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How Quickly Could You Pay Off Your Master’s?

06 July 2020

How Quickly Could You Pay Off Your Master’s?

Most people who enrol in postgraduate study first ask themselves:

  • Is a master’s degree worth it?
  • Will it really make me more money?
  • How much will it actually help my career?

These are all reasonable questions to wonder; after all, a master’s degree comes with a significant cost. While it’s an investment in your education and future, you still want to know that you’ll get a reasonable return on your investment.

By looking at some aggregated data and average figures, let’s see how quickly your master’s degree could hypothetically pay for itself.

How much does a master’s degree cost?

We can’t ask is a master’s worth it without first understanding how much the average student pays for their degree.

The cost of a master’s degree can vary largely between universities and across fields of study. According to Study in Australia, postgraduate master’s degrees typically range between $22,000 and $50,000 (not including high-cost courses like medical and veterinary degrees).

If you’re an Australian/NZ citizen or permanent resident and enrolling in an eligible course, you might be offered a Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP), where the government will subsidise some of your fees. Most CSPs are given to undergraduate students, so you shouldn’t rely on this.


Keep in mind the $22,000-$50,000 figure only represents the degree itself. You also need to consider variable and less tangible costs including:

  • Stationery
  • Textbooks and course materials
  • Public transport/commute costs
  • Accommodation costs if relocating to study
  • Reduced income while you study (e.g. if you work less or quit your full-time job).

How much do people with a master’s degree earn?

To give you a rough idea of increased earning potential, Payscale data suggests that people who hold a master’s degree earn $72,200 p.a. on average, compared to $61,600 p.a. for people who hold a bachelor’s degree.

Again, it’s important to recognise that earning potential can vary significantly depending on your chosen industry, type of work, location, prior experience, and other factors.

So, hypothetically, how quickly could you pay off your master’s?

Using the data discussed above, let’s assume two things to create a hypothetical example:

  • Your master’s degree will cost about $36,000.
  • You could earn $10,600 more each year after graduating.

In this example, your master’s degree could effectively “pay for itself” after three and a half years or so.

Of course, reality rarely works out as smoothly as maths on paper, but these theoretical estimates may give you some idea of whether pursuing a master’s degree could be worthwhile in the long run.

In conclusion: Is a master’s degree worth it?

Ultimately, this is something you need to determine for yourself, using a combination of the estimates provided here and your own research. It’s important to investigate the specific universities and courses that interest you, as their fees could be vastly different from the averages referenced in this article.

You should also keep in mind that studying a master’s degree is rarely done just for the increased earning potential. The extra knowledge and skills you pick up through this extended study can open the door to higher positions and a more satisfying career – not necessarily just more money.

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