You Can Afford Graduate School: Stipends and Tuition Waivers for Psychology Doctoral Students

Earning a psychology doctorate is time consuming.  Virtually your entire focus must be on your schoolwork, which includes research, classroom study, and various forms of internships and practicums.  There is little time for outside employment.   

Understanding this, most graduate schools of psychology offer their students stipends, to lessen their need for outside employment.  Stipends range from a modest amounts to amounts sufficient to support you for the year. 

Some schools also offer their students tuition waivers.  Tuition waivers range from a small percentage off the tuition rate to waivers of the entire amount.

Examples of what schools offer

Many graduate schools are extremely generous with their stipend packages.  For example, prestigious Columbia University offered $19,000 stipends for the 2005-2006 academic year to all students accepted in the Ph.D. program, plus a $6,000 stipend for the summer session.  This program includes the earning of a master’s degree prior to the doctorate.  Students admitted into the program are awarded a Faculty Fellowship for five years; this fellowship provides health insurance, tuition, and the annual stipend.  Admission is limited and degree program concentrates on research and teaching skills, rather than clinical psychology.

 The University of South Florida offers a doctorate in industrial and organizational psychology.  Stipends are a generous $13,500 for the 2009-2010 year; a large tuition discount is also given (in-state students receive 82% off tuition and out-of-state students receive 92% off tuition).  A health insurance allowance is included.  The University of Florida also offers need and ability based Fellowships which pay considerable more than the standard amount.

The University of California/Los Angeles (UCLA) graduate psychology program offers stipends through numerous fellowships.  For example, a University Fellowship includes a $20,000 stipend per year, plus payment of health insurance, registration fees, and non-California tuition (if needed).  Many other fellowships and teaching assistantships are available.  Students begin the application process for fellowships by filing a financial aid application.

The University of North Texas graduate psychology program tries to provide to provide at least partial support for most graduate psychology students for at least two years.  Many fellowships, teaching assistantships, and clinical externships are available to students in the doctoral program and competitive scholarships are available as well.

The doctoral program in clinical psychology at UT Southwestern Medical Center

offers students an annual stipend of over $14,000 during third and fourth year internships, as well as opportunities to earn and learn with research assistantships, and so on during the first two years of the program.

What are the requirements for receiving Stipends

Most stipends are given in exchange for a certain amount of work per week.  These work assignments are geared to enhance the student’s learning experience.  Teaching and research assistantships are common work assignments.

For example, students in the University of South Florida’s Industrial/Organization graduate psychology program are required to work 20 hours per week in a work assignment.  Second year students usually work in research or teaching assistant positions.

What are Fellowships?

Fellowships are sometimes called scholarships, but they are not the same thing.  A scholarship may require that you attend a certain school or study a certain major and maintain a certain grade point average in return for either a partial or full tuition award.  Scholarships are available for both undergraduate and graduate students; some are based on financial need while others are based solely on academic ability.

Fellowships are offered for some undergraduate work, but they are far more commonly offered for graduate work.  Fellowships are generally highly competitive.  Recipients are expected to contribute significantly to research or clinical work during their graduate studies.  Many fellowships require that you attend a certain school; some do not.  In return for the fellowship award (which usually covers tuition, fees, health insurance, and provides a large stipend for living expenses), students are required to either assist in research, conduct research of their own, or teach.  First-year recipients of a fellowship may have duties geared more to introducing them to the working realities of their prospective career field.

Finding Graduate Psychology Programs

The American Psychological Association website allows you to find psychology programs, fellowships and scholarships.

Qualifying for Fellowships

Fellowships are extremely competitive, but so are Doctoral Psychology programs.  Students with excellent grades and an aptitude for helping others are desired. 

Make sure your undergraduate record is outstanding, especially in the last two years of your degree program.  If it is not, you may want to take some postbaccalaureate work before applying to graduate school.

Volunteer work and leadership activities are also impressive, especially work in the field of psychology.  Your own experience with psychological matters and things you may have learned through therapy are also considered, since these can make you a more empathetic listener, attuned to your future clients’ needs.  Admission interviews are an important part of assessing these personal aptitudes.

A good basic science background is also helpful if you are applying to a clinical or research oriented program.  Science courses are less important for counseling psychology programs and school psychology programs, but still are helpful.  A good background in statistics is also needed, although generally only one undergraduate statistics course is required.  An undergraduate major in psychology may or may not be required, depending on the program you are applying to.

Some graduate psychology programs require both the GRE and the GRE subject exam; others require only the GRE and some programs require neither exam.

Be sure you know all the requirements when applying, as this will affect both your admission to the school and your chance for fellowships and other assistance. 

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