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 degree 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. 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, if you enter a funded PhD program and complete your first 2 years of coursework, you could suspend your studies once you receive a Master’s with ABD (All But Dissertation) distinction. A retired Cornell professor clued me in to this.

Below are links to my ongoing series of articles on fully-funded PhD programs:

Fully Funded PhD Programs in Public Policy And Public Administration
Fully Funded PhD Programs in Education
Fully Funded JD and PhD Programs in Law
Fully Funded PhD Programs in Communications
Fully Funded PhD and MFA Programs in Creative Arts, Writing and Film
Fully Funded PhD Programs in International Relations and International Development
Fully Funded PhD Programs in Computer Science
Fully Funded PhD Programs in Business

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.

33 Responses to How to Fully Fund Your PhD

  1. historienne says:

    Your low end of the stipend is too low. I’ve seen 13-15K/year, even in fairly expensive parts of the country. These were humanities degrees, which may make a difference.

  2. Vicki says:

    Wow, that is low! But I suppose better than nothing. Haven’t seen much of a rise in PhD stipends in the past few years despite the rise in cost-of-living. Any thoughts on getting by on a $13K stipend?

  3. Madeleine says:

    The strategy specified in the last paragraph is frowned upon and is exactly why my university does not do a “walk through” masters option with its PhD students, and also why different courses are required for each program. And in my opinion, is not very ethical.

    For what it is worth, the minimum PhD stipend at my uni is $15k plus tuition and fees waiver. I am currently getting more, but I am funded by an external project and I also have to teach.

    • Vicki says:

      Many think it is unethical to make a commitment to do a PhD and stop at ABD, but there are some who choose this route because they cannot complete the dissertation for financial, professional or personal reasons. It would be interesting to hear from some who chose to stop at ABD.

  4. Antwi says:

    I from Ghana and have a BSc. Computer Science and Executive MBA degrees . I wish to pursue a Phd degree in a school where I will receive full funding. Could you please give any lead/advice on that eg. the school, Phd degree etc

  5. Vicki says:

    It takes a little research but there are several universities that offer full-funded to all of their PhD students in Computer Science: University of Birmingham (UK), Duke University (USA), University of Michigan, School of Engineering (USA), Brown University (USA),
    Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey (USA) and Columbia University (USA).

    Executive MBA normally do not normally offer funding or scholarships because students in these programs are working full-time in mid-management to executive level careers.

  6. anusha says:

    pls provide me the full funding US universities which offer phd in image processing field . what score is needed to join in those universities.Please provide me the information,

  7. Nigesh Kalorath says:

    Please help me to find any fully funded phd programme in psychology…

  8. namazipour sara says:

    How to Fully Fund Your PhD ?
    I have
    master of science, biotechnical and medical apparatus and system.
    kiev,national aviation university ,nau ,kiev.ukraine.
    ————————————
    Bachelor of science ,medical engineering.
    National technical university of ukrain , kiev polytechnic institute,
    ————————————

  9. Mohsen says:

    Is there any fully funded phd programme in religion?

  10. DANIEL KWADWO OWUSU says:

    l HAVE COMPLETED Msc In Mathematics at KNUST in Ghana

  11. Kennedy Osei says:

    i want to find out whether there are full funded scholarships for capacity building and Development program at phd level in any university

  12. shabnam says:

    hi. i dont know how i can find a good university with full-funded for biomedical engineering phd.
    thanks a lot.

  13. Laura says:

    Any information on fully funding doctorate in Education? I used to teach college and would love to go back and need a doctorate for that. Any information would help.

    Thanks

  14. leila says:

    I’m from Iran and right now I’m preparing my thesis on Teaching English.I would really like to know about American universcities I could get a full fund in.
    Please help me.

  15. Deblina says:

    Hey thank you for your article , but could you please provide some details regarding fully funded english phd courses?

  16. Gregory says:

    Please, I hold MSC In International Business from Coventry University,UK. I want to know if there are fully funded PHD in Business related area.

  17. Milad says:

    Hey Please list the universities that offer scholarships for PhD.

  18. Enieketin Celestine Eneware says:

    Please assist me to find a funded programme for a PHD in Sociolinguistics

  19. Lilian Okomo says:

    l want fully funded PHd in sports science. thanks.

  20. Ebenezer nortey says:

    i want fully funded PHD in fisheries management/science. thanks

  21. Rajeev Ranjan says:

    Hi,

    I want to do fully funded phd in ICT for Sustainable development. Can someone suggest a good university to pick up and how to avail funding.

    Thanks.

  22. fawad shaukat says:

    Is there any fully funded phd in engineering

  23. ojo sunday temitope says:

    Hi, I am looking for a fully funded phd program in biological and agricultural engineering. Any info will be highly appreciated.

  24. Samantha says:

    Hi,pls can I get information on PhD fellowships in control engineering in the USA or Canada? Thank you.

  25. Abdulrazaq Laro Yusuf says:

    I want fully funded PHD in mass communication

  26. Nega T. Bedanie says:

    Please reply me for I want you to assist me with my PhD funding. (Nega)

  27. Jasur says:

    I am a PhD student at University of balearic Islands in the field of Applied Economics.
    So I am looking grant for my PhD studies.
    Is there any grants or scholarships.
    Thank you very much beforehand.

  28. soumyashree says:

    i did M.Tech from Indian University.Are the GRE and TOEFL tests mandatory for PhD.
    i want to know the process of applying for PhD programs in USA.How can i apply for fully funded PhD degree in computer science and engineering?

    thanks.

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