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  1. Blog
  2. Inclusive Benefits
  3. Last updated April 23, 2024

Stipend: 8 Common Types, How They Work & How to Negotiate Them

Nope, it’s not a salary

Woman researching stipends
Photo courtesy of Amel Majanovic

Stipends have taken on an increasingly pivotal role in shaping the landscape of employment and education. As you navigate the complexities of the modern job market, understanding the significance of stipends can greatly impact your financial wellbeing and career trajectory. Stipends serve as more than just additional compensation—they are vital resources that support various aspects of your professional and personal development, ranging from covering living expenses during internships to facilitating ongoing education and skill enhancement.

In today's competitive market, the availability and negotiation of stipends can significantly influence your decision-making process when considering job offers, educational opportunities, or research endeavors. Let's delve deeper into the importance of stipends and how they can impact your journey toward success.

What is a stipend?

A stipend is a fixed amount of money that someone receives to pay for living costs, educational support, or professional development while serving in a particular role. When stipends cover living costs, they are typically offered to students, interns, or apprentices. But in professional capacities, stipends can be a benefit—something employees receive in addition to their salary or wages. 

Stipends for living expenses

Stipends are usually for those in trainee roles where the student or trainee is expected to gain more from the experience than the employer will. Basically, it’s money for you to live on while your job is to learn. (An exception to this rule are Peace Corps volunteers, who, though they are contributing in a substantial way, are paid a small monthly stipend.)

For example, graduate students often receive stipends that help cover living expenses while they’re studying or working as a research assistant. They aren’t technically being paid to be a student, but they are receiving funds to offset living expenses, like food and rent.

How does a stipend work?

The way a stipend works can vary depending on the organization. Stipends can be paid either as a lump sum or on a monthly basis. The payments are a fixed amount not based on hours, performance, or a negotiated salary.

Most stipends are fixed amounts, so it’s unlikely you'll be able to negotiate your way into a larger stipend, regardless of how talented or qualified you might be.

Stipends might also vary from year to year or semester to semester. It all depends on the changes in the budget and your employment or student status. Find out who makes the budget decisions for your stipend. You can ask them about what criteria you need to meet to maintain your funding—or get even more.

Read more: How to Get a Job After College: The Complete Start-to-Finish Guide

Is a stipend different than a salary?

Short answer: yes. A salary is pay for your time and expertise, a stipend is a fixed amount designed to offset a certain cost. And a stipend can be paid in a lump sum, while a salary is generally paid monthly. Salaries are also generally larger. A lot larger.

Read more: Everything You Need to Know About the Work-Study Program

What kinds of stipends exist? Here are 8 common ones

Each type of stipend serves a specific purpose and reflects different aspects of employee compensation and support. Understanding the various stipend options available can help you make informed decisions about your career and negotiate effectively with your employer.

1. Internship stipend

This type of stipend is often provided to interns during their tenure with a company. It's a fixed amount of money given periodically (usually monthly) to help cover living expenses or offset the costs associated with the internship. Internship stipends can vary widely depending on factors like location, industry, and the company's budget.

2. Research stipend

If you're engaged in research activities as part of your job, your employer might offer a research stipend. This stipend supports your research efforts by covering expenses such as travel, equipment, or materials necessary for your projects. It's meant to facilitate your work and ensure that you have the resources you need to succeed.

3. Education stipend

Some employers provide education stipends to support their employees' ongoing learning and professional development. This could cover tuition fees, textbooks, or other educational expenses related to courses, workshops, or degree programs that are relevant to your job. Education stipends demonstrate a company's commitment to investing in its employees' growth and skills enhancement.

4. Housing stipend

Particularly common in industries like consulting or for employees who need to relocate for a job, a housing stipend helps cover the costs of housing in a new location. It's designed to ease the financial burden of moving or living in an area with a high cost of living. Housing stipends may be provided as a lump sum or as regular payments over a specified period.

5. Travel stipend

If your job involves frequent travel, your employer may offer a travel stipend to cover expenses such as airfare, accommodation, meals, and transportation while you're away from home. This stipend ensures that you can focus on your work without worrying about the financial aspects of traveling. It's especially common in roles that require attending conferences, client meetings, or fieldwork.

