How to Fund Your PhD

Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to a doctoral program! Now, figuring out how to fund your PhD is the next scariest parts of furthering your education. Yes, your research has been deemed important enough, but now you need to start analyzing all of your financial options to offset some of the costs.

Ways to Pay for Your PhD

With the costs of pursuing a PhD so high, it’s important to consider all of the different options you have to fund it, including scholarships, fellowships, loans, and even crowdfunding.

Continue reading to find out 7 ways that you can fund your PhD and check out some of the sponsored listings and popular PhD programs to help you choose a school.

Did You Know?

In 2015, there were 55,006 research doctorates awarded by U.S. institutions according to the National Science Foundation. And, as with every year since 2002, U.S. women earned more doctorates than U.S. men.

Doctoral Degrees in Education

When it comes to earning a PhD in Education, there are a variety of concentrations and focus areas that you can choose from depending on your expertise and goals. Some of these are:

While the specific curriculum may vary, each of these sponsored programs below place a greater emphasis on completing original research to further the knowledge in the field and to prepare students for leadership roles.

Northcentral University

Northcentral University strives to educate professionals throughout the world through one-on-one mentoring that helps students achieve academic success and become valuable contributors to their communities and their professions.

One of the doctoral degrees offered at NCU is the Education Specialist – Curriculum and Teaching, which teaches advanced skills in research and curriculum development. Through this analysis, you will examine:

  • Curriculum models
  • Theories and trends in education
  • Instructional strategies

Vanderbilt University

Founded in 1873 from a donation by Cornelius Vanderbilt to contribute to “strengthening the ties which should exist between all sections of our common country”, Vanderbilt University provides a gateway to success. Now, Vanderbilt has more than 11,000 full-time students and awarded more than 300 doctoral degrees in the spring of 2017.

One of these doctoral degrees is the Doctorate in Education (Ed.D.) in Leadership and Learning in Organizations, which is designed to bridge the divide between theory and practice. This degree teaches future leaders how to:

  • Foster development
  • Leverage resources
  • Create solutions
  • Resolve complex systematic challenges

St. John’s University

St. John’s University strives to broaden every student’s mind, offer the chance to serve those who are less fortunate, and inspire and support them to achieve future success. Plus, with an alumni network of more than 180,000, St. John’s offers the most well-rounded experience possible.

The PhD in Educational Administration and Supervision offers an opportunity for educational leaders to enhance their knowledge and skills in research and current trends in education.

Doctor of Nursing Practice Programs

There are two types of doctoral degrees in nursing:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD): designed for those who want to teach and perform research
  • Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP): is the practice-based degree

While both of these are academically equivalent, it’s important to understand these differences and your future goals in order to find the perfect program for you.

Many nurses, even those pursuing an advanced degree, have a difficult time understanding the difference between an NP vs. DNP and deciding which to pursue. So be sure to understand all of your options and the different careers they may prepare you from the sponsored listings below.

Sacred Heart University

As the second-largest Catholic university in New England, Sacred Heart University was founded in 1963 and focuses on:

  • Student engagement
  • Great teaching
  • Vibrant communities
  • Successful student outcomes

The practice-based Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) at SHU strives to build upon your masters-level education to lead and manage collaborative efforts to improve healthcare and positively influence the nursing profession.

Andrews University

Since its founding in 1874, Andrews University has been emphasized serious scholarship, quality research, and a strong focus on practical Christianity. In fact, they aim to make sure that you balance between theory and practice to experience growth on your educational journey.

The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) at Andrews teaches the clinical skills necessary to deliver compassionate and accountable care and how to improve:

  • Systems of care
  • Patient outcomes
  • Quality and safety

University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences

The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences strives to develop professional healthcare practitioners through innovative, individualized, and quality classroom, clinical, and distance education.

With a variety of degrees available in healthcare, St. Augustine offers two types of DNP programs, including a bridge program for those with only a bachelor’s degree:

Both of these are academically equivalent and designed to help students take the next steps in their education and in their career.

Business PhD Programs

Similar to nursing, business is another field with two types of doctoral degrees:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD): research-focused degree
  • Doctor of Business Administration (DBA): practitioner-based degree

These degrees are academically equivalent and focus on current research and trends in the field. However, a PhD typically leads to teaching or research positions, whereas a DBA is usually more focused on those who are looking to become, or to enhance, the leadership of various businesses and organizations. Find relevant sponsored listings below. 

