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How to Prepare for a PhD as an Undergraduate

Last Updated: September 1, 2021 References

This article was co-authored by Carrie Adkins, PhD . Carrie Adkins is the cofounder of NursingClio, an open access, peer-reviewed, collaborative blog that connects historical scholarship to current issues in gender and medicine. She completed her PhD in American History at the University of Oregon in 2013. While completing her PhD, she earned numerous competitive research grants, teaching fellowships, and writing awards. This article has been viewed 77,353 times.

Getting a PhD is highly rewarding and equally tasking. You should get to know as far in advance as possible that there is a good amount of prep work to do. That said, you can begin planning for your PhD as early as freshman or sophomore year of undergrad. Preparing for a PhD requires you to plan, work hard and study hard, and getting to know the people around you.

Choosing the Path You Want

Step 1 Talk to your professors.

  • Don't approach any professor at random. Look at the department you’re interested in, review who is teaching what, what their specific area of study is, and then contact them. For example, if you’re interested in linguistics you would go to the linguistics department website and look under the faculty tab. Here you will find a bio for each professor that can help you choose one or two professors to talk to.
  • If you send an email, start with “Dear Professor Smith,” then ask if you can meet to ask questions about pursuing a PhD in linguistics. Sign the email with a cordial closing like “sincerely" and your name.
  • If you go to their office hours, show up when the hours begin, politely knock on the door (even if it’s already open), and introduce yourself. You can say something like, “Hello Professor Smith, I am John Public and I’m interested in getting a PhD in linguistics. I’d like to ask you a few questions about the process. Is this a good time for you?”
  • Don’t try to talk at length with the professor after class. They likely have another class or something already scheduled. What you can do, however, is inquire about setting a meeting, and then follow up with an email about the details.

Step 2 Meet with grad students.

  • A good way to meet a current grad student is to contact a professor and ask for a list of people who would be willing to meet up with you. Then you can email the student directly to ask if they would be free to meet up over lunch or a cup of coffee. During the meeting be sure to thank them for taking the time to meet with you. Most importantly, you need to come with a list of questions you have about grad school, and also be open to listen to any advice they have to give that isn’t on your question list.
  • For example, you might ask “how much does grad school cost, and how do I pay for it?”, or inquire about what is required of them. You might also ask, “what are the best and worst things about grad school?” And also, “how do you handle the workload?”

Step 3 Know what you want to do.

  • Make sure you also think about whether you want to get a PhD to work as an academic (i.e. a professor) or in the private sector. [2] X Research source Both paths can be rewarding, but the prep work can be wildly different. For example, an associate professor teaching psychology at a university will require a significant publication record, but going into private practice or working for the government requires much less.

Performing Well Academically

Step 1 Work as hard as you can.

  • Do you remember the semester you decided to take the extra class, suffered the loss of your childhood pet, or thought sleeping through geology was a good idea? The group of professors on the selection panel will understand one or two grade discrepancies on your transcript. After all, they were undergrads too. The panel will be less likely to overlook frequent or repeated bad grades and withdraws (classes marked by a W on your transcript), even if they are in non-major courses or general prerequisites.
  • To work as hard as you can, do homework and study on a daily basis. When you don’t understand the material, go to your professor’s office hours with specific questions and examples of what you don’t get. Also, don’t be afraid to go to the tutoring center or hire a private tutor. This will provide detailed, first-hand help with the course material.

Step 2 Take the right classes.

  • General education classes are designed to provide a well-rounded, general education that gets you ready for more specific courses. These classes are required at the University level for all students to complete. For example, you’ll likely need to complete freshman level English classes, a few science courses, and perhaps writing classes.
  • Major classes are more specific courses that the major or department requires. If you’re a language major, you’re likely required to take a general linguistics class, several survey courses in literature and culture, and depending on the state you go to school in, you’ll have to pass a language-specific written and oral test. These requirements are put in place to make sure that you will be ready to take graduate-level courses and perform well.
  • Many universities also offer cross-listed classes, which are courses open to both graduate and undergraduate students. Take a few of these to get an idea of the work you’ll be doing. This is also a great way to meet grad students and make your introduction.

Step 3 Study for the big exam.

  • There are several ways to prepare for the GRE or other important entrance exams. The most obvious but often overlooked is to work hard throughout your undergrad education. This means study early for each class and study often.
  • Many people find it helpful to buy test preparation materials to study for the exam. For example, you can purchase GRE prep manuals from Kaplan, ETS, or The Princeton Review. You can usually find online or in-print materials available. Often the materials can be used in conjunction with a class that is meant to prepare you for the exam. These same companies also likely have courses available.
  • If you’re looking to seal the deal, try hiring a tutor who is trained in test preparation. There are several national companies like Wyzant, Varsity Tutors, and Sylvan who have tutors trained in this area. It’s also likely that there are many local companies who offer the same services. Finally, check with your college or university’s student services center, as they may have several on-campus options.

Step 4 Ask for letters of recommendation.

  • You need to ask the right person. Ask a full-time faculty member who is an assistant, associate, or full professor. Many times the person teaching your introduction course, the principles of economics class, or the first 4 or 5 semesters of most language courses is a graduate teaching assistant, and their letter will not carry as much weight as would that of a faculty member. Ask for letters of recommendation usually toward the end off your junior year, when you’re filling out the applications.
  • Give the person at least three weeks to write the letter if possible. Professors usually have to teach, perform research, grade, serve on multiple committees, advise students, and go to department meetings, so providing sufficient time is best. However, if an important grant or new opening at a PhD program comes up and you’re in good standing with your psycholinguistics professor, go ahead and ask politely for a letter of recommendation. The worst thing they could say is no.

Gaining Experience

Step 1 Take a lot of appropriate classes.

  • Several options exist for learning a new language. One of them is to take classes in a language at the university you are already attending. You can also take courses at private language schools in your area, study with language learning software like Rosetta Stone or Fluenz, use a language learning app on your phone like Duolingo or Babbel, or hire a private language coach.
  • Regardless of which option you choose, be sure to bolster your skills with practice. You can practice your language skills by watching movies, listening to music, joining a local club or society, and hiring a conversation partner.

Step 3 Get research experience.

  • You can get research experience by applying for part-time positions in a laboratory, department, or a related job outside the university. For example, if you want to study cognitive development, you can apply to work in a psychology lab, a medical center that specializes in cognitive disorders, or even volunteer in the psychology department.
  • Other opportunities include paid or unpaid internships, which can be found in a variety of places. For example, legal offices, court houses, large medical centers, museums, and many more places usually have many openings. Be careful though, these positions may fill fast, so be on the look out.

Step 4 Acquire skills related to your field.

  • There are a lot of ways to improve organizational skills. For example, focus on a few skills at a time, like improving time management. [5] X Research source You can also work on learning to set priorities, doing what’s more important first and saving less crucial tasks for later. [6] X Research source

Step 6 Apply early.

Expert Q&A

Carrie Adkins, PhD

  • Hold out for a top choice, instead of settling for a program that doesn't meet your needs. If you don't get in one year, wait and try again. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • You don't have to carry straight on from your undergraduate degree to postgraduate studies. Consider other alternatives, like take a year out to travel or spend some time in the work force. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Graduate school can be all about research. Once you've met the GPA requirements for your school, research credentials carry extra weight. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • It takes a lot of mental strength to cope up with the demands of graduate school, like the grueling pace, taking large amounts of well-intended criticism, or meeting pushy people. For that reason, every college and university has a student services center that provides counseling services, usually free for students, or already covered under most health insurances. Thanks Helpful 2 Not Helpful 0
  • Getting a PhD is a huge time commitment. Make sure you’re committed and passionate. Thanks Helpful 3 Not Helpful 1
  • Make sure you are certain a PhD is for you. It may sound like fun and being able to put Dr in front of your name may sound great, but this time-consuming process may be too expensive. Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0

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  • ↑ https://www.academics.com/prepare-for-a-phd
  • ↑ http://blogs.plos.org/thestudentblog/2014/04/22/faqs-about-non-academic-jobs-jane-hu/
  • ↑ http://www.asha.org/public/speech/development/The-Advantages-of-Being-Bilingual/
  • ↑ https://www.postgrad.com/advice/phd/how_to_prepare/top-tips/
  • ↑ http://www.briantracy.com/blog/time-management/mastering-time-management-and-organizational-skills-to-increase-productivity/
  • ↑ http://www.mtdtraining.com/blog/how-to-improve-organisational-skills-to-reduce-stress.htm

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What is a PhD? Advice for PhD students

How long does it take to get a doctorate degree how do you get into grad school are you qualified to do a phd answers to these questions and more.

PhD, doctorate

What is a PhD?

A PhD, which stands for “doctor of philosophy”, is the most advanced academic degree. It’s earned through extensive research on a specific topic, demonstrating expertise and contributing new knowledge to the field.

What does “PhD” mean?

The term “PhD” is often used as a synonym for any doctoral-level qualification. Doctorate degrees can often be split into two categories: MPhil and PhD.

An MPhil is similar to a PhD as it includes a research element (which is usually shorter and less in-depth than a PhD thesis, and often more akin to a dissertation undertaken at undergraduate or master’s level). 

MPhil students focus more on interpreting existing knowledge and theory and critically evaluating other people’s work rather than producing their own research. The precise nature and definition of an MPhil can vary among institutions and countries. 

A PhD, meanwhile, follows a more widely known and traditional route and requires students, often referred to as “candidates”, to produce their own work and research on a new area or topic to a high academic standard.

PhD requirements vary significantly among countries and institutions. The PhD, once completed, grants the successful candidate the title of “doctor of philosophy”, also called PhD or DPhil.

