This year I will graduate from a European university and willing to start a Ph.D. program in the USA. As a graduate student, there is a “guaranteed financing” opportunity of approximately $ 32,000 per year. My question is when a graduate student is part of a research grant (ie NIH / NSF grants) of his PI -in their own lab-, does he receive payment in addition to the guaranteed funding stipend? Does income from the research grant -if some- and guaranteed funding stipend different things?

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    Your stipend comes from those grants. That is what you get paid. – Jon Custer Jan 11 at 16:10
  • So the grants are not "research group specific" but "university specific"? – Grillfindor Jan 11 at 16:22
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    No, but the full range of how stipends are funded at various places is too broad a topic. Where I went years ago, the department pooled funds to support students for the first year, then you found an advisor with funding to support you. But the stipend was the stipend unless you got an external fellowship (industry, NSF) that specifically had a given salary. – Jon Custer Jan 11 at 16:32
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    Funding for students will be specific to each grant and each university or lab. Each one will have different rules and conditions. And these may change suddenly, such as when an election puts a new government in charge of funding. You should discuss this carefully with the folks in charge in your lab and university. – puppetsock Jan 11 at 19:15

In my experience, “guaranteed funding” means that (depending on field) you will be either working for a PI who has grant money to pay you or working as a TA (with the possible exception of your first year, where their may be general department support while you find an advisor). Because graduate stipends are typically on a pay scale, working on a grant can be expected to bring you up to the guaranteed level, but not put you above it.

To support the guarantee of funding, the university (or a unit within the university) may have a reserve fund with money that can be used to cover gaps in PI funding (which may come with TA obligations).

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  • In my experience the stipend levels are also department dependent. A full time TAship might be less than the program's stipend; the program/dept would then fill in that gap with the reserves like you suggest, or from a partial RAship. – Bryan Krause Jan 11 at 17:05

It varies, so you need to check with the program. For example, if the grad students are unionized at that institution, the CBA might specify that the PI can't sweeten a grad student's base stipend out of a grant. There might also be distinctions between what's permissible during the academic year and what's permissible during the summer.

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I doubt that it would happen. You don't say what the stipend is for. If it is an RA then you are already being paid for research help and it might actually come out of any grants. If it is a TA then you will have certain (teaching related) duties for that and the research project is probably more associated with your own degree than as an "assistant".

But, I suppose it could happen, but don't expect a doubling of the basic grant or anything close to it. Maybe some small increment over the "guaranteed" part. The institution has to serve a lot of students and the funds aren't unlimited.

And "free money" in US universities is pretty rare.

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  • They did not mentioned about RAship or TAship mostly but some schools pay extra for TAship so main stipend is from RAship I believe. Coming back to the question and to be more specific, if you are in a lab, your lab get a grant from NIH/NSF and you are a part of this grant, do still get payment for 2-3 years in addition to the base stipend? Because you will get this payment most of the European universities. Otherwise people would struggle to complete their PhDs in my opinion. – Grillfindor Jan 11 at 16:05
  • Every situation is different, but yes, students struggle. You need to ask the university about specifics. – Buffy Jan 11 at 16:06
  • So the main question here should be "are you sure to coming US for the PhD instead of your home institute?" – Grillfindor Jan 11 at 16:08
  • The systems are different. In some German and Hungarian institutions, I've been told, being a doctoral student is like having a job. Here it is like being a student. Very different philosophy. – Buffy Jan 11 at 16:11
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    Although there are definitely differences, especially legal ones, when I was a PhD student funded by an RAship to do work that would contribute to my thesis in the US, it certainly felt more like being an employee (possibly an underpaid one) than a student. Certainly little different from being a post doc in the day to day. But yes, "guaranteed funding" for a PhD in the US means "we will find you work to fund at this level" not "this is a minimum you can add to". – Bryan Krause Jan 11 at 17:01

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