PAYING FOR YOUR PHD Expert Tips, Scholarships Opportunities and Resources for Financing an Advanced Degree

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The average yearly tuition for a PhD program is slightly above $16,000, which means students will invest about $80,000 in tuition fees alone for a five-year program. Add in fees, cost-of-living, travel expenses and the figure can easily surpass six figures. Yet, it is possible to fund a PhD program without breaking the bank and going into debt.

PHD COST BREAKDOWN

The value of a college education should not be understated, but neither should its actual cost. Earning a doctoral degree can be an expensive proposition. According to the latest data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the average tuition and fees for a graduate program of study was $16,435 in 2012-2013. The table below outlines the 2012-2013 graduate tuition and fees by academic institution.

Average Tuition and Fees
  • All Institutions $16,435
  • Public $10,408
  • Private Non-Profit $23,698
  • Private For-Profit $14,418

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

A rough calculation of the number of years it takes to complete a doctoral program, multiplied by the average 2012-2013 tuition and fees from the NCES, reveals the following total cost figures by academic field of study.

Academic Field Median Years to Completion Tuition
Education 11.7 $121,774
Humanities 9.2 $95,754
Social Sciences 7.7 $80,142
Life Sciences 6.9 $71,815
Engineering 6.6 $68,693
Physical Sciences 6.5 $67,652

A five- to six-figure education is something to take seriously as there are debt implications after leaving finishing a PhD program. Graduating doctoral students in 2013 left school with an average debt of just over $15,000, according to the National Science Foundation. By field, students in the Social Sciences, Education and Humanities graduate with the highest levels of student debt:

  • Education: $26,566
  • Social Sciences: $26,222
  • Humanities: $21,485

Conversely, the science and technology fields graduate students with the lowest debt figures:

  • Physical Sciences: $6,342
  • Engineering: $7,031
  • Life Sciences: $11,905
Field% of Students with no debt
  • Physical Sciences 78.2%
  • Engineering 75.1%
  • Life Sciences 67.2%
  • Humanities 48.4%
  • Social Sciences 46.5%
  • Education 44.1%

Source: National Science Foundation, Survey of Earned Doctorates, 2013

While these figures may seem alarming, a deeper dive into survey data from the National Science Foundation actually paints a more positive picture. Overall, more than 62 percent of all doctoral recipients graduate from school without a single dollar of debt.

Prospective students can use the table below to get a better sense of the percentage of students who take on debt at incremental levels in each field of academic study. A majority of students graduate with $10,000 or less in debt after finishing their doctoral degree.

PhD Cost Factors

The total cost of earning a doctoral degree is variable because of the sheer number of different factors involved. Tuition is not the only cost to consider when thinking about applying to a PhD program.

Tuition

Typically, students pay full tuition rates during their first three years of doctoral study and receive reduced tuition rates for the remainder of the program. However, the actual cost of tuition does vary and may be dependent on the student’s actual degree program.

Student Fees and Insurance

Graduate students pay a range of fees, with the most common including:

  • Health Services (access to health facilities on campus)
  • Health Insurance (personal health insurance)
  • Student Activity (subsidizes athletics and other clubs)
  • Student Recreation (access to recreational facilities on campus)

Some programs estimate students should be prepared to pay between $3,000 and $4,500 per academic year in student fees and health insurance costs.

Transfer Credits

Students with a master’s degree or coursework in a similar graduate program may be able to transfer credits into their doctoral program. That can lower the total number of credits required to graduate, which can lower the total cost of the degree. However, some institutions do limit the amount of tuition credits that can be applied for graduate work done in a related field at other institutions.

Books

Whether or not the student has an assistantship does not affect the cost of textbooks and other academic materials. Books are a revolving charge, one a student should plan upon each semester or quarter.

Living Allowance

Housing, utilities and food are considered indirect expenses students incur during their education. PhD students should plan on anywhere from $12,000 to $25,000 and up for living expenses each year. Again, this figure is highly variable based on the location of the university and the cost-of-living in that area.

