6 Ways to Earn Additional Income as a PhD Student

Mar 25, 2021

Additional Income as a PhD Student

By ProFellow Founder Dr. Vicki Johnson

Getting a PhD often means sacrificing a full salary for several years as you study. Even if you are fully funded and receive a full-tuition scholarship and annual living stipend, graduate student stipends are usually just enough to help you get by. Many students will want – or need – to supplement their student income to be able to live in areas with a high cost of living, pay for childcare, contribute to retirement, and travel while they are finishing their degree. The good news is, full-time graduate students, especially those in the dissertation stage of their degree, have quite a bit of autonomy to be able to work part-time and make more income (even if outside, part-time work is discouraged by the university – my advice is, do what you need to do!).

While I was a full-time PhD student–and international student at that–I was able to increase my income in several ways over the course of my studies. Here are six practical ways that you can earn additional income as a PhD student.

1. Fellowships

There are a wide variety of academic and professional fellowships that offer funding that can increase your income as a graduate student. Some fellowships can be used on top of your existing funding or student Assistantship income. To find fellowships, you can search our database of more than 1,300 fellowships programs here! Here are a few of your options.

Research Fellowships: These fellowships can provide funding for your dissertation or thesis research, or research you may be doing as an extracurricular activity while you are a student. The funding typically supports you directly and often will provide funding to cover materials, travel expenses and professional development. Check out:

Language Study Fellowships: If you are studying a language or would benefit from foreign language immersion to complete your dissertation research, there is funding for this goal! Check out:

Summer Fellowships: These 2-week to 3-month long fellowships can help you gain valuable research or professional experience while you are a student during your summers. Do NOT miss an opportunity to pursue summer fellowships while you are a student (especially if your funding package does not offer summer funding!). Check out:

Project-Based Fellowships: There are also a wide range of project-based fellowships that would fund you to execute a project that aligns with the funding bodies’ mission. One of these awards might be in alignment, or directly fund, some element of your dissertation research!

2. On-campus jobs

Most universities offer part-time jobs on campus which might have the benefit of some tuition remission that, in turn, increases your overall income. For graduate students, there are often research or teaching assistantship options that fit in with your degree really well. If those opportunities are not available, there are likely administrative roles that need to be filled.

Many schools have websites that list their job openings, but you can also speak with your advisor or other students to learn about the possibilities of taking on a part-time job on campus.

3. Cash-based part-time jobs

Simple cash-based part-time jobs like tutoring and babysitting can be an easy way to supplement your income without having a set time commitment or a lot of extra responsibilities. I did a little night-time babysitting as a graduate student, and often I was able to study while the children slept! Likewise, a friend of mine who was studying Music would play piano at weddings and other events and give piano lessons to supplement her income. I’ve also seen fellow graduate students check in on the elderly, paint houses, help organize events, and more – see where there is a need and get creative with your time!

4. Freelance work

While I was a PhD student, I was able to land a number of paid projects and gigs online as a freelancer. Upwork and Fiverr are freelance platforms with a vast number of one-off and recurring online gigs for academic writers and copy-editors – roles where you can flex your skills in your free time! If you have other highly sought-after skills like graphic design, coding, marketing, or sales, even more opportunities are available to you.

Freelancing can help you make a higher wage than you would at another type of work because you are providing a more niche service, and Upwork allows you to freelance without the burden of getting an independent business license, hounding clients to pay, and creating complex legal documents or contracts. While it can take a few clients to find your footing, it can be a lucrative way to pass your free time and even lead to full-time job opportunities down the road.

5. Consulting work

Because I had a robust professional network from my 15 years of work experience, while I was a PhD student, I was able to reach out to my network and land several paid consulting opportunities with nonprofits and government agencies. If you have a strong network too, don’t miss this opportunity to let your former colleagues know you are in the market for consulting gigs. Depending on your level of work and research experience, you can command an hourly rate of $50 to more than $200/per hour (make sure you research what your competitive rate can be before starting on this process). Keep in mind that taxes and other expenses may be taken out of your income and prepare accordingly. 

6. Help faculty prepare grant applications

While I was a PhD student, I also contributed to large research grant applications spearheaded by my PhD supervisor. When he landed some of those grants, he was able to subcontract me for work that supported the execution of the grant, such as the data collection, coding of the data, and the write-up. Ask your PhD supervisor if there are opportunities for you to help them prepare a large grant application, with the end goal of helping you achieve more funding. 

Increasing your income as a graduate student often begins with being fully-funded in the first place! Many graduate schools fully funded all or most of their PhD students, and ProFellow lists over 1,000+ fully funded programs in more than 60 disciplines in our free Directory of Fully Funded Graduate Programs and Full Funding Awards. Get your copy today!

Dr. Vicki Johnson Headshot Dr. Vicki Johnson is Founder and CEO of ProFellow, the world’s leading online resource for professional and academic fellowships. She is a four-time fellow, top Ph.D. scholar, Fulbright recipient and an award-winning social entrepreneur. She is the Creator and Director of Fully Funded, her signature online course and mentorship program for graduate school applicants seeking to find and win full funding. 

© Victoria Johnson / ProFellow, LLC 2021, all rights reserved