The financial struggle in academia is not hidden, still many graduate students want to pursue a research career. US offers best research labs and institutions to attract aspiring PhD researchers from all over the world. Its your right to ask about highest PhD stipends offered in the US because PhD is a long journey and you have the right to ensure you are financially safe during these years.
In a nutshell, the highest PhD Stipends in the US are offered in cybersecurity, physics and biomedical engineering. High stipends for PhD researchers helps make them more focused on their research work and career without constant worries that come with financial instability.
Table of Contents
- 1. Cybersecurity
- 2. Physics
- 3. Biomedical Engineering
- 4. Neuroscience
- 5. Computer Science
- 6. Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics
- 7. Sociology
- Things you should know before prioritizing the stipend for PhD
- Remarks about the collected DATA
- Final Word
Best PhD stipends in the World: If you want to pursue PhD outside of US explore more about countries are paying best to PhD students.
Highest PhD stipends in the US
|University||Department||1st Year PhD Stipend||PhD stipend to living cost ratio|
|Nova Southeastern University (NSU)||Cybersecurity||$94,000||3.1|
|Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT)||Physics||$44,069||2.3|
|Brown University||Biomedical Engineering||$44,000||2.0|
|University of California - Riverside (UCR)||Computer Science||$60,000||2.0|
|University of Delaware (UD)||Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics||$44,800||2.0|
|University of California - Irvine (UCI)||Sociology||$62,399||2.0|
|Brown University||Computer Engineering||$42,412||2.0|
|Brown University||Computer Engineering||$42,412||2.0|
|Brown University||Genetics, Genomics, and Development||$42,400||2.0|
|Brown University||Genetics, Genomics, and Development (GGD)||$42,400||2.0|
|Cornell University (CU)||Humanities||$46,250||1.9|
|Cornell University (CU)||Architectural Engineering||$44,236||1.9|
|University of Maine||Management||$43,200||1.8|
|Yale University (YU)||Business||$42,000||1.7|
|Yale University (YU)||Business||$42,000||1.7|
|University of Chicago (UC)||Virology||$45,500||1.6|
|University of Texas - Austin (UT)||Molecular Engineering||$42,000||1.6|
|University of Texas - Austin (UT)||Molecular Engineering||$42,000||1.6|
|Princeton University||Organizational Behavior||$49,500||1.5|
|University of Colorado - Boulder (UCB)||Biophysics||$43,000||1.5|
|Stanford University (SU)||Computer Science||$51,679||1.5|
|Princeton University||Computational Biology & Medicine||$48,000||1.5|
|Princeton University||Graduate School of Arts and Sciences||$48,000||1.5|
|New York University (NYU)||Geological Science||$51,200||1.5|
|Stanford University (SU)||Geosciences||$51,000||1.5|
|Columbia University (CU)||Quantitative and Computational Biology||$50,120||1.5|
|Princeton University||Mechanical Engineering||$45,600||1.4|
|Princeton University||Sociomedical Sciences||$45,600||1.4|
|Stanford University (SU)||Neurosciences||$48,800||1.4|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)||Politics||$50,000||1.4|
|Stanford University (SU)||Civil Engineering||$48,216||1.4|
|Stanford University (SU)||Electrical and Computer Engineering||$48,216||1.4|
|Stanford University (SU)||Economics||$48,000||1.4|
|Stanford University (SU)||Electrical||$47,000||1.4|
|Tri-Institutional PhD Program||Philosophy||$46,250||1.4|
|Columbia University (CU)||East Asian Studies||$46,000||1.3|
|Columbia University (CU)||History||$46,000||1.3|
|University of California - Berkeley||Business||$44,000||1.3|
|Columbia University (CU)||Photography||$45,320||1.3|
|Columbia University (CU)||Chemistry and Chemical Biology||$45,320||1.3|
|Columbia University (CU)||Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences||$45,320||1.3|
|Columbia University (CU)||Biomedical Sciences||$45,000||1.3|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)||Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering||$45,506||1.3|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)||Electrical & Computer Engineering||$45,480||1.3|
|Mount Sinai School of Medicine||Statistics||$44,000||1.3|
|University of California - Berkeley||Electrical & Computer Engineering||$42,500||1.3|
|University of California - Berkeley||ECE||$42,500||1.3|
|Harvard University (HU)||Engineering||$44,376||1.3|
|New York University (NYU)||Biochemistry||$42,629||1.2|
|New York University (NYU)||Psychology||$42,629||1.2|
List is sorted by **PhD stipend to living cost ratio**. This number depicting the real value of the stipend in terms of living cost in the area for a single person. This cost also includes the rent.
