Average Cost of a Doctorate Degree
Hanson, Melanie. “Average Cost of a Doctorate Degree” EducationData.org, December 10, 2022, https://educationdata.org/average-cost-of-a-doctorate-degree
Melanie Hanson is an educator, research analyst and the senior editor for the Education Data Initiative.
Report Highlights. The average cost of a Doctorate degree is $103,700 .
- A Doctorate of Education may cost on average $98,900 .
- The average cost of a Doctorate of Philosophy or Ph.D. is $96,800 .
- A Doctorate of Psychology may typically cost $115,500 .
- The average loan debt for a Doctorate degree is $126,800 .
Related reports include Average Cost of College & Tuition | Average Cost of Community College | Average Cost of a Doctorate Degree | Average Cost of Law School | Average Cost of Private School
On average it takes roughly 4 to 8 years for an individual to complete their doctorate degree. The overall cost of a Doctorate degree can depend on several factors; the type of school, the kind of doctorate degree, the length of the program, and also the amount of financial assistance available. There is more grant aid available in general for a doctorate degree compared to a master’s degree.
- The cost of a Doctorate in Philosophy from a traditional 8-year Ph.D. program at the University of Florida may reach $258,800.
- The cost of a Doctorate in Philosophy from a traditional 8-year Ph.D. program at New York University may reach $557,300.
- The University of Southern California: School of Education estimates that their online Doctoral degree in Education would take only 3 years and cost up to $112,000.
- St. Thomas University estimates that their online Doctoral degree in Education would take up to 3 years full-time and cost up to $48,620.
- The average cost of a Doctorate degree from a public university is $105,900.
- The average cost of a Doctorate degree from a private university is $146,300.
- 71% of Doctoral students received financial aid in 2012 according to the Urban Institute.
- 38% of Master’s degree students received financial aid in 2012 according to the Urban Institute.
- Institutional grants for a Doctorate in Philosophy average $10,560 annually.
- Institutional grants for a Master’s in Business Administration average $3,290 annually.
- The average grant aid for a Doctoral degree is $16,502 annually.
- The average grant aid for a Master’s degree is $7,094 annually.
Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
A Ph.D. is one of the longest if not the longest doctorate programs in the country. A traditional Ph.D. takes 8 years to complete. The majority of Ph.D. students offset the cost of their degree with teaching assistantships. Ph.D.’s are a type of Doctorate degree, yet not all Doctorate degrees are Ph.D.’s. Often, a student must choose between earning a Ph.D. or a different Doctorate degree in their field of study.
- The average cost of a Ph.D. is $96,800.
- The average cost of a Ph.D. from 2000 to 2016 was $81,020.
- In 2012, the average cost of a full year in a Ph.D. program was $21,400.
- Of the $21,400, the net price for the student was $8,480.
- Of the $21,400, roughly $12,920 was covered by grants.
- 21.4% of surveyed Ph.D. students offset the cost of their degree with teaching assistantships.
Doctorate of Education
The majority of Doctorate students in Education offset the price of their degree with their own resources. A prospective student must choose between pursuing the direct Doctorate in Education or a Ph.D. in Education. The Doctorate in Education is suited towards professional practice and takes less time to complete. The Ph.D. in Education is suited towards research and teaching, and it takes more time to complete.
- The average cost of a Doctorate in Education is $98,850
- The average cost of a Doctorate in Education from 2004 to 2016 was $72,350.
- 11.5% of surveyed Doctorate students in Education offset the price of their degree with their own resources.
- A Ph.D. may take 7 to 8 years to complete.
- A Doctorate may take 5 to 7 years to complete.
Doctorate of Psychology
The majority of Doctorate students in Psychology offset the price of their degree with teaching assistantships. The time commitment for a Doctorate in Psychology depends on what type of Psychology degree the individual is pursuing. A Ph.D. in Psychology tailors the student for researching and teaching, and it takes more time to complete. A Psy.D. in Psychology tailors the student for direct clinical practice and takes less time to complete.
- The average cost of a Doctorate of Psychology is $115,500.
- The average cost of a Doctorate of Psychology from 2000 to 2016 was $108,100.
- 28.8% of surveyed Doctorate students in Psychology offset the price of their education with teaching assistantships.
- A Ph.D. in Psychology takes between 5 to 7 years to complete.
- A Psy.D. in Psychology takes between 4 to 5 years to complete.
- Earning an education in Health Psychology can take up to 4 to 5 years.
- Social Psychology degrees take an average of 5 years.
- Child Psychology degrees can also take up to 6 to 8 years
Cost by Race
Asians and Black Americans tend to be the two races that end up with the largest amount of cumulative debt and average debt. The majority of grant aid comes from the institutions. Employers and private financial aid barely account for 20% of aid to each race.
- Asian Doctoral students borrowed $16,838 annually on average for their Doctoral Programs.
- Black Doctoral students averaged $17,479 a year in loans.
- Hispanic Doctoral students borrowed on average $20,246 annually.
- White Doctoral students typically borrowed $18,087 a year.
- Doctoral students from two or more races averaged $26,961 in loans per year.
- 80.6% of Black Doctoral students borrowed money to fund their education.
- 55.7% of White Doctoral students borrowed money to fund their education.
- 25% of Black Doctoral students received institutional financial aid.
- 56% of Asian Doctoral students received institutional financial aid.
- Races are missing from the graph below because reporting standards were not met.
Cost by Gender
A majority of both men and women try to offset the cost of their doctorate degrees with research assistantships and traineeships. While there are more male graduates with Doctoral degrees, women on average carry more debt than men.
- 38.7% of men find financial support working in a research assistantship or a traineeship.
- 27.1% of women find financial support working in a research assistantship or a traineeship.
- 16,780 male graduates surveyed possessed no student loan debt.
- 12,681 female graduates surveyed possessed no student loan debt.
- 874 male graduates surveyed owed more than $160,000 in student loan debt.
- 1,250 female graduates surveyed owed more than $160,000 in student loan debt.
- Doctorly.org: Cost vs Reward of a Ph.D. Degree
- Urban Institute, The Price of Graduate and Professional School: How Much Students Pay
- NCES: Trends in Student Loan Debt for Graduate School Completers
- American Council on Education, Debt: Master’s Degree Recipients
- National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES), Survey of Earned Doctorates: Data Tables Financial Support for Graduate Education of Doctorate Recipients
- Psychology.org: Doctorate in Psychology (Ph.D. and Psy.D.)
- Graduate Cost | UF Office of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships
- Doctor of Education – Curriculum Studies – College of Education | University of South Carolina
- Online Doctor of Education in Leadership and Innovation – Administration at STU
- How Students Finance Graduate Study
- 2022-2023 Tuition & Fees By Semester Graduate Schools – Rutgers
- Kansas University | Tuition and fees | Financial Aid & Scholarships
- Mississippi State Tuition | Office of the Controller and Treasurer
- Tuition and Fees – UMass | University of Massachusetts
- Tuition & Fee Rate Sheets | Bursar’s Office | University of Colorado Boulder
- NYU Graduate School | Tuition and Fees Calculator
- APA Pursuing a Career in Child Psychology
- APA Pursuing a Career in Social Psychology .
How Much Does a Ph.D. Cost?
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- Check Circle The average total cost of a Ph.D. is $32,846 per year. 
- Check Circle The median number of years to a doctorate is 5.8 years. 
- Check Circle It's common for doctoral programs to offer funding, including tuition waivers, health insurance, and a stipend.
- Check Circle 71% of doctoral students reported receiving a form of grant aid as opposed to 38% of master's students. 
- Check Circle Doctoral recipients graduate with an average debt of $26,137. 
- Check Circle Almost a quarter (23%) of doctoral recipients graduated with over $30,000 in debt. 
- Check Circle About 58% of doctoral recipients graduated with zero debt. Note Reference 
How much does it cost to get a Ph.D.? On average, the total cost comes out to $32,846 per year, including tuition and living expenses. Note Reference  Students typically take 4-8 years to finish a Ph.D. program, so a doctoral degree can cost anywhere from $131,000-$263,000 before grants and assistantships.
But you won't necessarily end up paying that total cost yourself. Ph.D. students typically receive more financial support than master's degree or other professional graduate degree students. Programs often offer tuition waivers and stipends in exchange for teaching or research.
In this report we'll explore the average cost of a Ph.D. program, common student debt amounts, and how much students typically receive in funding for their doctoral programs.
Table of Contents
Average cost of a ph.d., factors that influence ph.d. cost, ph.d. student loan debt, cost of professional doctorates.
- According to 2016 data from the National Center for Education Statistics ( NCES ), the average cost of tuition for a Ph.D. program is $16,526 per year. Note Reference 
- Non-tuition related expenses, such as room and board, books, and supplies, amounted to $16,320 on average. Note Reference 
- Together, the total cost per year for a doctoral program equals $32,846. Note Reference 
But programs often offer packages that include a tuition waiver and living stipend in exchange for an assistantship. With an assistantship, graduate students may work part time teaching or researching.
- The average amount of a graduate research assistantship is $1,833 per month. 
