Quick background about myself

I just want to give a quick introduction to my background but I think this could be relevant and beneficial to a lot of people. I am a Mechanical Engineering student studying at Imperial College London and working towards a GPA 4.0 equivalent, with a GPA 3.7-3.8 predicted/guaranteed. I will be graduating with an MEng degree in the summer of 2018. I also hold a Turkish passport (non-EU).

Into the question

I want to know how hard it is to get fully covered for tuition fees, accommodation and other expenses while getting paid a salary on top (I would still be consent with not getting paid as long as I do not pay anything other than my pocket money). From minimal research I came to find that this can be extremely unlikely, although, I also found that you have slightly more chances in some fields such as engineering since a lot of capital flow from the industry.

So from base line knowledge, I suspect my main options are to secure a scholarship that covers you fully, get the university to fund you or get a company to sponsor your research. I also know that it is usually a combination of the above.

I am a very driven person with a lot of passion for the field and I will be applying to universities such as Stanford and MIT. I am currently doing a research internship at Stanford and I also hold past research experience from Imperial College London. I will likely be getting published in a decent journal from my current research internship (at the age of 20). I just want to know what are the chances of getting paid let alone paying for tuition fees since I do not want to ask my parents for financial help. I would rather find a good job then to pay thousands of dollars for another 4-5 years, although doing a PhD has been my aspiration since very young.

Please do not hesitate to point to further resources as answer to the question and any help is appreciated.

  • 10
    PhD in the sciences are typically funded, at least in the West. Not sure what research lead you to believe funding is uncommon. If you get admitted you will be funded, but may have to be a teaching or research assistant. An offer of admission with no funding is considered a soft rejection.
    – user8001
    Commented Jul 22, 2017 at 20:20
  • 2
    Note that 'funding' will be a tuition waver plus a salary (stipend), normally a TA or RA position. You need to figure out how to spend that on housing, food, transportation, insurance, etc.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jul 22, 2017 at 20:36
  • 4
    In the US, TA and RA positions belong exclusively to graduate students. They aren't applicable to postdocs. (For a postdoc, research is a part of their job description by default; if they are teaching, it is usually at a level comparable to faculty rather than a TA, and they may get a courtesy title like "visiting assistant professor".) Commented Jul 22, 2017 at 22:44
  • 2
    "From minimal research ... " you get nowhere with minimal research. Not to the US, and not to a PhD. Especially not at Standford or MIT.
    – Karl
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 7:28
  • 2
    @Karl I think "from minimal research" = "from some googling regarding PhD programs"
    – Dawn
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 13:50

2 Answers 2


In engineering, the primary source of support for international PhD students in the US is:

  • 10.4% via teaching assistantships
  • 71.7% via research assistantships or traineeships
  • 11.5% via fellowships or grants
  • Small portion via other sources (e.g. self funded, employer funded).

Source: Survey of Earned Doctorates, TABLE 35. Doctorate recipients' primary source of financial support, by broad field of study, sex, citizenship status, ethnicity, and race: 2014

In STEM fields in the US, both US citizen and international PhD students are generally offered admission with funding, which will be provided via teaching assistantships, research assistantships, or some combination of the above. US STEM PhD offers that don't come with funding are generally not worth accepting. So it's not about specifically trying to get funding, it's about getting a real offer of admissions (which should come with funding).

  • you should be more frank. NO funding-dont accept!
    – SSimon
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 16:14

My answer comes from my background as an international student with B.Sc from a university in a developing country (You probably never heard my institution nor my country) and I got full-ride PhD offer from two US universities (different major, both ranked in top 30-40 according to US NEWS). I applied to 7 universities. So, the success rate is around 28%.

"How hard is it to get paid to do PhD in the US as an international student in engineering?"

Using your background, I would say that, it is not that hard. Compared to me, you come from a well-known institution with an extensive research experience in a top US school.

However, to be clear, the difficulty in getting into a STEM PhD program really depends on many factors. So, the right answer will be: it depends.

It depends on which university that you think you want to join. If, you narrow down your choice into only MIT and Stanford, it will be pretty hard. You should have stellar record in all aspects of your applications: recommendation letters, research experiences, publications, standardized test scores.

Even if you have those credentials, you might be not lucky enough to be accepted with funding if your desired professors are not looking for a graduate student.

To give you a better chance in being accepted with funding in a US PhD program, I would suggest you to apply to as many institutions as long as you are not overwhelmed with the application process. May the force be with you :)

  • That actually helps a lot and thank you so much! Commented Jul 26, 2017 at 6:54

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