What is a professional doctorate?

A professional doctorate is a kind of degree that helps people become experts in their fields. Instead of focusing mainly on theory and research like a regular PhD, a professional doctorate is all about practical skills and knowledge.

This kind of doctorate is great for students who want to get better at their jobs in areas like teaching, healthcare, business, law or psychology. The courses and projects in these programmes are designed to tackle real problems you might face at work.

For example, you might have heard of the doctor of education (EdD), doctor of business administration (DBA), doctor of psychology (PsyD) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP). These programmes combine learning, hands-on projects and sometimes a thesis paper or essay to show you’re skilled at solving on-the-job challenges.

How long does it take to study a PhD?

The time required to complete a PhD can vary significantly based on several factors. Generally, a full-time PhD programme takes around three to six years to finish. However, it’s important to take into account individual circumstances and the nature of the research involved.

1. Full-time vs. part-time: If you’re studying full-time, dedicating most of your time to your studies, it usually takes about three to four years to complete a PhD. However, studying part-time while managing other commitments might extend the duration. Part-time PhDs can take around six to eight years, and sometimes even longer.

2. Nature of research: The complexity of your research proposal can influence the time required. Certain research questions may involve intricate experiments, extensive data collection or in-depth analysis, potentially leading to a longer completion timeline.

3. Field of study: The subject area you’re researching can also affect the necessary time. Some fields, such as sciences or engineering, might involve more hands-on work, while theoretical subjects might require more time for literature review and analysis.

4. Supervision and support: The guidance and availability of your academic supervisor can affect the pace of your research progress. Regular meetings and effective communication can help keep your studies on track.

5. Thesis writing: While the research phase is crucial, the stage of writing your thesis is equally significant. Organising and presenting your research findings in a clear and cohesive manner can take several months.

6. External commitments: Personal commitments, such as work, family or health-related factors, can influence your study time. Some students need to balance these alongside their PhD studies, potentially extending the duration.

7. External Funding: The availability of funding can also affect your study duration. Some funding might be linked to specific project timelines or research objectives.

So, although a PhD usually takes between three and six years of full-time study, with potential variations based on research complexity, enrolment as part-time or full-time, field of study and personal circumstances. It’s vital to have a realistic understanding of these factors when planning your PhD journey.

How long is a PhD in the UK?

In the UK, the length of a PhD programme typically ranges from three to four years of full-time study. As explained above, there are many factors to consider.

How long is a PhD in the US?

Similarly to the UK, in the United States, the duration of a PhD programme can vary widely depending on the field of study, research topic and individual circumstances. On average, a full-time PhD programme in the US typically takes between five and six years to complete.

Why does it take longer to study a PhD in the US?

PhD programmes generally take longer to complete in the US than in the UK due to various factors in the education systems and programme structures of each country:

1. Programme structure: UK PhD programmes often emphasise early, focused research from the first year, leading to shorter completion times. In contrast, US programmes commonly include more initial coursework in your first and second year and broader foundational training, which can extend the overall duration.

2. Course work requirements: Many US PhD programmes require a lot of course work, which can lengthen the time needed to finish. UK programmes tend to have fewer or no course work demands, allowing students to concentrate primarily on research skills.

3. Research funding: In the UK, PhD funding is often awarded with specific timeframes in mind, motivating completion of the research degree in the agreed duration. In the US, funding approaches can vary, requiring students to secure funding from multiple sources, potentially affecting their progress and completion time.

4. Teaching responsibilities: Some US PhD students take on teaching roles as part of their funding, dividing their time and potentially prolonging their studies.

5. Research approach: Differences in research methodologies and project scopes can affect the time needed for data collection, experimentation and analysis.

6. Academic culture: The US education system values a well-rounded education, including coursework and comprehensive exams. This can extend the time before full-time research begins. UK PhD programmes often prioritise independent research early on.

7. Part-time and work commitments: US PhD candidates might have more flexibility for part-time work or other commitments, which can affect research progress.

8. Dissertation requirements: US PhD programmes generally include a longer and more comprehensive dissertation, involving more chapters and a broader exploration of the research topic.

These variations in programme structures, funding models and academic cultures contribute to the differing completion times between the two countries.

What qualifications do you need for a PhD?

To be eligible for a PhD programme, certain educational qualifications are generally expected by universities. These qualifications serve as indicators of your readiness to engage in advanced research and contribute to the academic community.

First, an undergraduate or bachelor’s degree in a relevant field is typically the most common requirement. This degree provides you with a foundational understanding of the subject and introduces you to basic research methodologies. It serves as a starting point for your academic journey.

Do you need a master’s degree to get into a PhD programme?

In addition to an undergraduate degree, many PhD programmes also require candidates to hold postgraduate or master’s degrees, often in fields related to the intended PhD research. A master’s degree offers a deeper exploration of the subject matter and enhances your research skills. Possessing a master’s degree signifies a higher level of expertise and specialisation.

The combination of both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees demonstrates a solid academic background. This background is crucial before you engage in doctoral study because pursuing a PhD involves more than just knowledge; it requires advanced research abilities, critical thinking and the capacity to provide an original contribution and new insights into the chosen field of study.

While these qualifications are usually requested, there are exceptions. Some institutions offer direct-entry programmes that encompass bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees in a streamlined structure. This approach is often seen in scientific and engineering disciplines rather than humanities.

In exceptional cases, outstanding performance during undergraduate studies, coupled with a well-defined research proposal, might lead to direct entry into a PhD programme without requiring a master’s degree.

Admission requirements can vary between universities and programmes. Some institutions might have more flexible prerequisites, while others could have more stringent criteria. Make sure that you thoroughly research all admission requirements of the PhD programmes you’re interested in to ensure you provide the right information.

Are PhD entry requirements similar in other countries?

PhD entry requirements in Canada and Australia can be somewhat similar to those in the UK and the US, but there are also some differences. Just like in the UK and the US, having a bachelor’s degree followed by a master’s degree is a common way to qualify for a PhD in Canada and Australia. However, the exact rules can vary, such as how much research experience you need or the grades you should have.

In Canada and Australia, as in the UK and the US, international students usually need to show their English language skills through tests like IELTS or TOEFL. And, like in other places, you might need to give a research proposal to explain what you want to study for your PhD.

But remember, even though there are some similarities, each country has its own rules.

PhD diary: Preparing for a PhD Nine things to know before doing a PhD Women in STEM: undertaking PhD research in cancer Studying for a part-time PhD: the challenges and the benefits Is it possible to do a three-year PhD as an international student? Looking for PhD tips? Why not check Twitter PhD diary: Where do I begin? How to do a PhD on a budget

How much does it cost to study a PhD?

The cost of pursuing a PhD can vary significantly between international and home (domestic) students, and it depends on the country, university and programme you choose.

United Kingdom (UK)

Home students in the UK often pay lower tuition fees compared with international students. Home students might also have access to government funding or subsidised tuition rates.

International students typically pay higher tuition fees, which can vary widely depending on the university and programme. Fees can range from around £10,000 to £25,000 or more per year.

United States (US)

PhD programme costs in the US can be quite high, especially for international students. Public universities often have lower tuition rates for in-state residents compared with out-of-state residents and international students.

Private universities in the US generally have higher tuition fees, and international students might be charged higher rates than domestic students.

Canadian universities often charge higher tuition fees for international students compared with domestic students.

Some universities offer funding packages that include tuition waivers and stipends for both domestic and international doctoral students.

In Australia, domestic students (Australian citizens and permanent residents) usually pay lower tuition fees than international students.

International students in Australia might have higher tuition fees, and costs can vary based on the university and programme.

Apart from tuition fees, other aspects play a role in the overall financial consideration:

PhD studentship: Many universities offer PhD studentships that provide financial support to research students, covering both tuition fees and a stipend for living expenses.

Stipend and housing: Stipends are designed to cover living expenses. Stipend amounts can vary depending on the university and location. If you’re studying in London in the UK, stipends might be higher to account for the higher living costs in the city. Some universities also offer subsidised or affordable housing options for doctoral students.

Tuition and stipend packages: Some PhD programmes provide funding packages that include both tuition waivers and stipends. These packages are to help relieve the financial burden on students during their doctoral studies.

Research the financial support options provided by the universities you’re interested in to make an informed decision about the cost of your PhD journey.

What funding options are available for PhD candidates?

PhD candidates have various funding options available to support their studies and research journeys. Some of these options include:

PhD scholarships: Scholarships are a common form of financial aid for PhD candidates. They are awarded based on academic merit, research potential or other specific criteria. Scholarships can cover tuition fees and provide a stipend for living expenses.

Bursaries: Bursaries are another form of financial assistance offered to students, including PhD candidates, based on financial need. They can help cover tuition fees or provide additional financial support.

In the UK, specific funding options are available:

Regional consortium: Some regions have research consortiums that offer funding opportunities for doctoral candidates. These collaborations can provide financial support for research projects aligned with specific regional needs.

UK research institute: Research councils in the UK often offer stipends to PhD candidates. These stipends cover living expenses and support research work.

University-based studentship: Many UK universities offer studentships. You can read more about these above.

In the USA, there are also funding options available:

Research assistantships (RAs): Many universities offer research assistantships where PhD candidates work on research projects under the guidance of faculty members. In exchange, they receive stipends and often have their tuition waived.

Teaching assistantships (TA): Teaching assistantships involve assisting professors in teaching undergraduate courses. In return, PhD candidates receive stipends and sometimes tuition remission.

