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Costs Associated With a PhD Degree in the US

After much deliberation you’ve finally decided that you want to pursue a PhD. Congratulations on that! A doctoral degree in your major/field of interest will certainly be a good boost to your career and open newer avenues in both the industry and academia. The costs associated with pursuing a PhD may vary. There are two entry options to pursue a PhD:

  1. Entry into doctoral program with an Undergraduate degree
  2. Entry into doctoral program with a previously obtained Graduate/Master’s degree

I will mention some costs that are common for both and that you would need to spend if you’re starting a doctoral degree after a graduate/undergraduate degree.

 

A FEW COMMON COSTS…

Even before you start applying to programs there’s the cost of taking standardized tests like the GRE, TOEFL, IELTS, GRE Subject tests etc. The GRE has a registration fee of $195 and the TOEFL $170. That’s for a single attempt.
Once you’re done with that, applications start. There are three types of costs that are associated with a single college/school application:

  • Application fee: Now these can be anywhere from $30-$150 and are school-specific. It’s non-refundable and will not be returned to you. Some schools (read very few) waive off application fees for international students.
  • Score reporting fee: Most schools ask for official test scores that the testing agency needs to report to them. ETS charges $27 for GRE and $19 for TOEFL score reporting. Some schools require you to just upload a scanned copy of test scores and send them official scores only if you accept admission.
  • Fees for sending official transcripts vary, and depend on the courier chosen. FedEx, DHL, UPS have awesome student packages (offering good deals at economical prices) which you must look into if you’ve got to send transcripts and other documents to a lot of schools.

 

COMING TO THE BIGGER PICTURE…

As a PhD student you are bound to get some funding, either from your professor, graduate school or the department if you aren’t a self-financed student. Funding is usually in the form of some scholarship or against a Research Assistant (RA) or Teaching Assistant (TA) position. The funding scenario is usually very competitive and you may not receive a RA/TA right away. Many schools offer funding after assessing your academics and first year/semester performance.

Because a PhD degree is all about research, it’s best to ask a professor in your area of interest about the funding if you’re deciding to join that university.

PhD students usually receive a tuition waiver, where you needn’t pay the tuition fee but you may have to pay some amount from your pocket to cover the utility fee, library fee etc. These vary from school to school so be sure to look into what your school does. At Rutgers-Newark, we get a complete tuition waiver and some amount is deducted from the monthly paycheck against health insurance and utility costs.

Stipends vary across departments and schools and you will know yours when they confirm an admission (the offer letter will contain funding details). The US stipend varies between $15k-$30k a year. This question on Quora gives some pretty good insights on the range of stipends. The stipend usually covers living costs (house rent, food and domestic stuff). Don’t expect to save a LOT but you’ll manage to survive comfortably on a reasonable stipend. In the course of your doctoral degree there might be opportunities for external awards and funding. Look out for these and be sure to put in an application!

Good luck for your PhD!

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