A few years ago when I first began looking at Master’s and PhD programs, I wasn’t aware that many universities fully fund their doctoral students. Full funding normally includes full tuition and a stipend for living expenses for the four to six years a student is in the doctoral program. Because I didn’t know this, I considered a PhD impossible and pursued a Master’s instead, taking out both a federal and private loan to fund my studies.
I learned of fully funded doctoral programs while looking for fellowships for others, and I was very fortunate to enter a PhD program last year at Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand that is fully funding my studies. I never would have considered Massey University previously if I had to pay for my doctoral studies.
In most cases, finding and entering a doctoral program with full funding is easier that winning a competitive external doctoral fellowship, like the Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowship. Not only are these external fellowships more competitive, but often they only fund the 3rd, 4th and 5th year of your PhD study, when you are completing your dissertation research. Therefore, when considering a doctorate, research all the potential PhD programs in your academic field, including small and lesser-known schools both in the U.S. and abroad, and ask the admissions office if they fully fund every admitted student. This may have a major impact on the schools you consider applying to.
Just a small sample of PhD programs that are fully-funded:
All PhD students at Columbia University get full funding. Columbia has particularly strong programs in medicine and sciences, as well as public administration and policy.
Boston College’s Department of Psychology offers a four- to five-year, full-time, fully-funded, research-oriented doctoral program. The ratio of faculty to doctoral students is approximately 1 to 1.
Students admitted Duke University’s PhD program in Military History receive multi-year funding packages from the graduate school, including tuition waivers, a stipend, and a teaching assistantship or gradership.
Most doctoral students in the University of Michigan’s College of Engineering doctoral program are admitted under a policy of full support. Doctoral students admitted with financial support who enter with a master’s degree will receive four years of guaranteed support as long as standards are achieved and milestones are met.
One thing to keep in mind is that “full funding” may be substantially less than what you are earning in the private sector and is likely not enough to support a family. Yearly stipends normally range from $18,000 – $30,000. Smaller cities have lower costs of living, so another major factor in your consideration should be location.
Some people also consider fully funded doctoral programs to fund a Master’s degree. While frowned upon in academia for obvious reasons, you could enter a funded PhD program, complete your first 2 years of coursework, and suspend your studies once you receive a Master’s with ABD (All But Dissertation) distinction. A retired Cornell professor clued me in to this. But you didn’t hear it from me!
Also sign up to check our fellowships database to learn about other opportunities to fund graduate and doctoral study.
© Victoria Johnson 2013, all rights reserved.
Paideia, the European Institute for Jewish Studies in Sweden, educates leaders for Europe – academicians, artists and community activists – towards fluency in Jewish sources. The Institute offers a one year Jewish Studies Program, dedicated to the study and interdisciplinary interpretation of Jewish textual sources, and some students are supported on Paideia’s One Year Fellowship in Jewish Studies. Fellows spend eight months at Paideia in Stockholm, Sweden with the possibility of completing a Master in Jewish Civilizations at the Hochschule für Jüdische Studien in Heidelberg, Germany. The fellowship includes student tuition, student accommodation and a monthly stipend towards living costs.
The Jewish Studies program offers a combination of traditional textual study methodology (hevruta), an academic and critical approach to interpretation, and an applied dimension answering to contemporary needs, making it a unique program. The program also includes language study in Hebrew Ulpan, taught four hours a week on three different levels. The amount of Hebrew studies is equivalent to one semester of exclusive full-time study.
Applications are due March 1 and prior study experience in Jewish texts or Hebrew is not required.
Want to work abroad for 2 years in the U.K.? Every year the Newton International Fellowships Scheme sponsors 40 of the very best early-career post-doctoral researchers from all over the world to enable them to work at UK research institutions. These post-doctoral fellowships are for researchers in all disciplines covered by The British Academy and Royal Society – physical, natural and social sciences, and the humanities.
The fellowship program even has a fantastic alumni scheme that provides further funding for Newton Fellows for up to 10 years for follow-on activities, to enable links with U.K.-based researchers to be maintained and developed. This is expected to facilitate, in the longer term, improved access to international centres of excellence for UK-based researchers.
The current round for applications is open until April 10, 2013. Results will be announced at the end of October. Read here for more information.
The Woodson Institute’s Residential Fellowship Program at the University of Virginia is designed to provide pre-doctoral and post-doctoral researchers focussed on African-American and African studies the ideal environment for writing dissertations and manuscripts. Woodson Fellowships focus on applicants whose research is substantially completed in order to provide them with the maximum amount of time to complete their dissertations and manuscripts within the fellowship term. Woodson Fellows have access to one another, as well as the large intellectual community at the University of Virginia, to discuss and exchange works-in-progress.
The Woodson Fellowship has a track record for making an impact in diversifying the faculty ranks and academic topics related to the African diaspora at universities all across the United States. Many Woodson Fellows have gone on to gain academic positions at universities such as The University of California, Berkeley; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the University of Michigan; and Princeton University.
Quotes from recent Woodson Fellows:
“In many of my job interviews, my potential employers spoke highly about the national reputation of the fellowship program and often commended me on securing such a competitive fellowship.”
“I was also in a better position than a lot of these candidates, precisely because I had had that invaluable, uninterrupted time to deepen my argument and, consequently, grow more articulate about it and more confident as a scholar.” Read more
Woodson Fellowships are for two years, pay an annual stipend of $20,000, and include health insurance and many other benefits. The pre-doctoral fellowships and post-doctoral fellowships have different requirements and responsibilities. Please visit the website for full details.
- Fully Funded PhD Programs in International Relations and International Development
- Fellowships For African-American Students Exploring Pastoral Ministry
- Fully Funded PhD and MFA Programs in Creative Arts, Writing and Film
- Fully Funded PhD Programs in Education
- Fully Funded PhD Programs In Public Policy And Public Administration
On the theme “Border-to-Border: Mexico-United States-Canada,” $30,000 Comparative Border Studies fellowships will be awarded to post-docs to be in-residence at the School of Transborder Studies on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus for the academic year.
The Comparative Border Studies program at ASU is a unique research initiative designed to bring scholars, artists, and the public together to discuss and debate issues pertaining to geopolitical borders. The heart of Comparative Border Studies will be the events and speaker series that explore a range of topics such as security, immigration, wealth creation and economic development, trade relations, health and environmental management, cultural production, and bicultural/binational education.
- CFR Seeking Applicants: 2012-2013 Stanton Nuclear Security Fellowship
- Specialty Fulbright Grants: Cynthia Villamizar On Fulbright Mexico’s Binational
- Traveling To Tajikistan: Tales And Tips From Fulbright Scholar Hillary Evans
- Fully Funded PhD Programs in International Relations and International Development
- Google Policy Fellows Fight for Internet Accessibility and Open Government
Join the crowd
Our step-by-step guide for a competitive fellowship application
1. Create a plan
2. Project proposal ideas
3. Talk to current / former fellows
4. Prepare an effective resumé
5. Find a host institution
6. Write a compelling personal statement
7. Prepare a strong project proposal
8. Get great recommendation letters (P1)
9. Get great recommendation letters (P2)
10. Nail the individual and group interviews