Fellowships: Fellowships are competitive awards that provide financial support for PhD candidates. They can come from universities, government agencies, private foundations and other institutions. Fellowships can cover tuition, provide stipends and offer research or travel funds.

Graduate assistantships: Graduate assistantships include a range of roles, from research and teaching to administrative support. These positions often come with stipends and sometimes include tuition benefits.

External grants and fellowships: PhD candidates can apply for grants and fellowships from external organisations and foundations that support research careers in specific fields. Examples include the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Fulbright Programme.

Employer sponsorship: In some cases, employers might sponsor employees to pursue PhDs, especially if the research aligns with the company’s interests.

You can read about the current available scholarships for international students of all education levels on our website .

What does a PhD Involve?

How does a PhD work?

A PhD includes thorough academic research and significant contributions to your chosen field of study. The timeline for completing a PhD can significantly vary based on the country, college or university you attend and the specific subject you study.

The duration of a PhD programme can vary based on factors such as the institution’s requirements and the academic discipline you’re pursuing. For instance, the timeline for a PhD in a science-related field might differ from that of a humanities discipline.

UK PhD timeline example

Looking at a typical PhD degree in a London higher education institution, we can consider this example timeline.

In the initial year of your PhD, you’ll collaborate closely with your designated academic supervisor. This collaboration involves refining and solidifying your research proposal, which lays the foundation for your entire doctoral journey.

This is also the time to establish a comprehensive plan, complete with well-defined milestones and deadlines. A crucial aspect of this year is conducting an extensive literature review, immersing yourself in existing academic works to understand the landscape of your chosen research area. It’s important to make sure that your research idea is original and distinct from prior studies.

As you begin the second year, you’ll actively collect data and gather information related to your research topic. Simultaneously, you’ll initiate the process of crafting your thesis. This involves combining your research findings and analysis into sections of your thesis document.

This is also the phase where you might have opportunities to share your research insights at academic meetings, conferences or workshops. Depending on the programme, you might even engage in teaching activities. Some PhD candidates also begin contributing to academic journals or books, showcasing their findings to a broader audience.

The third year of a PhD programme often marks the final stage of your research efforts. This is when you dedicate substantial time to writing and finalising your complete thesis. Once your thesis is completed to the highest standard, you’ll submit it for thorough evaluation.

A significant milestone in the third year is the viva voce, an oral examination where you’ll defend your thesis before a panel of experts in your field. The viva voce is an opportunity to showcase your deep understanding of your research and defend your findings.

Why should you do a PhD?

For many people, acquiring a doctorate degree is the pinnacle of academic achievement, the culmination of years of commitment to higher education.

However, the act of pursuing a PhD can be a complex, frustrating, expensive and time-consuming exercise. But with the right preparation, some sound advice and a thorough understanding of the task at hand, your years as a doctoral student can be some of the most rewarding of your life. 

People choose to work towards a doctorate for many reasons. If you are looking to pursue an academic position, such as university lecturer or researcher, then a PhD is usually required.

Many people obtain a PhD as part of a partnership with an employer, particularly in scientific fields such as engineering, where their research can prove useful for companies.

In some cases, however, PhDs are simply down to an individual’s love of a subject and their desire to learn more about their field.

What are some benefits of studying a PhD?

Pursuing a PhD can have many benefits that extend beyond academic achievement, encompassing personal growth, professional advancement and meaningful contributions to knowledge.

One of the most notable benefits of a PhD is the potential for tenure in academia. Attaining tenure provides a level of job security that allows you to delve into long-term research projects and make enduring contributions to your field. It signifies a stage where you can explore innovative ideas and pursue in-depth research, fostering your academic legacy.

While not obligatory, the opportunity to collaborate on research projects with your supervisor is another valuable aspect of a PhD pursuit. These collaborations might even come with financial compensation, offering real-world experience, skill development and practical applications of your research. Engaging in such collaborations can enrich your research portfolio and refine your research methodologies.

A pivotal aspect of a PhD journey is the chance to publish your original research findings. By disseminating your work in academic journals or presenting it at conferences, you contribute to the expansion of knowledge within your field. These publications establish your expertise and reputation among peers and researchers worldwide, leaving a lasting impact.

The pursuit of a PhD can provide a unique platform to build a diverse network of colleagues, mentors and collaborators. Engaging with fellow researchers, attending conferences and participating in academic events offer opportunities to make valuable connections. This network can lead to collaborations, expose you to a spectrum of perspectives and pave the way for future research endeavours.

What is a PhD thesis? And what is a PhD viva?

A PhD thesis will be produced with help from an academic supervisor, usually one with expertise in your particular field of study. This thesis is the backbone of a PhD, and is the candidate’s opportunity to communicate their original research to others in their field (and a wider audience).  PhD students also have to explain their research project and defend their thesis in front of a panel of academics. This part of the process is often the most challenging, since writing a thesis is a major part of many undergraduate or master’s degrees, but having to defend it from criticism in real time is arguably more daunting.  This questioning is known as a “viva”, and examiners will pay particular attention to a PhD’s weaknesses either in terms of methodology or findings. Candidates will be expected to have a strong understanding of their subject areas and be able to justify specific elements of their research quickly and succinctly.

In rare cases, students going for a PhD may instead be awarded an MPhil if the academic standard of their work is not considered fully up to par but still strong enough to be deserving of a qualification.

Can you do a PhD part time? 

Many PhD and MPhil candidates choose to pursue their qualification part time, in order to allow time to work and earn while studying. This is especially true of older students, who might be returning to academia after working for a few years. 

When applying, you should always speak to the admissions team at your university to ensure this is possible and then continue to work with your supervisor to balance all your commitments. 

Can I do a PhD through distance learning?

This is something else that you will need to check with your university. Some institutions offer this option, depending on the nature of your research. 

You will need to be clear how many times you will need to travel to your university to meet with your supervisor throughout your PhD. 

Your PhD supervisor

Choosing the right PhD supervisor is essential if you want to get the most out of your PhD. Do your research into the faculty at the institution and ensure that you meet with your proposed supervisor (either virtually or in person) before fully committing. 

You need to know that not only do they have the right expertise and understanding of your research but also that your personalities won’t clash throughout your PhD. 

Remember, to complete your PhD, you will need a strong support network in place, and your supervisor is a key part of that network. 

Coping with PhD stress

If you do decide to embark on a doctorate, you may well encounter stress and anxiety. The work involved is often carried out alone, the hours can be long and many students can suffer from the pressure they feel is on their shoulders.

Ensuring that you check in regularly with your emotions and your workload is crucial to avoid burnout. If you have other commitments, such as a job or a family, then learning to balance these can feel overwhelming at times. 

Give yourself regular breaks, speak to your supervisor and ensure that you know what university resources and support systems are available to you in case you need to access them. 

Post-doctorate: what happens after you finish your PhD?

Many PhD graduates pursue a career in academia, while others will work in industry. Some might take time out, if they can afford to, to recover from the efforts of PhD study.

Whatever you choose to do, undertaking a PhD is a huge task that can open up a range of doors professionally. Just remember to take some time out to celebrate your achievement. 

How does a PhD affect salary and earning potential?

How much does a professor with a PhD make a year?

Professors with PhDs can earn different amounts depending on where they work and their experience. In the UK, a professor might make around £50,000 to £100,000 or more each year. In the US, it's between about $60,000 and $200,000 or even higher. The exact salary depends on things like the place they work, if they have tenure, and what they teach.

How much does a PhD add to salary?

Having a PhD can make your salary higher than if you had a lower degree. But exactly how much more you earn can change. On average, people with PhDs earn more than those with bachelor’s or master’s degrees. The increase in salary is influenced by many things, such as the job you do, where you work and what field you’re in.

In fields such as research, healthcare, technology and finance, your knowledge and skills from your PhD can potentially help you secure a higher salary position.

In the end, having a PhD can boost your earning potential and open doors to well-paying jobs, including professorships and special roles in different areas. But the exact effect on your salary is influenced by many things, so ensure you weigh the cost against the benefit.

How to choose a PhD programme?

Choosing a PhD programme involves defining your research interest, researching supervisors and programme reputation, evaluating funding options, reviewing programme structure, considering available resources, assessing networking opportunities, factoring in location and career outcomes, visiting the campus if possible and trusting your instincts.

How can I find available PhD programmes?

You can find available PhD programmes by visiting university websites, using online directories such as “FindAPhD”, checking professional associations, networking with professors and students, following universities on social media, attending career fairs and conferences, contacting universities directly and exploring research institutes’ websites.

How to apply for a PhD programme?

To apply for a PhD programme:

Research and select universities aligned with your interests.

Contact potential supervisors, sharing your proposal, CV and references.

Prepare application materials: research proposal, CV, recommendation letters and a writing sample.

Ensure you meet academic and language-proficiency requirements.

Complete an online application through the university’s portal.

Pay any required application fees.

Write a statement of purpose explaining your motivations.

Provide official transcripts of your academic records.

Submit standardised test scores if needed.

Some programmes may require an interview.

The admissions committee reviews applications and decides.

Apply for scholarships or assistantships.

Upon acceptance, review and respond to the offer letter.

Plan travel, accommodation and logistics accordingly.

Remember to research and follow each university’s specific application guidelines and deadlines.

How to apply for a PhD as an international student?

Many stages of the PhD application process are the same for international students as domestic students. However, there are sometimes some additional steps:

International students should apply for a student visa.

Take language proficiency tests such as TOEFL or IELTS if required.

Provide certificates if needed to validate your previous degrees.

Show evidence of sufficient funds for tuition and living expenses.

Check if you need health insurance for your chosen destination.

Translate and authenticate academic transcripts if necessary.

