How Much Does a Ph.D. Cost?

The average cost of a Ph.D. is over $40,000 per year. But many programs offer competitive packages that offset some or all of the costs.
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Jane Nam is a staff writer for BestColleges' Data Center. Before her work on higher education data trends, Jane was a news writer and the managing editor for an academic journal. She has graduate degrees in social and political philosophy and women's...
Updated on October 11, 2023
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Data Summary

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    The average total cost of a Ph.D. is $40,900 per year.[1]
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    The median number of years to a doctorate is 5.8 years.[2]
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    It's common for doctoral programs to offer funding, including tuition waivers, health insurance, and a stipend.
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    71% of doctoral students reported receiving a form of grant aid as opposed to 38% of master's students.[3]
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    Doctoral recipients graduate with an average debt of $26,137.[4]
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    Almost a quarter (23%) of doctoral recipients graduated with over $30,000 in debt.[5]
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    About 58% of doctoral recipients graduated with zero debt.Note Reference [4]

How much does it cost to get a Ph.D.? On average, the total cost comes out to $40,900 per year, including tuition and living expenses.Note Reference [1] Students typically take 4-8 years to finish a Ph.D. program, so a doctoral degree can cost anywhere from $163,600-$327,200 before grants and assistantships.

But you won't necessarily end up paying that total cost yourself. Ph.D. students typically receive more financial support than master's degree or other professional graduate degree students. Programs often offer tuition waivers and stipends in exchange for teaching or research.

In this report we'll explore the average cost of a Ph.D. program, common student debt amounts, and how much students typically receive in funding for their doctoral programs.

Average Cost of a Ph.D.

  • According to 2020 data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of tuition for a Ph.D. program is $20,600 per year.Note Reference [1]
  • Non-tuition related expenses, such as room and board, books, and supplies, amounted to $20,300 on average.Note Reference [1]
  • Together, the total cost per year for a doctoral program equals $40,900.Note Reference [1]

But programs often offer packages that include a tuition waiver and living stipend in exchange for an assistantship. With an assistantship, graduate students may work part time teaching or researching.

  • The average amount of a graduate research assistantship is $1,833 per month.[6]
  • The average amount of a teaching assistantship is $2,391 per month.Note Reference [6]
  • 70.5% of male doctoral students and 64% of female students reported having an assistantship, which often includes a tuition waiver and health insurance.[7]
Tuition and Stipend Minimums for Ph.D. Programs at Ivy League Schools, 2023-2024
School Name Annual Tuition Stipend Minimum
Columbia University $53,580 $46,680
Cornell University $24,800 $32,490
Harvard University $54,030 N/A
University of Pennsylvania $46,030 $38,000
Yale University $48,300 $40,530
Sources: Columbia University tuition and Columbia University stipend; Cornell University tuition and Cornell stipend; Harvard University tuition; University of Pennsylvania tuition and University of Pennsylvania stipend; Yale University tuition and stipend

Keep in mind that some schools have higher tuition but more competitive stipends and benefits, while others have lower tuition rates and lower stipend amounts. Some programs offer full tuition waivers while others cover partial tuition. It is important to note the wide range of package types that are offered to incoming doctoral students.

Tuition and Stipend Minimums for Ph.D. Programs at the Largest Public Universities, 2023-2024
School Name Annual Tuition Stipend Minimum
Florida International University
  • Resident: $8,202
  • Nonresident: $18,030
Texas A&M University
  • Resident: $8,026
  • Nonresident: $18,084
University of Central Florida
  • Resident: $6,664
  • Nonresident: $21,508
University of Texas at Austin
  • Resident: $8,928
  • Nonresident: $17,694
$26,040-$85,272 (depends on role, e.g. teaching assistant vs. solo lecturer)
Sources: Florida International University tuition and Florida International University stipend; Texas A&M University tuition, stipend for humanities, and stipend for engineering; University of Central Florida tuition and University of Central Florida stipend; University of Texas at Austin tuition and University of Texas at Austin stipend

Costs can also vary between programs and even between departments at the same school. For example, Cornell University's humanities and social science departments offered a stipend of $32,494 per year in 2023 while its technology department offered a stipend of $40,294 (in part due to the Cornell Tech campus being located in New York City).[8] Business Ph.D. students at Cornell received an even higher stipend of $44,885.[9]

Some schools increase stipend amounts with a student's time in the program. Other schools reduce the tuition amount each year.

Ph.D. programs may also offer graduate fellowships or scholarships, which may cover all or some of the costs of the program and may come with some work responsibilities.

Factors That Influence Ph.D. Cost

Other factors that can affect doctoral programs include whether a school is public or private, the location of a school, and program length.

Average Tuition and Fees for Ph.D. Programs (2011-12)
Total (All Schools) $21,400
Public $15,930
Private, Nonprofit $30,960
Private, For-Profit $14,780
Source: Urban Institute[10]

Most Ph.D. programs provide limits as to the number of years of funding they will provide, often 4-5 years. When students take longer to complete their degree, they may be able to find additional graduate student employment doing teaching or research or apply for a "finishing fellowship."

Median Years to a Doctorate by Field of Study (2019)
Field of Study Median Years to Doctorate
Overall average 5.8 years
Engineering 5.3 years
Life sciences 5.5 years
Physical sciences and earth sciences 5.6 years
Education 5.7 years
Mathematics and computer sciences 5.7 years
Psychology and social sciences 6.0 years
Humanities and arts 6.8 years
Source: NCES[11]

Ph.D. Student Loan Debt

Student loan and debt amounts for Ph.D. students differ widely between fields. Math and computer science doctoral students, for example, graduate with $10,686 in debt on average while education students graduate with $47,672 in debt.Note Reference [4]

Overall, roughly one quarter (23%) of doctoral recipients graduated with over $30,000 in debt. However, percentages varied by field.[12]

  • Only 8% of engineering students and students in the physical sciences and earth sciences graduated with over $30,000 in debt.
  • Around 40% of psychology and social sciences (36.9%) and education (40.3%) doctoral recipients, on the other hand, finished with over $30,000 in debt.

Broken down by race and ethnicity, Black or African American doctoral recipients graduated with the highest percentage of debt over $30,000 and Asian doctoral recipients graduated with the least.[13]

  • Over half of Black or African American doctoral recipients (56%) received their degrees with over $30,000 in debt.
  • Hispanic or Latina/o students placed second with 30% graduating with debt over $30,000.
  • 1 in 5 white students graduated with debt over $30,000 and only 1 in 10 Asian students.

Cost of Professional Doctorates

While this article focuses on research doctorates, there are also professional doctorates such as Doctor of Medicine (MD), Juris Doctor (JD), and Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT). These doctorates are intended towards practice and often come with higher price tags.

According to 2016 data from the National Center for Education Statistics:[14]

  • The average cost of a professional doctorate is $58,656 per year.
  • The average price of tuition and fees is $34,910 per year.
  • Non-tuition expenses, such as housing and textbooks, come out to $23,746 per year on average.

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) Cost

Unlike a Ph.D. in education, a Doctor of Education degree (Ed.D.) is also a professional doctorate and geared towards practice rather than teaching and research.

The Ed.D. program is also much shorter than a Ph.D., typically 2-3 years, which may result in a lower cost of attendance. Tuition for some of the best Doctorate of Education programs can range from around $500 per credit to over $2,000 per credit, with a total of 60 credits required to graduate. That amounts to a total tuition cost of $30,000-$120,000 depending on the school.

Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) Cost

A doctor of psychology degree (Psy.D.), not to be confused with a doctor of philosophy degree (Ph.D.) in psychology, is designed for students who want to go into practice, especially as a licensed clinical psychologist or psychotherapist.

While program length varies from school to school, you can generally expect the degree to take you 5-7 years. Tuition for some of the best online Doctorate of Psychology programs ranges from around $600-$1,600. Programs often require 60-90 credits.