If you are planning a PhD abroad now wonder you are searching for the term “Which country pays PhD students the best?”. This post has the detail answer to your quest.
Overall, the country paying the best PhD stipend is Norway. Norway on average offers $54935 as a PhD stipend. It’s good considering the average living cost per year in the country ($32520). Such a difference creates a high PhD Stipend to living cost ratio (1.69).
Although, a PhD stipend should not be the main reason to decide on your PhD destination. Still, if you are looking to live comfortably, save some money, and enjoy your PhD years the stipend amount does matter.
On this page, you will find complete information regarding the best-paying countries in terms of PhD stipends. To make a fair comparison I sorted out stipends in terms of buying power. I named it “PhD stipend to living cost ratio”.
Table of Contents
- 1. Norway
- 2. Denmark
- 3. Switzerland
- 4. Finland
- 5. Sweden
- Best PhD stipends Comparison
- Should you consider PhD stipend when making a PhD decision?
- Wrapping Up: Which country pays PhD students the best?
Take a look at the chart & table below to check where in the world you will get the highest PhD stipend.
Note: Highest PhD stipends for the US are not here. The reason is the high variance in living costs.
Countries paying most for doctoral stipends
|Country-City||PhD stipend||PhD Stipend to Living Cost Ratio|
It helps in comparing the purchasing power students get across different regions.
The average annual PhD stipend and average annual living cost are shown in US dollars and city based.
Average PhD stipend in a certain city : Glassdoor, Fastepo
Average living cost + rent : Numbeo
Norway’s PhD stipend is higher than any other country on our list.
Its PhD stipend per annum on average ($54935) is really high when we compare it to the annual living cost ($32520) there. This boost the PhD stipend to living cost ratio (1.69) to its highest in our collected data.
PhD stipend in Norway affords you an apartment on rent, car ownership, and even some savings while doing your PhD.
Reasons for the highest PhD stipend in the world can be (a) the consideration of PhD as a job, thus offering you a salaried position and (b) the higher cost of living in Oslo, the capital of Norway.
The educational benefits of a PhD in Norway are
- The Bologna Process training in PhD. This ensures that your PhD is regarded as of high value in a vast number of countries.
- The training component in PhD. Unlike the UK, where you are expected to hit the ground running, Norway PhD offers a research training period before embarking on your research project.
The work benefits of a PhD in Norway are
- The employee status for PhD students. Countries like US and UK do not consider PhD students as employees. Therefore, the stipend is considered financial support and not a salary. It turns out they are paid low during PhD.
- Norway, however, offers you the status of an employee in an egalitarian culture and offers you the highest pay as PhD student.
The lifestyle benefits of a PhD in Norway are
- OECD Better Life Index rate Norway’s education standard at 7.4 and life satisfaction at 7.3 on a scale of 10.
- You are allowed to stay in Norway post-PhD if you have secured a job offer.
- You can get permanent residency after 3 years of residence in Norway.
|Top Rated Universities in Norway||PhD Vacancies|
|University of Oslo||Join UiO as a researcher!|
|University of Bergen||PhD positions at UiB|
|Norwegian University of Science & Technology (NTNU)||PhD vacancies at NTNU|
Denmark ranks second on our list. The average PhD stipend ($54636) in Denmark is almost as high as in Norway. However, a higher living cost ($33960) lowers the PhD stipend to living cost ratio here.
“My experience is that international PhDs are really good. They are extremely motivated. Some come from countries where conditions for doing research are worse than in Denmark, and so they see coming to Denmark to write a PhD as a huge opportunity. ”PhD in Denmark have got better
The educational benefits of doing a PhD in Denmark are
- Denmark considers PhD students to be mature, notably academically mature. Your master’s thesis should be really good to demonstrate that you are eligible to take on a Denmark-standard PhD project.
- An applied PhD. Doctoral training all over the world demands independent work capabilities. However, a Danish PhD takes it to another level. The trend in Denmark’s higher education system is to push its students to learn by doing. Therefore, if you want an increased practical touch in your PhD learning then a Danish PhD is for you.
- The quality of a PhD is constantly increasing resulting in better ROI for Denmark PhD graduates.
The work benefits of doing a PhD in Denmark are
- Denmark besides best-paying country for PhD students offers a whole lot of other things PhD students seek e.g., work-life balance, and the happiest country in the world.
- Teaching duties, unlike in the US, are not tied to the stipend you get as a PhD student in Denmark. Plus, If you perform such assistantship duties you are provided a living wage against that.
- No PhD burnout issues. Due to the immense workload, the US and UK PhD are harder to get through. Denmark’s academic culture does not burden PhD students with immense pressure. This means no one expects you to burn your weekends, thus a high work-life balance.
Learn more about PhD study in Denmark.
The lifestyle benefits of doing a PhD in Denmark are
- Educational standards are high (8.0/10) in Denmark and so does life satisfaction (8.8/10).
- Unemployment benefits even for international PhD students. Denmark offers unemployment benefits for PhD graduates if they can’t find a job after graduation.