- The average amount of a teaching assistantship is $2,391 per month. Note Reference 
- 70.5% of male doctoral students and 64% of female students reported having an assistantship, which often includes a tuition waiver and health insurance. 
Sources: Columbia tuition and Columbia stipend ; Cornell tuition and Cornell stipend ; Harvard tuition ; University of Pennsylvania tuition and University of Pennsylvania stipend ; Yale tuition and stipend
Keep in mind that some schools have higher tuition but more competitive stipends and benefits, while others have lower tuition rates and lower stipend amounts. Some programs offer full tuition waivers while others cover partial tuition. It is important to note the wide range of package types that are offered to incoming doctoral students.
Sources: Florida International University tuition and Florida International University stipend ; Texas A&M tuition , Texas A&M stipend for humanities , and Texas A&M stipend for engineering ; Ohio State tuition and Ohio State stipend ; University of Central Florida tuition and stipend ; University of Texas at Austin tuition and University of Texas at Austin stipend
Costs can also vary between programs and even between departments at the same school. For example, Cornell University's humanities and social science departments offered a stipend of $30,099 per year in 2022 while its physical and life science departments offered stipends of $34,684.  Business Ph.D. students at Cornell received an even higher stipend of $41,559. 
Some schools increase stipend amounts with a student's time in the program. Other schools reduce the tuition amount each year.
Ph.D. programs may also offer graduate fellowships or scholarships, which may cover all or some of the costs of the program and may come with some work responsibilities.
Source: NCES Table 36 Note Reference 
Other factors that can affect doctoral programs include whether a school is public or private, the location of a school, and program length.
Source: Urban Institute 
Most Ph.D. programs provide limits as to the number of years of funding they will provide, often 4-5 years. When students take longer to complete their degree, they may be able to find additional graduate student employment doing teaching or research or apply for a finishing fellowship.
Source: NCES Table 31 
Student loan and debt amounts for Ph.D. students differ widely between fields. Math and computer science doctoral students, for example, graduate with $10,686 in debt on average while education students graduate with $47,672 in debt. Note Reference 
Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics ( NCSES ) Table 38 Note Reference 
Overall, roughly one quarter (23%) of doctoral recipients graduated with over $30,000 in debt. However, percentages varied by field. 
- Only 8% of engineering students and students in the physical sciences and earth sciences graduated with over $30,000 in debt. Note Reference 
- Around 40% of psychology and social sciences (36.9%) and education (40.3%) doctoral recipients, on the other hand, finished with over $30,000 in debt. Note Reference 
Broken down by race and ethnicity, Black or African American doctoral recipients graduated with the highest percentage of debt over $30,000 and Asian doctoral recipients graduated with the least. 
- Over half of Black or African American doctoral recipients (56%) received their degrees with over $30,000 in debt. Note Reference 
- Hispanic or Latina/o students placed second with 30% graduating with debt over $30,000. Note Reference 
- 1 in 5 white students graduated with debt over $30,000 and only 1 in 10 Asian students. Note Reference 
Source: National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics ( NCSES ) Table 41 Note Reference 
While this article focuses on research doctorates, there are also professional doctorates such as Doctor of Medicine ( MD ), Juris Doctor ( JD ), and Doctor of Physical Therapy ( DPT ). These doctorates are intended towards practice and often come with higher price tags.
- According to 2016 data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of a professional doctorate is $58,656 per year. 
- The average price of tuition and fees is $34,910 per year. Note Reference 
- Non-tuition expenses, such as housing and textbooks, come out to $23,746 per year on average. Note Reference 
Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) Cost
Unlike a Ph.D. in education, a Doctor of Education degree (Ed.D.) is also a professional doctorate and geared towards practice rather than teaching and research.
The Ed.D. program is also much shorter than a Ph.D., typically 2-3 years, which may result in a lower cost of attendance. Tuition for some of the best Doctorate of Education programs can range from around $500 per credit to over $2,000 per credit, with a total of 60 credits required to graduate. That amounts to a total tuition cost of $30,000-$120,000 depending on the school.
Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) Cost
A doctor of psychology degree (Psy.D.), not to be confused with a doctor of philosophy degree (Ph.D.) in psychology, is designed for students who want to go into practice, especially as a licensed clinical psychologist or psychotherapist.
While program length varies from school to school, you can generally expect the degree to take you 5-7 years. Tuition for some of the best online Doctorate of Psychology programs ranges from around $600-$1,600. Programs often require 60-90 credits.
- Table: Doctorate Degree Tuition, Fees, and Total Budget Across School Types . U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Postsecondary Student Aid Study: 2016 Graduate Students ( NPSAS:GR ). Accessed September 2022. ( back to content ⤶ )
- Table 31. Median years to doctorate, by major field of study: Selected years, 1994-2019. National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Earned Doctorates . Accessed September 2022. ( back to content ⤶ )
- Percentage of Full-Time Graduate and Professional Students Receiving Grant Aid, 2011-12 (PDF) . NCES , National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) 2012, PowerStats. Accessed September 2022. ( back to content ⤶ )
- Table 38. Education-related debt of doctorate recipients, by broad field of study: 2019. National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Earned Doctorates . Accessed September 2022. ( back to content ⤶ )
- Table 41. U.S. citizen and permanent resident doctorate recipients with graduate-school debt, by ethnicity, race, and broad field of study: 2019. National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Earned Doctorates . Accessed September 2022. ( back to content ⤶ )
- Table: Average Assistantship Amount . U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Postsecondary Student Aid Study: 2016 Graduate Students ( NPSAS:GR ). Accessed September 2022. ( back to content ⤶ )
- Table 36. Doctorate recipients' sources of financial support, by broad field of study and sex: 2019. National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Earned Doctorates . Accessed September 2022. ( back to content ⤶ )
- 2022-23 Graduate Student Assistantship and Fellowship Stipend Rates . August 2022. Accessed September 2022. ( back to content ⤶ )
- Cornell SC Johnson College of Business Admissions . Accessed September 2022. ( back to content ⤶ )
- Baum, Sandy and Patricia Steele. The Price of Graduate and Professional School: How Much Students Pay (PDF) . Appendix A. Urban Institute. NCES , NPSAS 2012. Accessed September 2022. ( back to content ⤶ )
- Table 39. Education-related debt of doctorate recipients, by broad field of study: 2019. National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Earned Doctorates . Accessed September 2022. ( back to content ⤶ )
- Table: Professional Doctorate Degree Tuition, Fees, and Total Budget Across School Types . U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Postsecondary Student Aid Study: 2016 Graduate Students ( NPSAS:GR ). ( back to content ⤶ )
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Cost vs Reward of a PhD Degree
Nearly every career field offers the opportunity to excel in a specific area through doctorate-level programs, which culminate with graduates earning a Ph.D., doctorate, or a similar form of advanced degree related to the field of study. A Ph.D. opens the door to a wealth of employment options and is required for professionals with a desire to teach at a university, conduct life-changing research, and/or qualify for a wider scope of more influential, higher-paying job positions.
While many may aspire and dream of getting a Ph.D., not many people will get the chance, or even complete the rigorous years of study to become one of the very few to attain the highest level of understanding for a particular field. The overall process requires a lengthy time commitment, patience and passion, and may delay a person’s immediate earning potential after receiving a bachelor’s degree. As every field of study varies in tuition costs and the ROI (Return on Investment), the following information highlights some of the blanket costs, versus rewards, related to getting a Ph.D.
The Average Cost of Getting a PhD
Doctoral programs are unique in the sense that they have a reputation for financially accommodating students as they pursue their Ph.D. by offering living stipends, opportunities to teach, research grants, and tuition breaks. The financial incentives make it easier for candidates to enter a doctoral program. However, graduate work is rarely a ‘free ride.’ Depending on the field of study, school limitations, and a student’s personal circumstances, student tuition is often equalized, yet the cost of living presents a financial predicament that often leads to borrowing money while in a Ph.D. program.
According to an article titled ‘Ph.D. Programs Have a Dirty Secret: Student Debt ,’ which appeared in The Atlantic , nearly one-fifth of students finish their doctoral degree programs having accumulated more than $30,000 in loans.
Despite the overall low cost to pursue a Ph.D., graduates with debt in the tens of thousands of dollars are also common. Karen Kelsky, who started the “Ph.D. Debt Survey” , highlighted that Ph.D. programs in every field see thousands of people saddled by six-figure debt after earning their doctorate degree. For starters, some Ph.D. programs do not offer full funding; may cut funding over time; and/or offer stipends that do not cover the cost of living – all of which are factors Ph.D. candidates with families should strongly consider.
Many public and private schools across the United States offer doctorate-level degree programs which correspond to hundreds of academic subjects, meaning a variety of factors come into play during the educational process. No two Ph.D. students will experience the same costs, hardships and benefits. The following variables can affect the total cost and accumulated student debt that a prospective Ph.D.-holder faces:
- Choice of School: The cost to attend a Ph.D. program begins with the tuition costs associated with a chosen college or university. Some degree programs cost more to attend based on a long-standing reputation and/or the location of a school. For example, Ivy League institutions, such as Harvard University, have some of the most expensive Ph.D. programs in the U.S. D. at private schools generally cost more than public schools.
