The School is pleased to offer five years of guaranteed, graduate assistantship funding to all qualified incoming students; this funding is for both domestic and international students. See below for additional details.

Graduate Assistantships (Five Years)

Completion of the PhD typically takes five years. During the five years, support will be in the form of an assistantship each year: During years 1-3, students will have a research assistantship (RA), while during years 4 and/or 5, students may opt to also obtain teaching experience via a teaching assistantship (TA). RAs work with faculty members on their research projects 20 hours per week during the academic year and receive a tuition waiver, health benefits, and a stipend. For the RA, students are matched with faculty members based primarily on mutual interest and faculty availability. For the TA, once they have passed their comprehensive exam, students may be assigned a class to teach as the instructor of record; the stipend, tuition waiver, and health benefits are the same as described above. The PhD Program Director, in consultation with the PhD Program Admissions Committee, assigns the RAs each year, while the TA assignments are coordinated by the School Associate Director for Instruction in consultation with the PhD Program Director.

For the 2018-2019 academic year, the stipend is $21,450; there is typically a cost of living increase in the stipend each year. The tuition waiver, which covers nine credits per semester, allows students to complete all of the required credits toward the degree at no cost, as long as they finish within five years (extending their time in the program beyond five years means having to pay for one dissertation credit during the semester in which they defend).

Doctoral students can also seek out other RA opportunities with faculty members who have funded research. In these cases, the duties and benefits of the graduate assistant are as described above, but the RA is funded via the faculty member’s research grant rather than the School. For more general information about graduate assistantships, see The Graduate School.

Summer Support

Incoming students will be guaranteed to receive a minimum of $2,000 per summer for each of the first two summers after entering the program (i.e., during the summers after the first and second year in the program).

Funding for Conference Presentations, Research, and Training

There are discretionary funds available to doctoral students to help support traveling to academic conferences, research activities (e.g., independent research, statistical consultation for dissertation research), and training during both the academic year and the summer. This past academic year, the program has funded 16 students at an average rate of $2,656 during the academic year; during summer 2018, 10 students received an average award of $900 to support their research activities. Priority is given to students who are in the first several years of the program, though all funding requests are considered.


Michigan State University offers three fellowships for incoming doctoral students: the University Distinguished Fellowship (UDF), the University Enrichment Fellowship (UEF), and the Rasmussen Fellowship. The UDF and UEF are highly competitive (40 total are bestowed across MSU each year) and offer five years of funding, including two fellowship years and three years in which the student works as a GA within the School of Social Work; recipients receive a tuition waiver, health benefits, and financial support during the academic year as well as summer.

The Rasmussen Fellowship is also highly competitive; students who are MSU alums are eligible. This fellowship provides one-time support of $3,000-5,000 for incoming students; individual departments match this support with a GA, as described above.

For all of these fellowship opportunities, the PhD Program Director, in consultation with the PhD Program Admissions Committee, makes the decision about which applicants to nominate and then prepares a nomination package that is submitted to the Graduate School for consideration. Nominated students are informed of their admittance into the PhD program and their nomination for the fellowships by the PhD Program Director sometime in January. For further information about these fellowships, please see

Teaching Opportunities

There are a variety of teaching opportunities available for doctoral students. In most cases, students are encouraged to consider teaching once they have completed their coursework and comprehensive exam process. Students with no prior teaching experience complete a teaching mentorship for a semester, during which they shadow a faculty member and contribute to the class in a mutually-agreed upon manner; students receive a small stipend ($1,000) for the mentorship. After successfully completing the mentorship, students are considered for teaching assignments within the School. Beyond these School-based teaching opportunities, many doctoral students teach at other colleges and universities within Michigan.

These are the primary sources of support for doctoral students; other opportunities are available within the MSU community. Please see for more information.