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How Do I Get a PhD Scholarship?

A PhD candidate may achieve funding in the form of a teaching appointment.
Some PhD scholarships are awarded in specific areas of study.
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  • Written By: Diane Goettel
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  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2014
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Many people who want to complete a PhD, or doctorate degree, in their chosen field of study require assistance to cover the cost in the form of a PhD scholarship. A PhD scholarship may come directly from the accrediting institution or it may come from an outside source. Many students use more than one PhD scholarship or grant to cover the cost of their tuition and living expenses while they are completing their degree.

After completing a bachelor's degree and commonly also a master's degree or other training, it is common for students to be out of funds for their education. They may also be wary of taking on even more debt in the form of student loans, or a combination of the two. Furthermore, as PhD programs are almost always very intensive, it is normally impossible for students to maintain the sort of full-time job that would allow them to pay their tuition out of pocket.

Funding from universities often comes in the form of a teaching appointment. A PhD candidate may be asked to teach undergraduate courses. The salary that they make teaching is applied toward their tuition. This sort of funding is often combined with other sorts of grants.

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There are a number of scholarships that are designed specifically for students who are trying to do certain kinds of work. If you are hoping to complete your doctorate of philosophy in German literature, for example, you could start by looking for a PhD scholarship that is intended for students in your field. You may also expand that search to scholarships in German studies, comparative literature, and similar fields. These sorts of scholarships may come from universities or from organizations dedicated to your field. In fact, there are quite a number of institutions outside of the field of education that offer scholarships for students who are pursing certain courses of studies.

In addition to grants from universities and independent institutions, the government may also be a source for your PhD scholarship. The government will often offer grants and scholarships to students. These grants are sometimes specifically created for students who are at certain points in their educations. They are also sometimes directed at students who are pursuing specific courses of study. The best way to find a PhD scholarship from the government that might be right for you is to visit the education section of the government website.

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Moldova
Post 12

@Bhutan - I have heard of companies doing that and I have to say that if you can pursue a PhD then by all means do it. You may have regrets when you get older and your life is more complicated if you don't try.

I know that there are a lot of scholarships out there and remember when you do get the PhD you will be a recoginized expert in the field and can also make money publishing books and articles in your field. This is really gratifying because you get to expand your knowledge base with others and get paid for it.

There are even many companies on line that would jump at the chance of offering writing work for a PhD student so you can earn some income to offset your expenses. I really have a lot of respect for people that go through this process because I know that there are so many sacrifices that these PhD students have to make, but the old cliche rings true; "Nothing worthwhile ever comes easy."

Bhutan
Post 11

@Sunshine31 - I know what you are saying, but if you can get a PhD scholarship then you wouldn’t really have that much debt. There are many prestigious professions that require a PhD. For example, becoming a psychologist requires a PhD in order to receive a license and that is a very sought after career.

I think that you do have to look at the pros and cons of pursuing a PhD. There are some companies that might even offer tuition reimbursement if you continue working for the firm after you finish. It might be hard to work and pursue a PhD, but many programs are available part time to accommodate nontraditional students.

I think if you work for a software firm, you might be able to get a PhD scholarship in computer science from the company. There are many businesses that sponsor scholarships, so definitely do your homework you might be pleasantly surprised.

sunshine31
Post 10

@Sunshined- I think that you have to consider pursuing a PhD like an investment. While it may be a great intellectual goal to pursue, many people become disappointed with the salaries that people with a PhD makes. You would think that the years of education would pay off some how but, it doesn’t always.

I knew a lady that got a PhD in Education and after racking up $150,000 in student loan debt, she just secured a job earning $50,000. I realize that this was a college professor position at a university, but I think that she could have earned that salary without getting into so much debt.

Teachers with a Masters degree start at $45,000 so in reality she is only earning an additional $5,000 for getting the PhD, but in return she has $150,000 in student loan debt that looks more like a mortgage.

I know that people have their dreams of getting a PhD but you have to be realistic about what you expect. Getting into so much debt to earn so little seems a little crazy to me.

sunshined
Post 9

If I was to go back to school and get my PhD, I know I would look for as many scholarship and grant opportunities as I could find. There are several PhD scholarships for minorities that are available if you know the right places to look.