- Field of Study: As demonstrated by the NSF Survey of Earned Doctorates , school debt varies according to Ph.D. field. The survey showed that 2012 graduates in the social sciences had an average debt of $24,851, while those in the physical sciences (including math and computer science disciplines) accumulated an average debt of $6,276.
- Type of Ph.D. : There are also differences between the various doctorate programs available for certain fields, as seen in the Ph.D. (which is heavier on research) and Psy.D. (which focuses more on clinical training) programs for Psychology. Upon graduation, Ph.D.-prepared psychologists are generally more competitive when vying for teaching positions than Psy.D. graduates. Psy.D. graduates also require additional years of education, which typically means a higher overall cost and debt.
- Location of School: Those who live in the same state as a college or university have more affordable education options available to them from schools that offer in-state tuition perks. For instance, the annual tuition cost for the Doctorate of Physical Therapy program at University of Kentucky costs $18,346 for residents and $42,508 for non-residents .
- Amount of Student Loans : Those who must borrow a large sum of money in order to attend a Ph.D. program, generally face paying a higher overall cost as opposed to those who earn scholarships, grants, fellowships, assistantships, and other non-repayable aid. Government loan interest rates also add to the total cost of a Ph.D. education, and depending on the expected income and type of field that a student pursues, could take many years to repay.
“At least for some, there is significant debt that may be difficult to pay off if careers are within academics,” says Jackie Eller, who holds a Ph.D. in Sociology, and is an Interim Vice Provost for Research and Dean, at Middle Tennessee State University.
- Financial Assistance : Students with families able to contribute to the funding of their higher education; partners with a full-time job; or trust funds set aside for college have access to the types of financial assistance that often doesn’t have to be paid back. They also avoid paying extra in the long run by dodging interest charged by lenders.
The Time Commitment for Getting a PhD
One of the greatest concerns associated with pursuing a Ph.D. is the time it takes to receive a diploma. CBS Moneywatch reported that the average student completes a Ph.D. program in 8.2 years and is generally 33-years old by the time they earn their diploma and credentials . By that age, most of their peers who ended their education with a bachelor’s degree will have likely already established themselves as professionals in their respective fields.
Hardships Associated with a PhD
The number of years it takes to fulfill a doctorate-level programs’ requirements is not the only variable that presents a hardship for prospective Ph.D. students and graduates. Additional obstacles and considerations related to getting a Ph.D. include:
Highly Competitive Admissions Process : The majority of Ph.D. programs are extremely competitive and exclusive. In order to be able to offer low tuition costs, stipends and other fiscal means for students to fund their education, most schools can only afford to support a specific number of students on a yearly basis. For example, the Yale School of Management typically admits two students each in marketing and accounting, and six students in finance, with the actual number varying according to the number of students currently in residence for each year. The typical GMAT and GRE test scores for accepted applicants for the school are generally in the high 90th percentiles.
Rigorous Curriculum : Doctoral programs are demanding, and typically require a minimum of 25 to 35 hours of work per week. Depending on the curriculum and program, students spend time participating in workshops, lectures, on-campus residencies, researching, and fulfilling the responsibilities related to an assistantship (such as teaching a class or grading papers).
“Graduate school is incredibly demanding and therefore tough on relationships,” says Eller.
“Find a source of “release” beyond studying,” suggests Eller. “Without it, you will not be a healthy person.”
Lost Wages : In the time it takes a Ph.D. student to fulfill their educational requirements and earn a degree, they could have accumulated more than $200,000. Meanwhile, the extra time it takes to increase opportunities within their profession and advance their education leads to lost wages – the money they could be making as a full-time professional within their field.
In addition to lost wages, students in a Ph.D. program also miss out on various opportunities to accumulate real-world work experience.
“In some disciplines, jobs are difficult to find given people are working later in life,” says Eller.
Many schools have also brainstormed to find ways to address a Ph.D. shortage experienced in certain fields, such as business, accounting, speech and audiology. There is a widespread, growing perception that graduates entering academia after earning a doctorate degree will not be able to recoup lost wages, due to the historically low starting salaries paid to tenure-track faculty.
Requires Willpower and Patience: Not all Ph.D. candidates finish their program, and the overall process requires endurance and determination. It is also not uncommon to see students quit midway through, and decide to get a master’s degree instead. CBS Moneywatch reported that only about 57 percent of doctoral students will receive a Ph.D . within 10-years of starting graduate school.
Dealing with Professors and Advisors : “Choose an advisor carefully as this person will be critically important to your success,” says Eller.
Getting a Ph.D. involves building relationships with advisors and working with professors in assistantships. However, professors have been known to take full advantage of this with some post-graduate students sharing stories about performing ‘grunt work’ to stay in the good graces of faculty members, whom students rely upon during their pursuit of a Ph.D.
No Guarantees : Some people have a misconception that all Ph.D. holders automatically receive tenure, but this is not the case. The American Association of University Professors reports that 76 percent of all faculty appointments in the U.S. are with non-tenure track job positions .
Part-Time Employment Woes : With more than 50-percent of faculty working part-time, many Ph.D. holders typically do not have access to retirement plans, health insurance and other benefits that come with being a full-time employee.
Excessive Work Hours : The number of hours that a Ph.D.-prepared professional works varies according to their position (such as assistant professor vs lecturer), type of institution (university vs community college), and discipline (humanities vs the sciences). Typical duties include teaching classes, keeping office hours, and participating in faculty meetings. Additionally, the intense pressure that some faculty members experience to stay productive in their field (such as contribute research and/or publish), can lead to even longer work hours.
Increasing Job Scarcity : Outside of academia, some Ph.D. holders in specific fields, such as the humanities, have a harder time finding jobs related to their expertise. Another example is found in the pharmaceutical industry, which in the past, sought Ph.D. grads with chemistry and biology degrees, but has since undergone widespread consolidation with increasing employers hiring overseas.
Rewards and Benefits of a PhD
Beyond the sheer pleasure of pursuing an advanced level of knowledge regarding a subject, topic or discipline, those accepted into a Ph.D. program often experience many rewards and benefits. Additionally, if a professional has an interest to teach on the college/university level, or get hired to conduct research, obtaining a Ph.D. is a requirement. Other advantages and perks include:
Unique Funding Opportunities : Students can find a variety of ways to fund their doctorate education besides taking out a government loan. For example, depending on the field of study and school, a great number of Ph.D. programs waive tuition and provide students with stipends.
Reach Your Full Potential: Those who wish to become experts and reach the highest level of knowledge and understanding for a particular subject or field do so by pursuing a Ph.D.
“It’s a chance to take your strongest abilities and interests, and take them to the highest level you can,” says Brian R. Lashley, Ph.D., Assistant Director of Institutional Research at Eastern Connecticut State University. “In other words, your intellect and your professional skills get sharpened to a level you may not have thought you could achieve.”
Sense of Achievement & Prestige : Reaching the highest level of education possible in a field creates a gratifying sense of accomplishment. Since so few people earn a Ph.D., those who complete their studies and earn their doctorate credentials are often viewed with prestige. The U.S. Census Bureau last reported in “Educational Attainment in the United States” that only 2.6 percent of the population possessed a doctoral degree in 2014. Additionally, being able to use the title of ‘Dr.’ is an attractive benefit for many.
Credibility: Deemed an expert in a particular field of study comes with a level of credibility and respect that a Ph.D.-prepared professional receives from his or her peers, the public and employers. Because of this, someone with a doctorate degree is more likely to gain employment for the same position before a candidate with a bachelor’s or master’s degree.
Well-Qualified for Other Career Paths : Not all Ph.D. holders end up teaching or conducting research, and if they decide to pursue a different type of job, other options await such as transitioning into becoming an independent practitioner, consulting, entrepreneurship, and serving on an administrative board. For those with an interest in writing authoritative books, publishers are more likely to represent an author with a Ph.D.
“In this day and age, try not to overspecialize as you will face more difficulty in employment,” advises Eller.
A Ph.D. also creates a well-rounded and more attractive candidate to prospective employers. The advanced degree generally identifies a job applicant who possesses the ability to conduct independent research; work with little supervision or direction; overcome challenges; and handle a demanding workload.
Expanding Options for Industry Jobs: Increasing opportunities outside of academic circles are emerging for Ph.D. holders in certain fields. This oftentimes coincides with the needs of a results-driven organization. Since professionals with a Ph.D. are viewed as experts in their field, large corporations often hire them to act as consultants.
Some schools are also responding to the need to prepare students for jobs outside of teaching and conducting research. For example, the Duke PhD Plus Program introduces and offers career preparation outside of academia to engineering students , which includes a required internship, professional development workshops, and coursework that enhances a student’s overall skills.
Options for Off-setting the Cost of a PhD
While many doctorate programs provide Ph.D. candidates with low tuition costs or resources to fund their education, not every school is able to do so. However, there are many different options that a prospective student may explore to help fund their education, such as:
Organize Future Plans: “Don’t start a program if you are not excited and energized about the questions you want answered in whatever field of study,” says Eller.
