25 Highest PhD stipends in the US

Highest PhD stipends in the US - Graph (box-plot) is showing the range, mean as well as highest stipends
Graph (box-plot) is showing the range, mean as well as highest stipends by field of study

In a nutshell, the highest PhD Stipends in the US are offered in

  1. Computer and Information Science
  2. Geophysics and Space Physics
  3. Chemical and Biological Engineering
  4. Electrical and Computer Engineering
  5. Economics, Accounting, and Finance
  6. Biomedical and Biological Sciences
  7. Business Analytics, Management
  8. Environmental Sustainability
  9. Mechanical Engineering and Material Sciences
  10. Human Ecology and Development
  11. Statistics and Data Sciences
  12. Pharmaceutical Engineering and Sciences
  13. Applied and Clinical Psychology
  14. Public Policy

There are a lot more areas of of research which offer these highest stipends in the US. You can see them in the table below.

Read More: Which country pay PhD students the best?

Field of study- Living Wage Ratio- PhD Stipend amount

The chart below is showing median values of the highest PhD Stipends as well as median values of their “PhD stipend to Living Wage Ratio”.

Read more: The Truth About Average Stipend For PhD Students In USA

Things to consider for PhD stipends

There are many universities and departments in the US that fund PhD students handsomely. From Ivy League schools to public institutions many grant good stipends to PhD students in various fields and departments.

However, as PhD aspirers and applicant you should consider these factors while accepting a PhD offer

  • the living cost in the area– US is a huge country and the cost of living vary drastically from one place to another
  • various fellowships offered to PhD students – which increase the stipend from the minimum amount reported by the university
  • Other assistantships and paid work offers – taxable pay may increase or decrease the stipend

Read more: Do all PhD students get a stipend in the US?

See also  The Truth About Average PhD stipend in US

Highest PhD stipends in the US

UniversityField of StudyPhD Stipend (1st Year)Living Wage Ratio
University of Massachusetts – Amherst (UMass)Computer Science$62,0002.70
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)Business Analytics$57,1002.51
University of California – Riverside (UCR)Economics$60,0002.49
Iowa State University (ISU)Mechanical Engineering$50,0002.36
University of Wisconsin – Madison (UW)Comparative Biomedical Science$52,0002.28
New York University (NYU)Data Science$66,0002.22
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor (UM)Biological Engineering$51,0002.21
University of Arkansas – FayettevilleAccounting$40,2002.01
University of Chicago (UC)Economics$48,0001.98
University of Miami (UM)Biomedical Engineering$46,6001.96
University of Missouri (MU)Electrical Engineering & Computer Science$40,0001.95
Northeastern University (NU)Psychology$55,0001.92
Virginia TechPublic administration and public affairs$40,0001.90
Washington University in St. Louis (Wash U)Hispanic Studies$38,7201.87
New York University (NYU)Chemistry$55,0001.85
University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA)Geophysics & Space Physics$47,7631.85
Brown UniversityComputer Science$41,9301.84
Pennsylvania State University (Penn State)Geography$41,2701.84
Rice UniversityBusiness$40,0001.83
University of Chicago (UC)Economics$43,5001.79
Washington University in St. Louis (Wash U)Business$37,0001.79
Brown UniversityComputer Science$40,5001.78
University of Oregon (UO)Media$37,3371.78
University of California – BerkeleyEducation$49,0001.76
New York University (NYU)Neural Science$52,0001.75
The highest stipends are arranged by Living Wage Ratio= Higher value means higher real worth of the PhD stipend in terms of living cost in the area around the campus. Source: PhD Stipends.

Why use Living Wage Ratio to estimate PhD stipends in the US?

How living wage ratio is calculated for PhD students stipend
The living wage ratio formula is very useful in estimating the real value of a PhD stipend. Lower than 1 values are an indicator that PhD stipend may not be able to sustain a single person’s living cost.

Read more: Do PhD students make a lot of Money?

See also  Why PhD students are paid poorly?

The living wage ratio proves useful in comparing the PhD stipends in the US because

  • the US is a huge country and living cost differs greatly from one area to another. Thus, comparing the absolute dollar amount of stipend may not indicate its real worth.
  • living wage ratio helps us in estimating the purchasing and sometimes saving power of a PhD student with the stipend offered.

Further Reading: Range of PhD stipends in the US by field of study

Living Wage

Are you wondering what is Living Wage? and What is the difference between Living Wage and Minimum Wage you often heard about?

Take a look at the infographic below to fully understand the concept of Living Wage.

Source : Living Wage vs Minimum Wage

Now why do we use the Living Wage Ratio as compared to Minimum Living Wage? The quoted text below explain this efficiently.

FAQs at phdstipends.com explains the PhD Stipend to Living Wage Ratio

“We normalize each stipend to the living wage for the county in which the university resides, creating a unitless number we call the living wage ratio. The living wage data is from the Poverty in America Living Wage Calculator and is for a single person with no dependents. The purpose is to allow you to quickly compare the stipends offered by universities in different cost-of-living areas.”

FAQs at phdstipends.com

Read More: 5 Reasons why PhD students are paid (or why they should be)

An insight by Living Wage Ratio

The graph below is showing the actual worth of the highest PhD stipends in terms of purchase power.

See also  What are the benefits of doing PhD in UK?

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.

Inclusive criteria

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 2020-2021, 2021-2022, 2022-2023 for comparison.
  • 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.

Read more: Can you live off PhD Stipend?

Final Word

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.

Read More: Is a PhD stipend in the USA enough for international students without any other financial support?