It never hurts to apply for as many things as you can. You never know what you might qualify for and when it comes to paying for your education, every little bit really makes a difference.

honeybees
Post 8

My cousin worked very hard to get her PhD in psychology and is now a college professor at a university. I know this would not have been possible without some graduate and undergraduate scholarships that she received. She spent many years of time and money on receiving her education and it did pay off for her in the end.

I also know people who have gone into a lot of debt for graduate studies, and have a hard time finding a job that is in their field. If they are fortunate to find a job, a lot of times it doesn't pay enough to live off of and pay back all their student loan debt.

Tomislav
Post 7

I thought it was interesting when I was looking into graduate schools to get my masters degree; the schools were interested in whether I was going to get my PhD.

When I asked one of my professors about why anyone would get their PhD in a field they most likely wouldn't have had any experience working in (if you were going from undergrad to your masters program you literally don't have time to gain on the job experience in that field); one of my professors said exactly what everyone is posting about.

This professor said that is difficult to get people to come back and get their PhD after they start working and receiving a salary.

I have always been interested in gaining my PhD; however, I wanted to have on the job experience before someone called me Doctor in my area of expertise!

Now I must say that it will be difficult to stop receiving a salary and becoming a student again! However knowing there are PhD scholarships for women, it gives me hope that it might just be easier to go back than I am thinking!

Although I am heeding everyone's posted warnings about the financial indebtedness that may occur when going for your PhD.

truman12
Post 6

One of the best was to get a PhD scholarship is to be a minority student. Minority PhD scholarships are fairly common and in some cases the application process is not a rigorous as other scholarships. These are offered by lots of different institutions and available for those interested in studying both the arts or the sciences. If you are a minority student there is really no reason not to check these out.

nextcorrea
Post 5

@kaboom - I completely agree with your statements about going through college completely out of pocket, particularly as it pertains to PhD students. This might have been a viable option in the past, but in today's academic and economic environment it is essentially dooming your future. Here's why.

Having a PhD is not what it used to be. It still comes with a lot of respect, but it is no longer the guarantee of a cushy tenor track job in academia. In fact many PhDs end up moving from college to college working one year contracts as adjuncts making $27,000 a year. Unfortunately, so many people go on to get advanced degrees these days that they can exploit the labors of people who go all the way to the end. So anyone who pays for their PhD out of pocket will be looking at years of high debt and low pay. No matter how much you love your subject expertise, that can quickly wear you down.

popcorn
Post 4

If you really want to get a PhD studying abroad can be a fantastic way to secure a scholarship. For those in fields that don't require specific training, like in medicine, there are many universities abroad that will pay you to attend.

Competition for students in countries like China is fierce, as they all want to have some western looking people attending their schools from notable countries. It is a point of pride for the school that they can have 'white' international students attending.

Often these schools will pay all of your tuition, books and provide housing, as well as airfare. For the right person it can really be an all-expense paid PhD. You just have to learn how to market it when you get back to your own country.

manykitties2
Post 3

For those willing to put in the time to pursue a PhD, a scholarship and assistant teaching position should be in your school plan if you are really serious about further education.

On average a PhD takes around 5 years to complete, and the idea of spending all that time not working is a luxury few can afford. Many schools offer guaranteed work as a teaching assistant who will help out undergrads with their course work. If your program isn't offering that it is probably a better idea to move on to a school that does.

Just dropping everything and pursuing your dream of a PhD may seem like a good idea but the financial penalties can be huge. Make sure you find a school with grants and apply to every scholarship you can.

KaBoom
Post 2

@sunnySkys - Well, they would probably be even more stressed out if they went into debt to get their PhDs instead of taking the teaching job. A friend of mine got accepted into a Masters to PhD program a few years ago. She decided not to work and didn't get any scholarships or financial aid.

She's still not done her PhD but now she's literally tens of thousands of dollars in debt. She worries every day about how she's going to pay it back when she gets out of school.

I would really suggest anyone that wants to get their PhD look into getting scholarships instead of taking on debt through loans. You'll have a lot less worries during your studies if you do that!

sunnySkys
Post 1

When I was in college I actually had several professors that were PhD candidates. They always seemed extremely focused on the subject matter.

However, they also all seemed pretty stressed out. I imagine that teaching full time and working on a PhD probably doesn't leave a lot of time for rest and relaxation!

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