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Financial Assistance

Important Reminder

Graduate students are paid retroactively on the first of each month. They do not receive their first paycheck for Fall quarter employment until November 1st. Students must plan carefully to ensure not only that they can afford fees, tuition, and books for the Fall quarter but also that they can cover living expenses through September and October.

Financial Support

The department is committed to supporting almost all incoming students with full financial aid for at least four years (12 quarters). Indeed, the financial support provided to graduate students is one of the key advantages of this program over similar programs across the country. By guaranteeing funding for almost the entire doctoral program, the department allows students to focus exclusively on their intellectual and professional development. The department's noncompetitive funding system encourages students to view academic life as a collaborative effort in which sharing and communicating ideas is essential to fruitful development. Below is a listing of the primary types of departmental financial assistance. Please see Requirements for further information.

INTERNATIONAL APPLICANTS: Funding is available for non-US citizens admitted students. Department support for all applicants, domestic and international, is decided on a case-by-case basis at the time a student is offered admission. 

Teaching Assistantships

Doctoral students are funded by some combination of fellowships and assistantships. During the first year of the program, the department pays most students' tuition and fees. In addition, most students are hired as graders for undergraduate classes, receiving a salary of approximately $9,000. After the first year, students obtain California residency. They therefore do not pay tuition, but they do pay fees at a reduced rate (approximately $2,000) and receive a teaching assistant salary of approximately $14,000. Students' net income remains approximately the same, if not somewhat higher, during the second year of study. If they remain in good academic standing, students are guaranteed grading or teaching jobs during their third and fourth years. Regardless of whether they are assigned as graders or teaching assistants, their income is the same as that received during their second year and they continue to receive a fee reduction. A few students are often able to teach their own courses during their latter years in the program.

Once students use all 12 quarters of guaranteed department funding, they often are successful in obtaining teaching assistantships outside the department. In the last couple of years, several third and fourth year students have been hired as teaching assistants for Urban Studies courses, Sociology courses, and the Writing Program. Notifications of these positions are typically distributed electronically at the end of the preceding quarter. Students are encouraged to take advantage of any outside opportunities that interest them, regardless of when the opportunity arises. Students who are employed by other departments early in their careers can then receive departmental support later in their careers, perhaps when outside opportunities are not as attractive to them. Again, students are entitled to 12 quarters of support and may draw on this support at any time during their graduate study. They do not have to work for the department for four consecutive years. Their 12 quarters of entitled funding can be dispersed in any manner during their graduate career.

Research Assistantships

Some students are hired as research assistants. Research assistantships are typically obtained through a student's advisor or through professors with which he or she has worked closely. Students are typically asked on an individual basis if they would be interested in becoming involved in particular projects. Some research assistantships count as department funding whereas others are considered outside funding. How the assistantship is categorized will depend on the specific nature of the grant. Research assistantships can provide support for a single quarter, a single year, or several years, again depending on the nature of the grant. If the assistantship is funded by the department, then each quarter it is offered is counted as a quarter of department support. Research assistantships offer excellent opportunities to become acquainted with the research process, to learn about both the frustration and satisfaction involved in research, and to strengthen ties with faculty. Cultivating positive academic relationships with faculty is perhaps the best way to increase one's chances of receiving this type of assistance.


A significant number of students enter the program with departmental and non-departmental fellowships. Many of these fellowships cover tuition and living expenses, or provide a stipend, thereby freeing students from some to all grading or teaching responsibilities. While many fellowships provide support for several years, others cover only the first year. Once a student's fellowship ends, he or she receives departmental funding. Regardless of fellowship assistance, all students are entitled to 12 quarters of financial assistance. These 12 quarters can be used at any time during a student's graduate career. Thus, for example, obtaining a fellowship during the first or second year in the program allows students to receive department funding in their fifth and sixth years.