Attend orientation sessions for cultural adaptation.

Apply for university housing or explore off-campus options.

Familiarise yourself with international student support services.

Ben Osborne, the postgraduate student recruitment manager at the University of Sussex explains in detail how to apply for a PhD in the UK .

Giulia Evolvi, a lecturer in media and communication at Erasmus University, Rotterdam explains how to apply for a PhD in the US .

Finally, Samiul Hossain explores the question Is it possible to do a three-year PhD as an international student?

Q. What is a PhD? A. A PhD is the highest level of academic degree awarded by universities, involving in-depth research and a substantial thesis.

Q. What does “PhD” mean? A. “PhD” stands for doctor of philosophy, recognising expertise in a field.

Q. What is a professional doctorate? A. A professional doctorate emphasises practical application in fields such as education or healthcare.

Q. How long does it take to study a PhD? A. It takes between three and six years to study a full-time PhD programme.

Q. How long is a PhD in the UK? A. It takes around three to four years to study a full-time UK PhD.

Q. How long is a PhD in the US? A. It takes approximately five to six years to complete a full-time US PhD.

Q. Why does it take longer to study a PhD in the US? A. US programmes often include more course work and broader training.

Q. What qualifications do you need for a PhD? A. You usually need an undergraduate degree as a minimum requirement, although a master’s might be preferred.

Q. Do you need a master’s degree to get into a PhD programme? A. Master’s degrees are preferred but not always required.

Q. Are PhD entry requirements similar in other countries? A. Entry requirements are similar in many countries, but there may be additional requirements. Make sure to check the university website for specific details.

Q. How much does it cost to study a PhD? A. The cost of PhD programmes vary by country and university.

Q. What funding options are available for PhD candidates? A. Scholarships, assistantships, fellowships, grants, stipends are all funding options for PhD candidates.

Q. What does a PhD involve? A. PhDs involve research, seminars, thesis, literature review, data analysis and a PhD viva.

Q. Why should you do a PhD? A. There are many reasons to study a PhD including personal growth, research skills, contributions to academia and professional development.

Q. What are some benefits of studying a PhD? A. Benefits of graduating with a PhD include achieving tenure, collaborations with colleagues, publication of your work, and networking opportunities.

Q. What is a PhD thesis? A. A PhD thesis is a comprehensive document that showcases the original research conducted by a PhD candidate.

Q. What is a PhD viva? A. A PhD viva, also known as a viva voce or oral examination, is the final evaluation of a PhD candidate’s research and thesis where the panel asks questions, engages in discussions and assesses the depth of the candidate’s understanding and expertise.

Q. Can you do a PhD part-time? A. Yes, part-time options are available for PhDs.

Q. Can I do a PhD through distance learning? A. Some universities offer online PhDs; you can find out more on their websites.

Q. How to choose a PhD programme? A. You can find PhD programmes through research, by contacting faculty, checking resources and considering location.

Q. How can I find available PhD programme? A. You can find available PhD programmes on university sites, through directories and by networking.

Q. How to apply for a PhD programme A. To apply for a PhD programme, research suitable universities and programmes, get in touch with potential supervisors, gather required documents like transcripts and reference letters, complete the online application, pay any necessary fees and submit a statement of purpose and research proposal. If needed, meet language-proficiency criteria and attend interviews. After acceptance, explore funding choices, confirm your spot and get ready for the programme’s start.

Q. How to apply for a PhD as an international student A. To apply for a PhD as an international student, follow similar steps to domestic students, but you need to include securing a student visa and passing language requirements.

Q. What is a PhD dropout rate? A. The dropout rate from PhDs varies but is approximately 30-40 per cent.

Q. How does a PhD affect salary and earning potential? A. A PhD can boost earning potential, especially in research, technology, healthcare and academia. Impact varies by job, industry and location. Experience, skills and demand also influence salary.

Q. How to address a person with a PhD? A. When addressing someone with a PhD, it’s respectful to use “Dr”, followed by their last name, whether they have a PhD in an academic field or a professional doctorate. For instance, “Dr. Smith”.

Q. Is there a difference between a PhD and a doctorate? A. The terms “PhD” and “doctorate” are often used interchangeably, though a PhD is a specific type of doctorate focused on original research. A doctorate can refer more broadly to any doctoral-level degree, including professional doctorates with practical applications.

Q. What is the difference between a PhD and an MD? A. A PhD is a doctor of philosophy, awarded for academic research, while an MD is a doctor of medicine, focusing on medical practice. They lead to different career paths and involve distinct areas of study.

Q. What is the difference between a PhD and a professional doctorate? A. A PhD is an academic research-focused degree, while a professional doctorate emphasises applying research to practical fields such as education or business. PhDs often involve original research, while professional doctorates focus on real-world application.

Q. What is the difference between UK and US PhDs? A. The difference between UK and US PhDs lies mainly in structure and duration. UK PhDs often have shorter durations and a stronger emphasis on independent research from an early stage. US PhDs typically include more initial coursework and broader foundational training before full-time research begins.

Q. What is the difference between a PhD student and a candidate? A. A PhD student is actively studying and researching in a doctoral programme, while a PhD candidate has completed programme requirements except for the dissertation and is close to completion.

Q. What’s the difference between a PhD and an EdD? A. A PhD and an EdD (doctor of education) differ in focus. A PhD emphasises research and academic contributions, while an EdD focuses on applying research to practical educational issues.

Q. What’s the difference between a PhD and a DBA? A. A PhD and a DBA (doctor of business administration) differ in purpose. A PhD emphasises theoretical research and academia, while a DBA is practice-oriented, aimed at solving real business problems.

Q. What’s the difference between a PhD and a PsyD? A. A PhD and a PsyD (doctor of psychology) differ in emphasis. A PhD focuses on research and academia, while a PsyD emphasises clinical practice and applying psychological knowledge.

Q. What’s the difference between a PhD and an LLD? A. A PhD and an LLD (doctor of laws or Legum doctor) are distinct. A PhD is awarded in various disciplines, while an LLD is usually an honorary degree for significant contributions to law.

Q. What’s the difference between a PhD and an MD-PhD? A. A PhD and an MD-PhD differ. An MD-PhD is a dual degree combining medical training (MD) with research training (PhD).

Q. What is the Cambridge PhD? A. A Cambridge PhD involves original research guided by a supervisor, resulting in a thesis. It’s offered at the University of Cambridge .

Q. What is the Oxford DPhil? A. An Oxford DPhil is equivalent to a PhD and involves independent research leading to a thesis. The term “DPhil” is unique to the University of Oxford .

Q. What is the PhD programme acceptance rate? A. PhD acceptance rates vary by university, field and competition. Prestigious universities and competitive fields often have lower acceptance rates.

Q. What is a PhD supervisor? A. A PhD supervisor guides and supports a student’s research journey, providing expertise and feedback.

Q. What is a PhD panel? A. A PhD panel evaluates a candidate’s research, thesis and oral defence. It consists of experts in the field.

Q. What is a PhD stipend? A. A PhD stipend is a regular payment supporting living expenses during research, often tied to teaching or research assistant roles.

Q. What is a PhD progression assessment? A. A PhD progression assessment evaluates a student’s progress, often confirming their continuation in the programme.

Q. What is a PhD defence? A. A PhD defence, or viva, is the final oral examination where a candidate presents and defends their research findings and thesis before experts.

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What Is Graduate School and Should You Apply?

The purpose of graduate school is to develop expertise in a specific academic subject.

What Grad School Is and Why You Might Go

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College alumni who excelled throughout their undergraduate experience often possess a love of learning that can make them a good fit for a graduate program, higher education experts say.

Graduate school students need to meet a higher academic standard than undergraduates, experts say. To thrive in a graduate program, they also need purpose, focus and passion.

"Grad school is a lot more focused and specialized than college," Michelle Vakman, director of admissions at the Columbia University School of Professional Studies in New York, wrote in an email. "Students don't often change majors, and classes are targeted toward a specific field or area of study."

Grad programs appeal to students who are fascinated by a specific academic subject and committed to working in a field where a graduate degree is valuable, experts explain.

"The main difference between undergrad and grad school is that the student has an opportunity to focus on the subjects he (or) she enjoys the most," Helen Godfrey, a senior career development specialist at the University of Houston's Bauer College of Business who has a master's degree in counseling, wrote in an email. "The coursework is more intense but the student will find that he (or) she really enjoys the topics so it can be an invigorating challenge."

Graduate students are expected to not only absorb information and gain knowledge, but also to conduct their own research, make unique discoveries and produce compelling scholarship, says Tamara Underiner, an associate dean for professional development and engagement at the Arizona State University Graduate College.

"In college you acquire knowledge," Underiner wrote in an email. "As you progress through the levels of higher education, you master and then become the producer of knowledge. It's this growing sense of agency, accompanied by experience, that allows wisdom to grow."

Should You Go to Grad School? How to Decide

Although this type of advanced education can be fulfilling and valuable, it is not appropriate for everyone.

"If a student is not sure what they want to do, graduate school is probably not a wise idea, because it does not provide opportunities for career exploration like the bachelor’s degree does," Jillene Seiver, a senior lecturer in psychology and an associate chair in the school of psychology at Eastern Washington University , wrote in an email.

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People who found the academic workload of bachelor's degree courses to be extremely challenging may not be prepared to handle the rigors of grad school. But college alumni who excelled throughout their undergraduate experience often possess a love of learning that can make them a good fit for a graduate program, higher education experts say.

However, even individuals who thrived in college ought to reflect on whether a graduate credential will help them in their career before applying to graduate school, according to experts.