Data was cleaned to avoid any discrepancies
Data for the year 2022-2023 included only
First year stipend is included only
Entries with complete submissions are included
Living cost per month data is acquired from livingcost.org. Annual figure for living cost are used
The data I collected shows that Nova Southeastern University (NSU) offers an attractive annual stipend of $94,000 to its 1st year PhD students in cyber security research. It’s 3.1 times higher than the living cost in the area. Such a gap in PhD stipend and living cost ensures that you can save some money while pursuing your research career.
Major reasons for high stipend of Cybersecurity students can be
- Need For The Cutting Edge Research: US economy is strongest in the world and a hub of information technology research and development. Universities and research institutions in the US direly need researchers in the field of cyber security. In addition to this, there are a lot of funding institutions that are willing to invest in innovative cyber security research projects.
- High Market Demand for Cyber Security Professionals: Cyber security specialists, data scientists, and artificial intelligence engineers usually receive attractive salary packages right out of college, and as a result, universities and other organizations try to attract top talent in cybersecurity research with higher stipends.
Visit Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity Research to know more about your career prospects in cybersecurity research.
Besides this, I observed that US PhD researchers in computer science and information technology on average receive $40,000+ in annual stipend. Usually these PhD stipends are twice the living cost in the area.
Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) offers $44,069 per annum to students conducting their PhD research in Physics. This is the second highest annual PhD stipend when I compare it to the average living cost per annum in the area ($19,308), or in other words, a 2.3 PhD stipend to living cost ratio.
Physics attracts high funding due to the following reasons.
- Remarkable Investment in Physics Research: Myriad of physics research projects which are funded by government grants. Other than this many private organizations are investing in cutting-edge physics research projects. In 2018, universities performed around 58% ($24.3 billion) of federally funded basic research in physical sciences e.g., physics.
- High Demand for Physics Researchers: Statistics alone show a high demand for physics researchers and it is projected to grow in the current decade (2021 to 2031) by 8%. PhD students are the core scientific labor who advance knowledge of physics and its applications so they are compensated accordingly.
3. Biomedical Engineering
Brown university, in general, offers attractive stipends to PhD students in the data I collected from PhDStipends.com. For biomedical engineering it offers $44,000 annually to its PhD students. This amount seems twice the annual average living cost near the campus. Hence, a sweet deal for PhD students who don’t want to struggle financially.
Universities are willing to pay a high stipend for biomedical researchers for a number of reasons.
- High demand for biomedical Engineers: Biomedical engineering is a field with an increasing demand in the third decade of the 21st century. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a growth rate of 10% (faster than average) to biomedical professionals from 2021. This puts research centers in competition with the industry, which offer a median pay of $97,410 , to attract the top talent. In turn, high PhD stipend offers are an effort to attract and retain talented students.
- Biomedical Research significance for healthcare: Due to evolving needs of patients, healthcare costs are higher than ever, and so are the budgets dedicated to its research. The biomedical research institutions receive these funds to solve increasing complexity of medical problems. This way they are able to offer higher compensations to talented scientific workforce which can solve these problems.
Neuroscience PhD students receive a stipend of $44,000 annually by the Brown University in the US. This stipend is plentiful considering the average living cost in Rhode Island, where the campus is located. According to livingcost.org the average living cost for one person including rent is $21,552 a year. Thus, the PhD stipend offered is almost as twice as the living expenses for a PhD student if she is single in her first year of PhD.
There are several solid reasons for offering such high stipends to PhD students in neuroscience.
- Increasing demand for skilled neuroscientists: Neurological disorders and neurodegenerative diseases are prevailing due to the aging population in the US. Moreover, the complexity of the brain and nervous system demand the best minds to answer the unanswered questions arising in this field everyday.
- Increasing funding for neuroscience research: Significant research funding is offered by large public and private organizations who are interested in cutting edge neuroscience research projects such as The BRAIN Initiative by NIH. This research funding is considered as an investment by these grant providers to advance our understanding of the neural system. Such generous funding allows American research institutions and universities to offer high PhD stipends.
5. Computer Science
Of course we cannot finish the discussion about the highest PhD stipends offered without the field of computer science. This field indeed has many areas of specializations and it will be naïve to judge or estimate all of those stipends under this one umbrella term. However, if universities and PhD students are mentioning it as a PhD in computer science in general then I am also going to talk about it in general here.