Transportation

Owning a car means additional budgeting for insurance, car payments and gas. Additionally, students may need to travel for conferences and research. Without funding from a graduate student association or grant program, the student will have to cover these costs individually.

Associated Costs

PhD students with children may have to account for childcare costs. Purchasing a new computer and other supplies may also be required. This type of budgeting will vary from individual to individual, program to program.

Dissertation

Most PhD programs allow students to progress at their own pace, requiring them to complete and defend their dissertation within a certain time period (e.g. six years). However, the time it takes to complete a dissertation depends on the student, area of study, research, etc. This can impact cost of attending a doctoral program.

Example Cost of Attendance

A student’s budget should include the total cost of attendance—that is both direct (tuition and fees) and indirect costs (e.g. housing). This budget is the starting point for determining the student’s financial need, how much financial aid they require, and if they can afford to attend a doctoral program. Below is a sample five-year total cost of attendance chart based on an in-state tuition program, with a budget that assumes fixed costs for fees and indirect costs, such as housing. It also does not take into account assistantships and tuition waivers for assistants.

Based on a figure that’s slightly below the 2012-2013 average graduate tuition cost, the total cost of attendance can still produce sticker shock. An average student in a program that charges $12,000 per year in tuition could have to pay between $30,000 and $45,000 year in total costs.

Costs Year 1 Year 2 Year 3 Year 4 Year 5 Total Cost of Attendance
Tuition and Fees $12,654 $12,654 $12,654 $3,658 $3,658 $45,278
Health Fee $279 $279 $279 $279 $279 $1,395
Health Insurance $2,390 $2,390 $2,390 $2,390 $2,390 $11,950
Student Activity Fee $34 $34 $34 $34 $34 $170
Graduate Student Services Fee $15 $15 $15 $15 $15 $75
Student Recreation Fee $26 $26 $26 $26 $26 $130
Books and Supplies $1,300 $1,300 $1,300 $1,300 $1,300 $1,300
Housing and Utilities $14,578 $14,578 $14,578 $14,578 $14,578 $72,890
Food $7,275 $7,275 $7,275 $7,275 $7,275 $36,375
Personal/ Miscellaneous $1,600 $1,600 $1,600 $1,600 $1,600 $8,000
Transportation $3,154 $3,154 $3,154 $3,154 $3,154 $15,770
Total Cost of Attendance $43,305 $43,305 $43,305 $34,309 $34,309 $198,533

PhD FINANCIAL AID OPTIONS

Prospective PhD candidates have an abundance of financial aid options to help fund their graduate studies. Typically, students are fully funded by a combination of sources, including scholarships, fellowships, research assistantships, teaching assistantships, or student loans.

It is important for students to note that most sources of aid are awarded by individual academic programs, so they should follow-up with their department for up-to-date information.

Below is a high-level overview of the common types of graduate financial aid.

SCHOLARSHIP, GRANT, AND FELLOWSHIP SEARCH

Prospective PhD candidates can turn to a variety of funding sources, including scholarships, grants, and fellowships to support their education financially. As discussed, most students use a combination of one or more of these funding sources to finance their degree program and research.

Scholarships

PhD students can apply for a variety of scholarships that award students with funds that can be used to help cover the cost of tuition, books and other fees.

Grants

Grants are similar to scholarships and are academic-based awards that can be used to augment other sources of financial aid.

Fellowships

Fellowships are a different type of funding that may encompass a scholarship or grant and can be used to fund research, study and teaching in the US and internationally. Many fellowships provide full tuition and a yearly stipend to students.

A PhD should never be an end in itself but rather a means to an end. The path to a PhD is an arduous one and should never be undertaken without serious thought to what it will bring the student. That said, there is money available for graduate study in most fields, and a student in the humanities should be very careful to apply to appropriate programs which fund their grad students.

