What You Should Know About This Degree
Doctoral degrees typically fall into two categories. A Doctor of Philosophy, or PhD, is a research-focused degree, which prepares students for engaging in high-level research and scholarship in their field of study. Professional degrees, like a Doctor of Psychology or Doctor of Nursing Practice, specialize in teaching advanced professional skills for complex careers that require a significant level of training.
Depending on your career path, a doctoral degree may be optional or required. Many individuals pursue a PhD because they want to engage in research that advances their field. Others earn this type of degree because they want to teach at the university level and be eligible for tenure-track positions.
Whatever your reasons for pursuing a PhD, it’s important to note that these programs differ from bachelor’s or master’s degrees in that they are academically rigorous and typically more self-directed than other post-secondary degrees. They typically take several years to complete, including researching and writing a dissertation, and usually have a mentorship component in which students work closely with faculty. Therefore, when researching PhD programs, students should find out what kind of support and resources the school and program offers to ensure they will be positioned for success during this process.
Here are some questions to ask when researching PhD programs:
- Am I eligible for this program? As the most advanced degree available, PhD and other doctoral programs typically have the most rigorous eligibility requirements. These requirements may include a master’s degree in a related field, work experience, and professional licenses or certifications. Be sure to review the program’s requirements before applying to ensure that you meet the basic eligibility qualifications.
- What type of financial support is available? Because earning a doctorate requires a significant time commitment from students while bringing prestige to universities for the research that PhD students perform, many universities offer fellowships and assistantships to help support students in these programs. This can include full or partial tuition, housing subsidies, and other benefits. In exchange, students may be required to teach courses or work as research assistants.
While researching PhD programs, take note of application requirements and deadlines. A typical PhD application packet will include transcripts for undergraduate and graduate coursework, writing samples, letters of recommendation, standardized test scores, and a resume, although specific requirements will vary by program. If you have any questions about the application process, contact a program or admissions representative.
Find out what financing options are available to you, including scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, grants, and loans. If you are employed, find out if your employer offers tuition assistance benefits.