- Post-graduate work visa. Post-PhD you can extend your stay for 6 months in Denmark under job seeking a permit. You can look for work opportunities during this period.
|Top Rated Universities in Denmark||PhD Vacancies|
|University of Copenhagen||PhD-positions|
|Aarhus University||Vacant PhD positions|
|Technical University of Denmark||PhD recruitment at DTU|
Switzerland offers the third-highest PhD stipend in the world. The Swiss PhD salary is $53434 per annum considered on average.
Interestingly, this PhD stipend is much close to Norway and Denmark, however, the higher living cost ($37656 per annum) in Switzerland ranked it in the third position on our list.
Besides a generous PhD stipend Switzerland attract PhD students from around the world with research training and opportunities found nowhere else.
The educational benefits of doing a PhD in Switzerland are
- Two PhD training paths. (a) First, the thesis-based PhD where you work under a supervisor and complete your PhD project. (b) Second, the structured PhD offers an initial training component, and project collaboration with industry partners or other universities. Industry exposure means more networking and industry credibility.
- An industry-oriented PhD. There are a lot of employers who value PhD researchers and partner with them. This makes sure you get industry exposure during your PhD.
- 3rd highest Research output in the world. Switzerland ranks 3rd in the world for the number of research papers published. This may mean higher concentration if you have research opportunities.
The work benefits of doing a PhD in Switzerland are
- Full-time paid PhD positions. The best thing about doing PhD in Switzerland is you are usually hired as a full-time paid research assistant, junior researcher, or doctoral fellow.
- Early career researcher funding opportunities. PhD graduates face many uncertainties in the world of brutally competitive academia and precarious post-doc contracts. Switzerland PhD graduates are privileged to take advantage of early career researcher funding offered to support their research ideas. Such funding opportunities provide fresh PhD graduates a chance to prove themselves and also explore their research further.
The lifestyle benefits of doing a PhD in Switzerland are
- Enjoy your PhD years. Swiss PhD is not only good for your academic career but also for other aspects of your life. You can enjoy the beautiful views of the Alps mountains and Europe’s largest and most beautiful lakes. If you love hiking and photography then there is no place better than Switzerland.
- According to OECD better life index, life satisfaction in Switzerland is 8.7/10 and the educational standard is 7.4/10.
- Post-study work opportunity. Post-PhD you can extend your stay for 6 months in Switzerland under job seeking permit. You can look for work opportunities during this period.
|Top Rated Universities in Switzerland||PhD Vacancies|
|ETH Zurich||Finding a Doctoral Position|
|University of Zurich||Vacant PhD Positions|
|Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne||Open PhD Positions & research assistant positions|
Finland offers a PhD stipend of $35388 (on average) which, when compared to the above entries, may feel low. However, it does make more sense considering the average living costs per annum ($26148) which is a lot less than Norway, Denmark, and Switzerland it does compete fairly.
Finland wins many other countries on this list. The reason is simple its PhD stipend may not be best but it offers many other benefits to PhD students.
The educational benefits of doing a PhD in Finland are
- Finland’s educational system is rated the best in the world. This means you are in good hands while doing your PhD in Finland.
- The highly egalitarian academic culture means you are on the first name basis with the professor, it does count, doesn’t it?
- The Bologna Process training in PhD. Just like Norway, above in this list, Finland also offers Bologna Process training to ensure the competitiveness of PhD training in the international academic market.
“Your application should convince the university of the need for study in your area, and of your own suitability to carry out the research.“Doing your PhD in Finland: How to get in
Work benefits of doing a PhD in Finland are
- Finnish PhD is just like a job. A job that may not end at 5 pm. As a worker, you are required to prove your results. That being the case, your professor does not care about the number of hours you worked to get those results.
- Academic conferences also matter more than any other thing to Finnish academics. You must ready solid presentations for your research progress. Finnish academics take you as an employee and while your PhD stipend is considered salary, you are also expected to show results. Academic conferences are considered legit for this demonstration.
- Teaching duties are expected from you as a funded PhD student in Finland. The workload may be less but you are still required to take that. This may be beneficial if you are looking forward to an academic career post-PhD.
Explore more on Doing your PhD in Finland: How to get in
The lifestyle benefits of doing a PhD in Finland are
- Finland furnishes unbelievable standards for education (9.2/10) and life satisfaction (10/10) according to the OECD better life index.
- Post-study work visa. Post-PhD you can extend your stay for 2 years in Finland under a residence permit. You can look for work opportunities during this period.
|Top Rated Universities in Finland||PhD Vacancies|
|University of Helsinki||Doctoral Research Positions|
|Aalto University||Doctoral Candidates|
|University of Turku||PhD Vacancies|
Here we go another Scandinavian nation giving the highest PhD stipend in the world. Sweden offers a PhD stipend of $41268 which is much higher than the Finland we discussed above. However, the higher living cost in Stockholm ($31452) gives it the 5th position on our list.
The educational benefits of doing a PhD in Sweden are
- Sweden holds 33 Nobel Prizes which when compared to its population is much higher than any other country. Yes, it is due to its free-thinking culture.