Having a clear vision of future goals, projects, research, and teaching approaches can help prepare for a doctorate program. Since getting a Ph.D. translates into pursuing the ultimate specialization in a particular field, possessing a deep (or passionate) interest in the field is highly recommended. Those without the necessary drive, typically do not last though their program, and everything accomplished thus far becomes a waste of time, energy and money.
“Getting a PhD is about desire and persistence!” says Eller. “One doesn’t have to be the smartest, just the one dedicated to hard work and to persisting beyond the whims and fancies of advisors.”
Seek Out Nongovernmental Research Grants: Ph.D. students who are conducting research may find many types of research grants and awards, especially when related to scientific and medical research. To qualify, students must submit an application and research proposal. New studies, significant trends, and important topics change often, providing an ever-evolving selection of funded research projects that pay Ph.D. students to participate.
Apply for a University Assistantships: There are numerous universities that fully fund or provide a large portion of funding for Ph.D. students representing many fields. While some opportunities cover the cost of tuition and books, others additionally provide a student with a stipend when he or she serves as an assistant to a professor. Stipends for the majority of these programs typically pay $18,000 to $30,000. The average responsibilities expected of a student include, assisting with office hours, overseeing classes, and grading papers. Other Ph.D. students may assist certain professors in their research by collecting data and conducting research.
“Assistantships are often not sufficient,” warns Eller.
It is important to note that the amount of stipend varies according to specific programs. For instance, a graduate with a Ph.D. in sociology who was mentioned in a piece for The Chronicle for Higher Education , received a fellowship that covered her tuition, but her stipend, of $800 a month, did not cover the cost of books or the cost of living.
Research Government Fellowships : Fellowships are not as easily found as assistantship opportunities, but various agencies, such as the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, or the Department of Health and Human Services, will fund Ph.D. students with fellowships if they demonstrate an interest in conducting research in an area of interest to the government.
Consider Employment Assistance : For Ph.D. students already employed with a company or business, inquiring about opportunities offered to employees with an interest in earning a doctoral degree, can lead to funding. Depending on prospective students’ field of study, they may qualify for available company-related scholarships and grants.
Cost Vs Reward When Getting a PhD
When asked if her Ph.D. was worth the cost, Eller answered that is was definitely worth it. She said she was able to enjoy stability in a career that she loves, and that pays a decent salary, while allowing her to take advantage of opportunities to work independently and creatively.
“For me, the debt burden was not significant and I found a job right away,” says Eller.
“You can’t know, [if a Ph.D. degree is ultimately worth the cost] because you can’t live that other life you would have lived if you didn’t go for it,” says Lashley. “I think it was probably worth it for me because I wasn’t developed enough mentally or professionally to do anything impactful after college.”
When asked if he would do it all over again and pursue a Ph.D., Lashley answered, “I don’t know if I would for sure, but I think I would.”
“What would have been better would have been to understand myself more completely before embarking on such a journey,” he added.
Lashley, who holds a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology, advises those with an interest in pursuing a doctorate degree “develop a deep understanding of yourself and be able to know why the heck you would want to sacrifice so much money, time, energy, emotion, etc., for this endeavor.”
“Then again, it may not be that big of a deal anymore,” he adds. “I fear many doctoral programs have been severely watered down.”
Lashley recounts a time when he came in contact with an individual who he says was largely motivated by self-interest. He says this individual was able to get a Ph.D. “without so much as one semester of full-time enrollment, and lived about three or four states away from the program.”
“It’s not what I call immersion, or a serious commitment to a branch of knowledge, which I think are two of the pillars of that level of education,” he adds.
“Just my opinion, plus it’s an “N of 1,” Lashley continues. “But I can’t believe it’s not somewhat widespread with programs struggling to maintain enrollment and money.”
“Hate to tell you this, but the current technical Ph.D. degree has been seriously watered down,” Dr. Keith Dackson, PE, commented on a post titled, ‘ There are too many PhDs .’
“Many programs are simply tweaks to the Major Professors’ Ph.D. thesis with nothing of substance being added to the general body of knowledge,” Dackson continued. “We are getting to the point where people know more and more about less and less and are rapidly approaching the limit where everyone will know everything about absolutely nothing.”
In retrospect, Lashley says that getting a Ph.D. was probably the best decision of his life.
“Downsides? Of course, heck you’re supposed to be able to see all angles of something when you have that level of education,” he adds. “But definitely, unquestionably it changed my life for the better.”
“I cannot imagine being restricted in my critical thinking or my choice of things to teach and to research,” Eller adds. “I thoroughly enjoy the classes I have taught and the impact I have made on students and society.”
A Ph.D. is the highest degree that an individual may obtain in academia. It unlocks the doors leading to teaching and research positions, and allows a professional to become a respected expert within his or her field. One of the greatest concerns that doctoral candidates face is a lengthy time commitment, and finding ways to support themselves, even when they receive stipends that typically vary from $800 a month to $30,000 a year.
For a Ph.D., there are an abundance of opportunities to pursue, in an endless range of subject areas. While some of the most common Ph.D. programs include literature, the sciences, mathematics, and foreign studies, nearly any course (and beyond) addressed at a bachelor’s degree level, can be studied through a doctorate program.
For those not looking to solely fuel a passion and love for a particular field, a master’s degree may prove more advantageous over obtaining a Ph.D. This is seen in certain disciplines and degree programs, such as the MSW (a master’s degree in Social Work) , which could prove a more cost-effective choice when taking into consideration the pay differential, time, and funds required to earn the advanced degree.
The field that an individual pursues also plays an important role in the overall process and return on investment for getting a Ph.D., as each discipline comes with its own unique set of limitations and varying levels of competition, program availability, and employment opportunities. Because of this, prospective Ph.D. candidates must weigh the pros and cons of obtaining a doctorate degree as it applies to their own personal circumstances.
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How Much Does an Online PhD Program Cost?
Considering getting your PhD? You are not alone. American universities have awarded nearly 60,000 doctorate degrees in 2016 and has been on a steady incline since 2000 when 40,000 PhDs were awarded. Among these doctorate recipients are many who chose to get their PhDs online.
Online PhD programs are now offered by over 200 accredited schools in a variety of disciplines ranging from computer science , business management, to educational leadership.
Getting an online PhD is, most times, far less expensive than the traditional classroom setting alternative. You can save money on everything from the cost of transportation to actual tuition.
So how much does on online PhD actually cost? Tuition prices vary depending on the aschool's academic strength and the doctoral discipline you decide to study. The cost of the top online PhD programs , including tuition, books, registration and online coaching, can range from $4,000 to upward of $20,000.
[Check out our ranking of the 50 Most Affordable Online PhD Programs ]
For business professionals holding MBAs, an online PhD in business is very popular. Online business degrees are now available at over 400 accredited colleges and universities. The average tuition for a doctorate degree in business is around $11,000, according to recent surveys. Online PhD programs in Organizational Leadership are also very popular. The average tuition for such a PhD is about $19,500. Online psychology doctorates are another popular program, with programs averaging around $15,000.
An online PhD in Education tends to be the most expensive of doctoral programs. The average price of is over $21,000. Many school administrators, who work throughout the academic year, favor online graduate programs so they can study while working. These doctorate candidates have the benefit of taking summer courses as well. A PhD in Education candidate has a choice of nearly 100 accredited online schools to choose from.
In addition to cost-saving in transportation expenses, an online PhD in your chosen field can be a boost to your income as well. The investment in an online course can bring greater annual income and, in the long run, reduce the overall cost of tuition.
For those with established careers or have been a long time away from the college classroom, online higher degrees have become quite popular. After a long day at work, it is easier for the adult student to be at home or the local library working on his or her thesis. Many online college professors accommodate the working student by scheduling thesis reviews online at the convenience of the student. So if you have employment constraints, responsibilities to family needs, and want to earn a larger paycheck, getting your doctorate online may be the best option. You may miss the chatter of the classroom and the face-to-face counsel of your thesis advisor, but you may find experience quite rewarding and less expensive.
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How much does a ph.d. cost.
Regardless of your career field, you have an opportunity to excel in your area through a doctorate-level program . It is your path if you are interested in carrying out life-changing research or teaching . A doctoral degree also adds value to your CV and opens up many high-paying job positions.
However, it’ll take a while before you get to that high-paying and respectable position. It is a long-term commitment that pays little in the process and requires determination to continue research no matter what. Ph.D. programs are expensive, and while most of them are funded by means other than your own pocket, the latter option is also possible. Therefore, you have to clearly understand that you are positive about spending the next 4–8 years living on a salary that is hardly on par with the average living wage.
How Much Does Education before Ph.D. Cost?
Fully-funded ph.d. programs, ph.d. funding options, ph.d. and future career, salaries for doctoral graduates, the final thoughts.
Before we get to a Ph.D. cost and its funding options in detail, we have to note that a Ph.D. or a professional doctoral degree isn’t something you can apply for and get just because you want to. You can’t enter grad school before you’ve completed earlier stages of your education (which are not free of charge in the US as well). Before you get to a Ph.D., you have to complete at least one of the two first stages—a bachelor’s degree or/and a master’s degree.
