Paying for grad school

Is there any good factual information on how the average grad student in the field of Chemistry funds their post graduate schooling?

I’ve heard from a couple of people (although one is my daughter who has an agenda) that more and more schools provide significant funding in return for all of the research and teaching they receive.

Personal experiences are welcome as well.

Yes, many schools offer full scholarships and monthly pay if you are a teaching assistant. At some big schools every grad student gets some money depending on their major. Working on research is another big way to earn money for school.

My memory of grad school (although it’s been a while now) is that most grad students worked as teaching assistants. Some worked as research assistants. A few got fellowships that allowed them not to work at all (at least for a year or two). The amount of money that one gets for those sorts of things is enough for a single person to scrape by if one lives frugally. Some grad students had a full-time job and only studied part-time. Some of them were married and mostly lived on their spouse’s income. Others lived on some combination of these sorts of support. In general, one can get by, but don’t expect to be doing much better than just getting by.

I’m a musicology student–about as far away from chemistry as you can get–but I’m in grad school on a teaching assistantship which pays for my tuition and enough money to live on if I’m careful. I’m single and live alone; most of my classmates have spouses with jobs. From what I’ve heard, assistantships in the sciences pay more.

I am a chemist. I went to grad school. You do not pay for chemistry grad school if you have applied for a Ph.D program*, which pretty much describes all programs in the US. The only time AFAIK where people might have to pony up some cash is if they are applying for a Masters in Chemistry Education program (or it’s equivalent.) I am not aware of any chemistry Ph.D program that does not guarantee full funding for the entire ride. If there are any, and you can’t get into somewhere better, then reconsider your career options.

Not only is it free, but a stipend is provided (~20-25k depending on the program). Health insurance is either free or steeply discounted.

Most programs require that you teach for at least a year, usually your first year, although some may wave this if you have managed to secure outside funding (e.g. an NSF fellowship). After that, whether you teach or not depends on how well your PI is funded. Mine was loaded, so I didn’t have to teach after my first year.

If you or your daughter is considering chemistry grad school, I would be happy to provide additional information or answer questions.

*If you just want an M.S., and not one with an education focus, there aren’t too many programs that do this in the US. Just apply for a Ph.D program and quit part way through. Some places make you write up a thesis, others just hand them out like candy.

In sciences, it is almost unheard of for a grad student not to get funded. Tuition waiver and enough to live on frugally (although not enough to support a family on). They act as teaching assistants or research assistants, or maybe both. People in biology at least claim they are crucial for their research. When I had research assistants in math, they had no duties except to work on their exams and thesis.

We never admitted a student without funding (sometimes, especially for middle eastern students, scholarships from their home countries).

Grad students in chemistry always work…at research. Coursework is a smaller focus. Your education as a grad student is to learn to do research. Your job as a grad student is to do research. Think of it as an apprenticeship where you learn how to do research and get a small stipend for your work.

Sometimes you get the money from research grants directly; so you don’t have to teach. Sometimes you have to teach in order to be there because you aren’t funded by a grant. In chemistry; if you aren’t given the opportunity to teach or be funded by a grant you should seek a possition elsewhere.

You generally will not be asked to do research (and learn while doing) without being compensated in some way

Having recently finished a science (physics) Ph.D. at a large research university, I’ll echo what Ruken and Hari Seldon said. In the natural sciences (chemistry, physics, math, biology, geology, astronomy, computer science) almost every doctoral student is paid to be there. If they don’t have an external fellowship, the university pays them a stipend for acting as a research assistant or a teaching assistant (exact titles may vary.) Research assistants are usually funded through the research grant given to a particular lab or professor; the RA is expected to help conduct experiments for the lab he or she works in. Teaching assistants (sometimes also called “Associate Instructors”) are assigned to help a professor teach a given course during an academic term; they do things like grade coursework and exams, supervise lab sections, and lead discussion sections separate from the main lectures. Depending on the department, teaching assistants can be given a course of their own to teach, with minimal faculty involvement. At my doctoral institution, this was very common in the mathematics department, which didn’t have the big faculty research grants in departments like chemistry or biology, but did have oodles of sections of introductory calculus courses that needed to be taught.

Really, a doctoral degree in the sciences is more like an apprenticeship than a set of courses. You go there to learn the tools of the trade in your field, and you’re given enough to live off of while you do it.

Humanities grad student here. There are certainly programs that will admit people without funding, but I received some good advice from my undergrad advisor: grad school is like the start of your career. You should be going somewhere where you are getting paid. No one is accepted without funding into the program I’m in.