Lawrence Burns, PhD
Science, Mathematics And Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship for Service Program
Sponsor: US Department of Defense
Amount: Full tuition and annual stipend ($25,000 – $38,000)

The SMART program is designed to support graduate students studying in STEM disciplines and offers a range of other benefits, including supplies and health insurance allowances and employment placement services with the DoD after graduation.

National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship
Sponsor: US Department of Defense
Amount: Full tuition and monthly stipend

The National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship is a three-year graduate fellowship that is designed to support doctoral students across fifteen engineering disciplines.

National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Amount: Annual stipend of $34,000 and $12,000 cost of education allowance for tuition and fees.

This three-year fellowship program supports the research efforts of doctoral students in STEM-related fields of study and allows them to pursue their work at any accredited graduate program in the country.

Minority Fellowship in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
Sponsor: American Psychological Association
Amount: $22,032

Renewable award for graduate students enrolled in a full-time APA-accredited doctoral program of study in psychology. Underrepresented, minority students are encouraged to apply.

American Fellowships Dissertation Fellowships
Sponsor: American Association of University Women
Amount: $20,000

This fellowship is open to female scholars and is designed to help offset the doctoral student’s living expenses during her final year of working on a dissertation.

Elizabeth Munsterberg Koppitz Child Psychology Graduate Student Fellowship
Sponsor: American Psychological Association
Amount: $25,000

This fellowship is a single-year of funding that is designed to support the doctoral research of a student working in child psychology.

Jacob K. Javits Fellowship Program
Sponsor: US Department of Education
Amount: Full tuition and a stipend (approximately $30,000)

The Javits Fellowship is provided on a needs- and competitive-basis to graduate students pursing graduate degrees in the humanities, social sciences, and the arts.

Anna C. & Oliver C. Colburn Fellowship
Sponsor: Archaeological Institute of America
Amount: $5,500

Two fellowships are awarded to support doctoral students who plan to study at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, Greece for a year.

Richard M. Weaver Fellowship
Sponsor: Intercollegiate Studies Institute
Amount: $5,000 and Tuition Payment

The Richard M. Weaver Scholarship is open to graduate student members of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute and supports the academic work of scholars pursuing teaching careers at the college level.

AICPA Fellowship
Sponsor: American Institute of CPA’s
Amount: $12,000

The AICPA fellowship is designed for minority students pursuing or planning to pursue a doctorate in accounting.

John L. Carey Scholarship
Sponsor: American Institute of CPA’s
Amount: $5,000

Five scholarships are available to provide financial assistance to graduate students pursuing studies in accounting and plan on earning CPA licensure.

Sylvia Lane Mentor Fellowship
Sponsor: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association
Amount: $2,000 – $4,000

This fellowship provides financial support to female scholars conducting research and economic analysis into natural resource, food, or agricultural issues.

DOE NNSA Stewardship Science Graduate Fellowship
Sponsor: Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration
Amount: Full Tuition, $36,000 stipend, and $1,000 academic allowance for research or professional development

This renewable, four-year fellowship is designed to support a scholar’s work in the field of stewardship science: nuclear science, high density physics, and materials under extreme conditions and hydrodynamics.

National Physical Science Consortium Fellowship
Sponsor: National Physical Science Consortium
Amount: $20,000

This multi-year fellowship supports doctoral research in several fields, ranging from chemistry to geology, materials science to physics and connects fellows with NPSC employer partners.

NWRI Fellowship Program
Sponsor: National Water Research Institute
Amount: $2,000 – $15,000

The NWRI fellowship program is open to full-time doctoral students conducting water-based research in areas such as water quality, water treatment and technologies, water supplies and water resources.

Really think about your reasons for getting a PhD. Critically exam the support systems you have in place to get you through the journey: 50 percent of doctoral students suffer from depression. Utilize services like the counseling center on your college/university campuses to help you respond to the stressors that may occur with the transition.