University level first stage : Associate Degree (Associate of Arts (AA), Associate of Science (AS), Associate of Applied Science (AAS)), Bachelor’s Degree (Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS), Bachelor of Applied Arts (BAA), Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA)), Advanced Certificate, First Professional Degree
University level second stage : Master’s Degree (Master’s Degree in Business Administration (MBA), Master’s Degree in Education (M.Ed.), Master’s Degree in Accounting (MAcc), Master’s Degree in Public Health (MPH), Master’s Degree in Engineering (M.Eng.)), Post-Master’s Degree/Certificate, Diploma/Certificate, Degree of Education Specialist
University level third stage : Research Doctorate (Ph.D.) , Professional doctoral degrees
Average Cost of College in the US
Now, let’s take a look at how much you pay before you even start your Ph.D. Here is the information about the average cost of tuition, additional expenses, and overall cost of attendance per year in colleges and universities (according to Eduсation Data Initiative ):
So we can see that
- The cost of one academic year for an average in-state student attending a public 4-year institution is $25,487 .
- In-state average tuition costs on average $9,349 .
- Out-of-state tuition costs on average $27,023 .
- Private education will cost a student of a 4-year college $53,217 per academic year, including tuition ( $35,807 ) and expenses ( $17,410 ).
Many students have to take loans to be able to afford college. Therefore, if we add loan interest and loss of income, a bachelor’s degree can cost as much as $400,000 to a student.
Average Cost of an Associate Degree
Associate of arts (aa), associate of science (as), associate of applied science (aas), associate of nursing (an)/associate degree nurse/nursing (adn), associate of engineering (ae/aeng), etc..
In 2020-2021, the average cost of an associate degree ranged around $11,557 per year from a public institution and $25,667 per year from a private institution, according to NCES .
An associate degree is a 2-year undergraduate academic program that covers the fundamental knowledge of a subject and allows getting a profession twice as fast and at a lower cost than a 4-year college.
Average Cost of a Bachelor’s Degree
Bachelor of arts (ba), bachelor of science (bs), bachelor of applied arts (baa), bachelor of fine arts (bfa), bachelor of technology (b.tech.), bachelor of engineering (be/beng), etc..
In 2020-2021, the average cost of a bachelor’s degree ranged around $21,337 per year from a public institution and $46,313 per year from a private institution, according to NCES .
The bachelor’s degree is a four-year academic program where students learn about a broad range of subjects and choose their major. It may or may not be preceded by an associate degree.
Average Cost of a Master’s Degree
Master’s degree in business administration (mba), master’s degree in education (m.ed.), master’s degree in accounting (macc), master’s degree in public health (mph), master’s degree in engineering (m.eng.), etc..
The cost of a master’s degree ranges broadly from $30,000 to $120,000 on average, depending on the program, field, school, additional fees, and other factors. STEM programs are more expensive than programs in education, for instance.
A master’s degree gives an opportunity to get deeper into a specific field of expertise. Master’s degree programs require a prior bachelor’s degree (either from the same school or at least in the same subject field) and a follow-up thesis or internship to graduate.
The cost of a Ph.D. in the US ranges from $28,000 to $40,000 per year
With this being said, we should explain that when it comes to Ph.D. costs and funding, you can have a range of options from full funding plus a stipend to no funding and no stipend
Depending on the school, the type of research, and field of study, the department resources as well as some other things, the amount of the tuition waiver, the stipend, and any other allowances will vary greatly.
Some Ph.D.s are funded as a combination of teaching assistantships and research assistantships, which means that some of the funding comes from the university department, and some come from the individual faculty member grant funding. In this case, a Ph.D. student doesn’t pay anything and usually gets a stipend (=salary).
Other universities offer doctorate-level degree programs that are either not funded at all or not fully funded. In this case, to pay for a Ph.D., a student has to take loans or work full-time and do a Ph.D. simultaneously, which is quite a challenge, as a Ph.D. is no less than a full-time job.
What Does Ph.D. Cost Depend On?
Choice of school.
The more prestigious college with a long-standing reputation and location offers the most expensive Ph.D. programs. Private programs also usually cost more than public ones.
Here is an example of average graduate tuition for Ph.D. candidates at Columbia University from 2009 to 2021 (according to Statista ):
Field of Study
STEM and medical programs are usually more expensive than programs in social sciences.
Type of Ph.D.
There is a difference between a Ph.D. and a professional doctorate degree , though both will give you a doctorate title. The former is an academic and research-focused degree; the latter is a research degree that is focused on the application of research findings into practice. Doctorate programs differ in terms of research complexity. For instance, if you are considering a doctorate program in Psychology, a Ph.D. is heavier on research than Psy.D., which focuses more on clinical training. A Ph.D. also gives you an advantage in the competition for a teaching position.
Location of School
If you live in the same state where the college or university of your choice is located, your doctorate program will cost you less. In-state and out-of-state students pay differently for the same studies. For instance, in the Leeds Ph.D. Program from the Leeds School of Business, “ The 2020-2021 stipend is $30,000 for the academic year. Ph.D. students funded by Leeds School of Business are required to work 20 hours per week as a research or a teaching assistant. The tuition waiver is equal to approximately $16,866 for a Colorado resident and $35,100 for a non-Colorado resident. ”
Amount of Student Loans
If you are unlucky and your program isn’t fully funded, you may consider taking a loan in the amount that’ll cover your program and additional costs. In this case, the overall cost of your Ph.D. will be even higher as interest should be added to the initial loan amount.
Average Ph.D. Cost
A doctorate degree takes, on average, from 4 to 8 years in the US. The average cost of a Ph.D. is $114,300 (according to Eduсation Data Initiative ).
- The average cost of a doctorate degree from a public university is $92,200 .
- The average cost of a doctorate degree from a private university is $127,100 .
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
The average cost of a Ph.D. is $98,800.
A Ph.D. is one of the longest doctorate programs that takes up to 8 years to complete. While some universities offer full funding, most Ph.D. students offset the cost of their degree with teaching assistantships.
Doctor of Education
The average cost of a Doctorate in Education is $111,900.
Doctorate programs in Education are funded on a smaller scale than the ones in STEM subjects. Therefore, students have to offset the cost of the degree with their own funds. They usually choose between a Doctorate in Education and a Ph.D. in Education. The former is more focused on professional practice and is shorter, while a Ph.D. in Education focuses on research and teaching and takes longer to complete.
Doctor of Psychology
The average cost of a Doctorate of Psychology is $132,200.
The same applies to doctorate programs in Psychology: less generous funding, more time to complete a Ph.D. in Psychology (focused on researching and teaching), and less time to complete a Psy.D. in Psychology (focused on direct clinical practice).
How Much Does an Online PhD Cost?
Nowadays, online Ph.D. programs are also broadly available. The average cost of an online Ph.D. program can range from $4,000 to $20,000+ . Over 400 colleges and universities offer online doctorate programs. According to the Research website, here are the five most affordable online schools for doctorate programs:
While some universities claim that they have fully-funded Ph.D. programs, in reality, you need to check the terms and conditions of each in detail. In fact, fully-funded Ph.D. programs are a great privilege, such positions are few, and the competition is insane. Fully-funded Ph.D. programs let a student focus on the research entirely without the need to spend half of the time teaching or assisting others or meeting any other conditions. However, such cases are rare. Here are some of the examples where a Ph.D. program is claimed to be fully funded:
- Columbia University provides full funding to its Ph.D. students doing research in the field of medicine, sciences, public administration and policy.
- Boston College’s Department of Psychology offers a fully-funded, research-oriented doctoral program (to cover 4 or 5 years of research).
- Duke University offers a Ph.D. program in History with multi-year funding packages.
- The Joint Program in Social Work and Social Science at the University of Michigan is also covered by a funding package that includes tuition, stipends, and health care.
A full list of such options can be checked on the Profellow website, where they give comprehensive lists of fully-funded Ph.D. scholarships in every field.
Yet, most of the time, students don’t get full funding, or the funding is conditional and should be compensated by doing certain teaching and research assistant-level work on campus. In other cases, students have to cover all Ph.D. expenses themselves.
Ph.D. Stipend (Salary)
The amount of stipend depends on many factors:
- The amount of a grant that an advisor or a professor has received
- The number of workers needed in the research
- The university rules
- The department’s overall funding potential
- The minimum/average living wage for the county in which the university resides
- The level of program competition
While getting a stipend/salary is better than not getting it at all, its amount is usually not high. In some cases, it’s not enough to cover average living costs.
You can check the information about Ph.D. student stipends and salaries on Phdstipends in many disciplines at universities all over the US and compare the real facts with your expectations. For instance, if you are considering applying for a Ph.D. program at Auburn University, you may find this information useful:
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reported that residents and fellows receive, on average, a mean unweighted stipend of $59,279 for each program year. We retrieved the data as of July 1, 2021, from the AAMC Survey of Resident/Fellow Stipends and Benefits Report:
Also, according to the recent research carried out by two Ph.D. biology students , Ph.D. student salaries in the biological sciences are way below the basic cost of living. We recommend checking the research, as it’s regularly updated, mostly focused on biology science programs, and can serve as a very good illustration of the overall grad student salary situation: a very small percentage of institutions and departments seem to be able to offer salaries above the cost of living threshold.
