Earning your doctorate is a major investment. In addition to time and energy, you need to pay for tuition, fees, and a host of other expenses that go along with it. Yet with thousands of funding options out there, the commitment doesn’t have to put your bank account to the test. Scholarships and grants can defray many of the grad school costs, and put that PhD or professional doctorate within reach. Use this guide to take your first step with funding.
PhD and Doctorate Scholarships
Grants and scholarships are financial aid recipients don’t need to pay back. In general, grants are need-based while scholarships are based on character or merit.
For graduate students, particularly PhD and doctoral candidates, scholarships are often career specific. In contrast, undergraduate scholarships are usually open-ended and merit based. PhD scholarships sometimes include teaching requirements, and some ask for recent GMAT or other graduate-level test scores.
Scholarship donors set the criteria for recipient selection. The list below, while not exhaustive, offers a glimpse of doctorate-level scholarships available.
Fulbright U.S. Student Program
Be a citizen or U.S. national and hold a bachelor’s degree. Meet language requirements of application country and declare any other scholarships or grants. Cannot have previously lived or studied in the application country, except for undergraduate study abroad.
Funds a year of study, research, and culture-sharing abroad. Can support studies in various countries around the world that focus on areas such as teaching, business, public health, journalism and communications, arts, sciences, and humanities.
AMA’s Valuing Diversity PhD Scholarship
Be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and member of an underrepresented population (e.g. African American, Hispanic, or Native American). Completed at least one year of doctoral study in marketing or advertising.
Represents an effort to uplift unheard voices and bring diverse perspectives into the industry. Awards several scholarships yearly for marketing or advertising PhD candidates representing underserved populations. Previous applicants not selected can apply again.
The Beinecke Scholarship Program
$4,000 immediately + $30,000 while attending graduate school
2nd Wednesday of February
College juniors planning graduate studies in arts, humanities, or social sciences. Be a citizen or US national and received need-based financial aid as an undergraduate. Students planning to pursue advanced degrees in neuroscience, law, business, public health, public policy, or social work should not apply.
Supports highly motivated college juniors pursuing graduate and doctoral degrees in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Purposes to motivate younger students to strategize a further future.
William (Bill) Ezzell Scholarship for CPAs
Be a CPA and hold an undergraduate or master’s degree in accounting. Have a GMAT score of 650 or higher (or GRE equivalent), intend to teach accounting after graduation, and be enrolled in an accounting PhD program.
A career-based scholarship aimed at supporting the passionate pursuit of a profession and giving back to the industry and community of accounting.
Irzyk Veteran Scholarship
Be a U.S. citizen and a veteran enrolled in an accredited university. Emphasis is on students with distinctions for combat and honorable service.
Named for Brigadier General Albin F. Irzyk who led tanks in WWII. One example of a broad category of scholarships available for veterans by veterans.
ALA Century Scholarship
For library sciences students with documented medical disabilities. Must exhibit financial need and be a U.S. or Canadian citizen.
An annual scholarship sponsored by the American Library Association to provide accommodations for students with disabilities pursuing graduate degrees in library science.
PhD and Doctorate Grants
Grants are financial aid packages aimed at helping professionals deepen their involvement and impact within their fields. They’re often awarded to recipients whose work benefits the broader community, especially if the work helps underserved people.
Federal and state grants are also available to qualifying applicants. These public grants frequently connect demonstrated financial need with public service requirements. Private grants also may come with stipulations set by the institutions funding them. Many PhD programs also have their own grants in different specialties, often founded by former recipients or alumni.
Esther Katz Rosen Fund Grant
Available to psychologists and scholars working with gifted and talented children. Must be affiliated with an educational institution and hold a doctoral degree or be enrolled as a graduate student.
A post-doctoral research grant focused on supporting and advancing innovation in the studies of gifted and talented children and adolescents. Best suited for practicing psychologists or active researchers.
Berkman Charitable Fund Marketing Research Grant
Tenured or tenure-track faculty in marketing departments.
This grant drives efforts for science-based solutions to modern marketing disciplines and business administration. It supports marketing PhDs and faculty in developing research projects and encourages knowledge creation.
Delaware Optometry Incentive Program
Delaware residents enrolled full time in an optometry licensure program.
An example of doctoral grants supporting students and industries needed in the region. Check your own state for similar educational financial assistance packages.
Wenner-Gren Foundation Anthropology Grants
Anthropology doctoral students and researchers. For students of all nationalities, though some awards require a master’s degree.
Seeks to further the understanding of our collective past through fieldwork, research, and educational support. Offers multiple grants for different pursuits in anthropology.
