How Much Does a Doctorate Degree Cost?

Nov 04, 2019

There are many types of doctoral degrees, and students may seek a doctorate to enter or advance a professional career, begin residency in the medical field, continue with scientific research or enter academia when they finish.

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  • 0:00 Doctorate Cost Information
  • 2:24 Ph.D. Programs
  • 3:00 Professional Doctoral Programs
  • 3:19 Paying for a Doctoral Degree
  • 4:23 Salaries for Doctoral…

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Doctorate Cost Information

The cost of a doctorate degree depends on the type of degree that is being pursued and may require a significant investment or be fully funded. Let's discuss the possible costs, financial aid options, and future salary prospects that should be considered prior to making a decision. What is most important to consider before embarking on a course of study towards a doctorate is whether the candidate is sufficiently dedicated and motivated to persevere as well as does he possess the ability and skill to study at the level expected of her. Secondly, when choosing the right program, considerations such as the reputation of the program and the validity of the degree within its discipline count for much more than future income potential. For doctoral programs, one should not have to pay, but secure significant scholarships and teaching stipends.

The U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) does not provide current cost information specific to doctoral degree programs. The most recent data available is from 2011-2012. At that time, the total average cost for research-based doctoral programs was $36,600. Professional doctoral degrees averaged $48,900 the same year. The NCES provides more current costs for all graduate students. For the 2014-2015 school year, the average cost of a graduate degree was $17,385 per year. At private institutions, that figure was $23,266 annually, while it was only $10,979 for public institutions. However, it is important to note that these figures include non-doctoral graduate programs, like graduate certificates and master's degrees. For students who are interested in medical school, it can be helpful to take a look at the yearly costs for MD programs. These are the figures for the top five medical schools in the country, according to the U.S. News & World Report rankings for 2017.

College In-State Out-of-State
University of Washington $34,476 $63,930
University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill $24,837 $51,716
University of California - San Francisco $33,420 $45,665
Oregon Health and Science University $39,596 $56,899
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor $34,050 $52,380

Ph.D. Programs

Students in Ph.D. programs may receive full funding packages for a certain number of years, such as five years. These packages may include:

  • Academic tuition
  • Monthly living stipend
  • Medical insurance
  • Funding for study materials
  • Travel stipend

However, in order to keep the funding, the school may require students to maintain a minimum GPA or teach undergraduates. There are also schools that only provide partial funding packages, so it is important for students to find out about the school's offerings before they enroll.

Professional Doctoral Programs

On the other hand, many professional doctoral degree programs require students to provide their own funding. For instance, medical students enrolled in Doctor of Medicine programs are expected to find their own sources of funding for tuition and other costs. The same is true for students in Juris Doctor programs.

Paying for a Doctoral Degree

The majority of doctoral students attend school full-time. The percentage of students receiving financial assistance varies with the program, though 66.6% of doctoral students at public universities took advantage of some form of financial assistance in 2011-2012, while 72.6% of doctoral students at nonprofit private schools received aid the same year. Many lending companies, non-profit organizations, and employers offer financial aid to help students pay for their education.

Fellowships, grants, and scholarships do not need repayment, but often come with strict eligibility requirements. Many schools offer annual stipends, assistantships, and on-campus teaching jobs to help a student fund his or her education. Doctoral students should look into any type of free aid available before applying for loan assistance.

Student loans from public and private lending institutions offer additional means of financing graduate school. Underprivileged students may find federal interest-free loans that may offer deferment of payment for a period of time after graduation.

Salaries for Doctoral Graduates

In April 2017, PayScale.com estimated the median salaries for Ph.D. degree holders based on the type of employment. Full professors at universities earned a median salary of $96,631 per year. Associate professors earned $74,690. However, it is important to understand that it takes on average 15 years or more to attain the rank of Full Professor, providing one is hired shortly upon graduating for a tenure-track professorship and then subsequently earns tenure seven years later to become an Associate Professor. The majority of Ph.D.'s do not obtain full-time tenured employment at four-year institutions any longer, but work as contingent faculty and in numerous other capacities. For the select few, Ph.D.'s may become Deans or Vice Presidents in Academia and even Provosts and College Presidents, or Museum Directors and Curators, at which point the earning potential increases into the six figures. Outside of academia, some Ph.D. holders became clinical psychologists. The median salary for these professionals was reported to be $73,086. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for all physicians and surgeons was $208,000 in May 2016. Anesthesiologists, as one specific example, earned $443,859 per year. In addition to the education and training a doctoral degree provides, salaries are also contingent on the number of years of experience an employee brings to the position.

When deciding whether to enroll in a doctoral degree program in any subject, prospective students need to think about the financial implications. They may qualify for funding or financial assistance and should balance potential costs with expected career earnings.

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