How to Fully Fund Your PhD

Mar 12, 2012 • Views 603,731

Last updated January 1, 2018

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. In most cases, doctoral students are expected to serve as graduate teaching or research assistants in exchange for the awards. This responsibility is typically complementary to your PhD research and provides students with teaching experience.

Fully Funded PhD Programs
Because I wasn’t aware of full funding opportunities, 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 at Massey University in Wellington, New Zealand that fully funded my studies. I wouldn’t have considered pursuing a PhD 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 fellowship or scholarship, 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.

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.

The Joint Program in Social Work and Social Science at the University of Michigan gives all incoming doctoral students a multi-year funding package. This is a package of fellowship awards, graduate student research assistant positions, and graduate student instructorships that covers tuition, stipends, and health care.

One thing to keep in mind is that a PhD stipend may be substantially less than what you are earning in the private sector. Yearly stipends normally range from $18,000 – $30,000. Small cities and towns have lower costs of living, so another major factor in your consideration should be location.

Below are links to my ongoing series of articles on fully funded PhD programs (these articles are regularly updated):

Fully Funded PhD Programs in Accounting
Fully Funded PhD Programs in Biomedical Engineering
Fully Funded PhD Programs in Business
Fully Funded PhD Programs in Chemistry
Fully Funded PhD Programs in Communications
Fully Funded PhD Programs in Computer Science
Fully Funded PhD and MFA Programs in Creative Arts, Writing and Film
Fully Funded PhD Programs in Economics
Fully Funded PhD Programs in Education

Fully Funded PhD Programs in English
Fully Funded PhD Programs in History
Fully Funded PhD Programs in International Relations and International Development
Fully Funded JD and PhD Programs in Law
Fully Funded PhD Programs in Linguistics
Fully Funded PhD in Mathematics
Fully Funded PhD Programs in Machine Learning
Fully Funded MD-PhD Programs (Medicine)
Fully Funded PhD Programs in Neuroscience
Fully Funded PhD Programs in Pharmacology
Fully Funded PhD Programs in Psychology
Fully Funded PhD Programs in Public Health
Fully Funded PhD Programs in Public Policy And Public Administration
Fully Funded PhD Programs in School Psychology
Fully Funded PhD Programs in Social Work
Fully Funded PhD Programs in Sociology

Also see:

Fully Funded PhD Positions in Germany
Master’s or PhD? My Advice – Follow the Funding
Fellowships to Fully Fund a Master’s Degree

For application tips, see:

How to Get Into a Fully Funded PhD Program: Contacting Potential PhD Advisors
3 Tips for Applying to Fully Funded PhD Programs

With or without full funding, doctoral students are encouraged to apply for fellowships to fund their dissertation research. Sign up to check out our fellowships database to learn about other opportunities to fund graduate and doctoral study.

© Victoria Johnson 2013-2017, all rights reserved.

76 thoughts on “How to Fully Fund Your PhD”

  1. 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. 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. 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.

    1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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,
    ————————————

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

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

  10. 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

  11. 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.

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

  13. 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.

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

  15. 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.

  16. Is it necessary to write both TOEFL and GRE to get full funded PhD program.??? Please give me the necessary details about it… Thank you…

    1. Hi Joseph, it depends on the program. Most U.S. programs require both the TOEFL and GRE for admission. Programs outside the U.S. may have different requirements.

      1. Sir, i have completed my M.Sc in Biotechnology in May 2014. I am planning to do PhD in California…. Sir, i got my TOEFL score and its only 68/120. When i asked them that i am ready to retake the test, then they are telling that there is no point in retaking the exam, as the average of the two scores is considered. I need minimum 104/120 inorder to fund my PhD… So now they have asked me to write GRE exam…So how much should i score for GRE????…. Sir, could please tell me about retaking of TOEFL exam?? For how many times we can take the exam??? And which score is been considered???