What's key for success in grad school is a sense of purpose, says Jody Britten, a co-founder at SheLeadsEdu, an organization that provides career advice and training to women working in the education sector.

Grad school students are most successful "when they know what they are very passionate about ... . If they're going to grad school because they feel like they need to go to grad school or they don't know what they're going to do or they just want a pay raise, that's when it doesn't pay off," says Britten, who has a Ph.D. in education. "That's when we don't see them completing their degree."

What Are the Different Types of Graduate Programs?

There are numerous graduate credentials, including some that can be obtained quickly and others that require substantial time.

Universities sometimes offer short, nondegree postbaccalaureate certificates and diplomas that can be completed within a few months. In contrast, master's programs last for at least one academic year while doctoral programs generally require multiple years of study.

A master's education builds on the knowledge gained via a bachelor's. A master's degree typically precedes a doctoral degree, since the latter is ordinarily the most advanced credential available within an academic discipline.

There are two types of doctorates. Applied doctorates focus on using existing knowledge to solve real-world problems and prepare future industry leaders. Research doctorates address open questions within a particular academic discipline and train future scholars.

"Graduate school can mean many things," Pierre Huguet, CEO of the H&C Education admissions consulting firm, wrote in an email. "There's a big difference between starting an M.S. or M.A. program, going to law or business school and embarking on the five- to seven-year journey that is a Ph.D."

Here are a few examples of graduate degrees and how long full-time programs typically last:

  • Master of Science, or M.S., degree: one to two years
  • Master of Arts, or M.A., degree: one to two years
  • Master of Business Administration, or MBA, degree: two years
  • Master of Fine Arts, or MFA, degree: two to three years
  • Juris Doctor, or J.D., degree: three years
  • Doctor of Medicine, or M.D., degree: four years
  • Doctor of Philosophy, or Ph.D. degree: six years

The word "terminal" is sometimes used to describe degrees, but the meaning of the term depends on the context. Generally speaking, terminal refers to a degree that indicates mastery of a particular subject, which is typically the most advanced academic qualification available in a field. Although experts sometimes disagree about which degrees fall into this category, there is consensus around the idea that doctorates qualify. Sometimes, though, when a degree is described as "terminal," it is simply because that degree is or could conceivably become the final step in a student's educational journey.

Grad School and the Job Market

A graduate degree is mandatory or highly beneficial for certain careers .

"If you want to be a doctor or a lawyer, for example, you will need to continue your education past college," says Huguet. "Additionally, certain post-graduate programs, such as MBAs , often provide students with important networking opportunities that can be as important professionally as the education students receive at business school. If you want to go into academia or conduct advanced research, you will most likely need a Ph.D."

However, grad school isn't necessarily ideal for "natural entrepreneurs," Huguet says. "I know many students who founded successful businesses while in college, and chose to work for themselves full-time after graduating. For these kinds of individuals, I believe graduate degrees ... are a waste of time and money."

Prospective grad students should think carefully about their career goals before applying to grad schools, Huguet recommends. "Begin by asking yourself what kind of career you’d like to pursue, and then do some research to see what kinds of degrees are necessary for your dream job. In some cases, advanced degrees are not necessary, but can lead to higher salaries and better positions."

Prospective doctoral students should also assess the job market within their potential field of study.

"A Ph.D. in biology may lead to more options down the road than a Ph.D. in German Literature, for example," Huguet says. "If your goal is to teach German at the college level, go for the Ph.D., but understand that your degree may not be particularly useful outside of academia."

How Does Graduate School Compare to College?

A common misconception about graduate school is that it is similar to college. But higher education experts say that graduate courses tend to involve more self-directed learning than undergraduate courses.

"Too often, college students or people who only have had a college experience somehow think that graduate school is going to be more of the same, and it's not," says Thomas Plante, a professor of psychology at Santa Clara University in California and an adjunct faculty member at the California-based Stanford University. "It's going to look very different. So students might be tired of sitting in small plastic seats in large lecture halls and listening to professors drone on and then taking tests and things like that, and they don't realize that often graduate school is not that way at all."

Plante says graduate courses tend to involve small classes as opposed to large lectures, and grad students typically engage in academic research outside of the classroom.

Luz Claudio, a professor in the environmental medicine and public health department of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, says graduate school typically requires significant motivation and personal accountability, since students frequently work independently.

"There's generally no 'homework,' quizzes and few exams in most graduate programs," Claudio wrote in an email. "So students need to learn to be motivated to study because they want to learn instead of being motivated by the threat of exams or grades."

Many graduate programs require students to create and submit a faculty-approved dissertation, portfolio or thesis in order to qualify for a degree.

"In the graduate school setting, the teacher becomes more like a mentor and the student is more like an apprentice," Claudio says.

Searching for a grad school? Access our complete rankings of Best Graduate Schools.

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What Is A PhD Student? A Definition

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What is a PhD student

All PhD students are conducting some sort of research and many of them will be also teaching and assisting in their departments. Very few PhDs are completed on a  part-time  basis, so most PhD students are studying on a full-time basis. PhD students have often been getting ready to embark on their doctoral studies  for a very long time. While many of them may have taken up paid research positions, but this is not always the case so searching for funding is an on going activity for some PhD students. 

Here we take a look at many of the factors that make up what a PhD student actually is...

They're quite mature...

PhD students are all mature students , as they have already completed undergraduate and postgraduate degrees already. Most PhD students will have done a masters in preparation for starting a PhD , this is often an MPhil or a Masters by Research . All of this previous study means that PhD students have strong study skills and have spent time building academic qualifications in the lead up to their PhD. Many students go straight through an undergraduate and masters level to a PhD, but many other students have already started working, and their PhD is a way to grow an already established career. 

Our PhD bursary winner & funding opportunity

Mohammad Abdollahi is a 35-year-old Iranian student studying a PhD in Operational Research at the University of Essex. He was delighted when he found out he’d been awarded a Postgrad Solutions Study Bursary worth £500. As an international student coming to the UK with his wife and two children, it has proved to be an invaluable funding resource as he explains. “It was good news and exciting – I was overwhelmed with joy!”

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PhD students are always researching

PhDs are all research degrees and most students who are embarking on a PhD have already completed some form of research. The research comes in many forms, such as scientific, sociological, archaeological, medical or historical and this research guided by their PhD supervisor . This is one of the most important relationships during a PhD as it is their guidance that shapes a PhD student's thesis . 

Many PhD students are teaching

Many PhD students will supplement their income by teaching or working as assistants in their department or work at the university. In some institutions it is expected that PhD students will do this and in other universities it is an optional extra that is not required. Teaching responsibilities may include assisting with lectures or tutorials and helping with undergraduate supervision. 

They are mostly full-time students 

This can be one of the big attractions for some undergraduates when they see PhD students still living a student lifestyle. However, most PhD students would not think that their lifestyles are something to aim for and the academic work they need to do does take up most of their time. The vast majority of PhD students are full-time and  part-time PhD students  find it difficult to maintain their studies over the six to eight years it may take to complete their research. They are, however, often very passionate about their studies. 

Some of them are getting paid to study

PhD students select their topic for research in one of two ways. They might decide on their research topic and then find a PhD supervisor or they may apply for one of the many advertised research positions. Searching for a supervisor can be a difficult route, especially if you change institutions between your masters and your PhD. Using the network of contacts you have built up during your previous studies or career is the key to finding a supervisor. The advantage of the second route is that the funding for the research is already in place and the student will receive a stipend as well. 

PhD students do worry about funding

Getting funding in place is a major worry for a large proportion of PhD students and it is often the case that many students start their PhDs without full funding in place. This is often why students might start on a part-time basis. PhD funding can come from a huge range of sources including the  government , grants and scholarships and most students  begin their search  with their university department.

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If you’re nearing the end of college or you’ve completed college, you’ve probably heard the term “graduate school” thrown around by your peers and teachers. In fact, you’ve probably heard all kinds of graduate-school related terms, like “graduate degree,” “Masters,” “PhD,” and more.

But what is a graduate degree? What is a PhD? What is a doctoral degree? What’s a doctorate? We’ll demystify it all here. (Hint: those last three are all the same thing.)

In this article, we’ll discuss what graduate school is, what graduate degrees you can get, and the difference between graduate and professional school. Then we’ll move on to discussing the benefits and drawbacks of graduate school, funding graduate programs, and how to apply to grad school.

What Is Graduate School?

What is grad school? Well, it’s not so much a specific “school” as a catchall term for some types of academic programs.  Graduate degree programs offer advanced training (beyond a bachelor’s degree) in a specific academic discipline. They very much focus on advancing your subject-specific academic knowledge as opposed to preparing you for a specific career or job. Graduate degree programs often include opportunities to complete original research in the field.

There are a few different types of graduate degrees. We’ll review them in the next section.

What Is a Graduate Degree? The 3 Main Types

There are, generally speaking, three kinds of graduate degrees offered by graduate schools: the Master of Arts, the Master of Science, and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). The MA and MS offer additional schooling in a discipline beyond a bachelor’s degree. A PhD is the most advanced degree in a given academic field. (Note that this is not true of professional fields—we will discuss the difference in the next section.)

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Master of Arts (MA)

What is a Master’s Degree? The Master of Arts is the typical Master’s graduate program for humanities and social science disciplines. They can be fairly general—for example, an MA in Communication or Anthropology, or even Humanities. They can also be highly specialized, like an MA in Folklore or an MA in History of the Book (a real degree!).

Some MA degrees lead specifically to a PhD, while others stand on their own. There are graduate programs designed for those with no prior academic exposure to a field, while others provide further training to those who studied the discipline (or a closely related one) as undergraduates. Some offer original research opportunities, while others focus more on instruction.