Theoretically, at least, the agency that awards the fellowship usually does expect you to do research in that time. They’re just not looking over your shoulder on a weekly or more often basis, like your research advisor would be if you were getting paid out of their grant.

Many people, including myself, will pick a grad school partially based on the scholarship/money offers. In my case my first choice gave me money and the others did not so it was an easy choice. BTW, my major was business and very few MBA students get funding. (at least that was the case 25 years ago)

Chemists, and science grad students in general, do not pay for grad school, the grants do. Grad students teach and do research. They get paid a stipend as well as having tuition covered. They also get health insurance.

Not more and more, because it has always been that way. Schools have always paid for their graduate researchers. My parents were paid in the '60s as well. I am unaware of any developed nation where it works differently. Science grad students are in short supply, so competition to get them is stiff.

This is true in some cases, but not all. Here, for instance, I’m pretty sure that we physicists are the only grad students who get health insurance paid for, and I’m certain that several other departments don’t (math, for starters). All students are eligible for a plan through the school (a pretty good one, from all I’ve gathered), but most still have to pay separately for it.

I would be surprised if the chemists didn’t get health insurance, but I don’t know what your chemistry department is like. In my experience, even the small schools had health insurance. They wouldn’t get many grad students if they didn’t.

One big reason why grad students teach is they are very cheap labor. Of course the downside is that many of them don’t speak English well - that is mainly a problem in the sciences.

IMHO, the best thing that your daughter can do, if she does not receive grants and/or scholarships, is to seek private financing from a bank. Banks see students as reliable investments and are usually willing to provide adequate student loans or lines of credit. Interest rates for student loans are generally cheap - I am Canadian, and over here the interest rate is usually prime + 0.5% or pime +1. At the moment, interest rates are even cheaper than usual because of the current economic slowdown.

The bank will be able to provide your daughter with a re-payment plan that can extend over more than a decade. I understand that the prospect of repaying a loan/line of credit over 10 years may seem scary but remember that holding debt is not a bad thing - in fact it is a good thing so long as your daughter is confident in her prospects of obtaining a job upon graduation, and retaining that job (and budgeting to keep a “rainy day fund” to prepare for the worst case scenario). The cost of keeping the debt will be inexpensive, because (as I mentioned) interest rates on student loans are cheap generally and even moreso today. On the flip side, obtaining that graduate degree will greatly increase her earning potential and also provide her with a whole basket of wonderful non-financial rewards.

I agree that obtaining a research position is also a good way to help fund school, but I doubt that the wage would be enough to cover more than just groceries every month. The real benefit to getting a student job as a grad student is work experience.

However she decides to fund her degree, Congratulations to her and you as her proud parent!

In all probability, if she doesn’t get funding, it is because she wasn’t accepted. I do not think graduate schools in chemistry allow for private funding.

It is true, that some people do supplement student loans, but this is either because they live lavishly, or have strange circumstances. The stipend is everything you need for rent, cheep food, and beer. It will likely be about 20 - 25 thousand dollars a year.

The guys I knew that needed constant loans were the guys spending every weekend at the bars buying microbrews. Most grad students don’t have time for that. That isn’t to say grad students can’t party, but it involves long working days and working most weekends. There just isn’t that much time left for bar hopping.

I was fortunate enough to have one of these for my first year of graduate school. It was nice. I didn’t have to do the teaching assistant thing.

I remember a few guys who got accepted to grad school in the physical sciences w/o any financial help, and my thoughts were always that the school was saying: We don’t really want you here, but if you’re willing to pay, go for it.

Or the students with families. My current stipend is enough to support me (especially since my S.O. works full-time), but I’d definitely need to take out some loans if we were to have a child.

This is something to watch out for. If you have any thought that you might want to return to academia, you don’t want to get a non-thesis MS. In my field, that’s essentially a terminal degree, and isn’t generally considered to be suitable preparation for a PhD. As a research based degree, a thesis MS is a very different animal.

That’s something that varies between fields. My understanding is that a MS is required before starting a PhD program in engineering (from what I hear from engineer friends). This isn’t true in the sciences, where most people go straight from getting the BA to entering a PhD program. An MS is mostly seen as a consolation prize for people that give up on the PhD (at least by academia).

In biology, there are precious few research MS programs, and frankly I can’t see any good reason to choose one, since it doesn’t really qualify you to do much. Sure you can now be a lab manager or a slightly more senior technician, but you can get to the same place with a few years of post-BA work experience and get paid a lot better along the way… There are some specific biology-related jobs that require a biology MS with more focus on professional training, however.

Can’t say much about MS programs in chemistry, however. I do have the vague understanding that there are decent number of good jobs for those with a chem MS.