How to Fund a Ph.D.?
According to the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) (Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2020—the most recent report we’ve found; the next release is expected in November 2022), major sources of Ph.D. funding are
- Research assistantships
- Teaching assistantships
- Dissertation grants
- Student’s own resources (loans, personal savings, personal earnings; spouse, partner, or family assistance)
- Other resources (employer reimbursement, foreign support)
So, if your Ph.D. program is not fully-funded, here is what you can consider to cover the program parts that are not funded (or an entire program if that’s the case).
Make a Thorough Plan
First of all, you have to clearly understand why you want to pursue this path. Since an average doctorate program lasts for 8 years, which is a very long time, you have to be passionate about your research and have a clear vision of your goals and milestones. This is especially relevant for programs that offer insufficient funding. Do not overestimate your financial potential.
Check Your Ph.D. Program Conditions
If you plan to do research in STEM subjects or medicine, seek the programs that are funded by the National Research Council . There may be options to get financial help either individually or via scholarships. They also fund group and department research projects.
Nongovernmental Research Grants
Apart from governmental, federal, and state grants, there are many other funding alternatives that can be sought out to support research on a particular topic. We encourage you to learn about them all in your field of study. Check Educationusa for more information.
Apply for Assistantships
As an assistant, you will be expected to officially work up to 20 hours a week; however, in reality, you may be working more. There are three major assistantship paths:
- Research assistants help faculty in their research.
- Teaching assistants either assist faculty in teaching or teach classes themselves.
- Graduate assistants usually combine the functions of the ones mentioned above.
Assistantships are usually paid in the form of a salary (stipend) we’ve discussed earlier. Keep in mind, however, that not all departments have resources for assistants, and you will most likely have to compete with other Ph.D. students to get the position.
Apply for Fellowships
Ph.D. fellowships in the US help you get your tuition waived, get a stipend in the amount sufficient enough to cover your living expenses, and allow focusing on research without the need to fulfill any assistantship obligations. To become a fellow, you may need to apply separately to other organizations, as fellowships are frequently offered outside universities. The drawback is that Ph.D. fellowships are highly competitive and, as a rule, don’t cover the full duration of the studies.
Consider Getting Funds from Your Current Job
If you are a Ph.D. student and a current employee at a company, you can also inquire about their employee funding opportunities. Some businesses have financial assistance programs for workers who are getting a Ph.D.
Consider Getting a Loan
While this is an unfavorable option, you shouldn’t wave it aside at once. If your research is important and, at some point, you run out of all funding options, you can take a loan as a last resort.
Here is the number of doctoral degrees earned in the United States in 2019/2020 by field of research (according to Stataista ):
So where did all those people go? Where can you go after getting your Ph.D.? There has been a clear trend recently for doctorate graduates to go into non-academic employment; however, many stay in the academic field as well. Here are the options that post-doc graduates can choose to pursue:
- A post-doc position at the institution where you got a Ph.D.
- A faculty position at the institution where you got a Ph.D. or at another university
- An adjunct position at your university (non-tenure-track position)
- Teach at an undergraduate institution
- Join a company in your field of specialization
- Become a consultant to policymakers and help put research into practice
- Become a business consultant
- Become an entrepreneur and start your own business
- Work for government and public services
- A career in science communication and science journalism
- Take any path you like
It is true that the job market for new Ph.D. recipients is better or worse in some fields of study than in others every year. While degree and specialization play a crucial role, the industry and the position also influence the amount of the annual pay. According to the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) , in 2020, in every field, the “ median expected salaries for doctorate recipients committing to jobs in industry or business were higher than those in postdocs and academe. ”
The median salaries for postdocs in almost every field ranged from $50,000 to $55,000 in 2020.
- Postdocs in mathematics and computer sciences were an exception, as their median salary was $61,000 .
- The highest median academic salaries— $85,000 and $90,000 —were reported in engineering and other non-science and engineering fields, such as industry or business.
- The highest median salaries in industry or business positions— $144,000 —were reported in the fields of mathematics and computer sciences.
Yet, as we’ve already mentioned, getting a Ph.D. comes with financial strings attached. Here is another chart that shows the correlation between the expected salary in a chosen field and the education-related debt. Apparently, doctorate recipients in the science and engineering fields have the lowest median cumulative debt and the highest median expected annual salaries; in business management and administration, graduates have a higher debt but also the highest expected salary of all. As opposed to these, doctorate recipients in the fields of psychology and other non-science and engineering fields are reported to have the highest median cumulative debt and the lowest median expected annual salaries.
As you can see, the topic of Ph.D. cost is quite an extensive one. There are many things that you should be aware of before deciding to pursue the doctorate path, as apart from being a respectable one, it also requires a huge investment .
Remember that your program may not be fully funded, so you’ll have to cover the rest of its cost by other means. Besides, the years you’ll spend doing your doctorate can be spent getting valuable practical experience and gaining a promotion, which is not what Ph.D. programs focus on.
Yet, if research is what you are solely interested in and passionate about and the academic field is where you excel, getting a doctorate degree is well worth the cost and a perfect choice for you.
- 20 most affordable online doctorate programs in 2022 . Research.com. (2022, May 30). Retrieved June 27, 2022, from https://research.com/degrees/most-affordable-online-doctorate-programs
- AAMC survey of resident/fellow stipends and benefits . AAMC. (n.d.). Retrieved June 27, 2022, from https://www.aamc.org/data-reports/students-residents/report/aamc-survey-resident/fellow-stipends-and-benefits
- Average graduate tuition for Phd students at Columbia University 2021 . Statista. (2021, December 13). Retrieved June 27, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/939141/ivy-league-average-graduate-tuition-phd-students-columbia-university/
- Biology PhD Stipends 2022 . Rhett Rautsaw’s droplet. (2022). Retrieved June 27, 2022, from https://rhettrautsaw.app/shiny/BiologyPhDStipends/
- Digest of Education Statistics, 2021 . National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). (2021). Retrieved June 27, 2022, from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d21/tables/dt21_330.10.asp
- Doctorate recipients from U.S. universities . NSF. (2020). Retrieved June 27, 2022, from https://ncses.nsf.gov/pubs/nsf22300/
- Hanson, M. (2022, February 3). Average cost of a doctorate degree : Ph.d., psy.D. more . Education Data Initiative. Retrieved June 27, 2022, from https://educationdata.org/average-cost-of-a-doctorate-degree
- MBA tuition fees (2020/2021): Calculating the cost of your studies . MBA Today. (2021). Retrieved June 27, 2022, from https://www.mba.today/guide/fees
- PhD Stipend Survey Results . Results – phd stipends. (2021). Retrieved June 27, 2022, from https://www.phdstipends.com/results
Natalie Meyers is a freelance writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience. As an English major and a psychology graduate, she worked as a teacher and a counselor. As a writer, she's covered a diverse range of topics from technology to publishing. She is an avid reader who believes that books help us become more authentic versions of ourselves. At BookScouter, she's a smart writer and an expert in all things books.
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How Much Does a PhD Cost?
Published by steve tippins on february 1, 2019 february 1, 2019.
Last Updated on: 3rd June 2022, 04:38 am
Many people have dreams of getting a PhD and returning to the classroom to guide young students. Others want to complete a doctorate to embark on a career of cutting-edge research.
These are admirable reasons to embark on the road towards getting a PhD. However, it’s important to consider the cost of a PhD before embarking on this journey. How much does a PhD cost? And more importantly, is it worth the price?
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Average Cost of a PhD
The average time it takes to complete a PhD is just over 8 years. That’s right, 8 years. The average cost of a PhD program is $30,000 per year, which comes to a grand total of $240,000 over the course of eight years. Almost a quarter of a million dollars.
Of course, this is just the average cost of a PhD–chances are your specific program will cost either more or less, and you might not take as long to finish. Then again, you might take longer. So, these are just estimates. You may be able to come up with a more accurate estimate by looking at your specific program and field. But no matter the details, it is vital to consider how much money you’ll actually be spending and whether it’s worth the investment.
However, when considering the cost of a PhD, tuition is just the beginning. If you only look at the price tag without considering the hidden costs, you may be in for a rough few years. In order to fully answer the question, “How much does a PhD cost,” we have to look at some other factors as well.
The Hidden Cost of a PhD
There are more costs than just dollars and cents when pursuing anything, and a PhD is no exception. Here are some of the hidden costs to be aware of when considering the cost of a PhD.
Eight years is a long time. Even three years is a substantial time investment. Getting a doctoral degree means that you will be investing a great deal of time into this quest. Before you begin, remember that you can only be in one place at a time so you will inevitably miss out on other opportunities. What do you spend your time on now? Consider whether you’re willing to give that up for the most part for a few years.
If you go to graduate school full-time you most likely will not be able to hold down a full-time job. That means that your career will be put on hold. If you go to graduate school part-time you can still keep your job but the demands of graduate school may mean that you might miss potential promotions.
