While higher education can increase long-term earning potential, graduate students themselves tend to earn very low salaries when enrolled in their educational programs (if paid at all). As a result, graduate students often experience tremendous financial stress and, as a result, poorer mental health than the average American.
While these problems are systemic, there are steps graduate students can take to try and ease the financial burden. The options available for earning money can vary widely across degrees and programs, but exploring these avenues with your faculty and administration can be a great start to reducing financial pressure.
Teaching assistantships are an integral part of the workload of most graduate students. For students who love to teach or see it as the ultimate career path, teaching can be a reliable way to boost pay. Most departments have summer education options, and you can also turn to other departments around campus outside of your own that need help. Those who have many undergraduates but few graduate students may also be particularly in need. Moreover, these opportunities are not limited to the doctorate. students – Masters students can also serve as teaching assistants (TAs).
Being able to teach a diverse range of content, especially on complex topics, will increase your chances of getting additional teaching gigs which can provide you with even more income. Even an extra TA appointment can increase your annual pay by about 25%. Experienced graduate students who serve as lead instructors can earn up to a 50% salary increase with just one course per year.
Research is another essential part of the workload of most graduate students. That said, there is considerable variability in research pay. The specific opportunities depend on your field of study, your program and the support of your faculty. Within these limits, aggressively seek funding for research. Winning a research fellowship or major grant can advance your career, and in addition to the extra money, prestige can eventually lead you to a post-doctoral or junior professor position.
Generally speaking, the best funding tends to come from nationally competitive sources, such as the National Science Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Even more localized scholarships, such as those with limited availability to people in your program, can still offer thousands of dollars.
Above all, if you get a scholarship, watch out for taxes. You may read that scholarships are tax exempt, but this is only true if the money is used for qualified education expenses, such as tuition; if you pocket these funds like you would a regular salary, they are taxable. Additionally, while most forms of compensation withhold taxes from every paycheck, stock exchanges generally do not. That means you’ll owe a lump sum of taxes the following April – a nasty surprise.
Depending on your career path and field, counseling or internships can be encouraged and common. There is a lot of variability in income to expect here. Some graduate students only earn a few hundred dollars per year, while others may earn tens of thousands of dollars per year.
The most common gateway to counseling is through your teachers, who often have an existing project and may need additional help. While the professor can be paid up to $ 500 an hour, a graduate student can expect to earn between $ 25 and $ 50 an hour for their first consulting job. Over time, more experienced students can get their own consulting gigs and charge over $ 100 an hour. On the flip side, consultants often don’t have a lot of time for research or teaching – so choose wisely if your career is in traditional academia.
Many graduate students also find paid internships, often during the summer. Again, the easiest path is through teachers. Some programs offer regular internships through partnerships with particular companies, while in other cases the student applies alone. If this is your case, take the time to execute your plans through your teachers and consult with your school’s career development advisers on how best to navigate this process. Take advantage of all the resources at your disposal!
When looking for ways to increase your income, don’t lose sight of the big picture: graduation. Each year you stay in college can cost you over $ 50,000 in lost wages, so the best option is one that too propels your resume to the career you want. If you want to be a researcher, focus on scholarships and grants. If you want to become a consultant, start building your customer base and your brand now. If you are going into the private sector, build these relationships early and look for as many internships and part-time opportunities as possible.
Or, if you’re like me – with no idea what you want – you may want to consider testing the waters and exploring a range of options. Sure, your resume might look like something Dr. Frankenstein has cooked up, but you’ll bond a lot and have a much more interesting experience along the way. Treat yourself and graduate a little faster than my 7 and a half!