A doctor of philosophy, abbreviated as Ph.D., is the highest level of academic degree that any person can achieve. It prepares those who undertake it for research and faculty positions at universities. In order to earn a degree, you will need to do advanced coursework, exams, and dissertation analyzing the original research. A doctorate degree is different from the medical doctorate degree (often abbreviated as M.D.) since you can attain it basically in any subject area. In most states, for instance, licensed psychologists are required to hold a Ph.D. in psychology. In this article, we discuss what you must do in order to obtain a Ph.D.

How to earn a doctorate degree
For someone to earn a Ph.D. in their field of study, they will be required to master basically everything in that subject area. In one word, you can summarize Ph.D. simply as research. The number of people who earn this degree is less than 1% of the population, according to statistics from Purdue University. Typically, the product can take between 3 and 8 years to complete.

A. How to apply for the program
If you are interested in earning Ph.D. degree and joining the select few who have this highest academic degree, you must have a bachelor’s degree. In most cases, you will also be required to hold a master’s degree before you apply to study for your Ph.D. However, there are instances when you can be allowed to enroll for your Ph.D. degree without the Master’s degree and earn it midway in your doctorate program.

Before you apply, you will be required to furnish the admitting authorities with transcripts from past postsecondary schools, a statement of purpose as well as letters of recommendations from professional referees. Many colleges also insist on candidates first taking GRE test (Graduate Record Examination). Other exams and writing samples may also be needed.

B. Course Requirements
Ph.D. programs, quite unlike bachelor’s or master’s programs that tend to have coursework requirements that are clearly defined, are less structured. Generally, grades will not be given for classes or assignments and students are required to pass qualifying examinations at certain specified times in the course of their programs.

The duration of a doctorate program is mainly determined by dissertation research. This explains why there is such a big gap in completion times. It normally ranges from 3-8 years. Generally, it is the Ph.D. advisor that determines graduation requirements. It is the same person that will assess progress towards those requirements. Majority of Ph.D. students take teaching assistantship jobs to instruct undergraduates during their doctoral degree programs.

C. Research Requirements
Other than the coursework and teaching, a doctorate program also includes carrying out original research, and this is in most cases in the lab of the faculty advisor. Doctoral students need to choose an advisor or a team of such advisors at the program outlet to guide them in their Ph.D. studies. At the end of each year, doctorate degree program students have a meeting with their advisor to assess their progress of the program. Progress can also be tracked through oral and written examinations.

D. Dissertation
The dissertation is a very important feature of doctorate programs. All students are required to conduct original research as well as write a dissertation. A dissertation can be defined is a scholarly work with the same length as a book. The program ends with the successful defense of the findings of the dissertation which is done by a faculty committee which also includes the advisor.

Things you need to consider before you apply for a Ph.D. program.

a. School expenses
You need to consider what a Ph.D. program will cost you in the long run. FinAid.org states that around 35% of students that pursue Ph.D. borrow cash to fund their education. Upon graduating, the average cumulative debt that these students will owe is $45,000. Before you enroll, therefore, be sure that the salary you earn is able to help you repay the debt in reasonable time.

b. Fellowships and Scholarships
You need to look for colleges and schools that have sufficient scholarship and fellowship opportunities. You can also offset doctoral education costs through teaching assistantships. If you qualify for these opportunities, you will not have to pay back the money. You may want to contact schools that you are interested in to know if Ph.D. students can get this kind of funding when enrolled.

c. Online or On-Campus Programs
Enrolling in online or on-campus has their own perks. Although campus-based Ph.D. programs offer the more traditional means of obtaining a doctoral degree, programs administered online offer convenience as well as flexibility, especially for the working professionals. There are also some Ph.D. programs provided in a hybrid format. Under such programs, class conferences or mandatory workshops are held on the campus grounds while educational coursework is done through distance learning.

Some questions to ask oneself before enrolling.

Do you want a career in research?
You need to consider your long-term goals carefully before you enroll for a Ph.D. program. Basically, earning a doctorate degree is research training. This is why you need to ask yourself if your long-term goal is to become a researcher.

Are you interested in the academic position?
People who enroll for Ph.D. are basically university professors. In fact, most universities and colleges require that each of their faculty members hold a doctorate degree as this enables them to involve themselves in research. Therefore, if you want to end up teaching at a university or college, this is the perfect thing to do.

Are you up to it?
This is a rigorous undertaking and you need to be absolutely sure that you have what it takes before you enroll for a doctorate program. Use the following guide to assess your capabilities.

Intelligence: Were you nearer to the top or bottom of your classroom during your college or graduate courses? How did you perform on your GRE or any other standardized tests?

Time: Are you ready to handle a project that is way larger than what you have handled in the past? You will need to commit to several years of nothing but hard work. It goes without saying that you must be willing to forego or reduce your other activities.

Intense curiosity: Do you have a burning desire to better understand your world and also discover how things work? The research will be much easier if you have a natural curiosity.

Other things you need to consider are self-motivation, adaptability, maturity, and competitiveness.

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