To give you a ballpark figure, 1st year PhD stipends in the year 2022-2023 indicated that $60,000 is the highest PhD stipend offered to computer science PhD students in the US. This stipend was offered by the University of California – Riverside (UCR). If I evaluate it in terms of living cost near the campus it’s almost twice the living expense including rent in the area even for a full year.
There are a myriad of reasons why computer science PhD students get these high stipends while PhD researchers in other fields like humanities are offered acute low stipends.
- Increasing demand for computer and information research scientists: In simple terms, the market is demanding these professionals more and more. The Bureau of labor statistics shows towering growth for these professionals in the next decade. This high demand creates competition for the qualified computer research scientists. Thus, both universities and the industry try to offer higher PhD stipend to attract and retain the talent.
- Ample Funding from the industry: The Information technology industry is breaking barriers every day with technologies such as AI for each and every domain of work, especially the white-collar labor. Computer science research projects are critical in driving the innovation for tech giants like Google, Apple and many others. This is the core reason why the software companies are willing to allocate more bucks for research. Hence, if some research institute, professors or even PhD students can show the potential to execute these research projects they obviously get paid well for that.
6. Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics
I found University of Delaware (UD) offering the highest stipend in the US to the PhD researchers studying Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics. This stipend is as high as $44,800 which is twice the average living cost for a single person per annum in Newark, Delaware. Consequently, there is a high chance that you can rent a comfy place, afford to maintain a car and still save during your PhD years.
Following major factors contribute to high PhD stipends for Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics.
- Pharmaceutical sciences and pharmacogenomics research is critical: Due to increasing complexity in healthcare problems there is a rise for personalized drug recommendation for each individual. Such subtleties require a very specialized scientific workforce with expertise in pharmacology, genomics and even biostatistics. This not only makes PhD positions of pharmacogenomics research brutally competitive but also most lucrative in terms of stipend.
- Pharmaceutical industry needs rapid innovation and Pharmacogenomics is at the forefront of it. These areas of study need constant exploration for arising problems in clinical pharmacy practice. The US government as well as the pharma industry get solutions to these problems by providing grants to universities pursuing their research interests. This way the researchers, like PhD students, get compensated highly for their input.
Yes, I know. I agree sociology shouldn’t be this high on this list. It would be easy to justify it much further in our list. However, I can’t twist data. Generally, OR you can say for the most part, I have seen meager PhD stipends for sociology like other areas of social sciences.
Despite this, University of California – Irvine (UCI) offers an annual PhD stipend of $62,399 which is obvious considering the high living costs near the campus. Still, I can’t ignore the $31,284 annual average living cost per single person, rent included, for Irvine, CA. The living cost can be higher, however, current values make the PhD stipend almost twice the living cost.
Let’s analyze closely why some universities are willing to offer this high stipend to sociology PhD students.
- High Research fundings dedicated to sociology research: Even though the market is not killing to attract the sociologists like it’s killing for data science professionals. Sociology still receives a good amount of research funding. For instance, the NSF funding dedicated to sociology is around 65% of total federal support. This percentage is much higher than many other fields. This means a higher grant amount for universities. In turn, if universities want to compensate their sociology PhD students they easily can.
- Interdisciplinary collaborations opportunities: This might be the strongest reason why PhD students, even though some, get compensated warmly. Sociological research has the ability to provide a perspective to other disciplines. It can give an insight on how scientific discoveries and solutions will work in the real human world. I suspect that this might be the reason why some schools consider offering stipends this soaring to its PhD students.
- More research funds. Secondly, the computer science research project funding is high because The academic research projects usually solve crucial issues faced by these companies. Therefore, the overall research funding increases for the professors and in turn for the PhD students too.
Earn more during academic breaks. The hidden story is that PhD students in the field of information technology have more opportunities to engage in summer breaks, where many of them are allowed to take on industry work and internships. These activities can give a real boost to earnings and savings for these students.
Comparing US PhD stipends to Highest PhD stipends in the world. Another interesting thing I found while collecting the data on best PhD stipends offered in the world is that Norway, even though it offers the highest PhD stipends (1.69 PhD stipend to living cost ratio), still fall behind these excellent PhD stipend packages (2.7 PhD stipend to living cost ratio) offered to high demand fields of study in the US.
