Raising the finances to pursue a PhD degree can be extremely challenging. Many choose to re-enter the academic field once they have established careers and have repaid previous student loans, whilst younger students are really reliant on fellowships to obtain the financial help necessary to obtain a PhD.
There are various ways to find financial help but it is more difficult to obtain than financial aid for undergraduates. Some employers may be willing to offer tuition reimbursement to employees studying for a PhD if it will benefit the company.
There are no specific student loans for PhD students, though providing the maximum lifetime amount of federal loans has not already been utilized, doctoral students can apply for federal loans. Those who continue to work whilst pursuing a PhD are advised by Finaid to borrow no more than 10-15% of income.
The most logical route to financing doctoral studies is to seek out a college which offers a fellowship package to PhD students, or to apply for external fellowships which are available from a variety of organizations.
Some colleges offer excellent financial help: as an example Stanford’s PhD program gives financial assistance to “qualified doctoral students and generally guarantees four years of support based on satisfactory academic performance.” Stanford’s institutional aid pays full tuition and a minimum of 90% of estimated living expenses.
Stanford offers financial help in the form of fellowships, and aid to those awarded teaching or research assistantships. Institutional fellowships are available from many colleges offering PhD programs and it is advisable to make inquiries at schools which offer PhD programs, to ascertain if any specific help is available in the relevant faculty.
Good sources for external fellowships which provide financial aid to doctoral students include the State Farm Foundation; the Environmental Protection Agency; the Department of Energy; and the National Science Foundation. Doctoral students should search outside fellowships as an excellent source of financial help and research opportunities available through the federal government’s educational web site.
Doctoral students can increase their income through taking college positions which involve grading undergraduate work and tutoring, which is referred to as hourly work. However it is often difficult with the study hours involved to continue to work on more than a part time basis whilst working towards a PhD. It really depends upon the academic rigours imposed by individual colleges.
For many students it is not viable to enter doctoral studies unless financial help is available as the costs can be prohibitive. However with a fellowship or assistantship secured, or tuition reimbursement, it is possible to spend the additional years studying to the highest level, with financial help available.