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Doctoral graduate in gown and graduation tam, looking at phone with friend

Do you get paid to do a PhD?

Study tips
Published 17 Jun, 2022  ·  4-minute read

A PhD is a time-consuming gig. Planning, research and writing can easily fill the hours of your typical 9-5 job. But do PhD students get paid?

Yes and no.

Yes, you can secure a scholarship that provides a living stipend, which means you’ll receive a fortnightly allowance. No, it isn’t typically as much as you could expect from an entry-level, full-time salary straight out of your undergrad studies – but for many people, it is tax free. You can also supplement the living stipend with a top-up scholarship if you’re eligible.

There are a variety of ways to make a PhD work for you financially. Scholarships are the key component to this and can cover both tuition and living costs.

Let’s explore how you can secure a scholarship to help with day-to-day living expenses such as food, accommodation and bills while you complete your PhD.

How can you get paid to do a PhD?

There are 2 key types of scholarships you need to consider when undertaking your PhD:

  • living stipend
  • tuition scholarship

At UQ, the main scholarship program is called Graduate School Scholarships (UQGSS) – it covers the cost of your PhD tuition fees and provides a living stipend to cover the cost of living expenses while you carry out your PhD.

Another major program of scholarships at UQ are earmarked scholarships, which include both a living stipend and a tuition scholarship. Whether you’re eligible for this type of scholarship depends on the type of PhD you undertake – find out more about earmarked scholarships.

Living stipend

The UQGSS living stipend and tuition scholarship will help you cover cost-of-living expenses while you carry out your PhD. This scholarship:

  • is open to both domestic and international postgraduate research students
  • is inclusive of all study areas
  • covers a 3.5-year period, with the possibility of an extension
  • is only available to full-time students (with the exception of part-time students with special circumstances)
  • provides $35,000 a year (tax free) living stipend, paid in fortnightly instalments
  • covers tuition fees.

However, while the UQGSS is the most widely used scholarship at UQ for PhD students, there are many types of living stipend scholarships – each with its own terms and conditions.

Search all living stipend scholarships for PhD students

At UQ, you will be asked if you would like to be considered for a living stipend scholarship when you apply for your PhD. UQ scholarships are awarded based on:

  • academic performance
  • evidence of research capability
  • the quality of your research project
  • the quality of your proposed research environment and advisory team.

Top-up scholarship

At UQ, a ‘top-up scholarship’ can provide you with additional funds during your PhD, on top of your living stipend scholarship. There are a variety of top-up scholarships you can apply for through UQ, many of which are focused on specific study areas (and even specific PhD topics) or targeted at particular groups of people (e.g. international students or Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students). Some of these offer travel and/or accommodation allowances on top of the funds provided for general living expenses during studies – a particularly useful addition for PhD students who wish to attend industry conferences or workshops to further their professional development.

Top-up scholarships can:

  • only be used in conjunction with a living stipend (as long as they don’t exceed 75% of the stipend amount)
  • offer an additional $5,000 – approximately $21,000 a year on top of your living stipend.

Browse postgraduate research top-up scholarships 

Top-up scholarships can be very competitive to secure, so it's essential to have a backup financial plan should you apply and not be accepted.

How much funding do you receive for a PhD?

Let’s look at a few of UQ’s top-up scholarships in conjunction with the standard Research Training Program living stipend amount, to see just how much you could be getting paid to do your PhD.

Top-up scholarship Scholarship value per annum* + Standard living stipend ($35,000) per annum
Centre for Health System Reform and Integration PhD Top-Up Scholarship $10,000 $45,000
PhD Economics Top-Up Scholarship for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student $14,000 $49,000

CRC TiME Top-Up Scholarship

$10,000 $45,000

*All values are approximate and based on 2024 scholarships. Information is subject to change. See the scholarships website for the most accurate and up-to-date figures. 

Is it enough?

When approaching a PhD, it’s important to consider your financial situation realistically. Asking ‘do you get paid for a PhD?’ doesn’t quite cover all the logistics. Here are a few more questions to help you assess the situation:

  • Can I live on $35,000 a year, or approximately $673 a week? 
  • Do I have the time to supplement my living stipend with casual or part-time work? Will this extra commitment impact my studies?
  • Will undertaking casual or part-time work breach the conditions of my scholarship?
  • Am I eligible for any scholarships (top-up or other bursaries) beyond the living stipend?
  • Is it worth applying to existing research projects, undertaking research in particular study areas or with certain supporting organisations, so that I may have a better chance of securing an available scholarship? Do these PhD projects/topics align with my interests enough to study for 3-4 years?
  • Am I eligible for a tuition scholarship to cover tuition costs?
  • What’s more important to me – completing my PhD in 3-4 years full time and budgeting, or completing my PhD in 6-8 years part time while living comfortably?

Don’t forget that you don’t have to make this decision on your own. If you need help finding the right postgraduate research scholarship for you, or would like some advice, you can contact the friendly team at UQ’s Graduate School.

Want to know more about the ins and outs of your journey towards a PhD? Explore our complete guide on how to get a PhD.

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