R SOC graduate students can explore several different types of financial aid, including graduate assistantships, fellowships, and tuition grant-in-aid programs. Special programs are also available for qualified minority applicants.

Graduate Assistantships

For qualified applicants, we have a limited number of graduate assistantships. A graduate assistantship carries a stipend plus a waiver of all tuition and fees. The vast majority of our assistantships are research assistantships in which students work closely with faculty on research projects. The remainder are teaching assistantships.

Most of our graduate assistantships are half-time assistantships (20 hours of work per week). The two other levels of assistantship are a quarter-time assistantship (10 hours of work per week) and a three-quarter time assistantship (30 hours of work per week).

Our assistantship stipends are highly competitive with other leading universities. Assistantship offers are typically made for one year at a time. Continuation of a student's assistantship support beyond the initial offer is contingent on the student's assistantship performance, academic performance, and the availability of assistantship funding.

All students admitted to the program are automatically considered for an assistantship unless you inform us otherwise.

The maximum number of semesters that a master's student is eligible for an assistantship is 4 (counting Fall and Spring semesters, but not Summer). That works out to 2 calendar years. A student may receive less than the maximum.

The maximum number of semesters that a Ph.D. student is eligible for an assistantship is 8 (counting Fall and Spring semesters, but not Summer). That works out to 4 calendar years. A student may receive less than the maximum.

For the 2019-20 academic year, we have the following specific Research Assistantship opportunities.

  • Research Assistantship in Arctic Research. Penn State's Rural Sociology graduate program seeks two PhD-level graduate research assistants to join their large transdisciplinary POLARIS team. POLARIS, or Pursuing Opportunities for Long-term Artic Resilience for Infrastructure and Society, is a newly funded NSF project that studies environmental migration, food security, women's empowerment, and human-environment conflicts in coastal Arctic Indigenous communities and identifies the important assets (social, environmental, infrastructural, institutional) to help them adapt and become more resilient to climate-related changes.

    The two positions will have an opportunity to pursue a dual-title degree in Demography, Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and the Environment, International Agriculture and Development, or Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. These two positions should have a strong research interest in rural sociology, demography, population and environment, community resilience, gender and women studies, and/or climate change in Indigenous communities or remote research settings. Competence in rigorous statistical and spatial analysis is preferred.

    The students will be members of a large interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research team. The students will participate in research activities of the POLARIS project and conduct field data collection in coastal Alaskan Indigenous communities. The students are expected to develop their dissertation research based on the POLARIS project. Experience working with Indigenous communities is ideal; a strong interest working with Indigenous communities is a must. The students will join several other graduate students at Penn State's Geography graduate program and the Intercollege Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Michigan Tech, and University of Alaska as part of the project team. Students should be self-motivated, open to learning new methods, resourceful, and independent. The funding is guaranteed for four years, conditional on satisfactory performance of both assistantship duties and academic progress.

    To be considered for the two funded positions, prospective students must apply and be admitted to the Rural Sociology graduate program.

    For more information about the POLARIS project and the positions, please contact Dr. Guangqing Chi (gchi@psu.edu) and/or Dr. Ann Tickamyer (art14@psu.edu). For questions about the Rural Sociology Graduate Program, please contact the Director of Graduate Studies, Dr. Kathy Brasier (kjb24@psu.edu).

  • Research Assistantship to Study Social Dimensions of Microbiome Research. The student will be funded as part of a The Pennsylvania State University Microbiome Center initiative to start Fall 2018. Fellows will engage in an interdisciplinary effort to understand how microbiomes interact directly, as a result of microbial flow from food cultivation through human digestion, and indirectly, through their chemical and physical influences on products at each stage. The student will be required to develop his/her own related but independent research project to fulfill the requirements of the PhD in Rural Sociology. Interested applicants should apply for admission to the graduate program in Rural Sociology AND send a cover letter describing interests and qualifications and a CV to Dr. Leland Glenna (llg13@psu.edu) by the application deadline (January 5, 2018).

Fellowships and Top-Up Funds

Our goal is to make sure that no outstanding applicant who would like to attend Penn State feels that they must go elsewhere because of financial considerations.

Outstanding applicants are nominated for University Graduate Fellowships. These fellowships consist of a stipend over 10 months plus payment of tuition and fees. We utilize University Graduate Fellowships as part of a package of support for academically superior students that includes a graduate assistantship after the fellowship has ended. We also have "top-up" funds that supplement other financial aid offers to highly recruited applicants.

Programs for Minority Scholars

The Office of Graduate Educational Equity in the Graduate School assists in the retention, recruitment, and professional development of underrepresented graduate students. For qualified minority applicants, Penn State provides assistantships through the Bunton-Waller Graduate Awards Program . The program competition is open to incoming graduate degree candidates who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents.


Graduate assistants at Penn State have a comprehensive benefits package that is one of the best in the country. Visit the Penn State Graduate student page on benefits for a complete summary of benefits.

For graduate students who are parents, the Penn State Work/Life Programs Office offers a childcare subsidy. Upon approval, student parents are eligible for subsidies toward full-time childcare and part-time childcare. Student parents may also receive financial assistance for sick and emergency care, summer childcare, and care during finals and mid-term exam periods.

All graduate students are eligible for various student discounts, including tickets for cultural and athletic events, use of recreational facilities and recreational classes, and on-campus parking.

Other Financial Aid

Information on other sources of financial aid for U.S. citizens is available from Penn State's Office of Student Aid . FastWeb maintains a searchable database of scholarships. Applications for federal student aid can be completed on the FAFSA website.

For More Information

Up-to-date information on tuition and fees can be obtained from the Bursar's Office . The University Office of International Programs compiles a list of Estimated Initial Graduate Student Expenses that includes tuition, living expenses, books/supplies, and health insurance. For more information on finances and financial aid, please see these websites: