How To Find a Fully Funded PhD Program

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published March 17, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Pursuing graduate studies can often be a costly endeavor. Fortunately, there are various fully funded opportunities for candidates who want to pursue research-focused terminal degree programs. While these programs can be competitive, if you're interested in earning your Ph.D., it may be helpful for you to learn more about fully funded programs so you can pursue advanced education at little or no cost to you.

In this article, we explain what fully funded Ph.D. programs are, including what costs they typically cover, and outline a step-by-step guide for finding these programs.

Related: What Is a Doctoral Degree? (With Requirements and Tips)

What is a fully funded Ph.D. program?

Fully funded Ph.D. programs are courses of graduate study that offer students a comprehensive funding package to cover the expenses associated with their enrollment. Through fully funded Ph.D. programs, students can earn a terminal degree in their discipline of choice at very little or no cost to them, as the packages they're awarded often include tuition, living stipends and research funds. It's important to note that many of these programs offer a portion of their funding conditionally in exchange for graduate student labor in the form of an assistantship, whether that be a research or teaching assistantship.

Therefore, these programs achieve the status of being fully funded because of their focus on research and preparing students for careers in academia, and this is how they differ from other graduate programs. For instance, most professional degree programs, like medical, law or business programs, are nonfunded because they prepare students for particular career tracks through targeted coursework and don't include research components. Further, to qualify as fully funded, these programs generally have to provide funding to all students they accept, as opposed to semi-funded or low-residency programs that might offer partial scholarships or merit-based funding options to enrollees.

Related: FAQ: Graduate School vs. Professional School

What does a fully funded Ph.D. program include?

Fully funded Ph.D. programs commonly provide students with funding packages that cover most costs associated with attendance. While some programs might offer unique funding opportunities dependent on their particular goals, most fully funded programs include these essential components:

Tuition and fees

These programs typically fund enrollees' tuition costs through tuition waivers, which cover the cost associated with attending university courses by paying the school directly. Some programs also cover fees that schools require students to pay, such as campus, recreation and laboratory fees that allow students to access university resources. In addition, select programs might offer students funding to pay for books or transportation, depending on their particular needs.

Stipend

It's common for fully funded Ph.D. programs to offer students stipends that help them pay for their living expenses, including costs for rent, food and transportation. Universities typically award these stipends through the form of a fellowship or assistantship that requires students to perform a particular job on campus, such as teaching or researching. It's worthwhile to note that some stipends may not include enough funding to cover students' living expenses fully, especially if a school is in an area with a high cost of living, and most stipends only cover expenses incurred during the academic year.

Health insurance

Many fully funded Ph.D. programs offer students health insurance benefits. These benefits may be comprehensive or only cover a portion of health insurance costs, the latter of which typically requires students to pay a certain amount to maintain coverage. Most programs that provide health insurance coverage do so with the goal of allowing their students to access care at convenient on-campus facilities, such as student health centers.

Research or travel funding

Some of these programs provide additional funding to students to cover costs associated with research or travel. This funding can assist students with buying the equipment, books and technology necessary to complete projects or allow them to travel to academic conferences, visit archives or attend summer enrichment programming. It's common for this component of funding to be optional and students may need to complete applications for it.

Related: How Long Does a Ph.D. Take? Including Additional FAQs

How to find a fully funded Ph.D. program

There are various fully funded Ph.D. programs available to candidates seeking pathways to make their graduate studies more affordable overall, and there are a few essential actions you can take to find these opportunities. Here's a step-by-step guide to follow to find the right fully funded Ph.D. program for your needs:

1. Search online using the right keywords

There are various resources online that compile this information and list what Ph.D. programs offer full funding opportunities. Using the right keywords, you might be able to find fully funded programs easily. Try to search phrases that include the term "fully funded Ph.D. program" alongside the discipline you want to study. Alternatively, you may be able to find these opportunities by searching for phrases like "Ph.D. assistantships" in the discipline of your choice.

2. Ask former professors and mentors for recommendations

If you're still in touch with your professors or mentors from your undergraduate studies, you may be able to ask them for recommendations for schools that offer fully funded programs. As academics, they may have a better idea about schools' current offerings. In addition, these individuals may make an even better resource if they work in the discipline that you want to study, as it's likely they have a working knowledge of what universities offer competitive funding or unique opportunities in their particular field.

3. Determine what programs interest you and inquire about funding

You may also be able to find fully funded Ph.D. programs by simply researching opportunities available in the discipline that interests you. From here, you can contact representatives at each respective school to gain information about funding. For instance, if you're interested in earning a Ph.D. in chemistry, you can search for schools that offer graduate study in this field and contact each program directly.

Related: What Is a Graduate Assistant? Duties, Benefits and Tips

4. Speak to current students about their funding experiences

Current students of Ph.D. programs that interest you might also be able to share information with you about funding on a personal level. You can ask program representatives or professors to put you into contact with current students so you can ask them questions and gain insight into their experiences. Contacting these individuals can be an effective way of verifying a program's funding opportunities and understanding how it functions in practicality to see if it might fit your needs.

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