Finishing a master’s degree is quite the achievement, and most people reasonably choose to stop there. However, if you’re dedicated to your specialized field, you may feel the need to take your education a step further. 

This next step and the culmination of all your years in education results in getting a Ph.D. But what exactly is a Ph.D., how do you get one, and most importantly, how long does a Ph.D. take?

These questions and every other detail will be covered in the following paragraphs of this article.

What Is a Ph.D. Degree?

A Ph.D. is a doctorate degree, and anyone who gets it is considered a Doctor of Philosophy. However, this does not mean that you’ve studied philosophy; it simply means, as translated from ancient Greek, that you’re a lover of wisdom. Nice. 

It is the most advanced degree one can earn, representing dedication and focus on a specialized study area or profession. 

Ph.D. degree entry requirements

Contrary to popular belief, anyone willing to get a Ph.D. can get one, not only geniuses. Having said that, you do need to complete some requirements to be eligible for a Ph.D., and below you’ll find the most crucial ones. 

Academic qualifications: First and foremost, you’ll have to perform well at the undergraduate level. Afterward, due to the standards in many universities worldwide, you’ll also need a Master’s degree

Suitability: After getting your Master’s, you’ll need to check if what you’ve been studying until then matches your potential Ph.D. degree. 

Residency: In most cases, you’ll need to live in the same country your research and university are in, so you’ll have to apply for a residency permit or any other relevant document. 

Language: If your research for a Ph.D. is being conducted in a language other than your first, you’ll need to go through some proficiency exams to showcase your capability and understanding of the language. 

Ph.D. degree coursework

phd-degree-courseworkEven though a Ph.D. degree focuses on research, you won’t be locked away and surrounded by books 24/7. Like bachelor’s and master’s degrees, a Ph.D. is taken by finishing many courses/credits. 

Usually, students begin with advanced core classes focused on writing methods, research skills, applied statistics, and analysis to set a foundation for future research. Afterward, they go through more specific courses to focus on their desired field of study. Throughout the years spent towards a Ph.D., students also take electives that help in broadening perspectives.

Most Ph.D. programs require 120 credit hours to be completed, amounting to about 40 classes. 

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

While getting a Ph.D. may seem tiring and demanding, the benefits are endless. Opportunities for work in any company or organization you want are immensely higher, and everyone will know your enthusiasm and intensity towards your duties. 

Some of the jobs one can do with a Ph.D. degree are:

  • Higher education professor
  • Researcher in a specialized field
  • Specialist medical practitioner
  • Clinical psychologist

How To Get a Ph.D.

how-long-does-a-phd-takeHere are some easy tips and tricks to getting a… hold on; there’s no such thing as easy when it comes to getting a Ph.D. There are some essential steps on how to get a Ph.D., however, and we’ll be going into detail for each of them below.

Complete an undergraduate degree

Obviously, an undergraduate degree or a bachelor’s is crucial in building a base of knowledge and research skills. No matter what direction your field of specialization takes, a bachelor’s will help you organize time, work alone and with other people, and showcase that you can finish something if you put your mind to it. An undergraduate degree is usually completed in 3 to 4 years. 

Complete a master’s degree

A master’s degree is for those who want to learn more about a particular field and gain some needed experience. Because it aims to focus all senses on one topic, a master’s degree is more detailed and requires more attention, considering that students will be done in only two years.

Enroll in a Ph.D.

Finishing a bachelor’s and master’s and the other requirements mentioned earlier makes you eligible to enroll in a Ph.D. Additionally, the university will check your credentials, and you’ll have to convince them of your interest and devotion to that area of study through your research proposal, interview, and references. 

Complete the coursework and graduate

If you thought the journey to being accepted was challenging, here’s where the fun part begins! You’ve gathered all the knowledge you could throughout your years at undergraduate and graduate levels, and the Ph.D. program is where you finally put it to use. “It” being your extraordinary brain and intelligence, which you’ll utilize to finish courses, network with people, conduct your research, and finally graduate. 

How Long Does a Ph.D. Take?

how-to-get-a-phdA Ph.D. commonly takes 3-5 years to be finished, depending on how much time you allocate to your studies. Want more details? Then continue reading.

Ph.D. timeline

Here’s a detailed timeline of what you’ll be doing each year as you approach your graduation. 

  • Year 1: Enroll and complete advanced courses.
  • Year 2: Complete advanced courses and prepare for your comprehensive exams.
  • Year 3: Study, take, and defend the comprehensive exams. Start researching your dissertation proposal.
  • Year 4: Submit your dissertation proposal to the committee chair and, if approved, begin working on your dissertation.
  • Year 5: Write your dissertation and submit it for committee approval. Defend your dissertation and apply for graduation.

Online vs. campus

While most people believe that finishing any university level online is not genuinely graduating, recent global events have changed those opinions. Getting a Ph.D. online follows the same traditional trajectory outlined above, yet it has some exciting benefits. 

Faster progress: With online universities usually holding eight-week courses, you could be getting a Ph.D. much quicker than average, in only about 3-4 years. 

Flexibility: With you not having to go to campus, your studying schedule can be arranged to your liking and capabilities. 

Cost-saving: Finishing doctoral studies in fewer years means paying less tuition. 

Equal status: If your online university is accredited, potential employers will value your diploma just as much as a traditional one. 

Comprehensive examinations

Comprehensive exams determine if the student is ready for a doctoral project and able to make an original contribution to their area of research. These exams are taken in written or oral form, and most universities allow students to retake them if they don’t pass the first time.

Ph.D. dissertation and defense

This phase usually takes much longer to complete than the other requirements of a Ph.D. Researching and writing a dissertation takes considerable time because students have to make an original and notable contribution to whatever they’re studying. This stage typically lasts 13 to 19 months.

Final Thoughts

Whether or not a Ph.D. is for you is a question only you can answer. It’s difficult, requires a lot of time and attention, and takes up years that could be spent advancing in a career. 

However, a doctorate is a serious commitment and a significant accomplishment once finished. What’s even more impressive is the incredible return on investment; you’ll get every job opportunity you’ll ever want and be able to work in your dream profession at the highest level. There are more upsides than downsides, but the only thing left to do for you is to decide if you need it or not. 

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