PhD student salary – How much cash will you get?

When considering starting a PhD you need to think about how much you will get as a PhD student at a minimum. Ideally, you would be fully funded so that you could focus 100% on your studies.

A PhD student salary ranges from US$17,000 a year (New Zealand) all the way up to US$104,000 a year (Austria). The amount you need depends significantly on the living costs of a particular country. Places like the Netherlands, Finland, Denmark and Sweden have the highest living cost ratio.

Generally speaking, you can expect to receive a modest stipend for living expenses as well as tuition assistance.

In 2007 my PhD stipend was AU$20,000 (approximately US$13,000). At the time, this was enough for me to live comfortably and save a little bit of money as well.

As the cost-of-living increases PhD student salaries are being stretched to their limits.

Here is data for a range of countries ordered by the best living ratio the higher. The living to cost ratio the further the stipend goes. Data was collected from and Numeo.

CountryStipend (USD)Living costs without rent (USD)Living/cost ratio
New Zealand16898108511.6

In the US, most PhD students make between $20,000 and $45,000 per year. Some more prestigious programs may offer higher salaries.

Salaries vary by institution and field of study, so you should check with your school’s department to find out what kind of compensation they offer.

Additionally, many universities provide additional funding opportunities such as research grants or teaching assistantships that can help supplement your income. While you may not get rich off of a PhD student salary, it is possible to make enough money to cover basic needs while continuing your studies.

What Are PhD Student Salaries?

PhD students don’t necessarily get “salaries”.

Full-time doctoral students are typically paid a stipend which is usually a fixed amount that covers living expenses as well as tuition.

Other forms of financial support may include fellowships, grants and teaching or research assistantships.

In addition to monetary compensation, PhD students may also receive health insurance and other benefits such as free housing or childcare services. Many universities also offer career counselling services for their PhD students in order to help them find jobs after graduation.

Ultimately, PhD student salaries can vary greatly and it’s important to consider all factors when evaluating PhD offers.

Countries offering Highest PhD stipends in the World

There are a variety of countries that are better at funding PhD students than others. Check out my YouTube video which goes through the countries with the highest PhD stipend and how you can boost yours.

Here is a quick rundown of other benefits if you are considering doing a PhD abroad.


As an international student, you may be considering studying for a PhD in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is home to some of the top universities in Europe and offers a wide range of PhD programs. In addition, the Dutch government offers a number of scholarships and grants for international students.

I’ve done some research and found that the average salary for a PhD student in the Netherlands is around US$74163 per year. This figure is before any additional income from grants or scholarships. So, if you’re planning on studying for a PhD in the Netherlands, it’s important to bear in mind that you’ll need to budget for living costs on top of your tuition.


Every year, the Swiss Confederation and Swiss National Science Foundation award scholarships to international postgraduate researchers who desire to pursue their PhD in Switzerland. It’s home to some of our planet’s most stunning landscapes and among its brightest minds.

Switzerland is known for its degrees in business, is home to some of the best institutes of technology, and is a world leader in finance and banking.


Sweden is a well-developed and prosperous country with a strong tradition of academic excellence.

Swedish universities are consistently ranked highly in international rankings, making it an attractive destination for students from all over the world.

PhD students in Sweden can expect to receive a competitive stipend to help cover living costs during their studies. About USD$42618 per year, according to my research.

In addition, there are a number of scholarships and grants available to help cover the costs of tuition and other expenses.


Denmark is one of the top countries in the world for research and development, making it an attractive prospect for PhD students. The country offers generous stipends to PhD students, with no additional fees for being a student. The average PhD stipend in Denmark is around US$53,436 per year.


Norway is one of the countries offering a high PhD stipend. The average PhD stipend in Norway is around US$50,268 per year. PhD students in Norway also benefit from a high quality of life, as the country is regularly ranked as one of the best places to live in the world.

If you are considering pursuing a PhD, Norway should definitely be on your list of potential countries to study in.

Things to consider for PhD stipends

Before you settle on your PhD there are a few things to consider about your stipend.

Things such as industry top ups can significantly increase your earning potential as a PhD student and looking at the living costs in a particular country as well as the particular terms and conditions for your PhD stipend will mean you do not end up being shortchanged.

Industry Top-ups

One of the best ways that I have seen PhD students earn more money and raise their minimum salary is by looking for industry supported PhD positions and top ups.

For example, while I was on AU$20,000 a year, one of my colleagues in the department was on AU$60,000 a year and was guaranteed a job after their PhD. They had a top up scholarship from an industry partner sponsoring their battery research.

Looking for these opportunities may help you earn significantly more money during your PhD.

Living costs

Quite frankly, PhD living costs vary dramatically from country to country and city to city. European countries may have a relatively high PhD stipend but the living costs are also higher.

The best way to determine the buying power of your PhD scholarship is to consider it in terms of the living costs. The best way to do that is with the living cost index.

Here are the best countries to get a PhD stipend relative to the cost of living. The higher the living ratio the better.

CountryLiving ratio
New Zealand1.6

You can see that Austria tops this list and many of the Scandinavian countries also are high on the list. Places like Ireland and New Zealand are one of the worst places to do your PhD if you want your stipend to go a long way.

Length of the PhD

In countries like the United States of America, the PhD system means that you need to do a 5 to 7 year PhD. This significantly increases the amount of time that you will spend in university and, therefore, your earning potential will be limited for a longer amount of time.

I chose to do my PhD in Australia because it would only take me three years as an international student. Choosing a PhD with a shorter timescale from the UK, Australia, New Zealand or European countries may be best for you.

Terms and conditions

Lastly, it is important to scrutinise the terms and conditions of your PhD stipend.

Some stipends do not allow students to get a second job which significantly limits their full-time earning potential. Other places, do not put any restrictions on their PhD students even with a full scholarship.

If you want to know more about earning more money during your PhD check out the two articles below.

How to Get a PhD Stipend

To get a stipend, you will need to apply for funding through the university or other organizations offering scholarships and grants.

Be sure to carefully read through all requirements of the application process and submit all necessary documents, such as transcripts, essays, recommendation letters and financial aid forms.

You may also need to show proof of academic excellence, such as high grades or awards. For example, I was required to achieve a first class masters before being able to access any funding from a foreign university.

Once accepted, you will usually receive a monthly payment from the organization as well as tuition assistance. Additionally, many universities offer research assistantships which provide students with an opportunity to gain hands-on experience in their field while earning money at the same time.

With dedication and hard work, obtaining a PhD stipend can help reduce some of the financial burden associated with higher education.

Wrapping up

This article has been through everything you need to know that PhD student salaries and giving you some real-world numbers on what you can expect in different countries.

The real important value is the living cost ratio to ensure that your PhD stipend goes as far as possible and is not eaten up quickly by rent, food, and other basic necessities.

It is possible for PhD students to not only live comfortably but also put some money aside if you are very careful about choosing a PhD with a full stipend and looking for other opportunities to top up the money with industry partnerships and other grants.

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.