Do you have to have a PhD in order to become a PI on a grant for your own funding?

What if you only have a Bachelor's or a Master's degree, and are not even working towards a PhD?

  • 9
    Since there are many funding agencies, I doubt this question has a single answer. My guess is that most agencies have no explicit rule that a PI must have a PhD, but that someone without one would have a much harder time making the case that they are qualified to supervise the research. Jun 1, 2013 at 5:24
  • maybe they have no formal requirement, but you may possible never get it ;) Jun 1, 2013 at 13:05

2 Answers 2


As Nate Eldredge points out, who qualifies as an eligible PI varies widely between different programs. However, in general, one important distinction can usually be cited: you must be a professional researcher (as opposed to a student or trainee) to be eligible to submit a direct grant. Students would normally need to have their advisors submit the grant proposals on their behalf.

You need to consult the specific rules of the grant you're interested in applying for. Moreover, if you are at an institution that often applies for grants, you should check with the local grants administration office for more guidance. They may have internal policies regarding for whom they will submit grants.

It is also important to note that different countries and different agencies have varying standards. Here in Germany, for instance, you must have the equivalent of a doctoral degree to be eligible to be the coordinating Principal Investigator of a proposal. You can participate as a team member without a doctoral degree, but not be a principal investigator.


It very much depends on the grant in question. For example, while most grants in the United States need a PhD (and often university rules dictate more than a PhD, like not giving grant-writing privileges to adjuncts), there are often smaller grant programs that expressly allow non-PhD PIs.

For example, my university has a translational research program that has pilot project grants, to help researchers generate the preliminary data that is so important for major grant submissions. Whole the $5,000 and $50,000 tiers are restricted to non-adjunct faculty, there is also a $2,000 tier that merely requires a faculty mentor on the project, and is specifically targeted toward graduate student PIs.

  • Is it matter of PhD or official position?
    – Googlebot
    Jun 3, 2013 at 10:19
  • Why would a university forbid its adjuncts to write grants? Such a policy seems deeply unfortunate to me.
    – Anonymous
    Jun 3, 2013 at 15:07
  • @All Official position, but one predicated on a PhD.
    – Fomite
    Jun 3, 2013 at 19:25
  • 2
    @Anonymous I don't know, but it's fairly common. Consider a quote from Duke's Office of Research Administration: "Adjunct faculty cannot apply for grants through Duke without central (Dean's office) permission since Duke is committing resources and adjunct faculty have no real ownership over those resources. If you wish to apply for a grant, speak to your department chair before you begin working on it."
    – Fomite
    Jun 3, 2013 at 19:29

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