Walden University

Designed to serve the needs of adult learners, Walden University offers programs that reflect current market trends and that promote positive social change to help you achieve your goals, enabling you to make a difference in your career.

The DBA programs at Walden are designed for experienced professionals who are looking to gain a deeper understanding of business knowledge and to serve as change agents in the field as a whole, and for their companies in particular.

Three of the available concentrations are:

California Southern University

As a regionally accredited online university, California Southern University offers exceptional higher education programs that are both convenient and affordable. Plus, the school offers an unmatched level of personalized guidance and support.

Designed to provide a rich, advanced education for senior leadership roles, the DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) at CSU offers a great opportunity to gain business expertise at the highest academic level through increasingly complex and hands-on learning.

Grand Canyon University

As Arizona’s premier Christian university, Grand Canyon University has become a leader in the movement of service and leadership, providing affordable higher education, and creating opportunity for all.

GCU offers a variety of concentrations for your Doctor of Business Administration. While each share some similar qualities, such as applying data to make informed decisions, each of the concentrations focus on a specific area and the tools most important to that field.

Three of these options are:

  1. D.B.A. with an Emphasis in Marketing
  2. D.B.A. with an Emphasis in Data Analytics
  3. D.B.A. with an Emphasis in Management

Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) Programs

As integral parts of the healthcare system, pharmacists help ensure that patients receive the best possible care. Earning a Doctor of Pharmacy, or PharmD, typically includes a complete understanding and analyzing of current research in fields such as:

  • Anatomy
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physiology

There are a variety of programs that are available, including some that don’t require a bachelor’s degree in pharmacology or others that offer a dual PharmD and MBA degree. Keep this in mind while researching various sponsored programs below to find the perfect match for you.

Duquesne University

As one of the nation’s top Catholic universities, Duquesne University offers a well-rounded education that challenges you academically while nourishing your spiritual development. Plus, with only a 14:1 student to faculty ratio, you’ll learn from teacher-scholars who provide excellent classroom experiences.

The Duquesne University School of Pharmacy was founded in 1925 and now offers hands-on training and nationally recognized research and leadership, which includes the:

University of New England

As Maine’s largest private university, the University of New England is an innovative community that attracts internationally recognized scholars, which allows all students to engage in research and scholarship.

The Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) at UNE offers continually developing innovative approaches to teaching and learning, through a challenging curriculum, interprofessional programs, and experiential learning opportunities.

Fairleigh Dickinson University

As the largest private university in New Jersey, Fairleigh Dickinson University is a not-for-profit, nonsectarian institution that was founded in 1942. Their curriculum is designed to reflect their mission of global education and their focus on intercultural and ethical understanding.

As the role of the pharmacist expands, the Doctor of Pharmacy at FDU offers a variety of classroom, lab, and experiential opportunities to meet the learning styles of today’s students and prepare you for exciting careers.

7 Ways to Fund Your PhD

When it comes to paying for your PhD, many students are left searching for available funding options. Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of the most common sources of funding for PhD students and a brief description of each to see if it’s something you want to pursue.

#1: PhD Scholarships

Many universities and organizations tied to the school offer scholarships to students pursuing their PhD. These usually fall under three types of categories:

  1. Merit-based (academic)
  2. Need-based
  3. International

Keep in mind that these are usually limited to a few students and are therefore highly competitive. This means that while you should definitely apply for them, you should also pursue other options of funding your degree.

Private Scholarships

Not everyone can win one of the scholarships available through your school or department. Therefore, another option is to research private scholarships that may not be as competitive.

Luckily, there are plenty of websites available that can help you comb through the hundreds and thousands of private scholarships available from businesses and nonprofits.

One the best sites is Unigo.com, which lists over 3 million scholarships.

Salary of Postsecondary Teachers

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for postsecondary teachers in 2016 was $75,430. The highest earners were postsecondary law teachers at $111,210 and the lowest were criminal justice and law enforcement teachers at $59,590.i

#2: Dissertation and PhD Grants

Grants are similar to scholarships in that you don’t have to pay them back and you typically qualify for them based on merit, need, or some other form of criteria. For instance, when you submit your FAFSA, you’ll automatically find out if you qualify for a need-based federal Pell Grant.