Mariam K Chamberlain Award
$8,500 to the graduate student; $1,500 to their advisor
First-generation doctoral students, including immigrant scholars, and their advisor. Dissertations must relate to Re:Gender’s mission.
A partnership scholarship for first-generation doctoral students working on a dissertation related to social justice, women’s rights, and/or gender studies. Designed to support mentorship and cooperation in keeping with the values of Mariam K. Chamberlain’s foundational institution, Re:Gender.
Hannah Beiter Graduate Student Research Grants
Membership in the Children’s Literature Association (ChLA). Must have a research proposal and be a graduate student at any level.
Established to support research advancements within children’s literature. Recipients must publish and/or present their findings at a conference and acknowledge ChLA’s supporting role.
PhD and Doctorate Fellowships
Even more than doctoral grants and scholarships, fellowships are career- and research-oriented and aimed at furthering the interests not only of the fellow but also of the community, the institution, and the industry itself. Fellowships are generally awarded to PhDs and researchers already established in their fields.
Fellowships often include teaching, speaking, and/or research requirements as well as terms of residency. Some fellowship programs also require community-building projects and local collaboration. Fellowships also tend to confer prestige and enhanced networking with past fellows, which can lead to future career opportunities.
Eileen Blackey Doctoral Fellowship
Social work PhD candidates studying welfare policy. Must have a National Association of Social Work (NASW) membership.
The NASW offers this annual fellowship to advance the field of social work, particularly as it relates to diversity and welfare policy. In addition to relevant dissertation work, recipients must participate in community events and the annual NASW National Leadership Conference.
IAF’s Grassroots Development Program
$6,000 initially + $1,500 monthly
U.S. doctoral candidates in various fields. Research must be related to grassroots development. There are also language requirements, and a collaboration proposal is required.
The Inter-American Foundation (IAF) supports grassroots development in Latin America and the Caribbean in fields impacting lives and building community. Awarded to PhD candidates in fields like sustainable agriculture, economics, education, healthcare and public policy, and small-enterprise development.
Marie Tharp Visiting Fellowship
Women scientists in the natural sciences and engineering. Must hold a PhD.
Visiting fellowships fund experts in a particular field who take temporary residence for teaching and researching at the university. The Marie Tharp Visiting Fellowship is a 3-month program at Columbia University for women in natural sciences and engineering.
Citizens of North, Central, and South American countries. Must submit samples of work.
Supports scholarship and creativity across various artistic fields. About 175 Guggenheim fellowships are awarded each year. Applicants are evaluated by experts in their field or medium and then selected by former Guggenheim fellows.
American Association of University Women Fellowship
U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Women scholars in any field of study.
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) offers this annual doctoral fellowship in three separate categories: dissertation support, long-term postdoctoral research, and short-term publication support. The foundation’s goal is to increase the number of women in tenure-track faculty positions around the country.
Woodrow Wilson MBA Fellowship in Educational Leadership
Stipend for tuition and expenses
Nominations due February 22nd
Leaders with passion, dedication, and unorthodox approaches to education. Nomination by a local educator (i.e., no self-nomination). Commitment to three years in approved school/district leadership position.
Aims to produce leaders in education who are ready to address the myriad problems facing 21st-century educators, both from a policy perspective and human interest and social justice standpoints. The fellowship supports innovation and creativity in educational leadership.
Fully Funded Doctoral Programs
Many universities offer opportunities for fully funded doctoral study and often include tuition and living expenses as well as research and material support for the four to six years it usually takes to complete a PhD. Fully funded PhDs often come with teaching or research requirements and require participation in the department’s conferences and events. Depending on the field, candidates may also be required to publish papers.
Some schools fully fund all their doctoral candidates, while others offer packages based on financial need, community commitments, or other stipulations. This is true across most fields, so it’s worth your time and effort to research the options. Below are details of some fully funded doctoral programs in several different concentrations.
At Rice University, business school PhD candidates are fully funded in exchange for 20 hours per week of research or teaching assistant work. Tuition is waived, and business doctoral candidates receive a stipend of $40,000 per year for living expenses. Candidates also get their own workspace and technology support as well as additional funding for specific research projects conducted with faculty oversight. The school offers this support throughout the field, including business administration, marketing, accounting, and so forth.
Fully funded doctorates in communications can lead to a broad field of career choices, from media to academia. Syracuse University’s doctorate in Mass Communications, for example, is funded for the three years it takes to complete the coursework and dissertation. Candidates participate in interdisciplinary studies in communications, taking classes in other departments before specializing with the help of a faculty advisor who also typically forms part of the dissertation committee.
