student loans offered by private institutions, including credit unions and banks. However, private loans may not be as generous as the loans offered to public students, which means that they can be more expensive. On top of that, eligibility requirements may also be stricter. 


Just grants and scholarships, fellowships are gift-based. However, there are a few nuances that set them apart from grants and scholarships. For one, several fellowships only fund specific academic pursuits, such as attending conferences, completing certain projects, and conducting research. 

GI Bill

Veterans, service men and women, and their dependents may also apply for eligibility for educational benefits under the GI Bill. You can get funded depending on the number of classes you take and the cost per credit hour that the school of your choice charges. 

Financial Aid Scholarship Guide for Online Graduate Students - fact

Wrapping Up

Pursuing graduate studies is one of the best investments you can make for your future. 

Online graduate students may qualify for some of the financial aid programs offered by the government, as well as other public and private institutions.

To keep the total cost of tuition for a graduate degree, you need to consider a program that offers the highest amount of financial aid!

We’re certain of one thing—your search for more information on picking the best graduate degree or school landed you here. Let our experts help guide your through the decision making process with thoughtful content written by experts.