Lawrence Burns, PhD

ASSISTANTSHIPS, FELLOWSHIPS AND LOANS

Graduate Assistantships

Graduate assistantships are a form of academic appointment and are provided by individual departments. Competitive in nature, they are typically awarded on the basis of the student’s academic accomplishments and potential in the graduate program of study. Most programs provide appointments for one year at time and students receive a tuition credit or waiver and monthly stipend. There are three types of assistantships: Teaching Assistantships, Assistant Lecturers, and Research Assistants.

Teaching Assistantships

Teaching assistants perform a range of support duties for faculty members at a university, including grading papers and teaching classes.

Assistant Lecturers

Lecturers may serve as instructors in the academic department where they are studying.

Research Assistants

Research assistants conduct and assist faculty members with research projects in the student’s area of interest.

Fellowships

Fellowships are short-term funding opportunities (typically 9- to 12 months) provided to students in the form of tuition credits and/or stipends. They support a student’s graduate study in their field of choice, may assist them in their research, or gain professional training in an area of interest. Fellowships are competitive and are available in two types: University-based and External.

University-based

Individual schools, colleges, and departments at a university (e.g. College of Science, Department of English) may have endowed fellowships. Students are either nominated for an award by their department or may be open to an application process.

External fellowships

External fellowships are funded by foundations, government agencies and other groups and provide opportunities to study both in the US and abroad. For example, the Department of Defense offers the National Defense Science & Engineering Graduate Fellowship to engineering students studying in one of sixteen engineering specialties.

Corporations

Many companies and businesses have created scholarship, fellowship, and tuition reimbursement programs for their employees. Depending on the company, there may be a possibility it supports the graduate school efforts of its employees. Speak to the Human Resources department to learn more about the potential funding avenues available.

Federal Student Loans

Graduate students may borrow funds from the federal government under two loan programs: William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program and the Federal Perkins Loan Program.

Direct Unsubsidized Loan Federal Perkins Loan
Loan eligibility Available to PhD student who are enrolled at least half-time. No need to demonstrate financial need. Doctoral students who are enrolled either part- or full-time, demonstrate financial need, and attend an approved institution that participates in the Federal Perkins Loan Program.
Interest rate Loans issued between July 1, 2015 and before July 1, 2016 will have a 5.84% interest rate for graduate students. 5%
Loan fees Loans issued between October 1, 2015 and before October 1, 2016 will have a 1.068% loan fee. None
Yearly borrowing limit $20,500 per year $8,000
Loan limit $138,500 and no more than $65,500 may be taken out in subsidized loans. This total also includes any loans secured during undergraduate study. $60,000, which includes loans secured as an undergraduate student.
Private Loans

Private financial institutions, including banks and credit unions, offer unsecured educational loans to graduate students. These loans must be repaid with interest. The interest rates, loan amount, and repayment terms are based on the credit worthiness of the borrower.

Federal Work Study

Federal work study provides students with demonstrated financial need part-time job opportunities that allow them to earn income while they are in graduate school. The program focuses on placing students in community service situations related to the student’s academic course of study. A majority of jobs are on-campus, but some schools may have some off-campus jobs with nonprofit agencies and other groups. It is important to note that some universities may not allow students to use their federal work study for tuition, but other related expenses (e.g. books, fees).

EXPERT SPOTLIGHT: Lawrence Burns, PhD

What should a future PhD student consider when selecting a program of   study? 

Speaking in the humanities, a student is best advised, I think, to select the faculty member with whom he or she wishes to study rather than simply a program. This faculty member becomes the student’s mentor, a relationship that lasts well beyond graduate school years. Because the mentor becomes the student’s primary reference, his or her standing in the field can and does have an impact on pre- and post-doctoral grants a student might win as well as on the student’s success on the academic job market.

It is a delicate balance though, because one must also look at programs that have standing in a particular field and at institutions that can afford to fund their PhD students throughout their graduate years.

Much is made about the saturation of PhD graduates and not enough   positions — both in academic and the private sector. Should that dissuade   a student from pursuing a PhD?

Yes, of course. Again, a PhD is not something that comes easily, and it should not be pursued without a reason for it. On the other hand, for students who are committed to their fields, and for whom that field is a career choice, the PhD is still the only way into the university job market. 