Missed time with family and friends
The demands of a graduate program are substantial. There are classes and then there is homework. It is not like in undergraduate school where you might have been able to dash off a homework assignment 15 minutes before class. In graduate school you are expected to provide thoughtful and considered submissions. This can take a great deal of time.
This time commitment may mean missing events with your family and friends . I have seen many cases where a graduate student attends a soccer game or dance recital with her/his laptop and works on an assignment through the entire event. They are there, but are they really present? Make sure that your family is on board with you getting your degree. Their support can be invaluable, but their lack of support could mean having to pay back debt for a degree you never finished, or worse yet, resentment from those you love the most.
Income you could have had
If you do give up a career, you will lose that income. If you maintain your career, you may miss out on promotions and larger raises. This means lower income while in school. Recognize that there is no guarantee you will make this income back once you finish your degree. Depending on your field of study, you may actually make less money as a professor than you could at a professional job outside academia.
Foregone future benefits
You may have a number of benefits at work. For example, a 401(k) with employer matching. If you are not working, you will lose both your contribution and any employer matches. If your income is diminished, your 401(k) contributions may be lower. This will not impact your current income but it may reduce your retirement income.
The cost of not finishing
While your intention will obviously be to complete the program and get hooded at the end of the journey, the reality for 50% of those beginning a doctorate don’t finish . If you end up among them, will you regret beginning the program? How will you repay the student loans?
Benefits of a PhD
With all of those costs, there must be some reasons people go through the mental and financial hardship of getting a PhD. And of course there are. Here are a few.
On the bright side, at many schools PhD students go to school tuition free (at this point, tuition waivers are not considered income for tax purposes) and get small stipends to teach and help do research. This benefit can offset many of the costs, but you will find that these stipends do not allow for a lavish lifestyle. Many people in this position take out loans to cover living expenses.
If your ultimate career includes a full-time faculty job, then one of the benefits is a flexible schedule. Rarely do teaching faculty have to comply to a strict 9 to 5 schedule. Additionally, they get time off when students get time off. A flexible schedule can allow you to be more present in other areas of life, such as with your family. As a professor, I took the summers to spend time with family and explore the world. We bicycled through Northern France one summer and traveled to the Galapagos Islands another. These are experiences that I’ll always cherish.
There are also non-monetary benefits relating to creating a life of meaning. If you feel a sense of purpose in your job, you’ll have a happier daily existence than if you toil away at something that feels pointless. Since people with more education often get more control over their careers, the doctorate may enable more opportunities to find or create meaningful work.
Your getting a PhD might also be meaningful to those who know and love you. Will it serve your family or community to get a doctorate? How might your personal sacrifices be worth the effort, once you have achieved this goal on behalf of those you care about?
How Much Does a PhD Cost? Final Thoughts
The dream of getting a PhD drives many to enroll before considering all of the costs. I urge you to consider all possible costs and benefits when considering a PhD program. If you decide to enroll in a PhD program, consider options that can help you finish your degree faster, saving you money in the long run.
Asking the question, “How much does a PhD Cost” should always be followed by a second question: “Why do I want to get a PhD?” It’s important to consider the amount of money you’d be spending and consider whether it’s worth the investment. What else could you do with a quarter million dollars? Start a business? Buy a home? Feed the hungry?
Your reasons for getting a PhD are where you’ll find the answer to whether it’s worth the cost. If you’re confident your research could contribute to advances in developing a cure for cancer and youwant to contribute what you can no matter the cost, it may be worth spending the money to get a PhD. If you’re deeply passionate about a certain subject and feel it’s your life purpose to ignite the same passion in young minds, getting a PhD may be the perfect choice for you.
But if you’re doing it to get a promotion or a better job, you might be better off looking into other options. In these cases, a PhD may not be worth the cost.
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PhD Program Costs
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Costs listed below reflect the 2022-2023 academic year.
Tuition and fees do not represent the full cost of your program. Living expenses and the cost of books should also be considered as you plan your budget for the academic year.
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Tuition and Fees
Learn more out about tuition costs and estimated living expenses for graduate degree programs and non-degree programs.
All GSAS students are charged tuition based on a tiered tuition structure that reduces over time as students progress through their degree program. Students in PhD programs and some master's programs receive grants and fellowships that cover this cost.
PhD and Master’s Students
Students are required to register continuously from the time they enter a degree program until they receive their degree. Nonresident students with Leave of Absence or Traveling Scholar status are charged, at minimum, the active file fee (see the chart below).
Note: Subject to annual increases
* The Computational Science and Engineering (CSE) and Data Science master’s programs have different tuition structures than other degree programs in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences:
Computational Science and Engineering master of science (SM): $59,968 (one-year program).
Computational Science and Engineering master of engineering (ME): $59,968 (first year); $29,984 (second year).
Data Science master of science (SM): $59,968 (first year); $29,984 (second year: one term only).
This estimated budget does not include costs of travel or summer support, fees for required tests, application fees, or such initial expenses as home furnishings. Your individual expenses may vary from these figures. Funding and aid are available to meet these costs.
Special students engage in coursework or a combination of coursework and research for academic credit for one term or one year only. While not candidates for any degree, special students are admitted to GSAS and access student privileges, which includes a Harvard transcript with coursework and grades listed. Full tuition and student health fees are charged; GSAS does not offer financial aid, work-study opportunities, or student loans to special students. Audited courses and supervised independent research projects are charged the same tuition as courses for credit.
Payment of tuition and fees is due prior to registration.
*Special Students enrolled in two or fewer courses may apply to waive the SHF.
Below is an estimated budget for living expenses, including housing, food, and miscellaneous expenses. Please note that this is a guide representing the bare minimum for living in the Cambridge area and are subject to change.
Scholars intending to conduct independent research who hold a doctorate, have equivalent professional experience, or are advanced doctoral candidates who have completed all required coursework may register at GSAS as a visiting fellow . Visiting fellows are considered full-time research students, access Harvard University’s libraries and facilities, and may apply for membership in the Harvard Faculty Club. Reduced tuition and student health fees are charged; GSAS does not offer financial aid, work-study opportunities, or student loans to visiting fellows. Tuition cannot be waived or prorated and is non-refundable.
Degree fees: How much you can expect to spend for a bachelor’s, master’s or PhD degree
Upon graduation from high school or college, many individuals face the difficult decision of whether to continue their education or gain work experience. Some insist that considering the rising cost of degree fees, an undergraduate degree will create debt and a postgraduate degree will just add to it. However, many fail to consider the reality of stagnant real wages and distorted unemployment rates.
As of September 2020, the US unemployment rate stood at about 7.9%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics . The current high rate is partially due to the economic impact of the global coronavirus pandemic; before the crisis hit in March, it was 3.5%.
In 2019, the unemployment rate for graduates with a bachelor’s degree was 2.2% compared to 2.0% for master’s degree holders. T he median weekly earnings for those with a bachelor’s degree were US$1,248 versus US$1,497 for those with a master’s degree, which shows the value of a postgraduate degree. Some fields, such as education and psychology, require master’s degrees and beyond just for entry-level positions.
Forbes confirmed the importance of higher education earlier this year, stating that individuals will need more and better qualifications to get a job in 2027. These findings show that individuals should consider a number of factors when deciding to invest further in their education.
With all this in mind, many wonder what exactly the differences are in terms of cost when weighing out their options and planning their academic careers. To make the planning process easier, here’s a quick breakdown of undergraduate, postgraduate, and doctorate degree fees:
Undergraduate degree fees
According to US News data, the average tuition cost has dropped in the 2020-21 academic year over the prior year across both public and private schools. The data also shows that the average cost of tuition and fees at a ranked in-state public college is about 72% less than the average sticker price at a private college, at US$9,687 for the 2020-2021 year compared with US$35,087. Undergraduate degrees usually take four years to complete.
Depending on the college or university they decide on, most students are eligible for tuition fee loans which can cover the full cost. Another option is a maintenance loan which covers living expenses such as food and rent, usually depending on where you are from and your household income.
Graduating students participate in commencement exercises at City College where First lady Michelle Obama delivered the commencement speech. Source: Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP
Postgraduate degree fees
Master’s fees at public – or “state” – universities are usually lower than private alternatives, with prices offset by state funding. Public universities also base fees on a student’s residency, with students from out-of-state paying at a higher rate (this also applies to international students).
There’s still plenty of variation in public university fees, but, as a rule, you can expect to pay anywhere between US$20,000 and US$60,000 per year for a master’s programme, which usually takes between a year or two to complete. It is costly to most, but you can take comfort in knowing most larger universities maintain scholarship and assistantship packages to support students in need. This funding is usually available to students regardless of nationality, but some awards may be reserved to support domestic or international applicants.
Doctorate graduate fees
The cost of a Ph.D. can vary between US$28,000 to US$40,000 per year, but many students find that they can get funding for much, or all, of their costs. These degrees usually take four to six years to complete.
It is important to do your research before applying to ensure you meet the deadline. Some Ph.D. students will receive a stipend from their institution with an assistantship position, but this varies between institutions and between the departments within. Students could also look into applying for government-funded doctoral loans.
