Does a PhD cost money? [Price Data]

Doing a PhD can take a toll on your stress levels, mental health, and personal life. But, does it also wreak havoc with your bank balance? Entering into a PhD can be costly depending on where you do the PhD and how long you take to finish.

Yes, a PhD can cost money. In some countries, a PhD can cost up to $29,000 per term. In others, a PhD is often subsidised with a PhD stipend that pays for your living costs and tuition fees. In my experience, getting a scholarship is the best option for students.

Ensuring that you do not put yourself under too much financial stress during your PhD is very important.

In institutions where you get a stipend, you must make sure that the money goes as far as possible because it is quite often not very much money at all.

This article will go through everything you need to know about the cost of a PhD and provide you with some real-world figures for the amount of money you need to pay.

Average PhD Tuition costs

The average PhD tuition cost varies from country to country and university to university.

Here are the amounts of money you can spend at various institutions around the world. It is only a selection of universities available but will be able to draw some good conclusions from this small sample set.

UniversityCost
Stanford University$18,000+ per quarter
MIT$28,798 per term
Cambridge University$10,901 – 46,116 per year
Queen Mary University London$5337 per year
Rutgers University$9,348 – $15,408 per semester
Newcastle University$12,856 per year
Swansea University, UK$5226 per year
University of Auckland$4453 per year

When we look at the data in the above table, we can see various trends pop out including:

  • the United States of America is typically the most expensive place to do a PhD
  • the UK, Auckland, and Australia are between $4453 and $13,000 per year depending on the University.

Because every university reports its tuition costs differently it can be difficult to work out how much you will actually pay for your PhD in total.

In the United States of America, you will be paying much more for your PhD because your typical duration is over five years.

Degrees in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand are typically only three years in length for international students. There are some opportunities to extend your PhD if you needed for another year.

Domestic vs international/out-of-state students

Most universities have a two-tier system for pricing their postgraduate degrees.

If you are a domestic student doing a PhD in your own country or state the PhD cost is typically lower.

Universities charge more money if you are an out-of-state student or an international student.

Also, international students typically find it harder to find a fully funded PhD’s to offset the cost.

For example, in order to get my full international student fee waiver and scholarship at the University of Newcastle I had to apply with my supervisor and demonstrate that I had achieved the highest undergraduate and master’s degree possible.

The bar can be set higher for international students reaching out to a potential PhD supervisor or institution will help you understand the requirements for getting a fully funded PhD as an international student.

Prices are rising

It is becoming evident that the prices of education and obtaining a PhD is increasing.

A 2018 study looked at how much students pay for graduate and professional education.

It found that tuition and fees for in-state graduate students at public universities grew rapidly. It grew as much as 37% per year.

The study also found that the average tuition fees for in-state graduate students are public universities increased by approximately 30% between 2005 and 2011.

Given the trend of an ever-increasing price of a graduate education, it is likely that we will see these numbers only go up in the future.

You can often find scholarships and financial aid for a PhD program including a fully funded program.

Scholarships

In my experience, I have only ever seen PhD students with a full scholarship. All my academic experience was at an Australian university.

For example, the scholarship details from an Australian university states that a scholarship is available to students for the following amount of time:

A minimum of three years and up to a maximum of four years at a full-time student load, at the discretion of the University. For part-time students, a minimum of six years and up to a maximum of eight years at the discretion of the University.

It is very uncommon for Australian PhD students, and those in other countries such as the UK and New Zealand, to have to pay for their PhD education.

Universities can struggle to fund the amount of PhD students that have applied to their programs and some may miss out. It is common for PhD scholarships to be first offered to the students with the highest undergraduate and masters grades.

Besides the actual monetary cost of a PhD, there are a number of other factors that potential students need to take into account.

Other costs

There are plenty of other costs associated with doing a PhD.

A PhD is an activity that takes you away from other opportunities and commitments for multiple years.

Delaying participating in adult life or a career outside of academia in the early stages of your life can have a detrimental impact later on.

Plenty of my fellow students who did not pursue a PhD ended up with a much more fulfilling career and higher pay packets after only a few years in a professional career.

Opportunity costs

It is common to hear people say that you there are opportunity costs associated with doing a PhD.

A PhD will take up a large portion of your life and may consume much more of your time then you were expecting. You may miss out on opportunities related to networking, career growth, exposure to other skills and areas, as well as personal opportunity costs.

Nonetheless, there are many people who have done a PhD due to the extra experiences that it provides. It all depends on what you value the most and where you want to end up after your PhD as to the true opportunity cost of postgraduate research.

Delaying adult life

Another important aspect that needs careful consideration before taking on a PhD is the fact that it delays your participation in “adult life”.

If you decide to pursue a PhD it is likely that you will not decide to progress onto the next stages of life such as deciding on a career, marrying a spouse, and having children.

I know of plenty of academics who waited for stability in a more permanent job before committing to any of these life milestones.

For each year that you are doing a PhD you are not laying the foundations of the next stages of your life.

Depending on their priorities, this is a price that many people are willing to pay.

Time

Lastly, one of the biggest costs of a PhD is time.

Many people feel like a PhD can be a huge waste of time if it does not contribute significantly to post-doctoral life.

PhD’s can easily take an extra one or two years than desired.

However, spending a good chunk of time on an area of research that you consider important, interesting, and worthy of your time may be rewarding to you. Therefore, it is very important to choose a PhD subject area that you find interesting and worthy of low pay, and a significant number of years of your life.

Wrapping up

This article has been through everything you need to know about how much it PhD costs and other considerations beyond the monetary.

PhD’s can cost anywhere from US$4500 to US$72,000 a year.

The cost of a PhD varies wildly depending on the country in which you do your PhD, the institution that you have chosen and the number of years that it takes you to complete the qualification.