3 Legit Ways to Get a Master's Degree for Free

Julissa Treviño Updated on June 26, 2020

What's the smartest way to get a master's degree? Have someone else pay for it. 

This may sound like a too-good-to-be-true scenario, but we assure you, it's not! Here are three ways to nab a grad degree without paying for your own tuition. 

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1. Work for a university or college

Many higher education institutions offer "tuition remission" for employees. In a very instructive blog post, Liz, one half of the couple that writes the blog Frugalwoods, shared her own experience with getting a free master's through tuition remission. 

Liz writes that when she and her husband moved, she realized it was an opportunity for her to apply for jobs at a university and start working toward a master's. She applied for any position she found open at reputable universities and colleges in the area, and she snagged one.

She notes that before sending out job applications, she researched each university’s policy regarding tuition benefits. (Typically, you have to be employed for a certain amount of time because you can use the tuition remission benefit.)

Liz graduated from a school with a sticker price of $64,000for free. Well, mostly free, as you'll see in a moment.

There are usually three caveats if you take advantage of this perk, Liz writes. They are:

  • After you're hired, you also have to be accepted to the school as a student.
  • You're generally expected work full-time while going to school.
  • You may have to pay taxes on the market value of the graduate-level tuition if it's over a certain amount. Our friend Liz discloses that she had to pay $13,500 in taxes during the two years it took her to earn her degree. The university deducted the money directly from her paycheck.

2. Look for fellowships and scholarships

Fellowships may provide an opportunity to earn free tuition in a specific field. Sometimes the fellowship may require you to work  in a certain location or field for a limited time after graduation, but not always. Check out ProFellow, a site that offers an excellent lists opportunities for funded fellowships for advanced degree programs. 

Don't forget that scholarships are also available to graduate students. Tip: Don't limit your search to your career field. Scholarships related to medical conditions such as asthma or sickle-cell anemia are often-overlooked sources of funding. 

Check out scholarship search engine for graduate scholarships here.

3. Use your employer's higher education benefit

Lisa Harrison from Mad Money Monster details how she got a free master's by taking advantage of an employee benefit. Her company offered 100% tuition reimbursement for program of study that pertained to her job, as long as she met certain requirements.  

Companies that have tuition reimbursement often have some stipulations, such as: 

  • A certain percentage of tuition and materials be reimbursed within a given number of years.
  • A set dollar amount will be reimbursed per calendar year.
  • You may be expected to maintain a certain GPA.

Lisa offers this tip: When job-seeking, ask about the benefits package, and carefully review whether tuition reimbursement is available. If you're already in a steady job, ask your employer if they offer this benefit, and check specific guidelines and terms.

If you find that you still need grad school funding after exhausting the options on this list, check out our picks for the best private student loans for grad school

Published in: How to Pay for College

About the Author
Julissa Treviño

Julissa Treviño is a writer and journalist based in Texas. Her work has appeared in BBC Future, CityLab, Columbia Journalism Review, The Dallas Morning News, Racked, Teen Vogue and other publications. She enjoys traveling, playing with makeup, biking and trying new food. Follow her @JulissaTrevino. Read more by Julissa Treviño

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