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- The Cost of a PhD
Written by Ben Taylor
A PhD is usually cheaper than a taught degree, but the large variety of different subject areas, universities and higher education systems mean that the average fees and living costs vary. This page gives you an outline of the typical cost of a PhD in the UK and other destinations, along with some additional expenses you may have to budget for.
Having a better understanding of how much a doctorate might cost will aid you in your search for PhD funding and may make a difference to where you decide to study your PhD.
On this page
Phd fees in the uk.
Postgraduate courses in the UK are generally cheaper, per year, than undergraduate courses. The typical tuition fee for PhD study in the UK is around £4,500 per year for domestic students. But they can range from £4,500-£20,000 depending on the subject area.
This is the amount that UK Research Councils pay to universities on behalf of funded students. Universities tend to set their fees close to the Research Council amount, though some may be higher.
These fees go up each year in line with inflation, so a PhD for self-funded students may be slightly higher in the second and third years of a UK doctorate.
International PhD fees in the UK
International students pay higher fees to study in the UK. These are set by individual institutions and vary by subject. As a general rule, you can expect to pay around £20,000-£35,000 per year . Some subjects cost more, for example in STEM due to the extra resources required such as equipment, servicing and tech support.
The cost of a part-time PhD
The costs of a PhD stated on this page are for full-time PhD study. Part-time PhD fees are generally about 50% of the full-time price, but this can vary. Always check if you are able to do a PhD project part-time particularly when doing a PhD abroad as some visas can restrict you from this mode of study.
Research support fees
Some PhD students also pay research support fees to cover the cost of specialist materials used during their project.
For laboratory-based students, these are known as bench fees , which cover the cost of consumables and the use of facilities required to do experiments. These costs may sometimes be included in the tuition fee or quoted separately. Bench fees are one reason why PhD fees for STEM subjects are generally higher than for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.
Specific costs vary depending on the nature of the programme and the kind of research you are undertaking. Because of this, details of bench fees are discussed during the application or are made available on request.
Universities offer scholarships, bursaries and full studentships to help students cover the cost of a PhD sudy (the latter are often provided by the UK Research Councils . Most university funding is provided on the basis of academic merit or to support widening participation. A government PhD loan is also available to some students. You can find more information on the different way to fund your PhD here.
PhD living costs in the UK
Living costs will greatly depend on your lifestyle and circumstances – and you will definitely want a life outside of your PhD. Whether that involves going out once a week or once a month, we cannot predict, but we can give you a guide to what the average living costs (not including rent), in different UK university cities are for a postgraduate student.
If you are fortunate enough to get a full Research Council studentships, you will receive an annual stipend to cover living costs and maintenance. The stipend is currently £17,668 , and this also increases with inflation each year.
PhD fees in Europe
PhD fees elsewhere in Europe are often more affordable than those in the UK, and some countries actually provide opportunities to complete a doctorate for free.
The tuition fees below are indications of what EU citizens could pay in different countries, based on data from the OECD.
- Austria = €0
- Belgium = €474
- Czech Republic = €0
- Denmark = €0
- Estonia = €0
- Finland = €0
- France = €380
- Germany = €0
- Greece = €0
- Hungary = €5,000 – €12,000*
- Iceland = €0
- Italy = €900-4,000
- Netherlands = €0**
- Norway = €0
- Poland = €0
- Portugal = €1,500-€3,000
- Romania = €800-€1,365***
- Spain = €2,200-€3,600
- Sweden = €0
- Switzerland = €182-€1,995
- Turkey = €500-€1,000
*If not state-funded
**As doctoral students are classed as university employees
***Additional fee of around €1,050 for your doctoral thesis defence
International students may pay slightly more than these fees, though some European countries don’t distinguish between domestic and overseas students. See our guides to PhD study in Europe for more information.
PhD living costs in Europe
As with tuition fees, the living costs in different European countries also varies. The following table compares the cost of accommodation, travel, utilities and groceries across Europe.
International PhD fees
The average cost of a PhD for international students can range from £3,500 to £20,000 per year depending on the institution and course type. For international students, you can expect to pay the following in these different countries for PhD studies.
- Australia = USD $13,065 - $30,485
- Canada = USD $1,849 -12,500
- Hong Kong = USD $11,466-$33,761
- Japan = USD $5,599 - $6,349
- New Zealand = USD $4,783
- Singapore = USD $28,770
- South Korea = USD $1,100 - $20,900
- USA = USD $26,000+
Although PhD costs for internationals do seem high, most countries offer scholarships and other funding options to attract students. In addition to this, many of the UK Research Councils have partner universities in countries around the world and may pay for part of your PhD to take place in a different country. For example, the A*STAR PhD programme allows students to study in Singapore, as well as a UK based university.
To know precisely how much it will cost you to do a PhD abroad, it is best to get in touch with the university you are interested in researching at. These are some questions you can ask in an email and state whether you are international, EU or a home student:
- What are the programme fees and what do they cover?
- Are there any additional ‘departmental research costs’ e.g. administration fees or costs for printing etc?
- Are there any additional expenses such as for research equipment or fieldwork costs?
- Are scholarships or bursaries available?
Additional fees and costs
The main costs of a PhD will be from tuition fees and living costs, but there are also some other expenses you may have to account for.
If you are studying abroad, it is more than likely that you will need a visa. Most countries charge a fee for processing your visa application. However, studying abroad may not necessarily mean that you have to pay the visa fees. Some countries (such as the European Union) don’t require student visas for their member citizens.
Student visa requirements and the costs in different countries can be found in our guides to PhD study abroad.
Health insurance when studying abroad
Costs for health insurance will only apply if you are going to study your PhD abroad, as if you do your doctorate in your home country, you will already be covered by any existing public or private healthcare.
Some universities charge a small fee to process PhD applications. This is not always the case, and isn’t very common in the UK, but it varies depending on the university you choose to do your PhD at.
Individual universities will provide detailed information about any administrative fees they charge and these are covered in our guides to PhD study abroad.
In order to study a PhD in a second language, you must provide evidence that you have sufficient language skills. Universities will either accept existing experience studying in the relevant language or may require a certain score on a language test.
Different universities have their own preferred language tests, though many universities will accept more than one. For more information, see our guides to international language tests for postgraduate study.
Another important aspect of PhD fees, particularly if you are studying abroad, is getting to your destination country or city. This is something that is good to budget for in advance.
Paying for your PhD
Whatever costs you face during your PhD, there is a range of ways to help cover them. Our funding guides cover doctoral loans , studentships , charitable grants and international scholarships .
There are a range of UK bank accounts suitable for international PhD students, but it's best to prepare and open one in advance.
This brief guide explains what part-time study involves at PhD level, how long a programme will take to complete and what some of the upsides and downsides are for this mode of study.
The UK doctorate is globally recognised and Britain's historic universities conduct world-leading research in all subject areas. Read our guide to UK PhDs, including application requirements, fees, funding and visas.
Who funds PhDs? And how do scholarships and studentships actually work? If you're new to PhD funding, start with this simple guide.
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Ph.D. Program Tuition and Fees
The 2022–2023 tuition for the Ph.D. program is $46,900. Most doctoral students receive a School fellowship that covers the cost of their tuition and provides a 12-month stipend for the first five years of their program. For 2022–2023, the stipend is $36,300. Doctoral students must pay a nominal continuous registration fee (CRF) for no more than three years thereafter. The continuous registration fee is $765 per term.
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According to U.S. Census 2013 data, 1.68 percent of Americans over the age of 25 have a PhD. This equates to approximately 2.5 million people. People with professional degrees such as MD or DDS make up 1.48 percent of the U.S.
A graduate or postgraduate degree is a master’s or doctoral degree that follows the completion of a bachelor’s degree. A graduate degree is necessary for many professions, such as a doctor, lawyer or professor.
A 2.1 university degree is a British and Australian undergraduate classification that signifies that its recipient was awarded the second-highest mark. The third-highest mark in this system is 2.2.
Average Cost of a Doctorate Degree · A Doctorate of Education may cost on average $98,900. · The average cost of a Doctorate of Philosophy or Ph.D
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D. The Average Cost of Getting a PhD. Doctoral programs are unique in the sense that they have a reputation for financially accommodating students as they
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Annenberg, Arts & Sciences, Design, Education, Social Policy & Practice · $44,162, $6,560 ; Engineering · Technology Fee, $928, $928 · $45,090, $7,488 ; Nursing
PhD and Master's Students ; Full Tuition— required first two years of study*. $52,456 ; Reduced Tuition—required third and fourth years of study. 13,638.
Doctorate graduate fees ... The cost of a Ph.D. can vary between US$28,000 to US$40,000 per year, but many students find that they can get funding
International PhD fees · Australia = USD $13,065 - $30,485 · Canada = USD $1,849 -12,500 · Hong Kong = USD $11,466-$33,761 · Japan = USD $5,599 -
The 2022–2023 tuition for the Ph.D. program is $46,900. Most doctoral students receive a School fellowship that covers the cost of their tuition and