Master's degree grants and professional programs tend to be fewer in number than the equivalents for undergraduates, and tend to broaden their focus to include factors other than financial need and grades. Like scholarships, grants do not have to be repaid. Graduate school grants are often more exclusive than their undergraduate counterparts, and may be awarded based on a combination of requirements such as merit, financial status, research interests, and industry demand of the program. Generally, grants for graduate school are funded by federal organizations or private and/or nonprofit organizations.

Few grants for graduate students are awarded based solely on financial need. However, some need-based grants are available through individual universities and federal funding sources. The most common type of graduate school grant revolves around topic research and industry demand for a particular program. For example, some are awarded only to those seeking professional training in nursing, teaching, or other high demand field. The specifics of each grant can also vary considerably. For example, many offer a maximum award per year, though the exact amount may fluctuate depending on how much funding is available that year.

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Eligibility Requirements

Grants for master's degree students can come with unique eligibility requirements. Some require that the student pursue training for a specific career, such as teaching or nursing. Others require that the student pursue research in a specific niche that benefits the organization or business funding the grant. The TEACH Grant is one such example of a non-need-based grant, awarded to students completing a master's degree in specific education disciplines. In addition to these requirements, some grants for graduate school are awarded only to students with outstanding academic records and/or demonstrating significant financial need. State-funded grants typically require that a student reside in that state in order to qualify for in-state tuition rates.

Types of Grants for Graduate Students

Northwestern University Graduate Research Grant

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  • Amount: $3,000
  • Deadline: April 10, 2017

Northwestern University offers this grant to MFA and Ph.D. students pursuing graduate research in historically under-funded fields at the graduate level, including certain arts and sciences, music, and psychology.

UC San Diego Graduate Grants and Fellowships

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  • Amount: Varies
  • Deadline: Varies

The University of California system offers several financial aid awards specifically for graduate students and programs at UC San Diego, including Competitive Edge, the SEED Fellowship, and the Sloan Scholars Program.

Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant

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  • Amount: Up to $4,000
  • Deadline: Varies

The TEACH grant is a federal grant awarded to students pursuing graduate education in a TEACH Grant-eligible education field; recipients must teach for at least four years within a high-need education program after graduation as a condition of receiving the award.

OAR Graduate Student Grants

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  • Amount: $1,000 for master's students, $2,000 for doctoral students
  • Deadline: February 10, 2018

The Organization for Autism Research awards grants for students pursuing master's or doctoral degrees in autism research with plans to focus on research focusing on the daily challenges of the condition and the variances thereof.

Fulbright Grants

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  • Amount: Varies
  • Deadline: October 11, 2017

Sponsored by the U.S. government, the Institute of International Education offers Fulbright funding to students, scholars, teachers, and professionals engaged in graduate study, advanced research, and teaching programs.

California State University Grant

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  • Amount: $6,738 (full graduate tuition)
  • Deadline: March 2, 2018

The State University Grant (SUG) administered by California State University offers need-based awards to eligible graduate students who are California residents, have an expected family contribution (EFC) of $4,000 or less, and are not receiving a Cal Grant or other state-funded award.

Montana Academy of Sciences Student Research Grant

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  • Amount: Three grants up to $1,500 per award
  • Deadline: March 10, 2018

These research grants are offered to undergraduate and graduate students involved in scientific research at any state university, including four-year and Tribal Colleges and Universities.

Graduate School Diversity Enhancement Grant

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  • Amount: Up to $3,000
  • Deadline: April 15, 2017

With the purpose of promoting diversity at the graduate level at North Carolina State University, the Diversity Graduate Assistance Grant program offers up to four semesters of support to full-time minority applicants; exact award amounts per student are determined based on financial need.

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP)

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  • Amount: Varies
  • Deadline: Varies

The NSF awards Graduate Research Fellowships to students pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees within scientific and engineering fields. Applicants who demonstrate significant potential in their research can receive financial support for three years of their graduate study.

The Benefits of A Master's Degree

Decades ago, a master's degree was widely regarded as a luxury endeavor, reserved for students in traditional fields such as the arts or humanities and out of reach for many students aspiring to a working class career. Today, as the country regains its footing after the Great Recession, a master's degree is preferred by most employers spanning a wide variety of fields and industries. More than 20% of positions in the U.S. economy today prefer or require a graduate education. Among the many benefits of obtaining a master's degree in a practical field such as business, education, engineering or technology, master's degree graduates are typically eligible for higher paying jobs, earning an average of $12,000 more than those with a bachelor's degree each year. Candidates may also have access to more advanced positions and professional networking opportunities than their counterparts with an undergraduate education.

A growing number of online master's programs have also helped increase accessibility for all students, some of whom may have been otherwise limited by their location. Many schools have added online master's programs not only in lucrative fields such as business and education, but also in fast-growing areas like healthcare and STEM. Getting a master's degree online may be ideal for the cost-conscious student who still seeks the benefits of a graduate education. Applying for grants for graduate school may help offset the costs — often cheaper to begin with — of earning an online degree; distance programs may also offer shorter completion times and eliminate on-campus costs, allowing students to save more money and enter the workforce sooner.