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How do I finance my PhD?

  10-Dec-2014  |   Post By: Ph.D.online

There are many ways to finance your PhD program, including fellowships, assistantships, awards and student loans.


Fellowships are a type of scholarship that is usually only available to graduate students in masters and PhD programs. Students who receive fellowships are known as fellows. Fellows are typically awarded financial resources to pursue research in a particular field of knowledge.

Most fellowships are based on a student’s academic merit and their research interests. These funding opportunities are highly competitive and very prestigious. Fellowships are most often associated with your university, your department or an independent scholarly organization. Every fellowship has different application criteria as well as a different way of providing funding. For example, some fellowships give students monthly funding for several years while others provide a 1-time award in a lump sum.

Applying for fellowships is similar to applying for PhD programs. You should give yourself at least 6 months to gather the application materials, which often include personal statements and letters of recommendation. Because fellowships are so competitive, you should apply to as many as possible rather than just 1 or 2.

Although it is possible to win a fellowship for your study in an online PhD program, it is highly unlikely. Fellowships look for students who have outstanding academic records and online PhD program are usually not viewed as favourably as PhD programs at a traditional schools.


The 2 most common types of assistantships available to PhD candidates are research assistantships and teaching assistantships. Research assistants work on research projects with faculty members in their department, and they are not usually required to teach. Teaching assistants work with students in classrooms, labs or discussion sections. They might also help professors grade tests and term papers or prepare their lecture materials for undergraduate students.

Research and teaching assistants are almost always offered through the department in which you study. In some cases, you may be qualified to teach or research in an interdisciplinary department. In exchange for your work, you may receive a direct salary or simply a tuition waiver. If you plan to become a university researcher or professor, these assistantships will also provide you with valuable experience.

Because research and teaching assistantships almost always require you to work on campus, these types of opportunities are not usually available to online PhD students. If you plan to work as a university researcher or lecturer after you finish your PhD, you should strongly consider attending a traditional brick-and-mortar PhD program.

Awards and Prizes

Awards and prizes also provide financial support for graduate students who demonstrate strong academic abilities. However, unlike scholarships or fellowships, there is usually no application for an award or prize. Rather, they are awarded to students who have completed outstanding projects or scholarly articles.

Since there is no application for awards and prizes, a professor must usually recommend your article or project to committee. Academic awards and prizes are a great way to strengthen your resume. However, they are usually relatively small amounts of money, and you should not rely on them to be a significant source of funding for your PhD program.

Student Loans

Although it is best to find funding for your PhD that you do not have to repay, you may need to use student loans to help cover the cost of your doctorate degree. Student loans are available from the central government or from private lending institutions.

Government Loan

Government of India in consultation with Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Indian Banker's Association (IBA) has framed a Comprehensive Educational Loan Scheme to ensure that no deserving student in the Country is deprived of higher education for want of finances. The new scheme covers all type of courses including professional courses in schools and colleges in India and abroad.

The Salient features of the scheme are as under:


  • The scheme envisages loans up to Rs.7.5 lakh for studies in India and up to Rs. 15 lakh for studies abroad.
  • For loans up to Rs. 4 lakh no collateral or margin is required and the interest rate is not to exceed the Prime Lending Rates (PLR). For loans above Rs. 4 lakh the interest rate will not exceed PLR plus 1 percent.
  • The loans are to be repaid over a period of 5 to 7 years with provision of grace period of one year after completion of studies

Tax Benefit

  • Repayment of an education loan is deductible under section 80E of the Income Tax Act. The yearly limit for deduction is Rs. 40,000 (for both the principal and the interest). Only loans taken for higher education - full time studies in any graduate or post-graduate, professional, and pure and applied science courses - may claim deduction. The deduction will be available for a maximum of eight years starting from the day you start repaying.
  • Equitable Access to quality higher education has been a concern of the University Grants Commission. To this purpose the Commission, besides encouraging colleges and universities to provide for liberal financial support to the meritorious but needy students, has also been instrumental in educational loan scheme. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has issued guidelines in this regard to all commercial banks. A large number of banks have already launched educational loan schemes. Provided below are links to the respective website of individual banks offering such facilities.

Private Education Loans

You can also take out education loans from private lending institutions like banks or credit unions. However, private loans require you to undergo a credit check and often have fluctuating interest rates during your repayment period. You should think carefully before you take out private education loans to fund your PhD.