Sixty percent of students who completed a master’s degree in 2015–16 had student loan debt, either from undergraduate or graduate school. Among those with student loan debt, the average balance was $66,000.[i] But there are many types of master’s degrees. How did debt levels vary among specific degree programs? And how have debt levels changed over time? You can find the answers, for both master’s and doctorate degree programs, in the Condition of Education 2018.
Between 1999–2000 and 2015–16, average student loan debt for master’s degree completers increased by:
- 71 percent for master of education degrees (from $32,200 to $55,200),
- 65 percent for master of arts degrees (from $44,000 to $72,800),
- 39 percent for master of science degrees (from $44,900 to $62,300), and
- 59 percent for “other” master’s degrees[ii] (from $47,200 to $75,100).
Average loan balances for those who completed master of business education degrees were higher in 2015–16 than in 1999–2000 ($66,300 vs. $47,400), but did not show a clear trend during this period.
Between 1999–2000 and 2015–16, average student loan debt for doctorate degree completers increased by:
- 97 percent for medical doctorates (from $124,700 to $246,000),
- 75 percent for other health science doctorates[iii] (from $115,500 to $202,400),
- 77 percent for law degrees (from $82,400 to $145,500),
- 104 percent for Ph.D.’s outside the field of education (from $48,400 to $98,800), and
- 105 percent for “other (non-Ph.D.) doctorates[iv] (from $64,500 to $132,200).
While 1999–2000 data were unavailable for education doctorate completers, the average balance in 2015–16 ($111,900) was 66 percent higher than the average loan balance for education doctorate completers in 2003–04 ($67,300).
For more information, check out the full analysis in the Condition of Education 2018.
By Joel McFarland
[i] The average balances in this analysis exclude students with no student loans.
[ii] Includes public administration or policy, social work, fine arts, public health, and other.
[iii] Includes chiropractic, dentistry, optometry, pharmacy, podiatry, and veterinary medicine.
[iv] Includes science or engineering, psychology, business or public administration, fine arts, theology, and other.