Are you ready to take the plunge and embark on a PhD journey to conduct research in the U.S.? Undoubtedly, it’s an exciting time to explore areas of interest and discover new opportunities. But with all this enthusiasm also comes one major challenge: funding your graduate program.

A doctoral degree is a substantial investment that requires extensive planning if you’re going to make it through without heavy amounts of student debt. So how can you fund such an educational endeavor? Don’t worry; help is here! In this blog post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about securing the financial resources required to fund PhD research at a top-notch U.S. university—so get ready for adventure!

Funding your PhD in America: What You Need to Know

The United States is a popular destination for grad students who want to pursue research due to the numerous highly-regarded research institutions it houses. These universities offer an array of academic programs across various disciplines, giving PhD students plenty of academic field options to choose from.

The high quality and standard of doctoral programs within these institutions make them attractive to aspiring researchers and scholars. Furthermore, grad students can benefit from the ample resources available in American universities, including cutting-edge laboratories and libraries with vast collections of books. This is why many international students opt to embrace their passion for research by pursuing a doctoral degree in the U.S. and working with some of the most eminent academics and scientists.

Funding Your PhD in the U.S. is Easier than You Think

The United States is known as an expensive place to live and study, and this can be a deterrent for many prospective graduate students considering pursuing doctoral programs in the land of the free. However, there is good news for those willing to put in the effort to seek out and apply for scholarship programs: many U.S. universities have large budgets and endowments that allow them to offer full funding to doctoral students.

With all tuition costs covered, as well as possibly additional living expenses, and sometimes even housing options, these funding opportunities can be a great way to fund PhD research in a more affordable way.

Understanding the Higher Education System in the US is Essential

It is important to understand the difference between public and private universities in America when considering financial aid options. Public universities typically offer lower tuition fees and are more likely to provide state or federal funding for students.

Private universities tend to charge higher tuition fees but may offer PhD scholarships and grants towards the cost of tuition. Knowing the cost differences between public and private universities is essential for any student looking to PhD research in America.

The Cost of Funding a PhD in the U.S.

The cost of a doctoral program in the United States can vary greatly depending on the school and whether or not the PhD students are residents. For example, tuition and fees for a US resident enrolled in an on-campus doctoral program can range anywhere from $5,000 to over $50,000 per year depending on the program.

For non-residents, tuition and fees may be higher as well. In addition to tuition and fees, doctoral students may also have to pay for books and other course materials, as well as living costs.

When looking into a PhD program, it can be helpful to research several different programs and compare their prices. Doing this will give you an idea of the amount of tuition you will have to pay for a PhD. Different universities and colleges have varying costs, so it is important to look around and compare prices.

How Much Does It Cost for PhD Students to Live in the US?

For many students in the United States, estimating living costs can be a difficult task. The United States is an expansive country with highly variable costs of living, ranging from the rural areas of Alaska to the densely populated urban sprawl of New York City. The cost of rent, utilities, food, and other necessities can vary drastically, making it difficult to accurately estimate these expenses for students.

American universities often charge additional fees for the processing of Ph.D. applications. These fees typically range from $50 to $100 depending on the university and often include the cost of processing transcripts, personal statements, letters of recommendation, and any other documents required for the application.

Good News: In the U.S., Many PhD programs are Fully Funded

It is not uncommon for US universities to provide fully funded PhD programs for international doctoral students which include tuition waivers. Furthermore, many universities offer stipends and other forms of support to help cover costs associated with the cost of living and studying in the United States. Fully funded PhD programs provide an invaluable opportunity for doctoral students to gain access to high-quality education while also helping to reduce the financial burden associated with graduate studies. By providing this opportunity, U.S. universities are helping to create a better future for all students, both domestically and internationally.

PhD Funding Often Takes the Form of Assistantships

Universities often offer PhD funding to students through assistantship positions to cover tuition and living expenses and may include a stipend or fee waiver. A typical assistantship requires doctoral students to work part-time for the university in exchange for financial support. This could involve teaching, research, or other duties related to an academic program, such as grading papers for a class.

Assistantships are usually awarded on a competitive basis, so students should be prepared to demonstrate their knowledge and skills to be eligible for this type of PhD funding. Additionally, depending on the program, assistantships may include additional benefits such as health insurance. For students looking to fund PhD reseacrh, assistantships can be an excellent option that provides financial support and an outstanding opportunity for professional development.


With no extra effort necessary, you could be eligible for unique opportunities contingent on achieving specific academic accomplishments or exploring exclusive research paths. Often fellowships provide tuition costs, stipends to cover living expenses, and other benefits such as access to special resources or mentorship.

Graduate teaching assistantships 

If you’re looking to make a difference in the lives of students pursuing their undergraduate degree, teaching and mentoring them on courses related to your expertise is an option. Teaching assistantships frequently involve conducting discussion groups, guiding students in developing essays, and managing course administration tasks. Graduate students who engage in this type of work are often termed as ‘TAs’ (teaching assistants). These ways to fund PhD research can also include aiding faculty with their research. Your tasks could involve gathering and recording data, monitoring experiments, or coordinating equipment setup.

Administrative assistantships 

This type of PhD involves work with the university or graduate program to provide administrative and secretarial assistance. You will be responsible for a broad range of tasks, ranging from data entry and management to lending support during meetings, seminars, and other activities; as well as helping out with daily office duties.

PhDs can also be funded through student loans

For American doctoral students, conducting research in graduate school can be an expensive endeavor. Fortunately for those looking to fund PhD research, there are student loan options available to help make PhD studies more affordable. The US government offers a variety of federal student aid and loan programs specifically for students studying at the doctoral level, including the Federal Direct Unsubsidized Loan, the Federal Perkins Loan, and the Parent PLUS loan.

Additionally, some doctoral study programs may offer their own loan programs or other forms of financial assistance that can help students finance their doctorate degree. Taking the time to explore all potential loan options can help make pursuing a doctorate more achievable.

The Form of Financial Aid You Receive May Impact the Time you Spend in a Graduate Study Program

Before selecting a funding source for your doctoral studies, it is critical to consider the implications of that choice. Although teaching experience can be an advantage when entering the job market, it requires at least twenty hours of your time each week and may extend the length of your studies.

As you search for doctoral programs, consider that devoting time to teaching or other work required to secure your funding will take away from the amount of time available for studying. The more hours spent outside of academic pursuits, the longer it may take to complete your degree. When evaluating potential options, give priority to those with enough resources and support so as not to detract too heavily from the progress of your doctoral studies.

To conclude, ensure that the department you are applying to offers dissertation fellowships, and make sure you understand how these fellowships work. Securing a fellowship grants you an entire year dedicated solely toward writing your dissertation; this could reduce your writing time in half which will propel you into a faster job search journey.


Now that we’ve looked at a few of the ways you can fund PhD research in the US, it’s time to get started researching and applying to programs. If the PhD application process feels overwhelming or you need help choosing a school or funding source, sign up for a free consultation with The Admit Lab. I will be able to answer all your questions and help you put together a plan to finance your PhD so you can focus on what really matters: becoming an amazing researcher and scholar!

With a Master’s from McGill University and a Ph.D. from New York University, Dr. Philippe Barr is the founder of The Admit Lab. As a tenure-track professor, Dr. Barr spent a decade teaching and serving on several graduate admission committees at UNC-Chapel Hill before turning to full-time consulting. With more than seven years of experience as a graduate school admissions consultant, Dr. Barr has stewarded the candidate journey across multiple master’s and Ph.D. programs and helped hundreds of students get admitted to top-tier graduate programs all over the world.

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