One life-changing decision you can make is to pursue a Ph.D.; While getting a Ph.D. is a challenging journey, it can be very beneficial and rewarding in the long run in terms of employment and financial gains. 

After years of studying, finishing a bachelor’s and then a master’s degree, you might have an idea whether pursuing a Ph.D. degree is the right path for you or not. But if you’re still having doubts, keep reading the article to learn everything you need to know about what a Ph.D. entails, how long it takes, and why getting a Ph.D. is beneficial.

What Is a Ph.D. Degree?

So, what exactly is a Ph.D.? Simply put, the word Ph.D., which comes from the Latin “Philosophiae Doctor,” is an abbreviation of Doctor of Philosophy. It is a research degree in a specific field that is taken by students who already have a solid educational foundation; they have a bachelor’s as well as a master’s degree. 

A Ph.D. is essentially the highest academic qualification given to students who complete a particular program, have published scientific articles, and defended their field-specific dissertation.

It is easy to confuse a Ph.D. with a doctorate degree. People tend to make this mistake because of how similar these words sound. However, certain aspects of these degrees make them different from each other.

Although these terms are often used interchangeably in the academic world, a doctorate is a general term that includes different fields, from professional degrees to scientific disciplines. It is essentially a practice-oriented degree with a direct application to a specific career, specifically designed to equip students with the necessary skills to use their knowledge to provide solutions to existing real-world problems. A Ph.D., on the other hand, is a subclass of a doctorate degree characterized by a theoretical and research-oriented nature.

Having made the distinction between a doctorate and a Ph.D., let’s look into further specifics regarding the nature of a Ph.D. degree, such as entry requirements, coursework, and what you can do with a Ph.D. degree in terms of career opportunities.

Ph.D. degree entry requirements


If you decide to apply for a Ph.D. degree, you should know the entry requirements. While there are several entry requirements, you should keep in mind that they can vary based on the specific field of your interest. 

Before embarking on a Ph.D. journey, students should have already finished their bachelor’s and master’s studies in their field of interest. Here is a general list of the documentation requirements you must meet to be considered for admission here at University of the Potomac (UOTP):

  •  UOTP application form,
  •  Registration application form,
  •  Official transcripts from every university you attended,
  •  A master’s degree from an accredited institution,
  •  Education or professional training certificates,
  •  CV,
  •  An application essay,
  •  An interview with UOTP,
  •  GRE or MAT scores.

Ph.D. degree coursework

One question you might have regarding Ph.D. is whether it requires any coursework, and if yes, what kind of coursework. Coursework is an essential part of a Ph.D. degree. As mentioned earlier, the Ph.D. degree is a research-based degree. This means that Ph.D. students start their journey by doing advanced coursework in a particular subject which helps them identify areas of interest. 

Students must identify research areas for their dissertation or doctoral thesis. After identifying a research area, Ph.D. students work with their mentors in research, teaching, and research methodology. The dissertation, which is the final requirement, is an original research paper conducted by a Ph.D. candidate in their field of specialty that is presented to a faculty committee.

What can you do with a Ph.D. degree?

Earning a Ph.D. degree opens the door to many opportunities in both academic and non-academic careers. Most Ph.D. workers in academia have high positions, such as university deans and presidents, and their responsibilities include teaching, researching, and administrative duties.

On the other hand, the non-academic industries where Ph.D. graduates work include professional specialty or executive, managerial, and administrative occupations.

How Long Does It Take To Get a Ph.D.?


While certain Ph.D. programs take longer to complete than others, generally, Ph.D. candidates take 5 or 6 years to complete their degree.

Ph.D. timeline

Below is a general summary of the timeline of a Ph.D.:

  • Consult your advisor regarding every aspect of your Ph.D. program and its requirements;
  • The supervisory committee must be created in the first year and must hold meetings regarding the particular research project;
  •  You must take the comprehensive exam in the second year;
  •  You must conduct your dissertation research;
  • After meeting the requirements of the curriculum, a deadline for finishing the dissertation must be set;
  • Consult the whole dissertation with your advisor and select the external examiners;
  • Once your thesis is approved, you have to defend your thesis, which is done through an oral exam that lasts 2.5 to 3 hours.

Online vs. campus

You can obtain a Ph.D. degree either online or on campus. The popularity of online Ph.D. degrees is increasing day by day. The general benefits of an online degree apply to the online Ph.D. degree as well, such as flexibility, lower costs, and recognition by employers.

Before embarking on an online Ph.D. journey, you have to ensure that the online program of your choice is accredited.

Comprehensive examinations

One requirement Ph.D. students have to complete is to go through comprehensive examinations. The sole purpose of comprehensive examinations is to determine whether a Ph.D. student has acquired the necessary knowledge of a particular field of study and whether the student can be considered eligible to do original research.

The comprehensive examination has two phases, specifically the written and oral exams. The written exam tests your ability to apply your knowledge to formulate good research questions and solve research issues. The oral exam contains questions regarding your research and answers you gave on the written exam.

Ph.D. dissertation and defense

The last step towards completing your Ph.D. studies is your dissertation defense. The Ph.D. dissertation is an original research paper conducted by a Ph.D. candidate, which is then presented orally in front of a committee. In order to publicly defend the dissertation, a student must first get approval. If the defense is successful, then the paper is sent to the school’s archive, and the Ph.D. candidate receives their degree.

Why Get a Ph.D.?