  17. Vicki, thanks for your thoughts and observations. Josna, a lot of it comes down to the specific program you’re applying for. I was fully funded for my MA and PHD programs at the University of California Santa Barbara. For smaller programs your acceptance is dependent on a professor willing to work with you. My research interests aligned with a professor and we communicated before I applied. The professor then “represented” me at the admissions meeting and asked that I be accepted. So my GRE scores and GPA were taken into consideration (all were high) but it was the professional relationship that helped. At the end of the day they want to make sure you’ll be a good fit in the program.

    For the GRE I’ve heard that you should only take it once unless you really mess up and think you could do a lot better the second time. If you submit one bad test score you can at least make the argument that you just had a bad day. However if you submit two bad test scores then they’ll know for sure you can’t get a good score.

  18. Hi, I got a doctoral offer from Baylor University. It’s not fully funded but the tuition fee is waived off and there are various assistantships that the university offers which will allow me fund my living expenses. However, I wont receiving a stipend in the initial semester. Please share any similar experiences. What are the chances of receiving assistantships?

    1. It really depends on your field. In the sciences you have a pretty good chance of getting an assistantship – there’s a lot of funding available for medical research, for example, relative to other fields – but you should definitely call and ask.

  19. I will start a Ph.D. program this fall. I have already obtained verbal confirmation of my teaching assistantship (from the program director); however, I will receive the official offer letter in a few days. I will be moving across the country; thus, I’m wonder if any one knows what I can expect to receive for a yearly stipend. I am looking at housing options as graduate level students are not allowed to stay on campus. The university is located in a very large metropolitan city with an exceptionally high cost of living. Any insight would be extremely helpful as I plan my transition…. Thanks in advance! 🙂

    1. Your stipend will cover the cost of living but it won’t be a lot of money. I’d recommend calling the program director and asking how much money you will receive. This is not rude, for some reason many grad students seem to feel embarrassed to talk about this but it is not rude to ask. Congratulations and good luck! 🙂

  20. I’m looking for fully funded masters programs in psychology . Could you please help me out

  21. Hi!
    I Finished my Msc Analytical chemistry in 2013. Since then i am working as a research chemist in UAE.
    Need some information as how to apply for P.hd in US or UK ?

    Only IELTS is ok ?

    and how much is the average stipend in US ?

    Thank you.

  22. I’m looking for fully funded phD programe in disease biology especially incancer biology,could you please help me to earn this?

  23. I am registered to study for a DPhil degree in Tourism and Hospitality at one of the State Universities in Zimbabwe in Africa. I am seeking sponsorship.

  24. I am starting a PhD Education this fall. The program is fully funded with a small stipend/assistantship. However, it is not nearly enough to live off of. Are there grants that help with living expenses while pursuing a PhD? Since the program is fully funded, you don’t get a refund check either, correct?

    1. Hi Nina, typically stipends are well less than $30K per year, so no matter where you live, this might not be enough for all your living expenses. If you need additional part-time work, grants or financial aid to meet your expenses the best place to ask is your university’s financial aid office. There are also some external fellowships that you can apply for which are listed in the ProFellow database under “Type – Doctoral Study”

  25. HELLO, I JUST GOT A DOCTORAL OFFER FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF AUCKLAND NEW ZEALAND AND I WILL BE PAYING NZ$23,000 PER YEAR FOR A PERIOD OF 3 YEARS. THIS COVERS ALL I NEED. PLEASE IS THERE ANYONE THAT KNOWS HOW I COULD BE ASSISTED TO RAISE THE MONEY? I WILL REALLY APPRECIATE.

      1. Pls I’m in need of useful links and information on how to obtain full funded ph.d programme in area of public health..Your urgent response will be greatly appreciated .Thanks

  26. In a word, wow!! I can’t believe the funds are in my account already. Thank you, thank you, thank you! You made what is usually a long, drawn out and intimidating chore into a very pleasant and streamlined experience. I can’t thank you and Mr. Amazing Loans enough. Mr. Amazing Loans for the terrific system, and you for the wonderful service. You are both quite awesome! if you need an urgent loan you can email them at johnsmithloanhome@live.com

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  27. Nice work you are doing here.
    Pls I’m in need of useful links and information on how to obtain full funded ph.d programme in area of public health..Your urgent response will be greatly appreciated .Thanks

    1. Hi Philip – we haven’t yet prepared an article on PhD programs in Public Health but it is on the list and we hope to publish one soon!

