Range of PhD stipends in the US by field of study

Range of PhD stipends in the US is minimum $12000 to maximum $62000. PhD stipends in US varies depending on the field of study, university, and living area in the US.

  • Highest stipend – Computer Science ($62000)
  • Lowest stipend – Psychology ($9,220)
  • Highest median stipend – Biomedical Engineering ($31,000)
  • Lowest median stipend – Political Science & History ($22000)

Read More: 25 Highest PhD stipends in the US

However, the PhD stipend to living wage ratio proves useful while comparing the PhD stipends offered by institutions across the US. Let’s me explain this in detail.

Read More: Which Country Pay PhD Students The Best?

First, take a look at the table provided below

Details regarding median, minimum and maximum PhD stipends and living wage ratio are provided in the table.

PhD Stipends Range – By field of study

 Median StipendMinimum StipendMaximum Stipend
Computer science
PhD Stipend Amount$26,200$17,000$62,000
Living Wage Ratio1.250.82.7
UniversityUniversity at Buffalo – SUNYIowa State University (ISU)University of Massachusetts – Amherst (UMass)
Chemistry
PhD Stipend Amount$30,000$17,777$55,000
Living Wage Ratio1.310.891.85
UniversityNorth Carolina State University (NCSU)Southern Illinois University – Carbondale (SIUC)New York University (NYU)
Economics
PhD Stipend Amount$26,000$18,500$48,000
Living Wage Ratio0.870.831.98
UniversityNew York University (NYU)University of UtahUniversity of Chicago (UC)
Physics
PhD Stipend Amount$28,654$12,000$48,636
Living Wage Ratio1.260.41.69
UniversityUniversity of Texas – Austin (UT)University of Maryland – College Park (UMD)Stanford University (SU)
Mechanical Engineering
PhD Stipend Amount$25,374$20,500$36,984
Living Wage Ratio1.160.81.32
UniversityRice UniversityUniversity of Colorado – Boulder (UCB)Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Biology
PhD Stipend Amount$28,800$19,000$42,230
Living Wage Ratio1.10.821.74
UniversityUniversity of California – Santa Barbara (UCSB)University of Central Florida (UCF)Cornell University (CU)
Biomedical engineering
PhD Stipend Amount$31,000$14,940$41,520
Living Wage Ratio1.550.531.4
UniversityOhio State University (OSU)University of Massachusetts – Lowell (UML)Columbia University (CU)
Psychology
PhD Stipend Amount$24,766$9,220$55,000
Living Wage Ratio0.830.391.92
UniversityColumbia University (CU)Portland State University (PSU)Northeastern University (NU)
Sociology
PhD Stipend Amount$27,172$16,665
$43,000
Living Wage Ratio1.180.881.5
UniversityUniversity of Michigan – Ann Arbor (UM)Washington State University (WSU)Stanford University (SU)
Political Science
PhD Stipend Amount$22,000$12,500$36,500
Living Wage Ratio0.940.631.31
UniversityFlorida State University (FSU)Southern Illinois University – Carbondale (SIUC)Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
History
PhD Stipend Amount$22,000$14,000$40,800
Living Wage Ratio0.840.711.42
UniversityUniversity of California – Santa Barbara (UCSB)Kent State University (KSU)Stanford University (SU)
I took care while including data and subject fields for accurate comparisons. You can check the inclusive criteria and limitations of my approach. You also can check phdstipends.com to explore any other field of study.

Read More: The average stipend for PhD students in USA

  • We can observe that the PhD stipend amount even if good on paper may not be enough to support a single person.
  • The living wage ratio is showing that only few universities are offering the PhD stipend that can support a PhD student adequately.
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Importance of Living Wage Ratio for PhD stipends in US

How living wage ratio is calculated for PhD students.
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.

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

As the living cost for a single person varies from state to state and urban to rural areas in the US. Therefore, it is confusing to compare a stipend offered by different universities in different areas.

However, a living wage ratio can solve this problem for us. The living wage ratio helps compare PhD student pay from different areas. It helps in estimating the purchasing power of the student in an area with the provided compensation.

Here is how FAQs at phdstipends.com explains it

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.”

Source: FAQs at phdstipends.com

Read More: 3 Reasons PhD students are paid poorly and PhD aspirants should know

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.

See also  5 Reasons a PhD without funding may not be possible

No statistical procedures were applied to the data. The median, minimum and maximum values are reported as it is. You can also check these values here

Inclusive criteria

To maintain consistency and provide a fair comparison between PhD stipend offers, I used the following inclusive criteria:

  • Only US universities were included
  • 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 a 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 infographics in this post useful.
  • Only 1st year stipends were included from academic year 2020-2021 for consistency in comparison.
  • Only those stipends were included that were reported correctly. Any entry with mistakes and errors was excluded.
  • Incase of same stipend by two universities, the inclusion was decided on living wage ratio e.g., minimum stipend will be assigned to the lower living wage ratio stipend.
  • In case of an even numbered list, median value was assigned to the stipend which was closer to the median of that particular sample.
  • Various branches of a field are also included in the sample if basic field of study was in the name e.g., biology also included cellular biology, microbiology etc.
  • Sample size for each selected field of study was more than 30 entries. Exception were only made for small amount of qualified entries; History has a sample of (16), mechanical engineering (12).
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Limitations

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 stipend. So I cannot confirm that PhD stipend was offered for 9 or 12 months.
  • Some additional fellowships e.g., any external, additional departmental fellowship etc. may or may not be reported in the PhD stipend amount.
  • Some additional fee 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: Do all PhD students get a stipend in the US?

Final Word

Pursuing a PhD in the US, especially as an international student is a big decision in your life. Therefore, you must calculate all the financial and non-financial aspects of pursuing a career in research.

I am doing the same. Even though a PhD is not usually a financially best decision. I think considering financial aspects before pursuing a PhD is the right of every student. The risks and costs can be high if things don’t turn out as we expect them.

This is why I request all international PhD applicants who may not have social and financial buffers to think very clearly about choosing this path to PhD and research.

You should ask again and again about different factors regarding your PhD funding as well as your career prospects.

Further Reading: Do all PhD students get a stipend in the US?