Given the dedication and time required to do a Ph.D., you might naturally wonder, “Is a Ph.D. even worth all this effort?” The answer is yes. While you might have your own reasons for embarking on a Ph.D. journey, and whether they are career-oriented or financial reasons, getting a Ph.D. can be beneficial in several ways. 

Interested in pursuing a degree?

Fill out the form and get all admission information you need regarding your chosen program.

This will only take a moment.

Message Received!
Thank you for reaching out to us. We will review your message and get right back to you within 24 hours.

If there is an urgent matter and you need to speak to someone immediately you can call at the following phone number:

By clicking the Send me more information button above, I represent that I am 18+ years of age, that I have read and agreed to the Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy, and agree to receive email marketing and phone calls from UOTP. I understand that my consent is not required to apply for online degree enrollment. To speak with a representative without providing consent, please call +1 (202) 274-2300

You become an expert in the field

Ph.D. degrees are pursued only by the most passionate learners and those willing to dedicate their time and effort to it. The extensive research you will have to conduct during your Ph.D. studies will make you a better researcher by equipping you with the necessary research skills. During Ph.D. studies, you conduct research as well as explore and analyze your own areas of interest. All of this will definitely contribute to making you an expert in your field.

You have more career opportunities

As stated before, a Ph.D. degree will get you jobs in many academic and non-academic settings. There are many jobs that require a Ph.D. Some of them include the following:

  • Lawyer,
  • Research scientist,
  • Linguist,
  • Anthropologist,
  • Professor,
  • Psychiatrist, etc.

You earn a better salary

Getting a Ph.D. will help you land higher-paying jobs. According to the BLS, Ph.D. graduates have the lowest unemployment rate (which is 1.5%) among other graduates, while the salary is the highest. The weekly earnings of a Ph.D. worker are around $1,909.

Considering the Personal and Lifestyle Impacts of Pursuing a Ph.D.

When pursuing a Ph.D., it’s important to remember that it will impact your academic growth, personal life, and lifestyle. Therefore, it’s crucial to take into account these often-overlooked aspects.

Time management and work-life balance

Pursuing a Ph.D. demands rigorous time management. Balancing extensive research, demanding coursework, and personal responsibilities can be overwhelming. It’s about finding time for your studies and ensuring you don’t neglect your personal life. Effective time management strategies, such as creating a structured schedule and setting realistic goals, are essential to maintain this delicate balance.

Mental health and stress management

The path to a Ph.D. can be mentally taxing. Many students experience stress, anxiety, and even imposter syndrome. Acknowledging these challenges is the first step towards managing them. Regular self-care routines, seeking support from peers and mental health professionals, and taking breaks when necessary are vital for your mental well-being.

Financial considerations

Let’s talk finances. Pursuing a Ph.D. often means forgoing full-time employment for several years. While there are funding opportunities like scholarships and stipends, these might not cover all expenses. It’s important to plan your finances carefully, considering both the immediate costs and the long-term benefits.

Social life and relationships

Your social life is likely to take a hit during your Ph.D. studies. Long hours of research can lead to isolation, affecting your relationships. However, maintaining a healthy social life is crucial. Building a support network within your academic community and making time for family and friends can provide the necessary balance.

Personal growth and development

Despite the challenges, pursuing a Ph.D. offers unparalleled personal growth. You’ll develop both academically and in terms of problem-solving skills, resilience, and independence. These years will shape you in ways beyond the academic realm.

Long-term career and life goals

Finally, reflect on how a Ph.D. aligns with your long-term goals. This degree is not just a career move; it’s a life choice. How does it fit into your broader aspirations, both professionally and personally? Ensure that this path aligns with where you see yourself in the future.

Final Thoughts

Enrolling in a Ph.D. program is not an easy decision to make. Qualifications mentioned above might be the entry requirements; however, mental determination and dedication are the essential components for successfully completing any Ph.D. program.

Hopefully, our article will help and guide you with all the information you need to make an informed decision on whether to embark or not in a Ph.D. journey.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

What is a Ph.D. degree?

A Ph.D., or Doctor of Philosophy, is a research degree and the highest academic qualification in a specific field. It requires a solid educational foundation, typically including a bachelor’s and a master’s degree, and involves completing a program, publishing scientific articles, and defending a field-specific dissertation.

How is a Ph.D. different from a doctorate?

While often used interchangeably, a doctorate is a general term encompassing various degrees in different fields, including professional and scientific disciplines. A Ph.D. is a subclass of a doctorate, characterized by its theoretical and research-oriented nature.

What are the entry requirements for a Ph.D. degree?

Requirements can vary but generally include a completed bachelor’s and master’s degree in the field of interest, official transcripts from previous universities, a CV, an application essay, GRE or MAT scores, and an interview.

Does a Ph.D. require coursework?

Yes, Ph.D. programs typically start with advanced coursework in a specific subject, helping students identify research areas for their dissertation or thesis.

What career opportunities are available with a Ph.D. degree?

Ph.D. holders can pursue high positions in academia (like university deans and presidents) or various professional roles in non-academic sectors, including law, research science, linguistics, anthropology, psychiatry, etc.

What is the Ph.D. dissertation and defense process?

The dissertation is an original research paper conducted by the Ph.D. candidate. After getting approval, the candidate defends their dissertation orally in front of a committee. Successful defense leads to the degree being awarded and the paper archived by the school.