Funding your Graduate Education

Estimating Costs of Attendance

A graduate degree is an investment in your future. You will need to determine how your education will be financed. You will first need to do some financial and personal planning. Graduate programs in America often cost in the tens of thousands of dollars and addressing the issue of funding prior to beginning your program is essential.

You should budget for:

  • Tuition
  • Fees
  • Housing and costs of living (food, utilities, etc.)
  • Books and academic materials
  • Lab costs
  • Transportation

Assistantships Research, Teaching, and Other

One of the most common means of funding graduate education in the U.S. is the graduate assistantship. Graduate assistants perform services for the University to reduce the out-of-pocket expenses of their education. A typical assistantship includes a stipend (money amount), tuition remission (waiver or reduction in tuition), and health benefits. There are several types of assistantships which are available at most institutions.

Research Assistants are prevalent in the science and engineering fields and in some social science fields. Students work in laboratories, or in the field, assisting faculty with research projects. This option provides relevant experience and field specialization that will be useful after attaining your degree. There is no set way to become a research assistant with parameters varying by institution and department. The first step should be to identify a professor or project that you would be interested in working with. Once a project is identified, investigate how research assistants are chosen and take the necessary action to apply.

  • Teaching Assistants teach undergraduates and may lead discussion sessions, administer exams, grade papers and hold office hours. TA's usually work at least 20 hours per week. Ph.D. students with experience may often teach an undergraduate level course. Teaching Assistantships are arranged through the University and particular departments.
  • Graduate Assistants work in a university's administration or support service areas. This work does not always relate to a student's field and can cover a wide range of duties from computer repair to academic advising to office assistant. Administrative graduate assistants are arranged through the University and the academic departments.

Fellowships, Scholarships, and Traineeships are cash awards given by departments, universities or outside organizations to candidates who fulfill specific qualifications. The amount of money awarded depends on the particular fellowship. Fellowships are unique as they do not require any additional work other than the maintenance of a grade point average and progress towards a degree.

Prestigious scholarships or fellowships are highly competitive, either nationally or internationally. They provide financial support and other benefits to a limited number of highly qualified candidates. Typically, these scholarships support one to three years of study after the bachelor's degree at universities in the United States or abroad.  (Rhodes , Marshall , and Jack Kent Cooke are well-known programs of this type.)

For information about prestigious scholarships and where to get started, visit www.umbc.edu/prestige or contact Dr. Simon Stacey, 410.455.1962 or spstacey@umbc.edu.

Student Loans are money borrowed on an individual basis for the sole purpose of financing education. Most student loans can be arranged through a bank of choice. More information can be found at: NASPAA Listing of Student Loans and Scholarships

Federal and State Financial Aid
The government offers loan money to graduate students. Federal student loans are need based. To determine if you qualify, contact UMBC's Financial Aid Office. For an overview of loans, grants and work-study assistance available to students through the federal government, visit www.ed.gov/offices/OSFAP/Students.

Please note: To certify your eligibility for various types of financial aid and assistantships, you will be required, on an annual basis, to complete and submit a  Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as a part of your application (if you are a U.S. citizen). You may submit the FAFSA form by mail or apply on-line at www.fafsa.ed.gov. Although graduate schools often use the FAFSA to determine your financial aid eligibility, parent income and assets are usually not relevant at the graduate level. So, graduate students who are not dependent on their parents are often able to qualify for financial assistance.

Tuition Benefits for Military Personnel and Veterans
If you are a veteran, learn more about tuition benefits at theVeterans Administration Website.

Employer Tuition Benefits
As part of their fringe benefits package, many employers offer to pay or reimburse tuition costs if the degree or courses are related to your current position. Beware of the fine print as some employers may require you to agree to work for them for a certain period of time based on the amount they have contributed to your education. Also, you may be required to maintain a certain GPA in order to receive tuition reimbursement. If you leave to work elsewhere, or don't make the grade, you may have to repay the money. These are inquiries you would like to make before signing on the dotted line.

Internships/Cooperative Education
Most institutions offer internship and cooperative education programs. They offer an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in your graduate field of study. These types of professional practice programs are a major resource for employers in the region and an excellent training ground for students. By combining classroom study with on-the-job experience, you can grasp the link between theory and practice, and learn valuable job-related habits and skills.  In addition, at most institutions, most of these positions are paid. 

At UMBC, the Internship/Cooperative program is housed in the Career Services Center (Math/Psych 212, 410.455.2216). Their services are available to currently enrolled graduate students.

Additional Resources
Other on-campus as well as off campus positions for graduate students can also be found in UMBCworks, the online system available to all UMBC students that allows you to search for various professional and part-time opportunities. Just log into UMBCworks and under the jobs: UMBCworks tab, select "Graduate School Opportunities/Fellowships" as your Position Types, click Search.

UMBC Campus Career Partners who offer Graduate School Application Assistance

Key Service Providers:

  • Career Services Center: Providing services and programs to assist students and alumni with the graduate school application process, career exploration, career skill development, and internship, co-op, full- and part-time job searching Math/Psych 212, 410.455.2216, careers@umbc.edu , careers.umbc.edu
  • Office of Academic Services and Pre-Professional Advisement: Offering academic advising and graduate/professional school planning Academic Services, Room 102, 410.455.2500, arc@umbc.edu
  • The Shriver Center: Connecting students with service learning opportunities. Public Policy, 1st Floor, 410.455.2493, shrivercenter.umbc.edu

Other Campus Programs and Departments: