How To Negotiate a Higher PhD Stipend

The ability to negotiate a higher PhD stipend is vital because the PhD journey on its own is a huge commitment that requires adequate funding. Well, I guess you already know that failure to get a proper source of doctoral funding can be detrimental to the pursuit of doctorate studies.

Due to the challenges of funding as a major setback for PhD Students, they seek various types of doctoral funding like PhD stipends from universities and the government to finance their studies. However, one of the most important decisions to make at the outset is to ensure the stipend offered is adequate to support living and studying.

This means it needs to at least cover all living and study costs. If the stipend is not adequate, it’s worth addressing this right at the start before you become a PhD student. One challenge that faces international students abroad is having to work full-time hours to supplement their stipend. In situations like this, the PhD will suffer, and it’s an exhausting situation for the student.

To avoid starting a PhD program halfway without having a clue on how to fund it, it is important to negotiate a higher doctorate stipend. Unfortunately, not all supervisors will want to pay their students as much as they need to live. This could be because of funding constraints or differing opinions on what an adequate stipend is.

Now, negotiating for a higher stipend can be a tricky and daunting process, particularly for students who may have never had to negotiate in a professional or academic context about any financial matters. So to unravel this challenge, there is every need to teach PhD students “How To Negotiate a Higher PhD Stipend”.

Can I Negotiate My PhD Stipend Amount?

It is quite possible to negotiate your PhD stipend amount and to do it with success. If nothing has been signed and no official papers have been done, the negotiations can be quite informal, but always prepare in advance and have a best-case scenario and a fallback plan. Be sure you know the standard stipend for your program at your school and what the cost of living annually is for a single person with no children (usually above the national average for the US).

Generally, funding offers are packaged with certain responsibilities; you will have to teach or conduct research to earn your keep. A higher stipend/better package can justify a lower teaching load, giving you more time to focus on your coursework and research. Essentially, a funding package is a contract between you and the university, which can be altered if both parties are in agreement.

This is where negotiation comes into play. By negotiating a higher stipend with the assertion that it will raise your quality of work and/or life during the program, you are making a case for a revised contract. As with anything, there is a right and wrong way to go about this.

Importance of Negotiating a Higher PhD stipend

Primarily, the objective of a negotiation is to reach an agreement that is of mutual benefit to both parties, in this case between you and your future school. By negotiating a higher stipend, you demonstrate that you can assess a situation and effectively communicate a desired outcome.

This will not only benefit you with a higher standard of living but will likely earn you the respect of your future peers and superiors. Considering the implied income of a PhD student is not high, efforts to negotiate a better financial situation can be viewed as practical skills developed through the program, hence assessing your ability to identify what is best for you and taking steps to achieve that.

By negotiating, you can be certain that you have explored all possible means of funding and ultimately made an informed decision. This sounds great, but you may be thinking that being awarded funding, particularly a research or teaching assistantship, is very different from being given a salary.

Negotiate a Higher PhD StipendHow To Negotiate A Higher PhD Stipends: Steps to Follow

As we stated in the first paragraph of this post, without a high PhD stipend, completing a PhD without delays can be a wild goose chase. Having known that it is possible to negotiate a higher doctorate stipend, and having established the importance, let us now look at the various strategies to negotiate a higher PhD salary.

We will provide a step-by-step guide, from researching the right benchmark to crafting a compelling case that effectively showcases your value. Prepare yourself to enhance your stipend negotiation skills and engage in a thoughtful discussion that ensures you receive the necessary financial assistance to excel in your doctorate studies.

  1. Research and Compare Stipends

If you’re successful at getting a PhD Stipend offer but feel it’s too low, the next step is to research what similar university departments or faculties typically offer. Researching and comparing the stipends of other graduate students at your university is very important.

Understand that some schools use the same stipend for all PhD students, while others may have different stipends for different departments. Research the policies at the schools you are considering. Check the graduate school website and the department website. If you find that a department at a particular school consistently offers a stipend lower than that of other schools you are considering, it would not be unreasonable to turn down an offer to that school if it is your last choice, especially if you have an offer from a school with a higher stipend.

  1. Build Your Case

By far the most crucial step to negotiating a higher stipend is building a thorough and compelling case to demonstrate that you are worth the extra funding. Failing to provide a convincing argument will result in a failed negotiation. Before scheduling a meeting with the Graduate Program Coordinator, research the average stipend for PhD students in your field of study.

If the Coordinator does not agree to an increase during negotiations, your evidence will demonstrate that you are being underpaid in comparison to other students in similar departments. Briefly explain your competing offers, and then detail the strengths and accomplishments that recommend a better financial package.

It may be helpful to present your case in point form to the coordinator. It is difficult to argue against specific reasons why you deserve a better stipend, and this will also help to keep the discussion focused.

  1. Be Confident & Professional

There is a good chance at this point of the article that you are excited at the thought of negotiating your stipend and perhaps somewhat anxious. It is possible that you have never negotiated your salary before and the whole idea of it may seem nerve-wracking. Just keep in mind that negotiation of a stipend is not only acceptable and it is expected in many cases.

When you approach a negotiation, it is important that you professionally conduct yourself. You are worth more than you think to the institution, and it is important to not undervalue your skills in obtaining a stipend that you feel comfortable with financially. Never forget, you are a talented student, and the office is expecting you to ask for more.

Remember, if you come off as too shy and agreeable, the administrator could suspect that you’d be dissatisfied with your current stipend, which will reflect badly if you decide to ask for an increase in the following year. The worst-case scenario is that the administrator may get impatient with you and tell you to stop beating around the bush, and he/she may change the subject to something else important that you failed to discuss.

  1. Present Your Proposal and Negotiate Strategically

When presenting your proposal, it is best to initially request a meeting, allowing for a formal discussion of your proposal at a convenient time. This will set a professional atmosphere, showing your proposal is not to be taken lightly. At this time, you should present a typed version of your proposal, listing the positive findings of your research on your current financial standing, evidence showing you are being underpaid, and the positive contributions you have made and will continue to make in your work.

It is important in this stage not to sound like you are making demands, but humbly requesting for what you believe you are entitled to. This will make the other party less defensive and more willing to consider your proposal. At this point, you should also express your desire for a positive outcome. This may seem somewhat trivial, but research has shown that it makes the other party more committed to an agreement.

  1. Follow up and Evaluate Offers

Once you have negotiated on the stipend amount, make sure you ask that this will be put in a contract and also ask how long it will be before you receive the increase (it may not be on your next paycheck, depending on the payroll cycle at your institution). Be sure to get the name of the person who is responsible for putting the stipend increase in place.

If your increase is not put in at the time specified by the person you have spoken to, follow up with them and find out why it has not been done. Keep in touch with other graduate students at your institution to find out if there have been any changes in stipend amounts or if there are any new funding opportunities.


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