Depending on the specific discipline and program, an MA degree generally lasts 1-2 years for a full-time student. Select fields or disciplines may offer a 3-year Master of Arts.

Master of Science (MS)

The Master of Science is the typical Master’s graduate program for scientific and quantitative disciplines. Like the MA, the MS can be fairly general in its focus, like an MS in Biology or Computer Science. They can also be incredibly specialized, like an MS in Predictive Analytics or Agricultural Economics.

Also like the MA, some are designed for those with bachelor’s degrees in the discipline. Others are designed for those trying to get exposure to a new field. Some more closely focus on the student completing original research, while others focus more on delivering in-depth instruction.

An MS degree also generally lasts 1-2 years for a full-time student. In some select fields/programs, it may take 3 years.


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

What is a PhD? PhD stands for Doctor of Philosophy. The PhD is the most advanced degree in a given academic discipline. It’s also known as a doctorate or a doctoral degree.

As the most advanced degree in an academic field, it’s considered a terminal degree. The Doctor of Philosophy prepares students to do academic work in their discipline —research and teaching—and for positions at universities and research institutions.

PhD programs generally expect students to have some preexisting academic training in the discipline or a related field, usually from the student’s undergraduate degree. Most PhDs will not expect incoming students to have Master’s degrees, although some might. However, students with an MA or MS in the discipline might be able to complete the PhD more quickly because they may not need to complete as much coursework.

Furthermore, most PhD programs do expect applicants to have some form of previous research experience and preferably some academic publishing credits. They may not require the student to have the experience and publishing credits in the same discipline as the PhD, but almost all PhD programs will expect some amount of previous research and academic publication experience.

The structure of a PhD typically involves some amount of preliminary coursework, followed by a written and oral exam in the discipline. Then students will begin research and work on their PhD dissertation, an original research project. Throughout this time, students generally teach and/or work as research assistants to make money.

How many years is a doctorate degree? A PhD can take anywhere from three years (if you have a master’s degree and write extremely fast!) to eight years (if you have a lot of coursework to complete and a particularly obscure dissertation topic). But the time it usually takes to complete a PhD is in the 4-6 year range.


Graduate vs. Professional School

You may notice a huge number of degrees you could pursue after your undergraduate degree missing from the list of degrees above—like the MD, the MBA, the MPH, the MFA, the JD, the MEd, and many others.

This is because those degrees are professional degrees.

So what’s the difference between a graduate degree and a professional degree? A graduate degree provides advanced training in an academic discipline. A professional degree provides advanced training for a specific profession. For example, a JD trains you to become a lawyer. An MD trains you to become a doctor. So while a graduate degree focuses on an academic discipline or area of inquiry, a professional degree focuses on professional training.

We should be clear that these are not hard-and-fast distinctions. The line between what is a graduate program and what is a professional program is not always crystal-clear. Many institutions will refer to some (or all) of their advanced degrees as graduate degrees, without distinguishing between graduate and professional schools.

Additionally, professional degrees can lead to academia, and graduate degrees can lead to professional careers. For example, an MFA can prepare students both for academic teaching and inquiry and for professional careers as artists. While an MPH trains you to work as a public health professional, many MPHs go on to work for research institutions or receive PhDs and go into academia. Many professional schools offer MS or MA degrees (for example, a business school may offer an MS in Business Informatics). Additionally, some graduate schools offer MA or MS degrees that primarily focus on building professional skills and contacts.

Gray areas aside, the general distinction is that professional degrees focus on building career and professional skills, while graduate degrees focus on building your knowledge in a particular discipline and your skill in academic inquiry.


5 Top Benefits of Graduate School

Now that we’ve answered the question, “what is graduate school,” you may find yourself wondering: Is grad school worth it? Should I go to graduate school?

Here are five potential benefits to graduate school:

Preparation to Work in Academia

A major reason to go to graduate school—particularly to earn a PhD—is to position yourself to work in academia. If you want to be a professor at a university, you will need a PhD. For lecturer or researcher positions at small or community colleges, an MA or MS may be sufficient.

But in general, if you want to teach at a college level and work on research in a given discipline, a graduate degree of some kind is pretty much necessary.

Higher Earning Potential and Expanded Job Prospects (Sometimes)

A graduate degree will often increase your earning potential. More relevant training typically means more pay in that field. You’ll also be eligible for more jobs, like more senior research positions.

However, you shouldn’t assume that a graduate degree will always expand your job prospects and increase your pay. An MA in Middle English may not really lead to much of anything except increased debt, simply because there’s just not a high demand for people with MAs in Middle English. So, that training isn’t likely to be considered valuable enough for you to earn more or be a more attractive job applicant.

Be sure to do some research into the discipline you are interested in so that you have a realistic idea of how it will expand your job prospects and pay, if at all.

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Pivoting Your Skills

Say your undergraduate degree was in English Literature, but now you want to be a sociologist. Getting a master’s degree is a great way to get training in a new discipline you haven’t had much exposure to. Armed with your shiny new master’s degree and associated skills, you’ll be able to work in a field that was previously closed to you.

Get Published

If you need to develop research skills and publish some academic papers, getting an MA or MS can be a good move. This is particularly true if you want to pursue a PhD and need to beef up   your research experience and publication credits. Getting a master’s in a discipline related to your prospective PhD can be a huge help here. It will also help you build contacts to serve as recommendations.

Strengthen an Application to Professional School

In a similar vein, you may want to get an MA or MS to strengthen an application to professional school. Any research and publication credits you amass there, as well as a strong GPA or good recommendations, will help you stand out.

For example, maybe your heart is set on being a doctor but your undergraduate grades aren’t quite at the level you’d like, or you simply want to stand out more. Really excelling in an MS program can boost your application.


2 Potential Drawbacks to Graduate School

We’ve listed the benefits—but don’t put in your application yet. There are also some potential drawbacks to graduate school to consider. We’ll list two of the most major drawbacks here.

Considerable Expenses

Graduate degrees are expensive! Tuition and fees can easily run past $20,000 a semester at a private university, not to mention living expenses. You may have to take out pretty massive loans to cover all of this, so it’s important that you carefully consider how graduate school will increase your earning potential or job prospects. In more esoteric fields, the expense may not ever pay off in realized earnings. This shouldn’t necessarily dissuade you from pursuing a graduate degree but it is something to be aware of.

However, some programs will cover all or most of your tuition. You’ll also most likely be able to work part-time while completing graduate work, which will help offset expenses. For most PhD candidates, and some masters students, part-time work as teaching staff or research assistants is built into the program.

If you’re completing a part-time master’s degree, you can also maintain a full-time job while you complete the coursework.

Finally, keep in mind that the expense of tuition isn’t the only cost—while you’re in graduate school, you could be making a full salary employed in the workforce. In some cases, your PhD might lead to a higher salary, but it’ll take multiple years for you to recover the full salaries that you lost out on while you were in school.

Poor Job Prospects

There are some graduate disciplines that simply don’t lead to many job opportunities. For example, there are far more philosophy PhD graduates than tenure-track positions in university philosophy departments. In fact, academia in general is hyper-competitive, so unless you are attending a top program, getting an academic job at the end may be almost ludicrously difficult.

Especially if you are paying for the graduate degree yourself, if there isn’t much in the way of job offers at the end, the degree may be a poor investment. This is something to research before committing to the course.


Funding: How to Pay for Graduate School

Finding graduate school funding can be difficult. There are, in general, a lot more people who want to go to school than there is money available to fund them. Funding in the forms of grants, fellowships, and scholarships for master’s programs in particular tends to be incredibly competitive. There are few fellowships and scholarships available at this level, though there is more funding available for students in high-demand STEM fields like engineering and computer science.

On the flip side, it’s more likely that you’ll receive partial or full funding for PhD work. But PhD programs are far, far more competitive for admission than master’s programs.

Sometimes you can be admitted to a PhD program without any funding. (This is called a self-funded PhD.) This is not likely to pay off in the long run unless you have some fairly sizable independent income or savings, as you will almost certainly rack up debt in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The return-on-investment in this case may not be very high, especially given how competitive it is to get a tenure-track position.

Funding for a given program is likely to be some combination of loans, grants and fellowships, and research or teaching positions. Even if you are a fully funded PhD student, you won’t receive a whole lot of money—generally just enough to cover expenses.

In general, people don’t go to graduate school to make the big bucks, but because they have a very intense passion for the discipline.


Applying to Graduate School: How to Get Into Grad School

If you’ve decided to apply to graduate school, what do you need to be a successful candidate? This will of course vary from program to program, but you’ll need a few general qualifications.

Good GRE Score

You’ll need a GRE score that’s reasonably competitive for the programs you’re interested in. (See more on what’s a good GRE score here ). This will usually involve a high score in the more relevant section of the GRE. So for a math or science graduate degree, you’ll need a high Quant score. For a humanities or social sciences degree, you’ll need a high Verbal score.

Relevant Experience and/or Publication Credits

You’ll need to have the requisite relevant experience for admission. For master’s programs, this can take the shape of some kind of work experience, undergraduate experience, research experience, and/or publication credits. However, for PhD programs, you’ll almost certainly need research experience and academic publication credits to be a competitive applicant. The experience and publications won’t necessarily have to be directly within the discipline you are applying in, but you will need them to show that you have academic chops.

Strong Undergraduate Record

A strong undergraduate record makes for a stronger application. Barring that, solid work or research experience and/or strong grades in another master’s or professional degree can also help you get admitted to the program(s) of your choice.

