The cost of masters degree can be intimidating – and the prospect of sinking all of your savings, or saving up to pay for one can be even more so. Finding a source of external funding, therefore, is a very attractive prospect. But it can sometimes be difficult to figure out where to even begin. Who funds masters degrees, and how do I find the right one for me?
This article below aims to address precisely these questions. We’re not going to look at professional development loans, or earning money through full or part-time employment; here we’ll just concentrate on grants and masters scholarships.
The bad news is that, compared to undergraduate education and doctoral education, there’s not a lot of funding out there for masters degrees; especially taught masters that do not have an explicitly professional component. If you want to study for a taught Masters in English Literature or Sociology, it’s relatively challenging to secure a masters scholarship, with limited sources available.
Your prospects are better if you want to embark upon an MRes, or another research degree. As this acts as preparation for postgraduate study, research councils direct some funding toward MRes students, although usually not as much as they do toward PhD students. Research projects may fund masters scholarships, so that the graduate student can work on an aspect of the project’s work as their own research project. You will usually be given the option of applying for central funding when you submit your main application, but research project positions will normally be advertised separately on departmental websites.
One viable source of funding if you’re interested in studying abroad is applying to a cultural exchange programme, such as Fulbright or Erasmus, that will sometimes provide awards that contribute towards or pay for your fees and maintenance costs. These usually require a separate application process, so if you’re studying abroad do investigate to see if any relevant programmes have been set up.
Perhaps the best way to secure funding for a masters degree is to find employment within a sector that you’re passionate about, work there for a period of time, and then ask your employer to fund a masters degree as part of your professional development. This is very common in business, finance and law, as well as in fields of social and scientific research. The added advantage to this route is that you gain valuable professional experience and earn money whilst you work your way towards graduate study. Some companies offer these masters scholarships as part of their internship schemes.
A final source worth considering are academic prizes or awards. Some institutions provide masters scholarships to help particularly gifted students to continue on into further study – these can either entirely cover, or partly cover, the fees and maintenance costs you would incur there. Equally, there are some benevolent funds that are set up at major universities to fund postgraduate studies for students from poor or disadvantaged backgrounds. It’s worth exploring to see if there are any of these that you might be eligible for.