The Graduate School provides a competitive package that provides Ph.D. students with financial support for at least a majority of the time they are registered and working toward their degree. This support includes four main components: a stipend, tuition coverage, fees coverage, and coverage of health insurance premiums.
Generally speaking, The Graduate School guarantees Ph.D. students five years of stipend, tuition, and fees support, plus six years of full coverage for health insurance premiums.
Departments with Ph.D. programs vary in the financial support they provide beyond the guaranteed funding package. We strongly encourage prospective and current students to talk to their program’s director of graduate studies (DGS) to get a clear understanding of the financial support they can expect from the department as they plan their budget for their time in graduate school. We have created a table showing who's paying for what in which year to help students plan their finances during graduate school.
Each component of the Ph.D. financial support package is explained in detail below.
The Graduate School guarantees all Ph.D. students a stipend for their first five years of study. Currently, Duke Ph.D. programs provide either a 9- or 12-month stipend, depending on departmental resources. Students should ask their DGS which stipend their program offers. Students in programs with 9-month stipends will also receive a Summer Research Fellowship from The Graduate School for the summers after their first and second years of study. The Graduate School also offers competitive Summer Research Fellowships for students in year 3 and beyond.
Starting in fall 2022, all Duke Ph.D. students will receive a 12-month stipend during their first five years of study.
In year 6 and beyond, stipend support is at the discretion of each Ph.D. program. Programs differ in the amount, length, and requirements of their stipend support, so check with the DGS.
Tuition for all Ph.D. students in their first five years of study is covered by either The Graduate School or external fellowships.
In year 6, as long as students make an effort to get tuition support from their department or an external source, their tuition is covered. Most sixth-year students receive external or departmental funding to cover tuition, and those who apply for it but don’t get it are eligible for a sixth-year tuition scholarship from Duke.
In year 7 and beyond, tuition is paid by external funding, departmental funding, or the student. Ph.D. programs differ in whether they provide tuition support, so check with the DGS.
The Graduate School covers mandatory fees for all Ph.D. students in their first five years of study.
In year 6 and beyond, fees are paid by external funding, departmental funding, or the student. Ph.D. programs differ in whether they provide fees support, so check with the DGS.
Health Insurance Premiums Coverage
The Graduate School covers the full premiums for all Ph.D. students in their first six years of study, as long as they are on the Duke student medical insurance plan. Students are responsible for any dependent coverage premiums.
In year 7 and beyond, students are responsible for paying the premiums. The premiums could also be covered by external fellowships or departmental funding, if available.
Expectation for Students
Support for Ph.D. students comes from a combination of funding from The Graduate School, the departments, and external funding sources such as governmental or private grants. Students are expected to play a part by making a good-faith effort to obtain external fellowships at some point during their funding period, and they should be encouraged to pursue such opportunities. It is important to understand that the overall graduate awards budget is dependent on a significant number of students obtaining such external support. External grants and fellowships also benefit students because they bring distinction, and competing for such awards provides opportunities to practice grant-writing skills that could serve students well in their future careers.
Types of Financial Support
A student’s support package may comprise several types of funding, including the following:
- Full or partial scholarships: Cover tuition and fee expenses.
- Fellowship stipends: Require no service. Many departments also offer endowed fellowships. Selection for these fellowships is usually made by faculty committee within the individual department.
- Training program appointments: For US citizens and permanent residents participating in federally funded training programs.
- Research assistantships: Available for graduate students whose special training and qualifications enable them to serve as assistants to individual faculty staff members in certain departments.
- Graduate assistantships: Available for full-time PhD and master’s students who perform a combination of teaching and incidental research activities, generally under the direct supervision of their assigned adviser.
- Teaching assistantships: Part-time instruction opportunities for qualified graduate students to serve as instructors, preceptors and section leaders, tutors, and graders.
Some departments use, when possible, the federal work-study program to help fund research and teaching assistantship positions. As a result, some departments may require or request that students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid so that eligibility for work study funds can be determined.
Other Ph.D. Financial Resources
Aside from the main support package, The Graduate School also offers a number of other financial resources, such as conference travel grants, childcare subsidies, medical expense and financial hardship assistance, and short-term loans for emergencies.