Taking your education to the next level after undergrad can not only help make your career dreams a reality, but it's also probably more affordable than you thought.

That’s because grad students in Canada can choose between a wide range of institutions and programs to suit their budget. There are also a lot of opportunities to help pay for this next level of education, many of which probably weren't available to undergraduates. From grants and scholarships to paid co-ops and teaching assistant positions, there's a lot of ways to pay for that next degree without breaking the bank.

Tuition fees

Before you figure out how you're going to pay for grad school, however, you first need to get a sense of what it's going to cost. During 2018-2019 academic year, the tuition for graduate students in Canada averaged $7,086, according to Statistics Canada.* That's about two and a half percentage points more expensive than the year prior, and about $250 more expensive than the average undergraduate tuition, but costs can vary widely depending on the institution, province and field of study.

For example, the most expensive graduate tuition in Canada is an executive MBA, which averages nearly $50,000, while a regular MBA program's tuition averages more than $30,000. The next most expensive programs are dentistry, averaging $13,343, followed by business, management and public administration at $11,323. But the tuition for a majority of programs fall between $5,000 and $10,000, while some like humanities, pharmacy and veterinary medicine average less than $5,000.

Tuition will also ultimately come down to where you want to spend the next chapter of your academic career. According to Statistics Canada, tuition fees range widely between provinces, with an MBA in Newfoundland and Labrador costing just $2,382 compared to Ontario's average of $44,759. A complete list of graduate tuition costs by institution is available through the Universities Canada website.

Other costs

While tuition is likely to be the most significant cost it's far from the only one. When preparing your graduate school budget, be sure to include the basics like living expenses, food and transportation, which will similarly range by province.

The University of Montreal, for example, lists typical living costs in the city totalling $1,225 per month, including housing, transportation, food and entertainment. The University of British Columbia pegs room and board at about $1,000 per month.

Statistics Canada also notes that most institutions require additional fees for athletics, student health services, and student associations, which averaged $875 per year for graduate students during the 2018-2019 school year.

Earn while you study

Once you have a sense of what your graduate degree is going to cost, you can begin figuring out exactly how you're going to pay for it. Fortunately, graduate students have opportunities to earn an income during their academic studies that likely weren't available to them as undergraduates. For example, teaching and research assistant positions as well as co-op programs offer students an opportunity to earn an income while gaining valuable work experience.

According to employment search engine Indeed, the average compensation for research and teaching assistant positions is about $20 per hour, while compensation for paid co-op programs will range depending on the employer.

Grants and scholarships

Most graduate students also have more opportunities to receive a scholarship, awards or grants than they did during their undergraduate studies. In fact, according to Statistics Canada, almost two-thirds of Canadian graduate students received non-repayable financial support, such as scholarships, tax credits, grants and awards.

That's because the federal, provincial and even municipal governments all offer bursaries to graduate students. There are also scholarship programs available through individual schools, private businesses and charitable foundations. Those interested in applying for a grant or scholarship in Canada should start by consulting an online database, such as Scholarships Canada, Student Awards, and the government of Canada's website.

Government student loans

Those who are unable to cover their tuition and living costs with grants, scholarships and bursaries can also apply for a government student loan.

In a majority of provinces residents can apply for student loans directly through the government of Canada's National Student Loans Service Center (NSLSC). Those based in Quebec, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, however, must apply through their local programs. Also students based in Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are eligible for both local and federal student loan programs.

Loan amounts vary based on province/territory, family income, tuition and living expenses, and whether the applicant has dependents or a disability. No matter the amount, payments begin six-months following graduation. Those who apply for a loan are also automatically considered for federal grants, which don't need to be repaid.

While financing your way through a graduate degree might seem like a challenge, that next step might not be as far out of reach as you thought.

Understanding how costs vary between provinces and institutions will help you pick the right program to suit your budget without compromising your ambitions. At the same time, taking advantage of grants, bursaries, student loans and on-campus or co-op work opportunities will go a long way in covering those costs and making that dream a reality.

Ready to get your finances on track for your future? Come in and speak to a Scotia advisor today