      1. Thanks for the prompt reply..Please can you give me something to work with before the article is published. Atleast from your wealth of experience and research…Its an urgent need for me..Thanks

  28. Hey guys, my wife is starting her PhD in the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. She is going to research on topic related to perception of child sexual assault and her data will be taken in Nigeria. She will be spending about 6 months there. Is there any fellowship that provides field work stipend for PhD researches. Thanks

    1. Yes! Please check out the fellowships in ProFellow’s database. There is a filter under type for “Doctoral study” that includes fellowships for field work. She should also ask her university if there are department grants for field work.

  29. Hi. Looking for a fully funded PhD program in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. It is not the same thing as International Studies or Development. Any ideas? Thanks for the article.

  30. HI. I am a graduate student in MS of International Management Technology from Shahid Beheshti University, in Iran. i would be interested in receiving information about the PhD funding program in your university.
    Thank u in advance

  31. HI. I am a graduate student with an MSc in Energy, Water and Environmental Management from University Of Abertay in Scotland. I would be interested in receiving information about the PhD funding, sponsorship or scholarship program in any University.
    Thank u in advance

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  33. hello.
    I am trying to purse my phD in TESOL in the states. Are there any schools offer fully funded

  34. I am doing doctorate studies in Tourism and Hospitality in Zimbabwe. The tourism industry is a multi – billion dollar industry and has a lot of potential particularly for developing countries such as Zimbabwe where I am a university lecturer. Doctorate holders in tourism and hospitality in Zimbabwean universities are very few indeed. At some of the local universities, you could actually count them on the fingers of one hand. The lack of highly qualified academics is militating against the development of the sector in the country in particular and in Southern Africa in general. This is what has motivated my appeal for funding. I am looking for funding for my DPhil studies so that i may add to the statistics of doctorate holders in an area that wields tremendous potential but sadly, is deficient of highly qualified personnel. My email is fpkanga@gmail.com. Cell phone 00263 735 501 896. Thank you and God bless!

  35. Hi, I am interested to study in Fully Funded PhD Positions in chemistry. I am graduated of the Master’s Degree in Organic Chemistry from Iran. Please guide me.

  36. Hi, I have a Masters degree in Political Science with a 3.1 GPA. I would like to know if anyone knows a fully-funded PhD programme in Diplomacy, Public Policy or any related programme. Kindly share the opportunity with me on my mail dammykoga@gmail.com

  37. hie..im a masters degree graduate of agricultural extension education.is there any possibility of me finding a fully funded fellowship?

  38. I have an MSc Public Sector Management with 3.29 GPA , please do anyone have information on a PHD. Scholarship in Public Management , financial regulation or Public Policy ?

  39. I got fellowship doctorate degree in any Australia , and get prepared thesis already I have passed M.A (English ) and M.A (history) 1st year passed this year 2017 completed final year in Himalayan university (India). now interested to doctorate degree. My date of birth 31/07/1956 now age 61 years,

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  41. I took admission in phd through project( part time), but the project is now completed . `what type of fellowship available for part time students to continue phd. I have no GATE and NET score

  42. I have a B.S. in chemistry 2002
    would like to get masters/PhD in engineering- interested in robotics/computers
    what would be the best path to take without me having to go back for a second B.S. degree?

  43. Hi, I am Sharada completed my ME from Pune University (India), moving to US on H4 visa. I am willing to do Phd from any university in Ohio, US. Please refer me any engineering college or university who can fund for my further study. Please share the procedure to get it funded.

  44. I just turned 60, have both an MBA and an MSCS, and 28 years as a software developer, mostly for defense contractors. I cannot get full-time work in software development (having never worked on a website or smartphone app), and have been teaching math, business and CS part-time. All the choice full-time teaching positions require of prefer PhDs. Are there any online PhD programs in math, CS or business that don’t cost $50K?

    1. Hi Norm, I’m not aware of any free or low-cost online PhD programs. These are typically run by for-profit universities that do not offer tuition offsets and stipends.

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