Do You Get Paid for a PhD?

Do You Get Paid for a PhD?

For many students who don’t have the luxury of never worrying about money, one of the main considerations when weighing up if a PhD is the right move is how they will support themselves as they pursue their doctoral title. However, gone are the days when the prestigious academic accolade is only available to the upper classes. Several financial options are available for PhD students in the UK, including tax-free stipends and scholarships and seeking employment opportunities around their part-time or full-time studies. 

It is crucial for prospective PhD students to fully understand the financial landscape while contemplating taking a monumental step in their academic career. This article will provide a comprehensive overview of each available option and provide prospective PhD students with guidance towards fully-funded options, which make academia accessible and viable to all.  

The Complex Landscape of PhD Funding

The funding scenario for PhD programmes in the UK is multifaceted. While some PhD programs come with funding, others do not, leaving students to seek financial support independently. The availability of funding can depend on various factors, including the field of study, the university, and the student’s nationality.

For instance, funding for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects is often more readily available compared to humanities and social sciences. Additionally, UK and EU students typically have more funding opportunities compared to international students from outside the EU. Via websites such as Postgraduate Studentships, it is easy to find fully-funded PhD programs in a variety of fields. Alternatively, prospective PhD students can directly search for funded PhD programs at the universities of their choice.

For students who are unsuccessful with their scholarship or studentship applications, there are also alternative avenues to explore, such as taking out a PhD loan, exploring the possibilities of employer sponsorship, and even crowdfunding your PhD study. 

Stipends: A Primary Source of PhD Support

Stipends are a common form of financial support for PhD students in the UK. These are usually tax-free payments made to students to cover their living expenses while they focus on their studies. The nature of these stipends can vary – some are attached to teaching assistantships or research assistantships, where students are expected to contribute to teaching or research work in their department. This not only provides financial support but also valuable professional experience, which can improve the career prospects of PhD graduates. 

Stipend Amounts and Living Costs

For the academic year 2022/2023, PhD stipends in the UK were set at £16,062 for students outside of London and £18,062 for those within London, reflecting the higher cost of living in the capital. These stipends are typically paid over 3.5 years, the standard duration for a full-time PhD programme. However, some institutions may choose to pay the annual stipend for three or four years. 

Students should be aware that the cost of living can vary significantly across different parts of the UK, and these stipends may not fully cover all expenses, particularly in more expensive cities. Surprisingly, when the most and least affordable university towns and cities in the UK were ranked in 2023, London came behind Edinburgh and Glasgow. Meanwhile, the most affordable cities included Bournemouth, Cardiff, and Lincoln.

Scholarships: A More Generous Funding Option

Scholarships are another key source of funding for PhD students. These are often more substantial than stipends, with many exceeding £21,000. Scholarships can be provided by universities, external organisations, or industry partners and are usually awarded based on academic excellence, research potential, or specific criteria set by the funding body.

For example, the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) offers doctoral training partnerships and studentships that provide generous funding and are highly sought after. For more information on PhD scholarships and to find scholarships which may be suited to you, consult the Find a PhD database. At the time of writing, the database contained over 7,000 PhD projects and scholarships in the UK. 

Employment Opportunities for PhD Students

Despite the availability of stipends and scholarships, some PhD students may find it necessary to seek part-time employment to support themselves financially. The key is to find flexible work that can be balanced with the demanding schedule of a PhD programme.

Options such as freelance work, private tutoring, remote data entry, or part-time roles in a field related to their studies can be ideal. If finding work related to your field of study is difficult or the prospect feels too demanding, there’s no shame in seeking less mentally strenuous and taxing options or creating an income which aligns with other passions and interests.

Universities often provide career services that can help students find suitable part-time work. Furthermore, there are several websites dedicated to helping students find suitable part-time work, such as

Additional Financial Perks for PhD Students

PhD students in the UK are eligible for various financial benefits that can help ease the burden of living expenses. These include council tax exemptions, which can lead to significant savings, especially in urban areas with higher council tax rates. Additionally, students can avail of various discounts on travel, retail, and entertainment, often through schemes like the NUS (National Union of Students) card. In the grand scheme of things, these savings and exemptions may not add up to much, but while you are crunching the numbers and assessing the viability of pursuing a PhD, it is certainly something to consider.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, while the financial aspect of pursuing a PhD in the UK can seem daunting, numerous options are available to support students through their academic journey. Students can navigate this landscape with careful planning and resourcefulness, from stipends and scholarships to part-time employment.

It’s important for prospective PhD students to thoroughly research and understand the financial support available to them, ensuring they can focus on their academic pursuits without the financial stress of contemplating how they will make ends meet. With the right approach, the financial challenges of a PhD can be managed effectively, paving the way for a successful and rewarding academic career which compensates for years of reduced income. 



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