PAY UP TO MOVE UP

A master’s degree can add thousands of dollars to your salary, but future prospects don’t immediately translate into the upfront cash you need to cover MBA costs. Here are your options:

Employer Help. About half of master’s degree students depend on some assistance from their employers — but it sometimes comes with a price. Expect to give a year of service, post-graduation, for every year of schooling paid.

Scholarships. “There aren’t very many scholarships for MBAs, but there are some, so definitely try a search of the FastWeb database,” suggests Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of the well-regarded FinAid Web site. The free FastWeb site will list aid sources that fit your profile.

Loans. It’s much easier for a master’s student than for an undergrad to finance a degree with debt. The federal government offers Stafford loans of $8,500 per year — with a possible expansion to $18,500 for certain cases — and private loan programs will often step in to make up the difference.

Creative Options. With a relatively new “investment” program, MyRichUncle, a group of investors will put up cash in return for a percentage of your future wages. Students sign a contract promising a percentage of their salary (never more than 15%) for 10 to 15 years after graduation. “It’s an interesting alternative to loans, especially for those who fear debt,” Kantrowitz says.