Using stipends to fund your future

By Tomi Nano, PhD Candidate

Completing your graduate studies is an exciting time with opportunity for exploring academic interests and discovering new career paths. Throughout this time, grad trainees who also work on research projects receive stipends.

Stipends are financial packages that help compensate trainees, cover tuition costs and assist with living expenses. For doctoral students, Western guarantees full coverage of tuition and a minimum of $13,000 for living support. In 2015, the average annual funding (from all sources) to a master and doctoral student was $22,500 and $30,500 respectively [1].

If you have not received a stipend before, it is important to understand how the terms of this financial package will affect you. Stipends can differ between programs or even between trainees in the same program. When you take into account expenses such as tuition and minimum living expenses, most trainees living frugally may still need additional financial support.

There are different stipend models for master and doctoral trainees. I suggest speaking with your department to become familiar with their stipend model, but there are some things to consider regarding stipend breakdowns.

Stipend amounts may or may not cover tuition expenses in addition to living support. Total financial support amounts are determined with contributions from ALL sources received.

The main sources of financial support come from:
  1. Scholarships or awards, which includes but are not limited to Western Graduate Research Scholarship, Ontario Graduate Scholarship, NSERC or CIHR.
  2. Teaching assistantships (TA), compensation for helping conduct courses at Western University. Many students TA and that contributes to their stipends.
  3. Graduate research assistantships (GRA), compensation for conducting research directly related to your thesis from supervisor operating grants.
  4. Research assistantships (RA), compensation for helping with lab duties or research not directly related to your thesis from supervisor operating grants or Western University. This is less common than TAs or GRAs.

Schulich Medicine & Dentistry has been working to make stipend amounts fair for all students across all departments. Understanding your stipend breakdown is important for financial planning and successful graduate studies. You can find more information about specific program stipends from departmental websites or by contacting their administrative staff.