Besides the federal level, which offers grants such as the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant, there are many grants available at the state level. Usually these are tied to residence and merit.

Plus, many companies, organizations, charities, and schools offer grants as well, so be sure to check all of your options.

#3: PhD Assistantships

Assistantships are usually awarded by individual departments based on a student’s academic accomplishments and potential in the field. Often, that means one of the best ways to improve your odds of winning an assistantship is by focusing on your studies to improve your GPA and your connections with faculty and staff inside the department you’re looking to join.

Most programs award assistantships on an annual basis and cover part of your tuition and pay a stipend. The amount of the award and stipend can vary greatly depending on the school, program, and type of assistantship you’re awarded.

Types of Assistantships

There are a variety of assistantships available and many schools have different names for them. However, they usually fall under four different types:

  1. Teaching Assistant
  2. Assistant Lecturer
  3. Research Assistant
  4. Graduate Assistant

Check with your school, or the schools you’d like to attend, to see what types of assistantships are available and the application process.

How Much Do PhD Students Make?

After being awarded an assistantship, the stipend varies depending on your school and program. For instance, as of February of 2018, Glassdoor estimates that the average base pay for PhD students is $30,105.

However, the low end is below $22,000, which is something to consider. In addition, these are only estimates based on anonymous submissions to Glassdoor.

#4: Fellowships

Fellowships are different than other types of funding because there are usually extensive application requirements, which may include being nominated, interviews, and presentations. Plus, the award can range from short-term funding to multi-year commitments.

In addition to paying for tuition, research, and teaching, fellowships typically also offer a yearly stipend to PhD students. As a result, fellowships are usually very competitive and bring with it a certain level of prestige, as they can help you make contacts with those through the organization that awards the fellowship.

There are usually two types of fellowships:

  1. Internal: awarded from the school or department
  2. External: awarded from the government, foundations, or other groups

#5: Federal Loans for PhD Students

Federal loans are need-based and have a lower interest rate than private loans. In addition, many of them provide you with the option of delaying repayment until after you’ve graduated, as long as you maintain continuous enrollment.

The two types of federal loans available for graduate students include:

  1. Direct Unsubsidized Loan
  2. Federal Perkins Loan

Each have unique requirements and eligibility, such as interest rates and borrowing limits, so be sure to understand both options before applying.

#6: Find a Job

While far from the most ideal option, you can always work while pursuing your PhD. Of course, this option comes with a number of challenges that the others don’t.

First and foremost, it is going to be extremely difficult to work and be a full-time PhD student because of the amount of time needed to pursue your degree. As a result, you may consider being a part-time student. Either way, the most important aspect is finding balance and not burning yourself out.

Tips from Working PhD Students

Some students find that taking real holidays and taking the time to connect with friends and family can restore the balance in your life because most of your time will be spent working or working on your dissertation.

#7: Crowdfunding

As the latest way to fund your PhD, crowdfunding is where you post your idea for a research project on a specific site, such as Fund My PhD and have other people donate money. Keep in mind that this is a highly competitive field as businesses, students, and many others are looking to crowdfund their ideas.

While many students believe that their research ideas are so important that everyone should be jumping over each other to donate, the reality is that because of the high levels of competition, you have to treat it as though you are a business.

Many successful crowdfunding campaigns for businesses involve using a video to tell the story of the company. Consider this for your crowdfunding campaign and you’re likely to have more success than simply posting a short story and a photograph.

Unemployment Rate by Educational Attainment

According to the BLS, in 2016 those with a doctoral degree had a 1.6% unemployment rate and earned a median usual weekly earnings of $1,664. On the other hand, those with a master’s degree had a 2.4% unemployment rate and a median usual weekly earnings of $1,380.ii

Find the Perfect PhD Program for You!

Congratulations! You’re considering a doctorate! While scary, once you find the perfect program for you, then you can use the steps above to pay for it.

If you haven’t decided on a program yet, check out any of the sponsored listings on this page or use the form to get matched to programs, like clinical psychology PhD programs, today!


[i] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/postsecondary-teachers.htm#tab-5 [ii] bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm

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