How Much Does It Cost to Get a PhD in Psychology?

How Much Does It Cost to Get a PhD in Psychology?

Key Takeaways

  • Universities often offer PhD students tuition waivers and stipends to help them cover tuition costs.
  • It is typical for PhD students to work as teaching assistantships, research assistantships, or at other positions within the university.
  • Public universities are generally the lowest cost option for PhD in psychology students.

While a PhD in psychology can set you up for success for the rest of your life, the associated costs of this degree might turn away many prospective students. If the question “How much does it cost to get a PhD in psychology?” has ever popped up in your head, today is your lucky day because you’re about to get your answer!

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How much does it cost to get a PhD in psychology?

The average cost of earning a PhD in psychology ranges from $500 to $1500 per credit hour, excluding personal expenses. The median program costs lie between $30,000 to $50,000 per year, making the degree a huge investment. With most programs requiring 60 to 90 hours, you can expect to spend at least 4-7 years at university before you graduate.

In addition to the tuition costs, other expenses like textbooks and supplies, living costs, and healthcare may add up to a significant amount. When picking out a psychology doctorate program, it’s important to factor in the additional costs. Once the expense sheet is ready, you can decide whether a PhD is worth the shot.

The good news is that, in most cases, you don’t have to bear the full tuition fee. Instead, universities often offer PhD students tuition waivers and stipends to help them cover the heavy costs. Your best bet is to check for these funding opportunities beforehand so that paying for your doctorate doesn’t interfere with your academic journey.

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Factors that Influence the Cost of a PhD in Psychology

When it comes to the costs associated with a PhD program, there’s no one-size-fits-all situation. Luckily, the price tag of the doctorate isn’t set in stone. How much you’ll pay for it depends on a number of factors, some of which we have highlighted below:

Books and Materials

After the hefty tuition costs, the next big expense includes textbooks and supplies, which fluctuate based on the specific requirements of your chosen discipline.

For instance, when pursuing a doctorate in clinical psychology, you might need to invest in numerous books, journals, and therapy manuals. On the other hand, for industrial-organizational psychology, you might have to spend on surveys, data analysis software, or organizational assessments.

Regardless of your field of specialization in psychology, you’ll need specific materials and resources for research and study. However, just like other disciplines, most schools offer support to cut down on these expenses either through funding or by allowing access to institutional resources.  

Health and Living

When pursuing a PhD in psychology, it’s important to consider the costs associated with daily life and healthcare. These expenses vary depending on where you choose to study. For instance, major cities in the US tend to have much higher living costs as compared to suburban areas.

While city life offers greater access to resources, research opportunities, and lifestyle choices, it often comes with a hefty price tag. However, you may offset these costs by the annual stipends offered by your school. These stipends help cover living and healthcare expenses so you can focus on research without the financial strain.

Cost of Dissertation

Another critical factor to look for when planning on pursuing a PhD in psychology is the cost of a dissertation. For instance, if your research requires specialized equipment, data collection, or compensation for the participants, these expenses may quickly add up. Your expenses also depend on whether you choose to conduct experiments, surveys, or interviews.

To avoid straining your pocket, it’s important to budget for these expenses and explore research grants or departmental support ahead of time.

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The costs you’ll bear for the doctorate also depend on the duration of your degree. Many PhD programs in psychology offer funding for a limited amount of time, typically around four to five years. However, if you require more time to complete your degree, you still have options to secure additional funding.

One common avenue is graduate student employment, such as teaching assistantships, research assistantships, or other positions within the university. You may also apply for “finishing fellowships” to help cover your expenses while you focus on the final stages of your degree.

Type of Institution

On average, tuition at public institutions tends to be lower, averaging around $11,554 per year. In contrast, tuition at private institutions is higher, averaging around $20,015 per year. This huge difference indicates that your decision on the type of institution to attend will play a significant role in deciding the financial burden you’ll carry while earning a PhD in psychology.

When considering your options, it’s best to know the type of institution you wish to attend and explore their aid opportunities. This is because most schools offering PhD in psychology may be way cheaper than the others.

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Top Schools for PhD in Psychology

Fortunately, the US is home to some of the leading universities that offer PhD programs in psychology. Depending on your requirements, you may look into factors like program length, tuition fees, and accreditation prior to deciding which school to attend.

