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How much do graduate students get paid as stipend?

Question from an undergraduate student:

How much do graduate students get paid as a stipend?

at my desk during my PhD oindree banerjee how to phd blog how much do graduate students get paid as stipend?
Just a day in grad school - I was cold!

How to PhD response:

Great question!

It is fairly standard for graduate students to be awarded a stipend in the form of a graduate teaching or research assistantship in the STEM fields. 

Thinking about your finances during graduate school ahead of time is a great thing to do.

Indeed a very pertinent thing to consider when applying to and/or accepting offers from graduate schools.

Ask current graduate students at the institution you are interested in how much they make.

Compare it to the cost of living in the area the school is in. 

This is very important.

Your biggest cost will be housing, so doing some homework on how much it costs to live in the area in rent is extremely advisable.

Do a Google search for cost of living.

You can compare, for example, different cities such as Boston versus Columbus.

Boston is super expensive.

Columbus is below the national average for cost of living index.

Logically, the stipend should be adjusted with the cost of living in the area, but never trust that this will actually be the case.

Do your own homework and calculation.

If you are considering MIT, say, figure out how much they pay their graduate students.

Is it a LOT more than what they pay at the University of Cincinnati? 


But check!

You WILL have to be able to live on the stipend, ya know.

You won't be allowed to OR have the time to do a second job, very likely.

So the stipend will be your sole income.

If you do not want to take out loans, it HAS to be what you can live on entirely.

I am not an expert but it is common knowledge that places like California and New York are expensive.

Carefully do your homework for schools in these areas.

As for me, Ohio is cheap.

That was a huge reason why I went to Ohio State University for grad school.

I did not take out loans and was able to manage.

My stipend (post-candidacy) was about $25,000 per year.

Monthly, I made about $1600-$1800 after tax.

This is the important number.

You want to make sure that monthly what you will make after-tax can pay all the bills and then some.

At Ohio State, post-candidacy students make about $100 more per month.

Graduate teaching and research assistants make the same amount depending on whether they have completed and passed the candidacy exam (typically during the 2nd Summer) or not. 

So yeah I was very excited about my almost $100 raise after passing my candidacy exam.

I believe, if you needed a reality check on graduate school life, I might have given it to you in this post.

It's not glamorous. 

You get real good at living below the minimum wage.

Because remember, you are working 60 - 80 hours per week. 

So on $25,000 per year, you make around 6 - 8 dollars per hour.

Actually, it's a 24/7 job - you work even in your sleep!

Some graduate students tutor on the side - the common rate is $30 per hour.

Tutoring is the only side job graduate students are allowed to do at Ohio State. 

Personally, I was never able to find the time or energy to tutor on the side.

How much did housing (rent) cost me in the Columbus area?

Between 450 - 550 dollars per month. After splitting the rent in half with a roommate.

There are other things on top of this - water, electricity, and internet.

These come to around $100 - $200.

And then groceries are another $200.

You might want to learn how to cook!

Cooking is cheaper than eating out.

It was doable and coming from no steady income in college, I was extremely happy with what I got, especially in the first few years of graduate school.

Of course, it isn't a real salary.

I don't endorse such behavior, but there is a reason students steal toilet paper and sanitary napkins from the school bathrooms!

You are on a tight budget and learn to be frugal like no other.

Share your grad school stipend in the comments below so that prospective grads may get an idea!

Did I miss anything - comment below!

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