PhD Salaries in the UK
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PhD Salaries

Written by Hannah Slack

There are many different types of income available to PhD students. Salaries can take the form of awarded funding, contract work or even a part-time job outside of the university. This page covers everything you need to know about PhD salaries, including what’s available, how they’re paid and the impact on additional financial support.

Types of PhD salary

A PhD student’s salary is typically made up from a combination of sources, each with their own requirements and pay.

The most common type of PhD salary is a stipend which is usually offered as part of a studentship. Students who successfully secure funding are offered a non-repayable tax-free grant to cover living costs such as rent, food and bills.

Another way to bring in income is through part-time work. Within the university many PhD students take on Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTAs) or Research Assistantships (RAs). These are common forms of contract work which pay hourly. GTAs assist in the delivery of undergraduate courses by running seminar groups, providing student support in office hours and marking assessments. RAs support academics in their work by performing tasks such as additional research, cataloguing and data entry. However, these opportunities are not usually available year round, particularly during the summer months.

Outside of the university, many PhD students take on industry work either through short-term contracts or permanent part-time positions. This is a great way to bring in a more regular form of income.

Learn more about Graduate Teaching Assistantships

We have more information on Graduate Teaching Assistantships, including what's involved, how to apply and how much you'll be paid in our full guide.

When are PhD students paid?

Each of the different sources of income pay at different times throughout the year. This means a student’s income can be inconsistent, some months receiving more and others less. It’s therefore important to figure out what regular incomes you have to budget for your lifestyle accordingly.

Here is a table of the most common PhD salary sources in the UK and when they’re paid:

PhD salary sources
Salary type Salary amount Typical pay schedule
PhD stipend£18,622 tax freeQuarterly or monthly
Graduate teaching assistantships (GTAs)£15-20 per hourWeekly or monthly
Research assistantships (RAs)£15-20 per hourWeekly or monthly
Contract industry workDepends on job, at least £10.42 per hourWeekly or monthly
Permanent industry workDepends on job, at least £10.42 per hourMonthly

Does a PhD salary increase?

It is possible your salary will increase throughout your PhD, but not guaranteed.

Whether or not a stipend will increase depends on your funder and institution. The most common source of funding in the UK comes from UKRI. They set the minimum level for stipends so it’s up to the discretion of universities whether they provide funding above this figure. However, UKRI and other large funding bodies regularly assess the stipend minimum and whether it aligns with inflation.

Similarly, the rate of pay for GTAs and RAs is assessed on inflation and will be changed accordingly. Another way to increase your pay as a GTA or RA is to take on more hours if possible.

In industry, salary increases are usually dependent on performance as well as the economy. You may be able to boost your income by performing particularly well within your role.

How much does a PhD student make in the UK?

How much a PhD student makes entirely depends on the types of salary they have. Many fully funded students in receipt of a living stipend don’t undertake other forms of work. However, those who are self-funded, or fancy additional income, may have multiple streams of pay to help cover their living costs.

While it’s up to you how much you work, remember you still need to complete your PhD within the given time period. In the UK, international students are not allowed to work more than 20 hours a week which provides a good guideline to all students. Talk with your supervisor if you’re unsure about how many hours you can spare.

You can also read about the cost of studying a PhD, including the average living costs for different cities and countries, to help budget your living expenses and time.

Are PhD salaries taxed?

In the UK, PhD stipends are awarded tax free. If you decide to work part-time, whether that’s through contract or permanent work, you may be eligible for taxation. The standard tax-free Personal Allowance is currently £12,570. Anything earnt above this will be taxed.

It’s also possible that you could be taxed on contract work before earning this amount. If your hourly pay indicates you could exceed the Personal Allowance by the end of the tax year you may be charged. In this instance you will need to request a tax refund from the government.

Can PhD students get Universal Credit?

Full-time UK PhD students are not typically eligible for Universal Credit. You may qualify if you already receive a Disability Living Allowance or other similar forms of support.

Part-time UK PhD students may be able to claim Universal Credit, however your student income will affect how much you can receive.

Any finances intended to cover tuition fees and study costs (such as books, equipment or travel) are excluded from the credit allowance. However, income that covers living expenses will be deducted. For example, the government doctoral loan is intended for both tuition and living support. Therefore, only 30% of what you receive will be deducted from your credit allowance.

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Last Updated: 03 August 2023