What’s the Average Cost of a Doctorate Degree?

The price may surprise you

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A doctorate degree is an advanced degree you can earn after you receive a master’s degree. It’s the highest academic degree available in the U.S. and typically takes at least four years to complete. While the particular program you select will dictate how many credits you’ll have to take, most doctoral degrees require a thesis or capstone paper. 

According to a study by the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people with a doctorate degree has nearly doubled from 2000 to 2018. As of 2018, 4.5 million people hold doctorate degrees. This is no surprise as a doctorate offers a variety of benefits including increased earning potential, a lower unemployment rate, and enhanced skills. 

What Different Doctorate Degrees Cost

The type of doctorate degree, as well as the educational institution you select, will dictate the cost of your program. Whether or not you are an out-of-state student will play a role as well. Here’s a look at some of the doctorate degrees you may pursue and how much you can expect to pay for them.

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

At the University of Pennsylvania, a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences costs $41,330 per year, while a Ph.D. in engineering, nursing, or business is $41,052 per year. Doctoral programs at the University of California, Los Angeles cost around $17,272 per year for California residents and $32,374 for out-of-state students.

Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) discovered that for the 2019-20 academic year, first-year medical students paid between $37,556 and $61,858 on average for tuition, fees, and health insurance to attend a public medical school. A student who chose a private school paid an average between $60,665 and $62,230.

Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.)

According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP), Pharm.D. costs vary by school and state. In Arizona, for example, the average cost for a Pharm.D. program during the 2019-20 school year was $11,938 for in-state students and $32,065 for out-of-state students. In Connecticut, Pharm.D. in-state students paid $13,798 and out-of-state students $36,466.

Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.)

The doctor of physical therapy program at Duke University is $38,000 per year plus a $2,000 laboratory fee in year one, and a $2,000 technology fee in years one and two. At the University of Iowa, the tuition costs $17,272.50 for in-state students and $34,572.50 for those who live out of state.

Tuition and fees are just two parts of what you could pay for these doctorate degree programs. Depending on your situation, you may also need to factor in the cost of living on or off campus, and that could add thousands to the overall price of your degree.

Doctorate Degree Career Opportunities

A doctorate degree can open your doors to a wide array of career opportunities. If you earn an M.D., D.P.T., or Pharm.D., you may pursue a career as a doctor, physical therapist, or pharmacist. With a Ph.D., you can work as a professor, clinical counselor, medical scientist, or biochemist. There are countless other professions you may pursue. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) discovered that in 2017, the average annual salary for an individual with a doctorate degree was $103,820, compared to $68,090 for a master’s degree holder.

So if you invest time and money into a doctorate degree, you’re likely to reap the financial rewards. Just keep in mind that you may have to pay off some debt at first. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Ph.D. graduates outside of the education field owe an average of $98,800 in student loans.

How to Pay for Your Doctorate Degree

While obtaining a doctorate degree is expensive, there are a number of ways you can make it more cost-effective. Ideally, you’d find grants, scholarships, and fellowships that do not need to be repaid. However, these options often come with strict eligibility requirements so they may be difficult to qualify for.

Some schools may also offer assistantships and stipends, which can help you get great experience while also funding your education.

If you’re unable to secure these types of free financing options, you may have to take out student loans. Consider federal student loan options such as direct unsubsidized loans and direct PLUS loans. Although they don’t consider financial need, you will have to undergo a credit check. 

If you have any gaps in federal student loan funding, you may need to take out private student loans, as well. These types of loans come with fixed or variable interest rates that depend on your credit score and income. 

The Bottom Line

While a doctorate degree can be pricey, it can certainly pay off in the long run. Before you enroll in a program, be sure to consider the implications of doing so. This way, you can avoid unwanted financial surprises and stress down the road.

Article Sources

  1. U.S. Census Bureau. "Number of People With Master's and Doctorate Degrees Doubles Since 2000." Accessed March 6, 2020.

  2. University of Pennsylvania Student Registration and Financial Services. "PhD Program Costs." Accessed March 6, 2020.

  3. UCLA Graduate Education. "Tuition & Student Fees." Accessed March 6, 2020.

  4. Association of American Medical Colleges. "Tuition and Student Fees Reports," Download "2013-2020 Tuitions and Student Fees Report." Accessed March 6, 2020.

  5. American Associations of Colleges of Pharmacy. "Pharm.D. and Graduate Programs Tuition and Fees," Select "2019-20 Tuition and Fees at U.S. Colleges and Schools of Pharmacy." Accessed March 6, 2020.

  6. Duke Doctor of Physical Therapy. "Tuition and Expenses." Accessed March 6, 2020.

  7. Iowa Graduate Admissions. "DPT Program, Estimated Costs." Accessed March 6, 2020.

  8. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "High-Wage Occupations by Typical Entry-Level Education, 2017." Accessed March 6, 2020.

  9. National Center for Education Statistics. "Trends in Student Loan Debt for Graduate School Completers." Accessed March 6, 2020.