Do PhD Students Get Paid? Phd Stipend, Salary, Research Grants

When starting your journey into earning a PhD, one of the biggest questions would be the funding. Will you make enough to support yourself throughout the study period? On top of that, there are also issues such as study fees to think about. 

In this post, we explore if PhD students get paid, and if these income are enough to support you throughout your studying period.

Do PhD Students Get Paid? 

In short, yes. Many PhD students actually receive some form of financial help, although the question of “how much” is more complex. 

The most common forms PhD students get paid are either through a stipend, or some form tuition waivers.

PhD Stipend & Salary

PhD stipends are a form of financial support, not a salary. They are primarily designed to cover living expenses, allowing students to focus on their dissertation without the need for a part-time job. It may not make sense to consider these stipend as a fully salary.

PhD programs often provide stipends through teaching or research assistantships. As a teaching assistant, you usually help in:

  • Administering or coursework,
  • Running seminars, or
  • Assisting faculty members. 

Research assistantships, on the other hand, align more closely with your field of study, offering hands-on experience in paid research.

The amount of these stipends can vary depending on the field of study and institution. These stipends can range from enough to live modestly to higher amounts in top universities or private companies.

For example, STEM fields generally offer higher stipends due to larger research grants.

Tuition Waiver

In some universities or countries, PhD students may not get any stipend, or allowance. Instead, they get tuition waivers as a form of financial help.

Essentially, these waivers mean that PhD students often don’t pay for their coursework. This can come as a relief, especially when tuition costs are not very high, up to thousands of dollars annually. 

Why do universities offer this? It’s to attract the best candidates and make doctoral education more accessible.

For instance, in STEM fields, where research is heavily funded, tuition waivers are almost a given. This also applies to the social sciences, though the extent of waivers might vary depending on funding availability.

In addition to tuition waivers, some generous universities and countries may also top this up with a stipend. This stipend is meant to cover living expenses, allowing students to focus on their dissertation rather than worry about financial strain.

It’s important to note that while stipends help with living costs, tuition waivers remove the burden of tuition fees entirely. There are also funders that will pay for even things such as books, clothing, thesis, or publication costs.

International students particularly benefit from tuition waivers, as they face higher tuition rates. Coupled with a stipend, these waivers make pursuing a PhD in a foreign country more feasible.

Do PhD Students Earn Enough To Live?

This depends on various factors, including the field of study, location, and the university’s funding structure.

However, you may assume while PhD students don’t get rich from their stipends, most find them sufficient to live on, especially when combined with tuition waivers and assistantships.

The key is understanding the financial package offered by your PhD program and planning accordingly.

PhD students typically receive financial support in the form of a stipend. This stipend is meant to cover basic living expenses, allowing you to focus on your dissertation. The amount varies widely.

For instance, stipends in STEM fields can be higher, owing to larger research grants. In contrast, stipends in the social sciences might be lower, reflecting the funding landscape of these areas.

In addition to stipends, many PhD students receive tuition waivers. This means you’re not paying out of pocket for your coursework, significantly reducing your financial burden. This is especially helpful for international students who often face higher tuition rates.

PhD students often supplement their income with teaching or research assistantships. These positions not only offer financial aid but also provide valuable academic experience. Assistantships typically cover a portion of tuition or provide a stipend, further easing financial stress.

The cost of living in the university’s location plays a crucial role. In cities with a high cost of living, stipends might not stretch as far, whereas in more affordable areas, you might find it easier to cover your expenses.

For a more concrete example, a PhD student in a European country or Middle East might receive a tax-free stipend, which is generally enough to live modestly but comfortably. Contrast this with a student in a high-cost city in the U.S., who might need to find additional income sources.

Can International Students In A PhD Program Earn Money?

If you are an International PhD student, you may wonder if you can earn money while pursuing your studies. The answer largely depends on the regulations of the host country and the specific terms of their visa.

In many countries, international PhD students are allowed to work, but there are restrictions on the number of hours they can work per week.

In the United States, international students on an F-1 visa can work up to 20 hours per week during academic terms and full-time during breaks.

In the UK, the rules are similar for students on a Tier 4 visa. These regulations are designed to ensure that work doesn’t interfere with the primary purpose of their stay, which is education.

Apart from part-time jobs, many international PhD students earn money through teaching or research assistantships offered by their universities. These positions not only provide financial support but also valuable experience in their field of study.

Assistantships typically involve assisting professors with teaching undergraduate courses or participating in research projects.

Additionally, some international students receive stipends as part of their PhD program. These stipends are intended to cover living expenses and are a common form of financial aid in graduate studies. However, it’s important to note that the availability and amount of stipends can vary widely between programs and institutions.

For those who need additional financial support, applying for scholarships, fellowships, or grants specific to international students can be a viable option. These forms of financial aid can provide substantial support, though they often come with their own set of requirements and limitations.

How To Earn More Money As A PhD Student?

Earning more money as a PhD student can be challenging, but there are several ways to supplement your income:

  1. Teaching Assistantships: Many universities offer teaching assistant roles to PhD students. These positions typically involve assisting professors with undergraduate classes, leading discussion sections, or grading assignments.
  2. Research Assistantships: If your field of study aligns with funded research projects at your university, applying for a research assistant position can be a lucrative option. These roles involve assisting with research, which can also contribute to your dissertation.
  3. Fellowships and Grants: Applying for fellowships and grants can provide additional funding. They can be sourced from university departments, private foundations, or government agencies.
  4. Part-Time Work or Consulting: Depending on your visa status and university regulations, you might be able to take up part-time work or consulting gigs in your field. This can be especially profitable in STEM fields, where technical expertise is in high demand.
  5. Freelancing or Online Tutoring: Utilise your academic skills by freelancing or online tutoring. Platforms that cater to academic writing, data analysis, or subject-specific tutoring can be excellent sources of additional income.

PhD Students Do Earn Money, But Just Enough

While PhD students don’t receive traditional salaries, they often get financial support through stipends, assistantships, and fellowships.

These funds are designed to cover living expenses and tuition, making it feasible to pursue doctoral studies without significant financial strain. The amount varies by field and location, but generally, it’s enough to live modestly.

Ultimately, while PhD students aren’t earning hefty salaries, the support provided is a critical investment in their academic and professional development.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.