- The social science, arts, and humanities PhDs can be independent theses and your PhD supervisor may be like a coach. However, a PhD project in STEM or natural science may be a part of a bigger research project in which you work alongside with your PhD mentors and supervisors. This means you are highly likely to benefit from the peer status with academics, right from the start.
- The Swedish PhD viva is usually a presentation before other academics in your field. It may feel uncomfortable to introverts like me but I think it can be an opportunity to finish your PhD with confidence. The same confidence you require to get employed after your study.
The work benefits of doing a PhD in Sweden are
- In Sweden, you don’t work with one supervisor. Usually, you are trained by assistant supervisors instead of the only principal investigator. These assistant supervisors provide day-to-day training and support.
- For the first two years of your PhD in Sweden, you are given financial support but still considered an employee. The next two years of your PhD you get all the benefits an employee gets e.g., parental leave and medical support.
- There is one thing Sweden does better than giving the best PhD stipend and that is the long vacation period, even for a PhD student. Every year you are offered a vacation period of around a month. The reason is obvious PhD students have the same rights as employees in Sweden.
The lifestyle benefits of doing a PhD in Sweden are
- Free thinking culture, means nothing is awkward no matter what your opinions are about life and norms. The things Swedish people hate are the ones that hinder free speech.
- As a funded doctoral student in Sweden, you and your family are entitled to get parental and pregnancy benefits. More, if your child is below 16 years old she/he is eligible for financial and free medical support from the government.
- The post-study residence permit allows PhD graduates to stay in Sweden for 12 months. In this period they can secure a job or start a business and later get their work permits accordingly.
- Although 5 years stay is usually a requirement for permanent residency in Sweden. Doctoral students can use their research permits to prove residence requirements.
|Top Rated Universities in Sweden||PhD Vacancies|
|Karolinska Institutet||Doctoral Research Positions|
|Lund University||PhD Vacancies|
|Stockholm University||PhD Student Positions|
Best PhD stipends Comparison
A PhD stipend or any other salary is just a number when we consider different regions across the globe.
Absolute dollars, euros, or pounds cannot tell the whole story when we want to compare compensation given in one region to another.
Countries and even cities have different circumstances and different costs of living. Therefore, to find the actual worth of a PhD stipend/ salary’s worth across different cities and countries we need some comparable numbers.
This is why “PhD stipend to living cost ratio” is handy.
PhD stipend to living cost ratio
Simply put, it is a number that helps you to evaluate the actual worth of the stipend.
As a prospective international PhD applicant, you should consider this because
- the living cost in the area– the cost of living varies from one city or country 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
Remarks about the PhD stipends data
- City-based PhD stipend and living cost data are included for better estimation of PhD stipend to living cost ratio. Cities are mentioned because PhD stipend amount and living cost vary even between cities in the same country.
- Average living cost is calculated by the living cost of a single person + average rent in the city center.
- Only salary reports with high confidence levels were included. A high Confidence Level means the salary data on Glassdoor.com was sufficient, recent, and fresh.
- The actual stipend offered by your university may vary. Any additional compensation e.g., bonuses, any other grants, etc.. may increase your stipend amount. Any extra fee e.g., semester, activity fee, etc. may decrease the PhD stipend amount.
- Your actual PhD stipend may differ depending on your field of study, university, and type of grant/ funding for your PhD.
- The living cost may vary depending on many factors e.g., room sharing, dependents, living outside of the city center, transportation, etc.
- Some stipend amounts may be pre-tax because the PhD stipend is taxable in that jurisdiction. Tax amounts may vary due to your location, dependents, etc.
- PhD stipend and living costs are provided in approximations.
Should you consider PhD stipend when making a PhD decision?
Although, I agree that a PhD aspirer should give weightage to factors like lab facilities, research interests, and PhD advisor compatibility. However, money is crucial, no matter the academic sacredness.
The obvious reasons are
- a PhD without adequate funding may not be possible, especially, if you are coming from a struggling economy.
- As a PhD student, you are not just a trainee or apprentice, you are an academic worker. Thus, you should receive adequate compensation for your input and efforts.
Wrapping Up: Which country pays PhD students the best?
There are a lot of well-funded opportunities out there. You just need to move a little bit out of your comfort zone. Doing that will open your options more than you think.
There are many countries that provide high PhD stipends. The good news is they don’t call it the stipend. They call it PhD salary.
A PhD if not well funded means
- your Post-PhD carrier will also be a struggle. Why? Precarious post-doc contracts and the struggles of visiting faculty are prevalent in academia.
- the department may not value your knowledge and skills. They may doubt your ability to contribute to the research goals of their team.
- switching to an industry can be daunting. After investing your best years in academia you may struggle to justify, even to yourself, an industry job that pays or treats you like a fresh undergrad.
Here is my advice on evaluating the best PhD stipend before you accept a PhD offer
- Estimate any additional grants and allowances that may be available to you in a PhD.
- Estimate the living cost according to your dependents, and preferred location (inside or outside the city center).
- Estimate the possibility of any savings you can make during your studies.
Countries which offer a high PhD stipend/ Salary are many. However, when we consider the cost of living for PhD students in the area, the Norway’s universities offer higher PhD stipends than any other country on our list.