From the APA Science Student Council

External Research Funding Sources for Graduate Students

With universities cutting research budgets, students are seeking funding from these and other sources of external funding.

By Nisha Gottfredson

As universities work to reign in spending due to budget cuts, it is becoming increasingly difficult for graduate students to find internal funding resources for research. It may now be necessary to search for funding sources that are external to your university. Here are some ideas for how graduate students can locate external funding for research.

Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) for Predoctoral Fellows

The predoctoral NRSA typically provides tuition and stipends to students working on their dissertation for the last 2-3 years of graduate training. Your research proposal needs to be sponsored by at least one research mentor at your institution, and should align with a mission of at least one of the branches of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Proposals are submitted to the NIH for grant review, which can go through multiple rounds.

The Graduate Research Fellowship offered by the National Science Foundation

The National Science Foundation (NSF) offers three years of full support for graduate students to conduct research for their master’s or doctoral degrees. Similar to the NRSA, successful NSF applicants exhibit strong individual research potential. The NSF favors research topics that are cross-disciplinary and innovative.

Department of Homeland Security Scholarship and Fellowship Program

If your doctoral research relates to the mission of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), you are eligible to apply for their graduate student fellowship, which supplies full tuition and a stipend for three years. Award recipients are required to attend a 10-week off-campus research internship at DHS or a DHS-affiliated facility after the first year of funding. An additional year of service in a DHS-related field of research is required following completion of the fellowship; however, this requirement can be met through traditional post-graduate work. Examples of potential DHS-related psychological research include: research on human factors, risk and decision making, understanding the psychology of terrorists, or psychological recovery from trauma.

American Psychological Association Early Graduate Student Researcher Award

Graduate students who have demonstrated the capacity and motivation to conduct high-quality research within their first three years of graduate school are eligible to apply for award funding through the APA Science Student Council’s Early Graduate Student Researcher Award (EGSRA). Winning applicants demonstrate a high level of academic independence and motivation in their research, and must not have completed more than three years of graduate school. The award is $1,000.

American Psychological Association Dissertation Research Award

APA offers 30-40 $1000 grants to support graduate students with their dissertation research, as well as several larger grants of up to $5000.

American Psychological Foundation/Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology Graduate Research Scholarships in Psychology

If you need extra funding to support research for your master’s thesis or doctoral dissertation, and if your department belongs to the Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology (COGDOP), you may apply for an APF/COGDOP scholarship. Scholarships range from $1000 to $5000. There are limits on the number of students from the same department who can receive the award in the same year. Review criteria are based on the soundness of the research proposal, and it is preferred that the funds be used to conduct research (rather than to travel or buy books).

American Psychological Association Graduate Students Basic Psychological Science Research Grant

APAGS provides $1000 of funding for students conducting basic science research in the following areas: Cognitive, Cognitive Neuroscience, Computational, Developmental, Experimental or Comparative, Industrial/Organizational, Neuropsychology, Neuroscience, Perception and Psychophysics, Personality and Individual Differences, Psycholinguistics, Physiological, Quantitative, and Social. Grants are awarded on the basis of the quality of the research proposal, and may be used to conduct master’s theses, dissertations, or other graduate student research.

Additional Suggestions

  • Many individual APA divisions provide dissertation awards. Check your division website to determine whether this is true for you, as well as any specialized organizations, societies, or associations to which you belong.

  • APAGS offers a variety of graduate student awards.

  • Also, continue checking for new funding opportunities in this monthly newsletter.


Nisha Gottfredson is a fourth year graduate student in the Quantitative Psychology program at the University of North Carolina. She receives NRSA funding to study approaches for handling nonignorable missing data.