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Good Recommendations

Highly positive recommendations, especially from notable people within the field, can provide a real boost to your application. You want recommenders who can speak to your interest in the field as well as your suitability for academic work. If you’re an undergraduate at the time of application, professors you’ve worked with are the best option. If you’re a recent graduate, a combination of professional and academic recommendations will probably best capture your skills. And if you have been out of school for some time, your recommendations may be primarily professional, which is fine.

Clear Articulation of Your Interests and Goals

It’s also important that your application clearly communicates why you’re interested in further training in the discipline and what you plan to do with that training. If you can articulate a real passion for the field and clear goals, and you can connect those things to elements of the specific program you are applying to, your application will be much stronger.


Summary: What Is Graduate School?

“Graduate school” is a catchall term for academic programs that provide training in a specific academic discipline or field beyond the undergraduate level.

There are three primary kinds of graduate degrees:

  • Master of arts degrees typically provide further training in the humanities and social sciences.
  • Master of science degrees usually provide further training in the sciences and quantitative fields.
  • PhDs, or doctorates in philosophy, provide the most advanced training available in a given academic discipline. PhDs prepare you to work in academia.

Graduate school is different from professional school. Professional school describes academic programs beyond an undergraduate degree that train you to work in a specific professional field. For example, lawyers get JDs, and doctors get MDs. There are some gray areas between graduate and professional school, but the general distinction is that graduate school furthers your knowledge of an academic field and professional school trains you for a specific career or class of careers.

Here are some of the main benefits of graduate school:

  • Graduate degrees are necessary for work in academia.
  • Some fields may give you higher earning potential and expanded job prospects.
  • You can gain skills in a new area or discipline than your undergraduate degree.
  • Graduate school can help you get research experience and publication credits.
  • A graduate degree can help you strengthen your application to professional school.

Here are some of the main drawbacks to graduate school:

  • Graduate school is expensive!
  • Some graduate degrees won’t give you expanded job prospects or a better salary, making them a poor investment.

It can be difficult to get funding for graduate school. You are more likely to get funding for a PhD than a master’s degree, but PhDs are also more competitive. Overall, most people don’t go to graduate school specifically because they are looking for a very lucrative career.

 If you want to go to graduate school, here’s how to make yourself a strong applicant:

  • Get a good GRE score
  • Have relevant experience and/or publication credits
  • Have a strong undergraduate record
  • Secure glowing recommendations
  • Clearly articulate your interests and goals in the discipline

That’s our overview of graduate school, folks!


What’s Next?

What GRE score do you need for graduate school? Check out our expert analysis of average GRE scores by school and average GRE scores by major . Or maybe you don’t need to take the GRE to get into grad school at all!

If you are taking the GRE, you want to maximize your chances of success. So consider when to take the GRE  and how to make a GRE study plan .

Think you may need to retake the GRE ? Here’s a surefire way improve your GRE scores .

Ready to improve your GRE score by 7 points?

is phd undergraduate

Author: Ellen McCammon

Ellen is a public health graduate student and education expert. She has extensive experience mentoring students of all ages to reach their goals and in-depth knowledge on a variety of health topics. View all posts by Ellen McCammon

is phd undergraduate

Undergraduate vs. Graduate: Educate Yourself On The Difference

  • Undergraduate Meaning
  • Undergraduate Student And Degree
  • Graduate Meaning
  • Graduate Degree And Student
  • Graduate Origin
  • Postgraduate Meaning

⚡ Quick summary

The main difference between undergraduate and graduate is that undergraduate is always used in the context of the first level of college or university education (the level where you can earn a bachelor’s degree ). In terms like graduate student and graduate degree , graduate refers to a level of advanced education beyond the undergraduate level, especially a master’s degree or doctorate . The noun graduate is more general, simply referring to a person who has completed a level of education (someone who has graduated ).

The difference between undergraduate and graduate is a difference of degrees (*throws graduation cap in the air to celebrate the pun*).

The level of education that each word involves varies depending on how the word is being used, and there are situations in which both words can be used in the same situation. For example, you can become a graduate student after graduating with an undergraduate degree.

The word graduate can mean very different things depending on whether it’s used as a noun (as in recent   high school graduates ), an adjective (as in graduate student and graduate degree ), or a verb (as in I plan to graduate next May ). The same goes for its shortened form, grad , which can be used as a noun (as in Congrats, grads! ) or an adjective (as in grad program ).

Undergraduate can also be used both as a noun (as in I’m an undergraduate at Stanford University ) or an adjective (as in I’m working toward my undergraduate degree ). It can be shortened to undergrad in both cases.

By the end of this article, you’ll have an advanced degree in all the different ways graduate, grad , undergraduate , and undergrad are used, and what they mean in each case.

What does undergraduate mean?

An undergraduate is “a student in a university or college who has not received a first, especially a bachelor’s, degree.” For example, a college student might say I’m an undergraduate at the University of Texas if they were pursuing a bachelor’s degree there.

Undergraduate is also commonly used as an adjective in this same context, in terms like undergraduate student , undergraduate degree , and undergraduate studies.

Undergraduate is often shortened to undergrad as both a noun and an adjective.

In undergraduate, the prefix under- is used to indicate a lower rank or status. The educational status of an undergraduate student is below that of a graduate student.

What’s the difference between wisdom and knowledge ? Here’s a lesson on the two terms.

What is an undergraduate student ? And what is an undergraduate degree ?

An undergraduate student is a student who is pursuing a degree at the first level of higher education (meaning the level after high school) at a college or university. Undergraduate students are typically those working to earn a bachelor’s degree (or, less commonly, an associate’s degree ). These degrees are often referred to with the general term undergraduate degree.

Outside of the US, an undergraduate degree is sometimes called a first degree. There are also other types of undergraduate degrees outside of the US, such as a foundation degree (which, like an associate’s degree, is typically a two-year degree).

What does graduate mean?

As a noun, the word graduate  [  graj -oo-it ] refers to “a person who has received a degree or diploma on completing a course of study.” In other words, a graduate is someone who has completed a particular level of schooling or an educational program—a child who just finished kindergarten and a doctor who just completed medical school are both graduates. It can even be used figuratively , as in She’s a graduate of the school of hard knocks.

As a verb, graduate [  graj -oo-eyt ] means “to receive a degree or diploma on completing a course of study.” The process of graduating—and the ceremony itself—is called graduation .

As an adjective, graduate [  graj -oo-it ] means something more specific. It’s used to indicate that a student, degree, or educational program is an advanced one, beyond the level of a bachelor’s degree. This sense of graduate is most commonly used in terms like graduate degree, graduate school , graduate program, and graduate student.

What is a graduate degree ? And what is a graduate student ?

Graduate degree typically refers to a degree beyond a bachelor’s, most commonly a master’s.

A graduate student is a student who’s pursuing an advanced degree after having earned their undergraduate degree (such as a bachelor’s degree) by graduating from an undergraduate program. Calling someone a graduate student most often means they are pursuing their master’s degree, but it may be another advanced degree, such as a PhD (You’d most commonly call such students PhD students. Or you might say they are working toward their doctorate or their doctoral degree.)

To earn a graduate degree, graduate students go to a division of a university known as graduate school , and such a program is often called a graduate program. In all of these terms, graduate is often shortened to grad : grad school , grad student , grad program . (A student doesn’t become a graduate student until they take graduate-level courses. For example, if a student graduates with a bachelor’s degree and then later pursues a different bachelor’s degree, they are still an undergraduate student .)

Some graduate studies are referred to in more specific ways: medical students go to medical school to earn their medical degree ; law students go to law school to earn their law degree.

Do you know the difference between these highly-esteemed graduate degrees and titles: PhD, MD, and Dr ?

Where does the word graduate come from?

Graduate comes from the Medieval Latin graduārī, meaning “to take a degree.” It ultimately derives from the Latin gradus, meaning “a step.” Each time you graduate, you take a step to the next level of education.

What does postgraduate mean?

The adjective postgraduate is sometimes used in the same way as the adjective sense of the word graduate, especially in the UK, as in postgraduate student or postgraduate studies.

Postgraduate should not be confused with postdoctoral , which refers to studies, research, or professional work above the level of a doctorate.

How to use undergraduate vs. graduate

The best way to sort out the different meanings of undergraduate and graduate is to determine whether each word is being used as a noun, an adjective, or a verb. Here’s an easy breakdown of the differences.

  • undergraduate (noun): A college student pursuing a non-advanced degree, most commonly a bachelor’s degree. Can be shortened to undergrad.
  • undergraduate (adjective): Used in the context of colleges and university programs ( undergraduate programs ) where students are pursuing a degree (generally referred to as an undergraduate degree ) that is not an advanced degree. Also sometimes shortened to undergrad.
  • graduate (noun): A person who has completed a particular level of schooling or educational program. Can be shortened to grad.
  • graduate (verb): To complete a level of schooling (and, typically, to receive a degree or diploma). You can graduate from kindergarten, high school, college, graduate school, medical school, etc.
  • graduate (adjective): Used in the context of advanced schooling—a level beyond a bachelor’s degree, most commonly a master’s program. Used in terms like graduate student , graduate school , graduate degree , graduate program , graduate courses , etc. Often shortened to grad.

Examples of undergraduate, undergrad, graduate, and grad used in a sentence

Let’s look at some examples of these words in actual, real-life use to get the meanings straight.

  • As an undergraduate, she had studied engineering; as a graduate student, she switched to architecture.
  • I completed my undergraduate degree after five years and a lot of hard work.
  • As a graduate student, you will be expected to complete a thesis.
  • You should start thinking about graduate school applications before you graduate.
  • Most of the applicants for this position are recent college graduates.
  • I’m still an undergrad, but I’m hoping to start grad school next fall.
  • I’m a UGA grad, but I almost went to Georgia Tech.

