My friend Lisa (not her real name) struggled financially for years during the time she and her husband were graduate students. "I just wish we could complete our studies without having to worry about money. Being able to focus on our theses would seem like such a luxury." Fortunately both Lisa and her husband were able to complete their theses, but lack of funding is one of the most common reasons for students to leave graduate school.
This observation brings us to the next question: Is it even worth financially to go to graduate school? Some of you readers might take offense at the simplicity of the following statement, but it surprises me how few students actually think about finances before enrolling in Masters or Doctoral programs. In summary, do not take on more debt than you can comfortably repay after graduate school. Online sites such as www.salary.com, and www.payscale.com, can help you estimate your expected salary upon graduation. Take into consideration your disposable income after buying a house and a car and raising a family. Your tolerance for debt will be even lower if you already have undergraduate loans.
In the graph above, you can see how the level of debt varies among different fields, with students in the social sciences having the highest amounts. Unfortunately, the attrition rate in doctoral programs is about 50%, and the chart only summarizes debt for those who earned their PhD's. The level of debt among those who dropped out is not included above.
So, where do students get funding? The pie chart above shows sources of financial support by percentage for students who received their doctorates in 2008. If you would like to find out where and how to apply for fellowships, grants and loans, I would like to invite you to browse my free newsletter, "Fund Your Way Through Graduate School" at http://www.phdnet.org/phdnews/august09_phd_funding.html. This newsletter was reviewed by MIT's Fellowship Administrator, and it includes ample references for graduate students, including women, minorities and internationals as well.
Speaking of online tools, my next blog will cover how social networking has changed job searching and career planning. Most of you readers are probably familiar with Facebook and LinkedIn. While almost everyone has an account, few people know about all the advanced features of these sites, particularly for job seekers. Find out more next week!
Wishing you the best,
Dora Farkas, PhD, Founder of PhDNet, www.phdnet.org,
Source of above data:
NSF, Science Resource Statistics