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Cost of PhD in the USA – Complete Analysis

Updated on 16 April, 2024

upGrad Abroad Team

upGrad Abroad Team

upGrad abroad Editorial Team

The United States of America is not only the most sought-after study destination in the world but also offers a unique experience to international students from all over the world. When compared to other countries, graduate programs in the USA are relatively more structured based on major and minor degrees that facilitate extensive training along with independent research. 


What is a Ph.D.? 

Ph.D. is an acronym for Doctor of Philosophy. It is a globally recognized postgraduate academic degree that requires students to complete a thesis or dissertation based on thorough and original research in their field of study.

In most countries, a Ph.D. degree is a minimum qualification that qualifies an individual to teach their chosen subject in the universities or work as an expert in their chosen field. 

How do Ph.D. Programs Work?

Generally, the length of a Ph.D. program is three to four years in which a student works on an original research project presented as a thesis or dissertation. The Ph.D. programs differ from the universities’ requirements, while some universities require a student to submit a publication and not course work, others may ask for both to meet their criteria for selection.

Along with the research project, the students are also required to give a viva or oral presentation for their Ph.D. in front of the examiners and research students, which lasts for about two to three hours.

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Admission Requirements for Indian Students 

To get admission into Ph.D. programs in the USA, students are required to fulfill the following criteria:

  • An honors degree
  • A master’s degree with excellent academic performance
  • Proof of language proficiency in which a student intends to study, if it is English then IELTS or TOEFL scores are needed
  • Academic/ Employment references
  • Personal statements
  • Ph.D. research proposals

Note: There may be some additional admissions requirements that students may be required to meet depending on the program they are applying into.

Top Universities in the USA for PhD 

Some of the top universities in the USA that offer PhD programs are listed below 

University QS WUR Ranking 2022 Top disciplines Tuition fees 
California Institute of Technology – Caltech6

Biology and Biological Engineering


Chemistry and Chemical Engineering


Engineering and Applied Science


Humanities and Social Sciences




Harvard University5

Accounting & Management


Business Economics


Health Policy (Management)






Stanford University3



Humanities and Sciences





$98,102/ year


Massachusetts Institute of Technology 1

Aeronautics and Astronautics



Biological Engineering





Princeton University20



Ecology and Evolutionary Biology


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering



$ 56,010


(a SHP Fee of $2,780 in absentia or holding dissertation completion enrolment (DCE) status)


University of California, Berkeley32







Real Estate



(First Semester Fee)



(Continuing Semester Fee)


Yale University14

Arts & Sciences


Engineering & Applied Science








University of Chicago10

Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics


Cell and Molecular Biology




Precision Health





Columbia University19







Social Work

$25,248/ semester 
Johns Hopkins University25



Arts & Sciences






$ 40,000 to $ 65000 (varies as per chosen field)


Cost of Living in the USA 

Along with the tuition fees for Ph.D. programs, students should acquaint themselves with the estimated living costs to sustain themselves.

In general, living expenses include accommodation costs, utilities, transportation, and food expenses. Although the cost of living varies with the territory a student chooses to reside in, the average costs for each category are enlisted in the table below:

Utility costs 50 to 100 USD / month
Accommodation costs

On campus accommodation – 450 USD/month 


Off campus accommodation – 600 USD to 3,000 USD/month 

Food expenses 450 to 600 USD/ month 
Transportation costs 45 to 100 USD/ month 

Alternatives to a PhD

There are many alternatives to research degree in which the research conducted by the students gets published in peer-reviewed journals. One form of such research degree is called MD (Doctor of medicine) and is considered equivalent to a Ph.D. in some countries. 

Some universities offer dual degree programs that offer both professional and research training. These programs are called MD-PhD programs. Medical professionals willing to make their career in research can opt for these programs. Other degrees in the USA that are similar to a Ph.D. are as follows:

  • Doctor of Science (DSc)
  • Doctor of Juridical Science
  • Doctor of the Science of Law and Doctor of Theology

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Funding and Work Opportunities

Although the USA shares a reputation of being the most expensive country for higher education, there also exist excellent opportunities to fund one’s Ph.D. Some of these opportunities come in the form of fully funded Ph.D. programs that remit all the tuition fee expenses. To fund your Ph.D. journey, you need to bear in mind some of the key points that are listed below:

If you are an international student you will not be charged more than the state student in public universities. Private universities do not differentiate between state and international students. Also, many universities have the provision of full-ride Ph.D. scholarships dedicated solely to meritorious students that cover their tuition fees and living expenses. Fulbright commission offers several funding opportunities for international students to execute their research in the USA. USA nationals can avail of federal loans to complete their research in the USA. 

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When it comes to work and employment opportunities, many universities offer assistantships to their Ph.D. students. This is a form of employment opportunity wherein there is a fee waiver or a stipend in return for the fulfillment of a selection of responsibilities. Some of the assistantships are as follows:

  • Graduate Teaching Assistantship
  • Administrative Assistantship
  • Fellowships
  • Research Assistantship

Besides this, there is a graduate research fellowship program run by the National Science Foundation. This federal grant scheme is limited to talented STEM graduates in the USA providing them with multiple benefits like a $34,000 annual stipend and tuition fee allowance of $12,000 for three years.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the average cost of a Ph.D. from the USA?

The average cost for pursuing a Ph.D. degree differs from university to university. It also depends on the status of the students whether he or she forms a part of in-state or out-of-state students. In the case of in-state students, it costs approx $12,410 for a year. For out-of-state or international students the cost is higher than $12,410.

What are the work opportunities during the Ph.D.?

There are myriad work opportunities for a student pursuing a Ph.D. He can enroll in the assistantship programs sponsored by the same university and teach the graduate students and in exchange, he can earn a stipend. Apart from this, they can also enroll themselves in various research-based work or administrative work.




What is the average cost of expenditure that one incurs when pursuing a Ph.D. in the USA?

The average cost of expenditure varies on an individual basis. However, the estimate falls under the range of $93,226 or more(including tuition fees, accommodation, food, etc ) each year.

What are some of the premier institutes in the USA to pursue a Ph.D. from?

There are many premier institutes in the USA to pursue a Ph.D. based on your area of interest like Harvard University, University of Chicago, Yale University, and Johns Hopkins University to name a few.





upGrad Abroad Team

upGrad abroad Editorial Team

We are a dedicated team of study-abroad experts, ensuring intensive research and comprehensive information in each of our blogs. With every piece written, we aim at simplifying the overseas education process for all. Our diverse experience as journalists, content writers, editors, content strategists, and marketers helps create the most relevant and authentic blogs for our readers.

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