There is a catch-22 in the world of post-graduate education. Research universities need to turn out research, and researchers often depend on their grad students to assist them–in all fields–and departments on their PhD candidates to teach many undergraduate courses. PhD students are thus recruited regardless of the job market for the PhD holders.

The challenges in funding the PhD for me were less about how am I going to pay for this degree, but making the adjustment from being a full-time salaried employee to now, taking a significant pay cut to serve as a graduate assistant.

Darren Pierre, PhD

EARNING OUTLOOK FOR PHD STUDENTS

Potential career earnings should be a significant part of the discussion when considering whether or not to pursue a doctoral degree. Completing an advanced program of study could increase an individual’s earning potential with their current or future employers.

Research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals a direct correlation between educational attainment and career success—both in employment opportunities and annual salaries. Doctoral degree holders are some of the highest paid professionals in the country. The table below outlines the difference in earnings by degree level in 2014.

Educational Attainment Avg. Weekly Earnings Avg. Yearly Salary Unemployment Rate
Professional Degree $1,639 $85,228 1.9%
Doctoral Degree $1,591 $82,732 2.1%
Master’s Degree $1,326 $68,952 2.8%
Bachelor’s Degree $1,101 $57,252 3.5%
Associate Degree $792 $41,184 4.5%
Some College, No Degree $741 $38,532 6.0%
High School Diploma $668 $34,736 6.0%
Less Than a High School Diploma $488 $25,376 9.0%

source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Earnings and Unemployment by Educational Attainment

Professional AreaMedian Salary
  • Industry or Business $97,700
  • Government $82,000
  • Nonprofit Organizations $72,500
  • Other $70,000
  • Academia $60,000

Source: National Science Foundation, Survey of Earned Doctorates

In turn, prospective students should consider how their sacrifice of time and money will pay off when they embark in their careers. Some professional fields have a higher return on investment than others. A majority of PhD candidates endeavor to become tenured-track faculty members, but they should realize that academia is one of the lowest paying sectors for individuals with a doctoral degree.

A review of National Science Foundation survey information shows that the best paying professional areas for PhD graduates include Industry and Business—with an average salary of $97,700. At the bottom of the list? Academia.

MOST LUCRATIVE PHD CAREERS

So, which PhD degrees pay the best?

According to the NSF, business, economics, and engineering are consistently among the best earning academic fields regardless of industry. The following tables outline the highest paying academic fields by professional area of work after graduation.

AcademiaSalary
  • Business Management and Administration $110,000
  • Economics $82,000
  • Engineering $79,000
  • Health Sciences $70,000
  • Education $60,000
Industry or BusinessSalary
  • Business Management and Administration $135,000
  • Economics $115,000
  • Mathematics and Computer Information Sciences $115,000
  • Geosciences $110,000
  • Engineering $98,000
GovernmentSalary
  • Economics $112,500
  • Business Management and Administration $96,590
  • Engineering $96,500
  • Mathematics and Computer Information Sciences $95,300
  • Health Sciences $94,000
Nonprofit OrganizationsSalary
  • Business Management and Administration $105,000
  • Economics $100,000
  • Mathematics and Computer Information Sciences $100,000
  • Engineering $98,000
  • Health Sciences $98,000

At the occupational level, 2012 employment research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed the best paying doctoral career was Physicist ($109,600), followed by Astronomers ($105,410), and Engineering Professors ($94,130).

