Most students who are training to be psychologists don't choose the field in search of a big salary. For many, their degree will also come with a heavy debt load. According to 2009 data from APA's Center for Workforce Studies, recent graduates in health-service-provider subfields face an average debt of more than $88,000, with 78 percent reporting some debt upon graduation.
Students with a research bent tend to fare better, reporting average student loan debt of nearly $50,000, with just over half graduating with no debt at all, thanks to traditional academic sources of support, such as teaching and research assistantships.
But no matter what area of psychology you're interested in, there are many ways to finance your education, including awards to help you fund your dissertation research, tuition tax credits, and travel grants that allow you to attend conferences to publicize your research interests and meet potential employers.
Here's a wrap-up of the money you may be missing out on.
Programs/awards: Most graduate schools, including many PsyD and master's degree programs, offer scholarships. Eligibility factors include a student's financial need, merit, community involvement or minority status.
Key information: Many scholarships are made available only to new, incoming students, though some awards are open to current students.
Deadline: Varies by school
For more information: Check your program's website for more information, or contact a financial aid officer.
The Federal Government
Programs/awards: National Science Foundation
Key information: The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program provides three years of support for graduate study leading to research-based master's or doctoral degrees. Recipients receive a $2,500-per-month stipend, plus $10,500 a year is sent to their educational institution for tuition and fees.
Deadline: Mid-November, though specific dates vary by field of science
For more information: National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP)
Programs/awards: National Institutes of Health
Key information: The NIH provides National Research Service Awards training grants and fellowships, as well as loan repayment programs, through its Office of Extramural Research. The grants provide partial tuition and fees; a stipend; and an allowance for such costs as books, travel to scientific meetings and health insurance.
For more information: Extramural Training Mechanisms
Programs/awards: Department of Defense
Key information: The National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship is awarded to U.S. citizens and nationals who intend to pursue a doctoral degree in one of 15 supported disciplines, including cognitive, neural and behavioral sciences. Recipients receive full tuition and mandatory fee payment for three years, a monthly stipend, and up to $1,000 a year in medical insurance.
For more information: National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship
Programs/awards: Tax credits and tax deductions
Key information: The federal government provides several tax incentives to help defray the cost of post-secondary education. Many graduate students are eligible for the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which can be claimed for tuition and certain expenses for the first four years of post-secondary education. Students are eligible for the full $2,500 credit if their modified adjusted gross income is $80,000 or less ($160,000 or less for married couples filing a joint return). The credit is phased out for taxpayers with incomes above these levels.
Deadline: April 15
For more information: IRS
State Psychological Organizations
Programs/awards: Many state psychological associations offer scholarships to graduate students to offset research costs, reward advocacy work or help students attend the association's annual conference.
Key information: Most scholarships require the recipient to be a member of the state association. (Student membership dues are often significantly reduced or even free for the first year.)
Deadline: Varies by association
For more information: Contact your state psychological association for more information. A list of state association websites is available.
Programs/awards: APA's Science Directorate sponsors several research-based awards, including an annual competition for dissertation research funding. Each year, the group also provides 100 student travel awards to help psychology graduate students travel to the annual APA convention to present their research.
Key information: Dissertation funding ranges between $1,000 and $5,000, while travel award recipients receive $300 for convention-related expenses.
For more information: Awards, Honors and Research Funding
Programs/awards: Minority Fellowship Program
Key information: The program provides career development and financial support to promising doctoral and pospoctoral students in areas related to ethnic minority behavioral health research or services.
For more information: Minority Fellowship Program
Programs/awards: The student arm of APA offers several scholarships, grants and awards, including a $1,000 Basic Psychological Science Research Grant, which may be used for thesis, dissertation or other research, and the APA/APAGS Award for Distinguished Graduate Student In Professional Psychology, which honors a graduate student who has demonstrated outstanding practice and application of psychology with an underserved population.
Key information: Most of these awards require applicants to provide a detailed summary of past and current research, leadership experience or information on a student's work with underserved populations, and an abbreviated curriculum vita. The prize committee may also request a letter of recommendation.
For more information: APAGS Scholarships, Grants and Awards
American Psychological Foundation
Programs/awards: The foundation sponsors several scholarships, fellowships, dissertation awards and grants for research and travel, aimed at helping graduate students further their education in psychology.
Key information: Prize amounts range from a $300 travel grant to a $25,000 graduate student fellowship for work related to the psychological understanding of gifted and talented children and adolescents.
For more information: APF
Programs/awards: Many APA divisions sponsor scholarships and travel grants to fund graduate students pursuing work in a division's area of interest.
Key information: These awards can range from $200 to allow a student to attend a division's annual meeting to a several thousand dollars to offset graduate school expenses or dissertation research.
Deadline: Varies by division
For more information: Visit each division's website for more information about the student awards it offers. A list of APA divisions can be found online.
Programs/awards: Organizations such as the Association for Psychological Science and the Society for Neuroscience provide funds to students in a variety of research areas and for travel to conferences.
Key information: Winners of the APS Student Research Award, for example, receive $250 and are invited to present their research at a symposium at the annual APS convention. Recipients of an SfN Neuroscience Scholars fellowship receive annual support for career development and professional networking activities outside the student's home institution.
For more information:Visit your professional organization's website for more details. Association for Psychological Science; Society for Neuroscience
Programs/awards: Psi Chi, the international honor society for psychology, sponsors a variety of award competitions and grants each year for student research, leadership and travel to conferences.
Key information: Most awards and grants are offered to Psi Chi members, leading to a smaller applicant pool than with awards from other organizations. In fact, some programs, such as the Hunt Research Grant, which provides up to $3,000 to three students, often receive fewer than 10 applicants annually.
For more information: Psi Chi Awards & Grants
Programs/awards: The International Dissertation Research Fellowship Program
Key information: Sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the IDRF awards 75 fellowships annually to full-time graduate students in the humanities and social sciences who are enrolled in U.S. doctoral programs and conducting dissertation research outside the United States. The award amount varies depending on the research plan, with a per-fellowship average of $18,750.
For more information: International Dissertation Research Fellowship (IDRF)
Programs/awards: The Beinecke Scholarship Program
Key information: Sponsored by The Sperry Fund, this program annually provides 20 college juniors in the arts, humanities and social sciences more than $30,000 to attend graduate school.
Deadline: Feb. 14
For more information: The Beinecke Scholarship Program
Programs/awards: The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation Dissertation Fellowships
Key information: Ten $20,000 fellowships are awarded annually to PhD candidates pursuing dissertation research concerning violence and aggression in relation to social change, intergroup conflict, war, terrorism, crime and family relationships.
Deadline: Feb. 1
For more information: Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation Dissertation Fellowships
Programs/awards: The Russell Sage Foundation
Key information: The Russell Sage Behavioral Economics Roundtable supports a small grants research program to support high-quality research in behavioral economics and to encourage young investigators to enter this developing field. The maximum grant amount is $7,500.
Deadline: Applications accepted on a rolling basis
For more information: Russel Sage Foundation
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