Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - December 2012
Ph.D. stands for “Doctor of Philosophy”, also known as a “Doctorate” or “Doctoral program.” No, it doesn’t mean you’re a medical doctor, or you have studied philosophy: you can earn a Ph.D. in a variety of subjects in both the humanities and sciences. It’s an advanced degree pursued following completion of a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Depending upon the program, a Ph.D. can take three to eight years to complete.
To gain acceptance to a Ph.D. program you will need to demonstrate significant coursework or life experience in the area you are planning to study. For example, if you’d like to get a Ph.D. in English literature but you were a bio-chemistry major as an undergraduate you may need to take a certain amount of classes in English literature and possibly demonstrate interest in the field by doing some independent blogging or writing. Publishing scholarly research in your area of interest may also work in your favor.
Ph.D. programs usually have a variety of requirements which might include:
*Coursework in areas related to your field of study
American Ph.D. programs often involve performing research, providing services as a teaching or research assistant, or working under the supervision of a seasoned professional in a practicum setting. Some opportunities such as providing services as a teaching or research may help you defray the cost of tuition by providing a stipend.
Typically, after several years of coursework and research Ph.D. candidates focus on writing a dissertation, which usually consists of original research. Dissertation lengths vary according to the discipline but they can range anywhere from 50-500 pages. Also, in order to prove competence in your field, students may be required to pass oral and written examinations.
Why would you pursue a Ph.D.? Perhaps you are interested in teaching at the undergraduate or graduate level, or you might be motivated by your passion for the subject you’re studying. Maybe you’re most comfortable in an academic setting, where the constant pursuit of knowledge, research, and enlightened discussion is commonplace. Whatever the reason, remember it’s a significant investment of both time and money. You should have solid reasons for wanting to acquire those three initials following your name.