How Much Does a PhD Cost?

By Joy Cromwelle
Edited by Briana Sukert
Updated on May 19, 2024
Edited by Briana Sukert
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How much does a PhD cost? Before you enroll in a doctoral program, you may have this pressing question on your mind.

How Much Does a PhD Cost

The price of earning your PhD can vary greatly from one school to another, so it can help to pay close attention to the average costs at different institutions.

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Once you have a better idea of the cost of earning this degree, you can make a plan for your doctoral studies and work toward achieving your goals.

Highlights
  • The average annual cost of a PhD is $32,846.[1]
  • Program-based funding may include a stipend, a tuition waiver, and even benefits like health insurance.
  • Elements such as choice of school, program length, and housing costs will play into the overall price of earning your degree.
  • 30% of professional practice doctoral programs have annual tuition rates of more than $30,000. Only 22% of PhD programs fall into that price category. [2]
  • The majority of students fund their PhDs through research and teaching assistantships.
  • Data indicates that students earning research doctorates took out, on average, $20,500 in loans.[3]

How Much Does a PhD Cost?

students pursuing PhD degree

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average doctoral student earning a research degree pays $16,526 in tuition per year.[1]

Plus, on average, there’s an additional $16,320 in non-tuition fees and expenses each year. That makes the average annual cost of a PhD $32,846.[1] It’s common to spend 3 to 5 years or more in a PhD program. That can seem like a staggering amount of money at first. You may be relieved to know, though, that you might not have to pay the entire amount yourself.

Many PhD candidates receive a good deal of support to help with their studies. PhD students fund their educations in a variety of ways, including:

  • Fellowships
  • Grants
  • Loans
  • Program-based funding

Program-based funding may include a stipend, a tuition waiver, and even benefits like health insurance. Fully funded online PhD programs are available, and in these programs, students are not responsible for covering any of the expenses associated with their doctoral education. It’s not always necessary to go into debt to pursue doctoral studies. Many students graduate from PhD programs without having incurred any debt.

One of the biggest assets that can help you graduate debt-free is an assistantship opportunity. You may be able to secure a role as a teaching or research assistant. In exchange for your work, you might receive a tuition waiver, a stipend, and other benefits.

Both the tuition at your school and the stipend you may receive will vary depending on where you enroll. To learn more about Ivy League costs, you can review the following table.

Ivy League Universities Ph.D. Tuition Fee Minimum Stipend
Brown University $65,656 $42,412
Columbia University $53,576 $45,765
Cornell University $20,800 $43,326
Dartmouth College $84,912 $35,196
Harvard University $54,032 $43,860 – $45,696
Princeton University $57,410 $45,600 – $48,000
University of Pennsylvania $41,544 $38,000
Yale University $48,300 $40,530

Sources:

This chart will give you an idea of typical PhD expenses at some of the top public universities.

Public Universities Ph.D. Tuition Fee Minimum Stipend
Arizona State University Resident: $12,376
Nonresident: $34,290
$24,586
Florida International University Resident: $8,202
Nonresident: $18,030
$29,151.25 – $32,000
Georgia State University Resident: $10,872
Nonresident: $31,432
$24,000
Ohio State University Resident: $19,364
Nonresident: $45,964
$28,368
Texas A&M University Resident: $16,052-$17,600
Nonresident: $36,168-$39,096
$29,400 – $30,000
University of Central Florida Resident: $13,328
Nonresident: $43,016
$9,000 – $18,000
University of Florida Resident: $12,740
Nonresident: $30,134
$17,000 – $28,000
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Resident: $13,776
Nonresident: $29,760
$20,000 – $20,400
University of Minnesota Resident: $20,460
Nonresident: $30,924
$22,500 – $27,000
University of Texas at Austin Resident: $17,368
Nonresident: $34,624
$24,300 – $40,000

Sources:

These rates reflect general tuition and stipends at the above schools, but the rates may vary somewhat depending on your program and the terms of your assistantship.

For example, you’re likely to earn more for a half-time assistantship than for a quarter-time one, and you’re likely to earn more for a 12-month assignment than for a 9-month one.

