by Mat Despard
Figuring out how to finance your doctoral
studies is an important process that warrants careful consideration of all
available options. Continuing to work while you pursue your PhD is an excellent
option if you can balance work and school. You keep a steady source of income
and benefits, there may be opportunities to conduct your dissertation research
(especially intervention studies), and your employer may offer a tuition
benefit (true for UNC system employees). I’ve outlined additional funding
options below, some of which apply even if you are working while completing
Fellowships, and Grants
Scholarships are grants
awarded to students to support their studies – no repayment obligation and usually
with no strings attached. The only requirement is to be in good academic
standing, though eligibility can be restricted to things like being enrolled
full-time, focusing on a certain research topic, or being a member of a group
under-represented in academia.
Fellowships are very similar
to scholarships, though they often come with a research and/or teaching service
commitment. For example, the Eileen Blackey
supports dissertation research projects related to welfare policy and practice.
Recipients are required to give a poster presentation at the NASW National
Conference and submit their final dissertation. Fellowships can also be tied to
certain practice and academic workforce goals. For example, the CSWE Minority
is focused on supporting researchers dedicated to culturally competent mental
health and substance abuse services.
are grants to help
students complete their dissertations (also referred to as dissertation fellowships) by supporting data
collection, travel, software, tuition, and even living expenses.
shouldn’t be overlooked. The UNCG School of Health and Human Sciences offers a travel grant program. These grants cover
research-related travel, including to academic conferences. Conferences are important
opportunities to present papers and posters, meet faculty and PhD students at
other universities to grow your scholarly network, and learn about research in
your field. Conference travel grants may be limited to PhD students who will be
presenting at the conference, which means you need to submit your paper
abstract several months in advance. For example, to be awarded a SSWR travel grant, you
need to submit a paper abstract in April for the annual conference that takes
place in January.
Awards are simply
financial gifts to recognize exemplary teaching or research. For example, UNCG
offers an Outstanding
External organizations may also give awards, typically to recognize
contributions consistent with their missions.
JPhD students can serve as Graduate Research
Assistants (GRAs) to assist faculty with their research projects. This depends
on the availability of funding. Faculty can apply for a Graduate
Research Assistantship (GRA) award from the School of
Health and Human Sciences so they can hire a JPhD student and/or they can use
funds from an existing research grant from a foundation, NIH, etc. to hire you.
Thus, it’s important to reach out to faculty to learn about their current
research projects and needs for GRAs.
JPhD students might also serve as a Teaching
Associate or Instructional Assistant to teach or help teach
an undergraduate course or as a general Graduate Assistant with a variety of
work tasks. In addition to GRA opportunities, students should search UNCG
job listings to find teaching associate or assistantship positions or other
part time job opportunities outside of social work but related to your skills
Assistantships at UNCG are limited to full-time
students who have at least a 3.0 GPA and are making satisfactory progress in
- Starting in Fall 2020, talk to the
Associate Chair for Research, Dr. Tanya Coakley, who can help match you with
faculty who have applied for small internal grants to fund students and/or who
can apply for a
- Use online databases – start with the JPhD funding page.
- Sign up for text alerts for various
scholarship and fellowship opportunities.
- Review faculty CVs which are publicly
available on university websites and will list grants, awards, scholarships,
etc. Identify external awards and ignore internal ones as those only apply to
the institution where the individual earned their PhD.
- Know the deadlines and start the
application several weeks in advance.
- Ask faculty members who can attest to the
quality of your work for letters of recommendation. Give them a copy of your
updated CV, information about the award, and alert them to specific
instructions, such as commenting on research or teaching abilities. Most
importantly, ask faculty members no less than 4 weeks prior to the deadline.
- If the application requires an essay, ask
your advisor to provide feedback on a draft. Don’t get discouraged if it gets
marked up quite a bit.
- If you are applying for a dissertation or
research grant, work closely with your faculty advisor or dissertation chair to
develop research questions, methods, etc. several weeks in advance of the
deadline (unless your dissertation proposal has been approved and you are just
looking for funding).
a Research Assistantship
- Talk to faculty about their research
projects and need for a research assistant. This may prompt a faculty member to
apply for university funding to support a position. This is better than waiting
to see if a position gets listed.
- Talk to your advisor and other faculty
members about research teams at other universities related to your interests. These
other universities may have research funding that can support a GRA through a