To save you the legwork, we have reviewed the top schools for PhD in psychology and highlighted the critical factors to consider:

  1. #1

    Stanford University

    Stanford , CA
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    Career Outlook for Psychology degree at Stanford University

    Cost of Degree: $57,210
    Expenses: $23,746
    Starting Salary: $125,297
    Salary after 4 years: $162,786
    Cost Recoup Time: 10 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    Stanford University is one of the top schools in the US offering a PhD program in psychology. The program offers a deep understanding of theoretical and empirical concepts and helps students cultivate independent research and analytical skills. At SU, academic courses, seminars, and research experiences go hand in hand.

    To fulfill the requirements, PhD students need to complete five quarters of teaching assistantship (TA) under the supervision of faculty members. This provides valuable teaching experience and countless opportunities to mentor. Stanford University’s psychology department also actively collaborates with other departments to create a diverse academic environment.

    • Program duration: 5 years (full-time)
    • Accreditation: Yes (WSCUC)
    • Tracks: Affective, Cognitive, Developmental, Neuroscience, or Social Psychology

    When it comes to tuition fees at Stanford, here’s what you can expect:

    • 8-10 units ($12,240) 11-18 units ($18,829)
    • Each Graduate unit above 18 ( $1,255 per unit)
    • 1-7 units (Summer only) $1,224 per unit
  2. #2

    Harvard University

    Cambridge , MA
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    Career Outlook for Psychology degree at Harvard University

    Cost of Degree: $53,760
    Expenses: $26,277
    Starting Salary: $123,346
    Salary after 4 years: $160,251
    Cost Recoup Time: 10 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    Harvard University offers a comprehensive PhD program emphasizing four key areas: Clinical Science, Developmental Psychology, Social Psychology, and Cognition, Brain, and Behavior (CBB). These tracks offer students ample opportunities to explore different research topics and complete their dissertations in their preferred subjects.

    What makes Harvard stand out is the university’s commitment to providing full financial support to its PhD students for a minimum of five years. These funds cover tuition costs, health insurance fees, and basic living expenses. Since the faculty has a proven track record of publication in various journals, you can expect to be under the guidance of field experts at Harvard.  

    • Program duration: 4-6 years
    • Accreditation: Yes (New England Commission of Higher Education) 
    • Tracks: Social Psychology, Developmental Psychology, and Cognition, Brain, and Behavior (CBB).

    When it comes to tuition fees at Harvard University, here’s what you can expect:

    • Full Tuition -  Required first two years of study ($54,032)
    • Reduced Tuition - Required third and fourth years of study ($14,048)
    • Facilities Fee - Required post-fourth year of study ($3,574)
    • Active File Fee - Minimum charge for approved non-resident status ($300)
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    Career Outlook for Psychology degree at University of Washington

    Cost of Degree: $18,057
    Expenses: $19,848
    Starting Salary: $82,051
    Salary after 4 years: $113,689
    Cost Recoup Time: 8 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    The PhD in psychology program at the University of Washington is highly flexible and designed to gear you up for various career pathways in research. At its core, the program is mentor-based, so students can receive one-on-one attention from experts in the field. As a prospective PhD student, it’s best to identify potential mentors with expertise in your areas of interest.

    Once admitted, you can join hands with your faculty members to dig deeper into the subject you have chosen. While the Department of Psychology at UW offers seven general areas of study, you can only pick one area to pursue. However, it’s worth noting that a PhD degree at the University of Washington typically requires a longer duration than other institutions.

    • Program duration: 6-7 years
    • Tuition fee: $18,057 (residents) and $31,530 (nonresidents) 
    • Accreditation: Yes (NWCCU)
    • Tracks: Clinical Psychology, Data Science, Advanced Data Science, Psychology and Astrobiology
  5. #4

    Yale University

    New Haven , CT
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    Career Outlook for Psychology degree at Yale University

    Cost of Degree: $46,900
    Expenses: $22,870
    Starting Salary: $110,311
    Salary after 4 years: $143,316
    Cost Recoup Time: 10 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    At Yale University, the primary goal of a doctorate in psychology is to train researchers for both academic and applied settings. The aim is to foster individuals who contribute to the expansion of the field of psychology. The university typically admits around 15 students each year who may select one of the five psychology tracks to pursue.