Overall, the top 10 most lucrative PhD careers include the following:

  • 1 Physicists $109,600
  • 2 Astronomers $105,410
  • 3 Engineering Professors $94,130
  • 4 Economics Professors $90,870
  • 5 Health Specialties Professors: $90,210
  • 6 Agricultural Sciences Professors $86,260
  • 7 Biochemists and Biophysicists $84,940
  • 8 Forestry and Conservation Science Professors $84,090
  • 9 Physics Professors $80,720
  • 10 Medical Scientists $79,930
Field of Study Academia Industry or Business Government Nonprofit organization Other
Agricultural sciences and natural resources $56,000 $80,000 $70,000 $67,000 NA
Biological, biomedical sciences $50,200 $80,000 $65,000 $60,000 $42,000
Business management and administration $110,001 $135,000 $96,590 $105,000 NA
Chemistry $48,000 $85,000 $70,000 $65,000 $55,000
Economics $82,000 $115,000 $112,500 $100,000 $100,155
Education $60,000 $80,000 $78,000 $75,500 $74,000
Engineering $79,000 $98,000 $96,500 $98,000 $62,500
Geosciences $59,000 $110,000 $75,000 NA NA
Health sciences $70,000 $90,000 $94,000 $98,000 $81,500
Humanities $50,000 $50,000 $77,250 $50,000 $53,500
Mathematics and computer and information sciences $60,000 $115,000 $95,300 $100,000 $52,000
Other non-science and engineering fields $57,000 $78,000 $85,000 $70,500 $62,000
Physics and astronomy $55,000 $95,500 $85,000 $90,000 NA
Psychology $55,000 $71,000 $65,000 $60,000 $61,000
Social Sciences $57,000 $81,000 $78,000 $70,000 $73,000

EXPERT SPOTLIGHT: Darren Pierre, PhD

How has earning a PhD impacted you personally and professionally?

Personally, the PhD was an incredibly introspective process. I believe for many, they go into the PhD thinking one thing, and come out transformed by the experience. I learned and grew personally in how I harness my self-worth, I grew professionally in my ability to humble myself and authentically listen to the feedback given about my work.

Professionally, I move with a greater level of confidence, I have more insight into my own potential in ways I could have never imagined, and all of that propelled me to write my book, The Invitation to Love.

Through your own experience, what are the biggest mistakes   prospective PhD students make when choosing and/or funding their PhD?

The biggest mistake that perspective students make is doing the degree for the wrong reason. If you are doing the degree for any other reason that self-motivated factors, you will falter. Doing the PhD to cover areas of insecurity, or low self-worth; doing the PhD for the prestige or title sake, those reasons will have you floundering and faltering when the psychological stressors being to weigh heavy.

Did you create a roadmap–financially or academically–to stay on track to   completing your PhD?

Absolutely, you have to have a plan and work that plan. Each Sunday, I would develop the week’s action plan, I would carve out everything from when I was doing assignments/research to when I would work out, everything was on a schedule so that even when the fog of the process set in, I had headlights (my schedule) that allowed me to drive consistently when the road ahead was hard to see.

PHD: BY THE NUMBERS

Doctoral education in the U.S. is a varied and broad system, one that has been growing in popularity. In the 2013-2014 academic year, more than 178,000 doctoral degrees were conferred to students nationally, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

In its survey of earned doctorates, the National Science Foundation learned the number of doctoral recipients increased by nearly 30 percent between 2003 and 2013.

The most popular academic areas of study were Engineering and the Physical Sciences.

Field Growth (2003 – 2013)
  • Engineering 69.80%
  • Physical Sciences 59.30%
  • Health Sciences 53.60%
  • Life Sciences 44.60%
  • Other 38.90%
  • Social Sciences 19.90%
  • Humanities 9.10%
  • Education -25.70%

Within the engineering and physical sciences disciplines, multiple sub-fields have been experiencing explosive interest and enrollments, with some programs (e.g. physics, materials science engineering) growing by more than 70 percent between 2003 and 2013.

Engineering Field Growth (2003 – 2013)
  • Other engineering 127.5%
  • Materials science engineering 86.5%
  • Aerospace, aeronautical, and astronautical engineering 74.5%
  • Mechanical engineering 70.5%
  • Electrical, electronics, and communication engineering 53.6%
  • Chemical engineering 46.0%
Physical Science Field Growth (2003 – 2013)
  • Computer and information sciences 119.1%
  • Mathematics 83.0%
  • Physics and astronomy 76.7%
  • Geosciences 28.8%
  • Chemistry 22.0%

According to NSF, the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields are the most popular doctoral areas of study.

