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And are there differences in average income between different types of fields, or different types of schools?

The diagram below says that the average income for grad students is $17k/year. But I'm more commonly seeing incomes in the range of $25k-$30k/year on PhysicsGRE.com...

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Are you interested only in US salaries? Because I think it can change a lot from one country to another. –  user102 Mar 11 '12 at 21:03
Okay just changed it –  InquilineKea Mar 11 '12 at 21:06
In jest, 25th percentile - poor, 75th percentile - not quite as poor (but still poor by most standards!) –  Andy W Mar 15 '12 at 19:01

4 Answers 4

up vote 11 down vote accepted

Note that those statistics are often averaged over all possible disciplines, and therefore, since there is such a wide disparity of stipend levels between different schools, and between different disciplines at the same school.

At the institution I attended for graduate school, engineers had stipends approximately 30% higher than the science majors (chemistry, physics, math, etc.). Similarly, at the undergraduate institution I attended, a similar disparity existed between science and humanities graduate students.

It is also important to ask if master's students, who often don't receive a salary at all, are included in that average. (And, since humanities students tend to stay longer, they may skew the statistics even more than one might expect.)

(One final note to directly address the question: competitive national fellowships in the US currently pay between $30,000 and $35,000 per year as a stipend. I would estimate, then, that most stipends are significantly below that amount. I'd say something in the range of $20,000-$30,000 would be appropriate in STEM fields, and probably $15,000-$20,000 for full-time humanities PhD's.)

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It only makes sense. Companies aren't willing to pay all that much for historians to finish their phds like they are physicists. How could what they have to offer have any bearing on today's scientific research anyway? </sarcasm> –  corsiKa Dec 2 '12 at 1:30

I would suggest the major driver of differential graduate student incomes is the varying sources of funding for different research areas. Some funding agencies list the amounts they fund explicitly on their website (e.g., NIH NRSA grants gives $22,032 for graduate students, other numbers available on their site), while others require the amounts to be listed by the PI in the grant proposal (e.g., Air Force Office of Scientific Research grants do not list any specific amounts in the call for proposals).

Given the large number of funding sources across all disciplines, finding actual numbers (beyond anecdotal reporting) would be a major undertaking. If you do research and publish the numbers, though, I'd love to see them.

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There's a comparison with other jobs that uses current data on simply hired. You might be able to drill down to what you would be looking at specifically using their search.

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I think I would be surprised if it were $30000$. I, for one, get much closer to $20000$, though it is pretty easy to do a little here or there and get a little extra if I wanted to.

On the other hand, I do work all day, and I don't spend any of it ever. So in a sense, I get too much.

In addition, my school is very willing to fund our grads visits to conferences, so that's not (always or completely, but rather sometimes and/or partially) out-of-pocket.

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