Factors That Affect the Average Cost of a Doctorate Degree

PhD students doing research works

Many different elements will play into the overall price of earning your degree. One major factor is the type of school you attend. The following figures are based on data from the Urban Institute.[4]

Choice of School

  • Private for-profit: $13,520 average annual tuition
  • Private nonprofit: $25,160 average annual tuition
  • Public in-state: $11,000 average annual tuition
  • Public out-of-state: $22,590 average annual tuition

How long it takes to earn your degree can make a difference as well. The National Science Foundation offers data on how long PhD students in various fields are often in school.[5]

Program Length by Field of Study

  • Education: 5.7 years
  • Engineering: 5.3 years
  • Humanities and arts: 6.8 years
  • Life sciences: 5.5 years
  • Mathematics and computer sciences: 5.7 years
  • Physical sciences: 5.6 years
  • Psychology and social sciences: 6.0 years

Online studies may change your costs. The tuition is often similar, but on-campus residency can be more expensive than living at home. Consider, for example, the graduate housing costs at the University of Miami.[6]

Online vs. On-Campus Housing Costs

  • Living on-campus: $24,120 annually
  • Living with a relative: $8,664 annually

On the other hand, teaching and research assistantships are less common for online PhD programs than on-campus ones. Even with housing costs, you may, then, spend less for on-campus studies.

Professional Doctorate Degree Cost

Doctorate students carrying some books

A PhD is not the only type of doctorate. There are also professional doctorates available, such as a Doctor of Podiatry (DPM) or a Doctor of Medicine (MD).

The following data from the National Center for Education Statistics provides an overview of the average doctoral degree cost annually.[1]

  • Books and materials: $1,196
  • Non-tuition costs and fees: $23,745
  • Tuition: $34,910

In general, professional practice doctorates are more expensive than PhDs. According to the Urban Institute, 30% of professional practice doctoral programs have published annual tuition rates of more than $30,000.[2] Only 22% of PhD programs fall into that price category.

It’s also worth noting that doctoral students in professional programs are less likely to receive stipends, tuition waivers, and other benefits that often make school more affordable for PhD students.

Paying for a PhD

PhD students in group study

There are many ways to handle your PhD program cost. Perhaps you have the means to pay for your schooling on your own. If not, you may benefit from an assistantship, federal student aid, or the financial support of your workplace.

According to the National Science Foundation, the majority of students fund their PhDs through assistantships.[7] Further NSF data about primary funding sources is listed here.

Primary Source of Funding Percent of Doctoral Students
Research Assistantships 33.4%
Fellowships, Scholarships, and Dissertation-Specific Grants 24.8%
Teaching Assistantships 21.4%
Self-Pay 15.2%
Employer Funding 2.7%
Other 2.5%

Also, data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that students earning research doctorates took out, on average, $20,500 in loans.[3]

Graduate students may be eligible for Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Federal Direct PLUS Loans.

Student Loan Debt of PhD Graduates

Phd student applying for loan

When it comes to the cost of a PhD, what you study can be as important as any of the other factors. As a general rule, people who get research doctoral degrees in education are much more likely to graduate with debt than other doctoral students.

The following data from the Urban Institute supports this idea.[8]

Field of Study Percent of Students Graduating with Debt
Education Doctorates 79%
PhDs in Non-Education Fields 49%

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average non-education PhD graduate had a loan balance of $98,800.[9] For those with degrees in education, the average balance was $111,900.

If you are interested in a degree in education, you may want to pay particular attention to the tuition costs and benefits available at the schools you’re considering.

Is a PhD Degree Worth It?

doctoral students studying together

Yes, a PhD degree is worth it for many students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that unemployment rates are quite low among people with doctoral degrees. The overall American unemployment rate is 4.7%.

Among people with doctorates, the unemployment rate is only 1.5%.[10] Plus, a PhD can put you on the path toward a research role or a tenured career in academia. In addition, it is an impressive personal accomplishment.

If you’re considering pursuing a terminal degree, then you’ve probably been wondering, “How much is a PhD?” Now that you know, you can start your search for the accredited school that’s right for you.

References

[1] National Postsecondary Student Aid Study: 2016 Graduate Students (NPSAS:GR). US Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics.

[2] Figure 3. Baum, Sandy and Patricia Steele. The Price of Graduate and Professional Schools: How Much Students Pay (PDF). Urban Institute. NCES, NPSAS 2012.

[3] Table A-8: Average amounts of selected types of financial aid received by graduate students. US Department of Education. National Center for Education Statistics.

[4] Appendix A. Baum, Sandy and Patricia Steele. The Price of Graduate and Professional School: How Much Students Pay (PDF). Urban Institute. NCES, NPSAS 2012.

[5] 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.

[6] 2023-2024 Estimated Graduate Cost of Attendance. University of Miami. Graduate Professional Financial Assistance.

[7] Table 35. Doctorate recipients’ primary source of financial support, by broad field of study, sex, citizenship status, ethnicity, and race: 2019. National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, Survey of Earned Doctorates.

[8] Baum, Sandy and Patricia Steele. Graduate and Professional School Debt: How Much Students Borrow (PDF). Urban Institute. 2018.

[9] Trends in Student Loan Debt for Graduate School Completers (PDF). Spotlights. The Condition of Education 2018. National Center for Education Statistics.

[10] Earnings and unemployment rates by educational attainment, 2021. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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