    The best part? At Yale, you may also participate in programs that go beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries, such as cognitive, affective, and social neuroscience, as well as health sciences.

    • Program duration: 5 years
    • Tuition fee: $48,300
    • Accreditation: Yes (New England Association of Schools and Colleges)
    • Tracks: Clinical Psychology, Cognitive Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Neuroscience, and Social/Personality Psychology
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    Student body


    Career Outlook for Psychology degree at University of California, Berkeley

    Cost of Degree: $14,476
    Expenses: $28,648
    Starting Salary: $93,133
    Salary after 4 years: $129,043
    Cost Recoup Time: 8 years
    Paid back at 15% of annual salary

    The University of California, Berkeley, has a PhD program in psychology that strongly focuses on research and offers six tracks, each with minor specializations. Among these tracks, the Clinical Science track is the hardest to secure a spot in.

    If you’re worried about costs, UC Berkeley offers funding through different internal awards to ease your financial burden. It also has external support sources like the National Science Foundation and a bunch of extramural fellowships to ensure you have the financial resources necessary to pursue your research.

    • Program duration: 5 years
    • Accreditation: Yes (WASC)  
    • Tracks: Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience, Clinical Science, Cognition, Cognitive Neuroscience, Developmental, and Social-Personality

    When it comes to tuition fees at University of California, here’s what you can expect:

    • California residents - $5,850
    • Non-residents - $5,850
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Financial Aid Programs for Students Enrolling in a PhD in Psychology

If you’re on a budget, earning a PhD in psychology is still possible with the available financial aid options. More often than not, universities and research departments offer teaching or research assistantships as well. Military aid, federal aid, and government scholarships can also help reduce the financial burden. Here’s a list of financial aid programs you can pick from:

Graduate Assistantships

Most universities offering a PhD in psychology also offer graduate assistantship programs. These programs provide tuition waivers and stipends for students undertaking duties such as teaching, research, or monitoring the admin department. These assistantships are a win-win, easing the financial strain while providing years of professional experience to students.

Federal Aid Programs

Alternatively, you may utilize federal aid programs like the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to get loans, grants, or work-study benefits. Once you understand how these government initiatives work, it becomes simpler to get financial support to pursue your PhD in psychology.

Employer-Sponsored Assistance

While not many are aware of it, employer-sponsored assistance is highly popular among candidates pursuing a doctorate in psychology. Luckily, many organizations provide financial support for employees, which is worth exploring. This way, you can complete your degree while your employer looks after your professional development expenses.


You may also opt for scholarships and grants provided by many foundations, particularly to benefit psychology students. Research institutes like the American Psychological Association (APA) and other psychological foundations often open up scholarship opportunities. To maximize your chances of acquiring one, make sure your application stands out!

Private Loans

Once you’ve exhausted other options, you can turn to private loans to pay for your degree. However, don’t forget to thoroughly review terms and conditions, interest rates, and repayment plans before considering this option. Then, compare the benefits and drawbacks to see whether it’s worth it.

Related Questions

Is getting a PhD worth it for psychology?

Yes, particularly if you’re more focused on the financial aspects of the journey. The average salary of a PhD psychologist is around $115,454. Individuals with a doctorate in psychology have a higher earning potential than those with a master’s or bachelor’s degree in the field, making a PhD worthwhile.

How long does it take to complete a doctorate degree in psychology?

Once you’re done with a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field, a doctorate in psychology takes you anywhere between 4 and 7 years. However, if you have a master’s degree, your timeframe may be shortened by a few months.

Are there any doctorate psychology programs that are accelerated?

Yes. While the average time to earn a PhD in psychology may take anywhere from six to ten years, it’s possible to accelerate this timeframe. There are plenty of online doctoral degree programs in psychology that can significantly shorten the time to complete your psychology PhD.


While the question, “How much does it cost to get a PhD in psychology?” can’t be answered with a specific number, we hope this article has given you a fair idea of what it could cost you. If you’re on a budget, we highly recommend thoroughly researching and evaluating different schools and programs before you make a final decision. Remember, there’s various ways to reduce costs. In the end, this degree is highly likely to get you excellent ROI!

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