Students are highly encouraged to seek fellowship assistance at some point in their graduate career. From a strategic perspective, fellowship assistance obtained as students enter the program and as they begin their prospectus can be particularly valuable. Many advanced graduate students choose to obtain funding to conduct dissertation research. Many students seeking outside assistance allocate time during the fall quarter of their third and fourth year to write grant proposals. Students have been extremely successful in competitions for the most prestigious awards. In 1997, UCSD graduate students are conducting dissertation research with fellowships from the Brookings Institution, the Center for Iberian and Latin American Studies, the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, the Fulbright Scholar Program, the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, the National Science Foundation, and the Social Science Research Council. Students who are unable to obtain outside support for dissertation research may, depending on available resources, receive one additional year of support as a teaching assistant.

Information on fellowships can be found in the Political Science department, in the IR/PS library (which has an impressive grant database), and in other university libraries. The types of fellowships available and the qualifications required to receive fellowships varies substantially. Students are highly encouraged to apply for a number of different fellowships since the acceptance rate tends to be quite low.

Students enhance their chances of receiving fellowships by preparing impressive proposals. The proposal itself tends to weigh far more heavily in acceptance committee's decisions than do school names, good grades, or laudatory recommendations from renowned faculty. Students should identify the priorities of the sponsoring institution and should tailor their proposals to address these priorities. Additionally, students should devote considerable attention to presenting their basic question and to designing their research. Students should clearly identify their question, demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the literature in this area, and convince their readers that their question has not already been answered and is worth answering. While a brief literature should be included to establish the importance of a student's question, it should be brief and should not be organized as a separate section. The key feature that tends to distinguish students is their research design. In this part of the proposal, students should not focus on particular methodological approaches or data-gathering procedures. Instead, students should focus on explaining how they intend to use potential data to answer their question. For instance, students could present several testable hypotheses and could discuss how they will use data to confirm or reject them. Students interested in applying for fellowships are encouraged to attend a grant proposal writing seminar that lasts a couple of hours and is typically offered at the beginning of each academic year.

Summer Financial Support

While department funding during the school year is automatic (given good academic standing) for students' first four years in the program, summer support is not guaranteed and opportunities for employment are rather limited. Typically, the department hires some students as graders for summer courses. These opportunities are quite rare and offer minimal financial assistance. Those who do grade try to supplement this income by obtaining additional work. Approximately, one-third of the students in the department are hired as research assistants to work on summer projects with faculty members. Students typically obtain these positions by proactively seeking the assistance of their advisor or of other faculty members with whom they have good rapport. These research assistantships typically pay most to all of a student's living expenses during the summer months. Other students attempt to find academic positions elsewhere on campus. Some students have worked for other social science departments as graders or teaching assistants. Additionally, the English Language Program for the Extension School sometimes needs English teachers, as does the IR/PS ICAP Program. Finally, a couple of students work with faculty members to obtain small grants ($3000-$5000). These grants allow professors to hire research assistants. While professors rarely seek these types of grants personally, many are willing to assist students who are willing to complete the application process.

Tax Issues

For tax questions, see our Tax FAQ page.

Deferred Payment Program

The Deferred Payment Program is designed to allow students an opportunity to pay their mandatory registration charges in three installments. At least one third of their fee payment is due by the Registration Fee deadline and the balance is paid in two installments spread throughout the school term. There is a non-refundable charge of $30 for this program. Any student who is in good financial and academic standing is eligible to apply for this assistance. Students can obtain application forms from the Bursar's office.

Direct Deposit

Many students choose to obtain direct deposit immediately upon entering the program. When completing your New Hire paperwork for being employed by the department as a TA, Grader, or GSR you may bring a voided check to enroll in direct deposit. Or you can enroll in direct deposit for Payroll payments online. For stipend payments you can enroll in direct deposit through Student Business Services.


Students with questions about their employment at UCSD should check the financial section of the Current Grad FAQ.

Fellowship Database

Current UCSD Political Science Graduate Students may access the fellowship database online.