For graduate students hoping to study computer sciences or engineering, George Washington University in St Louis offers a fully-funded PhD that includes tuition, a stipend, and a high-end Apple laptop. Students work with renowned faculty and visiting fellows to solve real-world problems through research and practical applications. Candidates can also apply for additional fellowship support through the school, which sometimes means representing the program through residencies at other universities.
University of California, Irvine’s education PhD is fully funded for up to five years and includes tuition and living expenses. Candidates learn about education theory and practices through research and fieldwork. Some specializations require classroom observation and other practical studies depending on whether the candidate focuses on policy, human development, or teaching strategy. Candidates may teach undergraduate education classes or assist with research.
Research opportunities abound in the humanities. For a field like political science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) fully funds all PhD students for five years as long as they meet certain academic requirements. MIT’s political science department also supports candidates doing fieldwork abroad or researching an array of fields from international relations to American politics. Candidates engage with interdisciplinary teams to solve modeling problems and expand their understanding of human behavior and interaction.
All PhD candidates in Emory’s School of Nursing get a tuition waiver as well as $31,000 per year for living expenses. For the four years of their program, candidates teach and do research. Candidates learn the theories and practices of nursing and go on to research policy, systems, recruiting, education, and other elements of the field. They work closely with advisors to develop their dissertations.
The Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Boston College offers a five-year, fully funded doctoral program focused on research. Beginning with coursework and research development, candidates build their original research projects through one-on-one mentorship with faculty for whom they work as teaching assistants. In addition to direct research, candidates also participate in academic conferences, publish papers, and apply for research grants to prepare them for a career in research.
The University of Michigan School of Social Work fully funds most doctoral candidates through their five-year joint program in social work and social science. Through fellowship awards, research assistant positions, and classroom instruction, candidates cover their costs and give back to the university community. They combine coursework and research with fieldwork and community outreach to deepen their sense of the micro and macro elements of sociocultural policy and practice.
Timeline for Financing Your Doctorate
The timeline below can help you keep track of steps in the process of financing your doctorate. Use it to mark your calendar with specific deadlines for all your applications.
Start researching your options. If you’re already in a PhD program, look for scholarships and grants aimed at candidates already deep into doctoral study. Organize your research in a spreadsheet that includes the amount, deadline, type of award, application requirements, and any other important information.
Make sure your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is updated so loans remain an option if needed. Then, set weekly application goals based on specific deadlines. Strategize the process for a steady stream of applications, and approach anyone who might write a letter of recommendation. These individuals are also good to ask about other funding opportunities.
Follow up on recommendation letter requests, and continue checking off your application schedule. Revisit your mission statement to make sure it represents who you are and how you want to improve people’s lives. If you’re in a doctoral program and have time off for the summer, use it to write papers about different elements of your interests and how they’re relevant to people or communities.
As the academic year approaches and doctoral work takes up most of your time, having a strategy ahead of time can help in keeping up with your funding search. Take time to sharpen your pitch about the importance of your research, so you can explain why institutions should support your efforts.
Repeat the process. A PhD’s quest for funding never stops. Pay attention to rolling deadlines and be persistent. Most financial awards allow for yearly application.
How to Stand Out on Your Doctorate Scholarship and Grant Applications
Applying for doctoral scholarships, grants, and fellowships may seem daunting, but it just takes a little persistence and organized research. Be methodical. Use this page as a launching point, and keep track of opportunities relevant to your goals. Apply one by one until you’re done, keeping in mind the following list of dos and don’ts to help you stand out.
Be thorough in your research. Read the detailed eligibility requirements. Check out the faculty and the work of current candidates. Make a spreadsheet of all your parameters and options.
Contact program advisors with questions. Browse the school’s website first and note any questions you want to ask.
Fill out your application materials with a positive mindset about the value you’ll bring to the university, the award, and the field itself.
Read about previous recipients’ work, not to compare yourself but to better understand the award’s focus. Many scholarships and grants have narrow specifications and reviewing previous work may help you home in on them.
Avoid applying for opportunities that don’t fit. Whatever your niche, there’s probably another way to fund it.
Hesitate to apply for out-of-reach opportunities. Instead, think about what sets you apart and what unique experiences or perspectives you bring to the table and focus on opportunities that fit.
Don’t beg for funding in your application. Instead, structure your pitch to demonstrate how you’ll use the award to empower those around you and improve the field itself.
Don’t give up. Apply for everything that appears to be a fit. Don’t stop after a couple of months of trying since many awards have application deadlines throughout the year.