6. Professional development stipend

Similar to an education stipend but broader in scope, a professional development stipend supports activities aimed at enhancing your skills, knowledge, and career advancement. This could include attending conferences, workshops, seminars, or obtaining professional certifications relevant to your field. It's a way for employers to invest in their employees' long-term success and growth within the company.

7. Remote work stipend

With the rise of remote work, some employers offer stipends specifically tailored to support remote employees. This could include reimbursement for home office equipment, internet expenses, or co-working space memberships. A remote work stipend acknowledges the additional costs and challenges associated with working from home and aims to create a more productive and comfortable remote work environment.

8. Performance-based stipend

In addition to regular salary or bonuses, some companies offer performance-based stipends as a way to reward exceptional performance or achievement of specific goals. These stipends are usually tied to measurable outcomes or key performance indicators (KPIs) and serve as an incentive for employees to strive for excellence in their work. Performance-based stipends can vary in amount and frequency depending on individual and team performance.

Are stipends taxable?

Is a stipend taxable? Well, yes…and no. A stipend is not considered a wage, so federal taxes like social security and medicare are not deducted.

But a stipend is considered income and it is taxed as such. Employers or educational institutions do not withhold income tax from stipends on your behalf, so it’s a good idea to set aside some money for taxes as you’re paid.

Read more: A Beginner’s Guide to Investing

What else should you know about stipends?

A stipend is designed to be used for living expenses, educational support, professional development, or other specific costs, so payment varies depending on the funds you're receiving. For living expenses, you’ll likely get the money in cash or via direct deposit to use as you see fit. Whether you need it for gas, a new computer, rent, or groceries, etc., you get to choose where the stipend funds are most needed. For other costs, you might pay upfront and expense the cost to your employer. (Save your receipts!)

It is also important to note that stipend pay, when it is the sole payment received, is not required to meet minimum wage requirements, and amounts can vary wildly. So if you’re a student comparing internships, you may find that similar companies offer very different stipends (be wary of unpaid internships). This is something to keep in mind as you compare offers, programs, and costs of living.

Read more: 9 High-Paying Jobs for College Students

How do you negotiate a stipend?

Negotiating a stipend requires tact, preparation, and clear communication. Here's a step-by-step guide along with example language you could use when negotiating a job offer:

1. Research the market

Understand the typical range for stipends in your field, considering factors such as location, industry, and level of experience.

2. Assess your needs

Determine your financial needs and the specific expenses you anticipate incurring. This will help you identify a reasonable target for your stipend.

3. Highlight your value

Emphasize your skills, experience, and the value you bring to the organization. Demonstrate how investing in you through a higher stipend will benefit the company.

4. Initiate the negotiation

Express your enthusiasm for the job offer and your interest in joining the company. Politely inquire about the possibility of negotiating the stipend.

5. Present your case

Provide specific reasons why you believe a higher stipend is warranted. This could include the cost of living in the area, the level of responsibility in the role, or comparable stipends offered by other employers.

6. Be flexible

While it's important to advocate for yourself, be open to compromise. Consider alternative forms of compensation or benefits if the employer is unable to meet your desired stipend.

7. Request time to consider

If needed, ask for time to review the offer and discuss it with trusted advisors before making a decision.

Example language to use when negotiating a stipend

Example 1

"Thank you for extending the job offer to me. I'm thrilled about the opportunity to join your team and contribute to [company's mission/goals]. Before I accept, I was hoping we could discuss the stipend offered. Based on my research and the cost of living in the area, I believe a slightly higher stipend would better align with my financial needs and the level of responsibility in the role. Would it be possible to revisit the stipend amount?"

Example 2

"I appreciate the offer and the opportunity to join [company name]. As I consider this opportunity, I wanted to discuss the stipend component. Given my experience and the industry standards, I was hoping we could explore the possibility of adjusting the stipend to better reflect my contributions and the value I'll bring to the team."

Example 3

"I'm excited about the prospect of working with [company name] and contributing to its success. However, I'd like to discuss the stipend offered as I believe it's an important aspect of the overall compensation package. Considering [specific factors such as cost of living, responsibilities, etc.], I'm wondering if there's room for negotiation on the stipend amount."

Remember to maintain a positive and professional tone throughout the negotiation process, and focus on finding a mutually beneficial solution.

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