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