Field Percent of Graduates (2013)
  • Life Sciences 23.3%
  • Physical Sciences 17.6%
  • Engineering 17.0%
  • Social Sciences 15.9%
  • Humanities 10.7%
  • Education 9.4%
  • Other 6.1%

Interestingly, slightly more than 56 percent of graduate students continue into a doctoral program in the same field as their master’s degree. Rates are highest in the humanities, engineering, and social sciences fields.

Field Related Master’s
  • Humanities 67.6%
  • Engineering 65.7%
  • Social Sciences 65.6%
  • Education 61.5%
  • All Fields 56.1%
  • Physical Sciences 53.4%
  • Life Sciences 35.5%

It requires approximately 7.5 years of study for the average graduate student to complete a doctoral degree after enrolling in graduate school. Education takes the longest — more than 11 years, while the physical sciences and engineering fields only require 6.5 to 6.6 years of study to complete.

Field Median Years to Doctorate
  • Education 11.7
  • Humanities 9.2
  • Social Sciences 7.7
  • All Fields 7.5
  • Life Sciences 6.9
  • Engineering 6.6
  • Physical Sciences 6.5

According to the NSF, the most common source of funding for doctoral students are teaching and research assistantships. The table below details the primary source of funding for students by academic area of study.

Field Primary Source of Funding
  • Life Sciences Fellowships/ Grants
  • Physical Sciences Research Assistantships
  • Social Sciences Teaching Assistantships
  • Engineering Research Assistantships
  • Education Own Resources
  • Humanities Teaching Assistantships
  • All Fields Research Assistantships

The following table includes a breakout of the primary funding source by major field of study, according the National Science Foundation.

Field Teaching Assistantships Research Assistantships Fellowships/ Grants Own Resources Employer Other
Life Sciences 11.6% 32.9% 41.1% 9.3% 3.0% 2.1%
Physical Sciences 27.7% 47.2% 18.8% 3.6% 1.6% 1.1%
Social Sciences 29.3% 17.7% 25.5% 24.4% 1.6% 1.4%
Engineering 7.9% 60.8% 21.4% 3.9% 3.4% 2.5%
Education 12.3% 15.7% 13.2% 47.4% 9.2% 2.3%
Humanities 42.4% 1.8% 33.2% 20.0% 1.4% 1.1%
All Fields 20.8% 32.0% 26.9% 15.4% 3.0% 1.8%

Source: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/sed/2013/data-tables.cfm

ADDITIONAL FINANCIAL AID RESOURCES

The ultimate financial goal of any PhD student should be to complete their program successfully and move into a professional career with as little debt as possible. The resources below are available to help students locate scholarships and other funding sources that can help make that goal a reality.

Unigo

Unigo offers a selection of financial assistance resources for graduate students, including a scholarship directory, a scholarship match tool, educational information on student loans and funding options, and more.

Scholarships.com

Scholarships.com is a website that provides a selection of financial aid information, including a searchable scholarship directory, insights into funding trends, financial aid calculators, and information about grants and fellowships.

Peterson’s

Peterson’s is an educational resource site that includes a searchable scholarship database, articles and advice columns, and a catalog of graduate school profiles.

FinAid.org

FinAid.org is an educational resource site that focuses on financial aid and offers information about student loans, federal financial aid, financing a doctoral education, and includes a scholarship search option.

Federal Student Aid

An office of the U.S. Department of Education, Federal Student Aid is the country’s largest provider of financial aid. Graduate students can learn about and pally for loans, grants, and work-study funds to pay for their doctoral education.

FastWeb

FastWeb is a financial aid-focused website that offers a searchable scholarship directory that allows students to focus their search to their major area of study, work experience, and personal and professional activities.

Chegg

Chegg is an online educational portal that not only offers used textbooks, but a scholarship database as well.