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How Much Does a PhD Cost?

By Cece Gilmore

Cece Gilmore is a Content Writer at Scholarships360. Cece earned her undergraduate degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from Arizona State University. While at ASU, she was the education editor as well as a published staff reporter at Downtown Devil. Cece was also the co-host of her own radio show on Blaze Radio ASU.

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Edited by Maria Geiger

Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Updated: April 16th, 2024
How Much Does a PhD Cost?

Obtaining a PhD is a great way to open up your career options and fulfill personal goals. If you’re deciding whether to go back to your school for a doctorate degree, make sure to get a picture of what it will cost you beforehand so you can make an educated financial choice. In this article, we take a deep dive into how much a PhD costs, including non-tuition expenses and hidden costs. We also list the pros and cons of earning a PhD, as well as ways to fund your degree if it is the right choice for you. Let’s get started! 

What is a PhD? 

“PhD” is the abbreviated title for “Doctor of Philosophy.”  A PhD is an academic degree that qualifies the degree holder to teach at the university level or work in specialized positions in certain fields. PhDs generally focus on STEM research and teaching fields. 

Keep reading: Everything you need to know about a doctorate degree

How much does a PhD cost? 

It usually takes around eight years to earn a PhD at an average tuition cost of 81,000

The true cost of a PhD is very dependent on the following factors: 

  • Choice of school
  • Field of study
  • Type of PhD 
  • Location of school
  • Dollar amount of student loans

Also see: What is the average amount of graduate school debt?

Other costs associated with receiving a PhD

Living expenses 

In addition to the cost of tuition involved in earning a PhD, there are numerous outside factors that add to the total spent. These predominantly include living expenses such as housing, food, insurance, and transportation. The cost of these necessities will vary depending on the state, city of residence, and number of years it takes to earn a PhD. Therefore, it is important to consider all these factors when planning to earn a PhD. 

Hidden costs of a PhD

Besides just the monetary cost of a PhD, receiving this degree has some hidden costs that can affect whether a PhD is truly worth it. Let’s look at some of the most important hidden costs.

Time

Receiving a PhD takes a long time! If you want to earn a PhD, it will take up to eight years to do so. 

Delayed opportunities

Because receiving a PhD takes time, this means there may be work and life opportunities and experiences you miss out on or have to delay.

Lost income

While focusing on earning a PhD, you will need to focus on your education rather than maintaining a steady flow of income from a job. You will most likely not be able to hold down a full-time job while completing your PhD schooling. 

The chance of not finishing

Unfortunately, it is quite common to start but not earn a PhD. There are a lot of factors that hinder students from receiving their PhD, including the following: 

  • Realization they do not want a PhD
  • Lack of ability to pay for a PhD
  • Inability to maintain a school work balance

Ways to fund your PhD 

Luckily, prospective PhD candidates have numerous options to help them fund their education. Typically, PhD students turn to a variety of funding sources, including scholarships, grants, studentships, loans, and employer sponsorships. 

PhD Scholarships

There are a variety of scholarships out there intended for PhD students to help them on their academic journey. These funds can typically be used for tuition, books, and other educational expenses. Try checking out our very own Gutsy Graduate Scholarship to get started!

Grants

Grants are very similar to scholarships. They provide money for students for tuition and other academic expenses.

Studentships

A “studentship” is a name that is most often used for PhD scholarships. Studentships are an opportunity for PhD students to receive funding in order to ease financial pressures. Traditionally, studentships are awarded based on merit and achievement. 

Loans

Loans are a common way of funding PhD students. The US Department of Education offers Direct PLUS loans as well as Direct Unsubsidized Loans to graduate and professional students. 

Assistantships

Graduate assistantships are opportunities to earn money while taking on a position that allows you to make connections and obtain skills in your field. There are various types of assistantships such as teaching and research assistants. Depending on your institution and professor, your role may vary widely depending on what your professor is working on. So, it is important to do your research before accepting an assistantship to determine if it is the right role for you. An assistantship typically functions as a job where you serve a certain number of hours and will be paid for your labor. 

Fellowships

Fellowships can vary widely depending on the institution; however it is essentially funding granted to students to help lower the cost of education. A fellowship is typically a merit-based scholarship for advanced study of an academic subject and is granted to the top candidates in their class. Graduate fellowships typically will cover the cost of tuition as well as a stipend to be used to cover the cost of living which makes graduate studies affordable for academically-driven students. 

Further reading: Assistantships vs. fellowships: What’s the difference? 

Employer sponsorships

In some cases, you may be eligible to receive employer sponsored funding to earn a PhD. In order to do this, you will usually need to demonstrate to your employer that receiving a PhD will also benefit the company as a whole. 

Also see: Top graduate school scholarships

Is a PhD worth it? 

The answer depends on the individual student’s goals and financial situation. There are many pros and cons associated with receiving a PhD. We include a few of the most common reasons below. 

Pros

  • Access to more prestigious and high-paying jobs
  • Development of skills
  • Networking opportunities 
  • Can make significant contributions to your field of study 

Cons

  • Financial costs/debt
  • Isolating and lonely experience for some
  • Stress associated with academic rigor
  • Limited job openings after graduation 
  • Loss of valuable job experience and opportunities
  • Length of time to earn a PhD

Some questions to ask yourself before pursuing a PhD

  • Why do I want a PhD? 
  • Am I financially prepared to fund a PhD?
  • What jobs will be available to me after receiving a PhD?
  • Do I have the prerequisites and experience to move forward to a PhD program? 

Related: What is a research university?

Overall cost of PhD

In total, earning a PhD involves a considerable investment of time and money. It can also put you in touch with incredible peer support, mentors, and resources, and be incredibly rewarding and help you start down the path towards your dream career. Be sure you are confident in your decision before starting your PhD journey, and best of luck to you! 

Also see: Grad school financing options

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Frequently asked questions about the cost of a PhD

Is there a difference in cost for PhD’s in different fields?

Yes, there can be slight differences in cost. Some fields require more specialized equipment or materials which can increase cost while other fields may offer more funding opportunities than others.

Do Ph.D. students typically receive funding?

Ph.D. programs offer funding in the form of scholarships, grants, fellowships or assistantships. These sources can cover some or all of the tuition fees and may even provide a stipend for living expenses.

How can I lower the cost of pursuing a Phd?

You can lower the cost by applying for funding opportunities such as scholarships, choosing a program with lower tuition fees such as an in-state institution, seeking out affordable housing options, and budgeting your expenses!

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