Tips for funding a graduate school education
There are considerable financial costs associated with applying to and attending doctoral programs in clinical and counseling psychology. Below are considerations of financial resources and support that may be helpful for you:
- The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores may be required by your program. Generally, it takes $220 to register, excluding other associated costs, such as travel fees and books/materials.
- Programs typically require an application fee, which ranges from $60 to $90 per school, that is nonrefundable. Some programs offer an application fee waiver for students with financial needs. Instructions and criteria for waiver application are usually listed on their webpage.
- There are scholarship opportunities that offer support for graduate school applications. N2N partnered with the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology to offer a $500 scholarship for underrepresented minority students with financial needs in 2022. Future scholarship opportunities will be shared on the website, here.
- Graduate school education can be highly expensive and will likely increase financial stress. Continued inflation and increased living costs in the United States may also make this increasingly cost-prohibitive.
- According to a survey, the cost of graduate school education in clinical psychology has burgeoned over the last few decades, while the starting salaries for early career psychologists, including neuropsychologists, have remained relatively stagnant (Doran et al., 2016). As such, a comprehensive cost/benefit analysis may be beneficial when deciding on graduate school studies.
- It is important to note that graduate programs can range from fully funded to unfunded, while Ph.D. programs typically provide more university-based financial support than PsyD programs.
- Direct costs of attending:
- Administrative Fees
- Books and other supplies
- Indirect costs of attending:
- Cost of living – it depends on the region/city of your graduate program. This living wage calculator may provide a good estimate of living costs.
- Conference attendance (may be reimbursed by graduate programs)
- Potential moving costs during internship and/or postdoctoral training
Programs may provide a variable level of funding to graduate students. There are several ways in which financial support is typically provided:
General Graduate School Funding:
- A stipend typically entails payment for any work you agree to perform as a graduate student, like teaching or working as a research assistant. This may be advertised as a graduate, research, or teaching “assistantship”. You may also be eligible for financial assistance when you enroll in a PhD program in the form of free or reduced tuition as well as PhD stipends. Generally, stipends are more common in PhD programs than PsyD programs.
- Research grants involve money that goes towards supporting a specific research project. Some specialized research grants may also be used to cover the cost of training and educational activities, tuition, and conference travel/lodging. There are many types of grants, including: 1) foundation grants, which are offered by privately run organizations or non-profit organizations; 2) non-governmental organization grants, which are offered by other non-profit entities operating separately from the government, such as the World Health Organization; and 3) governmental organization grants, which are offered by federal (civilian or military), state, or local government program. One such federal grant program is the National Institutes of Health (NIH for short), and within this there are many different grant subtypes that differ by research focus or career stage.
- Scholarships are typically money given to an individual by a university/college or other organizations to fund the education/studies of that person. These can have a wide range of eligibility criteria including demographic status (e.g., racial or ethnic identity, sex, and so on), financial need, academic performance (e.g., your grades or membership in an honor society), athletic skill, participation in a specific club/organization, or based on a creative submission.
- Research awards recognize an individual’s scientific achievements. These can be through a university/college or through professional organizations. Some involve a money reward, some money to fund specific project, or others a trophy/plaque.
- Travel awards/scholarships are designed to provide money to support travel, hotel stay, and/or registration to attend a professional conference. Some travel awards/scholarships will require that you are already presenting your research at a conference, and some do not. Others may require some sort of service in return, such as volunteering to help with registration for attendees.
- What is the level of funding that is provided to students?
- How is funding structured for students (i.e., teaching assistantship, teaching, stipend)?
- Does funding extend through the summer?
- What is the healthcare/insurance coverage for graduate students?
- How much do students typically spend on living costs in this city?
While some programs offer financial support, they may not cover all educational costs and other living expenses. Thus, graduate students may have to supplement their spending through other means, including loans and savings. According to a survey on graduate students and early career psychologists completed by Doran and colleagues (2016), the median debt and income are as follows:
Final graduate debt obtained in 2016 (medians):
By type of degree obtained:
- Ph.D. students: $67,000
- PsyD students: $ 138,500
- Clinical Psychology: $98,000
- Clinical Neuropsychology: $102,500
It is important to thoughtfully consider the impact of student loans and the potential impact on other milestones (e.g., getting married, starting a family, home ownership, and opportunity costs).
It may be helpful contact the financial aid office of prospective programs to understand financial aid options and your eligibility. Information related to financial aid is usually illustrated on their admission websites. Below are some examples of aid programs/options:
- Federal loan
- Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
- Federal Work-Study
- Payment Plan
- Private/commercial loan
The financial aid calculator may be helpful in estimating monthly payments per month
Doran, J., Kraha, A., Marks, L., Ameen, E. & El-Ghoroury, N. (2016). Graduate debt in psychology: A quantitative analysis. Training and Education in Professional Psychology. 10. 3-13. 10.1037/tep0000112.
As an international student, you are likely subjected to fewer funding options. Federal research grants may require US citizenship to meet eligibility.
Federal and private loans will be less likely to be available to international students, and you may have to incur additional costs. It is highly recommended that you inquire about financial aid with the office of international students to understand funding requirements, which may be required during visa applications.
If you’re an international student interested in applying to Clinical Psychology programs in the United States, check out this great resource hub with advice about navigating the admissions process and finding funding opportunities: Click here for more information! This fantastic resource was prepared by Julie Cristello, MS, Leanna Kalinowski, MA, Molin Shi, PhD, and Xin “Alisa” Zhao, PhD.