I just learned from this question My professor skipped me on Christmas bonus payment that in some cultures/degree-programs, PhD students get bonuses.

I had never heard of this. However, I'm most familiar only with natural science PhD programs in the US.

What countries/cultures and programs are bonuses common?

How big do these bonuses tend to be compared to salary? (if there's a rule of thumb, or commonly the result of a collective bargaining agreement as stated in one of the comments to the above question)

  • 15
    This is the same question I had when I saw that question indeed.
    – justhalf
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 2:55
  • 1
    Remember that getting 13 low salaries in a year is not better than getting 12 good salaries.
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 12:37
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    Also, it would be useful if you included something about the "bonus" being (or not being) tied to performance into the question.
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 12:38
  • 4
    @Szabolcs but better than 12 low salaries.
    – Dan M.
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 15:25
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    For some information on "fake" bonuses that are performance-independent, pre-negotiated and included in annual compensation: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirteenth_salary
    – xngtng
    Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 1:51

5 Answers 5


I do not know how common it is but I remember Germany Ph.D students get Christmas bonus. See this link.

When I was doing my doctorate in USA, I remember my colleague from Germany asking my research advisor for a Christmas bonus. He laughed, then figured out it was customary in Germany and then gave him a tie.

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    To be clear, this is not a "bonus" in the traditional sense. It's not tied to your performance. Everyone employed in public service simply received 50% of their monthly salary as an additional payment at the end of the year.
    – Maeher
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 6:27
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    @Maeher's comment implies something I believe to be true for Germany though uncommon elsewhere - that PhD students are (i) employees, and (ii) of the state. Certainly while UK postgrads may be funded by the state, they're not employed, or paid a normal salary - they're paid an annual stipend which is different, untaxed for example.
    – Chris H
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 12:03
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    My comment only relates to the specific "bonus" mentioned in the answer. (i) The vast majority of PhD students in Germany are employed (at least part time) either at a university or research institute. (ii) There are virtually no private universities that can grant doctoral degrees. (iii) Employees of public universities and research institutes fall under one of three collective bargaining agreements. (iv) Those collective bargaining agreements require an additional payment of between 47% and 60% of the average monthly salary for Juli,August and September with the November salary.
    – Maeher
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 12:48
  • of course not the ones getting a scholarship.
    – lalala
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 13:30
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    @JonathanReez Reasons (that I don't understand but nonetheless exist), (historical) tax reasons (some countries tax or taxed holiday bonus differently), forced financial planning (so people have money to pay year-end expenses like taxes), economic stimulus for holiday seasons (so people spend more for holidays), make people feel good etc. Half of the world has some kind of 13th month (or even 14th) arrangement customarily or sometimes even legally mandated.
    – xngtng
    Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 1:48

In Belgium, there is the concept of a "13th month", also called the "end of year bonus". It is not a performance bonus, but simply a standard part of the remuneration agreement between employer and employee, typically determined by collective labor agreements (negotiated by unions, employer representatives and the government).

In my experience, PhD students also benefitted from this arrangement. It typically is about a month's worth of salary.

  • The same concept exists in France and is common in industry jobs. I am not sure it applies to university-funded PhD students though.
    – UJM
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 22:41
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    In Switzerland, 13th salary is also common. However, the contract usually specifies the total annual compensation to be paid in 13 installments so nothing is really "bonus".
    – xngtng
    Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 1:52
  • @UJM this definitely does not apply to phd students in France. The only exception I might think of, and I'm not even sure it is the case, is for industry/private funded phds (a.k.a. CIFRE).
    – Bromind
    Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 9:42
  • During my PhD in Belgium (with FNRS Fellowship) I had a bonus like that, but it was usually considered as a"vacation bonus" and paid at the end of May.
    – Arnaud D.
    Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 10:19
  • @ArnaudD. What you are talking about is actually a different bonus. In May/June, one gets a "vacation bonus" (pécule de vacances/vakantiegeld), and in December one gets an "end of your bonus" (prime de fin d'année/eindejaarspremie). As a PhD student at a Flemish university, I received both bonuses.
    – sTertooy
    Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 12:46

In the Czech Republic you do not get bonuses to your scholarship (stipend). It is for everyone and increases with you getting some exams or getting to the second year.

However, if the PhD student is actually employed (in a regular type of contract, not a one-off task), they can receive any bonus that other employees get. It is quite common. I would not expect some of the employees to be skipped just because they happen to be students.

This is a real bonus – it is only available if the department has the money. It does not come automatically and there is no entitlement to it.

  • In Czech, what is the difference between being employed and not for a PhD student? In the US, at least in STEM, most PhD students with support are something like half-time employees, either as research or teaching assistants.
    – Kimball
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 14:08
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    @Kimball As a PhD student you are getting a stipend for four years. That is not a salary and there are no taxes. The stipend used to be extremely small 10 years ago, but got a little bit better. In addition to that, you can be employed, if there is particular project that pays it or if the department has money for another person and you are deemed valuable, Then you receive normal salary for your work. It can only be part-time, you won't get a full-time contract from the uni. Some students work elsewhere sometimes with full contracts (Academy od Science, Met office, private companies). Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 14:49
  • My dear fellow Czech, Czechia, please :-)
    – dedObed
    Commented Dec 14, 2020 at 19:21

In Spain, the most common way of getting paid in a job (unrelated to PhD/Academia) is in 14 yearly salaries. People get double paid in June/July (as traditionally people go on holidays the full August, so they like the extra money to pay for the holidays) and in December (for Christmas present/food/prep).

This is not a bonus really, your yearly salary is divided by 14 instead of 12 to compute the monthly one.


In the Netherlands, PhD are university employees and receive an end-of-year bonus (8,3% in December) + an extra holiday allowance (8% in May), so effectively 14 yearly salaries, as per the collective labour agreement for Dutch universities.

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