Although one can argue that the PhD stipend to living cost ratio was collected as overall average and not specifically for PhD students in computer science and information technology. So the numbers may differ if we go into more detailed comparisons.
Things you should know before prioritizing the stipend for PhD
Although I think a PhD stipend is the most important thing when it comes to the PhD decision. The reason is that PhD itself is a long journey and you are already going to give up so much besides the finances. So, a high PhD stipend compared to the living cost near the campus should be a priority for a prospective PhD student.
However, there are other things you should note when applying for a PhD. Let me jot down three major ones for you.
- Student-Program Research Match. If you apply and get accepted in a program whose research goals are not aligned with yours then you are going to limit your ability and potential for academic growth. A program that is aligned with your post-PhD goals is a much better choice than a Program offering the highest PhD stipend.
- Student- Supervisor Personality Match. This is what makes a PhD hard. Yes a lot of evidence out there shows that PhD, even though a scientific journey, is still pursued among humans who are evolved in tribes, who have some insecurities, prejudices and preferences. A high academic degree does not mean that anyone can match your personality right away or you can match theirs. Make sure you and your supervisor get along especially when it comes to work standards.
- Student-Location Match. Location location location that’s what the real estate gurus and food business owners said all the time. However, it matters in pretty much all matters of our life. It matters more when you plan to live your highly productive PhD years. These years can be longer than the standard 4 year tag on the cover of your admission letter.
So, like any other prospective PhD student, I want to live comfortably, spend extravagantly and still save some amount for future suffering of postdoc years. For this, I might look up to the highest PhD stipend offered in the US in the list above. Still, there are many other factors that impact our performance and happiness during PhD years.
Remarks about the collected DATA
Sources of data
I collected this data from phdstipends.com. The PhD stipend information is willingly shared by the PhD students. The data is publicly available at phdstipends.com.
No information is collected regarding any individual. The submitter’s anonymity is maintained on this platform. You can read more about the anonymity of the submitters, sharing of PhD stipends, and other common questions here.
To maintain consistency and provide a fair comparison between PhD stipend offers, I used the following criteria:
- PhD stipend is assumed to be a pre-tax amount. As many of the entries did not include any tax deduction information. PhD stipend is taxed if it is compensation for some work (assistantships) and on the other hand, it is tax-free if it is not paid against any work (fellowships). I explained the PhD stipend in the US in detail here. I hope you will find the infographics in this post useful.
- To ensure the updated information only 1st year PhD stipends were included from the academic year 2022-2023.
- Only those stipends were included that were reported correctly. Any entry with mistakes and errors was excluded.
- In the case of the same stipend by two universities, the inclusion was decided on living wage ratio e.g., the minimum stipend will be assigned to the lower living wage ratio stipend.
These are limitations of my data so you should accept these PhD stipend values with a grain of salt.
- Most entries do not provide information regarding the duration of the stipend. So I cannot confirm that PhD stipend was offered for 9 or 12 months.
- Most of these stipends are not minimum stipend offers reported on the universities’ websites. Some additional fellowships e.g., any external, additional departmental fellowship, etc. may or may not be reported in the PhD stipend amount. The reasons are the inclusion of internal and external fellowships, summer support packages with the basic financial aid package. For example, the basic financial aid package reported by Stanford and Princeton is much lower than the highest stipend PhD students are reporting.
- If you combine any assistantship or fellowship, the value of the stipend may change due to reimbursement of assistantship and tax.
- Some additional fees and deductions e.g., a part of health insurance, one-time semester fee, etc. may not be reported in the PhD stipend amount.
In contrast to common assumptions, the best PhD stipends – in terms of actual value for PhD students are not always offered by the most popular schools in the US.
It is a good idea to compare living costs in the area with the PhD stipend amount to estimate its actual worth. I hope you realize that a PhD is a long commitment and you as PhD aspirer and applicant should check how easily you can live through your PhD years.
A PhD is already harder than a job and if you are struggling financially then the difficulty level increases further for you as a PhD student.
I observed $94,000 to be the maximum PhD stipend in the US which is offered to cybersecurity students. However, considering the other perks and benefits like medical insurances, summer opportunities and research assistantships attached to funding of many PhD programs we can say that PhD stipends in some lucrative fields can be higher.
I found Nova Southeastern University (NSU), Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), Brown University, University of California – Riverside (UCR), University of Delaware (UD), University of California – Irvine (UCI) giving the highest PhD stipends in the US.