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PhD Candidate vs Student: What’s the Difference?

Lisa Marlin

Many people use the terms “PhD student” and “PhD candidate” interchangeably. However, these terms actually mean something quite different, including a different status level at universities.

We’re here to define the differences between a PhD candidate vs student, as well as other essential information, before you continue your educational journey.

Table of Contents

What I s a PhD student?

A doctoral student is anyone who is enrolled in a doctorate degree, also referred to as a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program. PhD students are typically required to complete a certain number of course credits and sit qualifying exams. Next, they can move on to conduct research and present it in the form of a dissertation.

A PhD is centered around self-directed research and possibly teaching/running tutorials, but they typically also involve a substantial amount of coursework and require attending classes, either online or in person.

Unlike candidates, PhD students are in the process of completing the required coursework for the degree. They haven’t passed the relevant qualifying exams yet.

What Is a PhD Candidate?

A PhD candidate has completed the required coursework and passed the qualifying exams for their doctorate program. They are currently working on their dissertation.

Most PhD students need to go through an application process  and show they meet certain requirements such as a relevant master’s degree . To become a PhD candidate, doctoral students need to pass an internal application process, typically involving a set of exams.

This stage involves significant research usually in innovative areas and incorporating this into a dissertation (this stage is sometimes referred to as “all but dissertation” [ABD]), as they’ve completed all other aspects of the program and satisfied these requirements. To complete their doctoral journey, a PhD candidate must defend their dissertation. Once they’ve successfully done this, they will be awarded their degree and move from PhD candidate to doctor of their chosen field.

PhD Candidate vs Student: 6 Key Differences

view of students in lecture hall from above

There are a number of key differences between a PhD student vs PhD candidate, from their status to the structure and nature of study.

Note: Some universities have recently started adopting hybrid approaches (where there is no clear difference between PhD students and PhD candidates). These programs don’t involve any qualifying exams and students typically begin the dissertation as part of their coursework. Most schools, however, continue with the traditional distinction between a PhD candidate and PhD student.

1. Program Stage

A PhD student could be at any stage of the doctoral program . Coursework still needs to be completed and qualifying exams must be passed. Students may be in the initial stage of the program or about to complete the coursework (before beginning their research).

On the other hand, a PhD candidate has completed all coursework and has at least started their research. They may have completed their dissertation and are preparing to defend it.

2. Research Progress

A PhD student may not have selected their research topic or settled on a particular research question. A candidate’s research is in progress and they should already have a clear research question.

3. Relationship with Advisors

A PhD student may not yet have an advisor. A candidate has an established working relationship with their advisor and works closely with them to complete their research and dissertation.

4. Level of Support

Although they work closely with an advisor, a PhD candidate is generally expected to work more independently than a student enrolled in a doctoral student. Once candidates reach this stage of their doctorate, they typically won’t receive as much direction or supervision.

5. Flexibility and Structure

Understandably, PhD candidates have more freedom and flexibility in their work. Most candidates choose their area of research, as well as the methods used to conduct their work. As part of their coursework, PhD students usually have to work within a set structure (e.g., completing core subjects, meeting deadlines).

Being a PhD candidate comes with a certain degree of status. If they’ve demonstrated a degree of expertise through completing qualifying exams, candidates can put the letters PhD(c) after their name.

Tips for PhD Candidates

view of library stacks on all three sides

A PhD is an advanced degree designed to demonstrate expertise in a given field, as well as high-level skills and abilities in various areas (including research and writing). As such, earning a doctorate can be a challenging process.

The following tips for doctoral candidates will help you put your best foot forward and set yourself up for success.

Stay Organized

Because PhD candidates have to balance many competing priorities, organization is essential. Using organizational tools such as calendars,  note-taking apps , and project management software can help you keep track of deadlines and meet your targets.

Focus on Your Research

PhD candidates likely have busy schedules with plenty of demands (such as teaching commitments and crafting a dissertation). As it’s the backbone of any doctoral program, be sure to prioritize this part of your work and monitor progress to stay on track.

Actively Seek Out Feedback

Because PhD candidates often work independently, there’s a risk of feeling isolated. Ask your advisors, mentors, and fellow candidates for feedback and advice. This will help ensure that you’re considering all aspects of your research question and multiple solutions, rather than focusing too intensely on a single area.

Take Advantage of Networking Opportunities

Networking is one of the biggest benefits for PhD candidates, so take full advantage of these events. Use this time to build a strong network of professors, advisors, fellow candidates, and other professionals you meet at conferences and events.

Take Care of Yourself

A PhD program can be taxing, and it’s easy for your mental and physical health to take a backseat. Make sure you exercise, eat well, and get enough sleep . Remember: Resting and recharging is crucial for working on your dissertation.

How Long Is a Typical PhD Candidacy?

view of ivy league building with autumn leaves

Most PhD students require 1-2 years to complete their coursework and pass their qualifying exams. However, the length of a PhD candidacy is much more open. In most cases, programs take between two and five years, depending on:

  • the complexity of the field of research
  • the candidate’s other commitments, such as teaching load
  • other abilities, such as a candidate’s level of organization.

Once a PhD candidate has completed their dissertation, they have to defend it successfully before a panel of faculty members before they can earn their doctorate degree. This process of defending a PhD dissertation can take several months.

Some universities specify a maximum length for PhD candidacy duration. For example, Carnegie Mellon University limits this to six years .

Benefits of Being a PhD Candidate

Being a PhD candidate can be rewarding for several reasons:

1. Research Opportunities

You’ll be exposed to vast research opportunities in your field. You may contribute to valuable discoveries while developing advanced knowledge and skills.

2. Networking

Through your PhD candidacy, you’ll also be in a great position to build gain a stronger network of fellow professionals.

3. Critical Thinking

A PhD candidacy can help you develop high intellectual independence and critical thinking skills.

4. Career Opportunitie s

A PhD is an advanced degree that allows you to build a rewarding career in the academic, government, and private sectors. PhD-holders can also expect to earn more than other graduates and are most likely to find a job.

5. Salaries

According to Northeastern University , professionals with a doctorate degree earn an average annual salary of $99,290 on average (and much more for the highest-paid PhDs ) and have a 1.5% unemployment rate. For master’s degree holders, the average annual salary is $81,867 average annual salary and a 2.6% unemployment rate.

6. Personal Fulfillment

Being a PhD candidate can help you pursue your passions. This advanced qualification will allow you to become a specialist in your chosen field, allowing you to hone in on the exact subject thatl fulfills you the most.

Qualifying Exams to Become a PhD Candidate

arm in grey sweater writing in notebook

While requirements vary by program, to become a PhD candidate, most students will need to pass a set of exams. These will test students’ knowledge in the field, measure their research skills, and ensure they’re ready to start their dissertation research.

Traditionally, qualifying exams for PhD candidates involved a written test and an oral exam. These will cover a range of topics related to your field of study, with the oral component designed to demonstrate your level of understanding.

Some universities have recently started to issue doctoral students with a set of questions and have them submit the answers within a set timeframe (usually around two weeks). Other schools ask prospective doctoral candidates to submit a dissertation proposal instead of an exam.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a phd candidate be called a doctor.

In most cases, a doctoral candidate cannot be called a doctor until after they successfully defend their dissertation and receive their doctorate.

Can I Put ‘PhD Candidate’ after My Name?

Once you’ve passed qualifying exams and embarked on dissertation research, you’re technically entitled to put “PhD candidate” or “PhD (c)” after your name. However, this is uncommon and not always recommended. It is generally more acceptable to mention that you are pursuing a doctorate (along with the field of research and university) or that you expect to complete your PhD in a certain year (on your CV and online profiles).

How Long Can You Be a PhD Candidate?

There isn’t a set length of time that a person can be a PhD candidate. The length of candidacy depends on a range of factors, including the subject of research and program requirements. Most PhD candidates complete this phase in around 3-5 years (where some university programs have set limits).

Do PhD Students Take Classes?

Yes, most PhD students must take classes and complete coursework as part of the first 1-2 years of their doctorate program. Once they’ve completed this coursework and passed qualifying exams, they move on to work on their research dissertation. At this stage, they’ll be considered a PhD candidate.

Key Takeaways

Now that you know the differences between PhD candidates vs. students, you’ve got a deeper understanding of how to obtain a doctorate. However you slice it, both will help you build your knowledge and skills to become an expert in your field.

However the program is structured, a PhD is a highly valuable degree that allows you to become a high-level professional and build a successful career.

If you know a PhD candidate who’s celebrating their accomplishments soon? Take a look at this guide to the best PhD graduation gifts .

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Lisa Marlin

Lisa Marlin

Lisa is a full-time writer specializing in career advice, further education, and personal development. She works from all over the world, and when not writing you'll find her hiking, practicing yoga, or enjoying a glass of Malbec.

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Difference Between Undergraduate, Graduate and Postgraduate

Jennifer Finetti Aug 12, 2022

Difference Between Undergraduate, Graduate and Postgraduate

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As a high school student , you’ve probably started thinking about college. Maybe you even started to do research and narrow down your options. You may have come across the following terms: undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate degrees.

So, what is the difference between undergraduate and graduate and postgraduate?

Read on to learn more! 

What is an undergraduate degree?

After students finish high school, they get an undergraduate degree. An undergraduate degree refers to either a bachelor’s degree or an associate’s degree. When people talk about going to college or university , they are talking about getting an undergraduate degree.

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How many years is an undergraduate degree?

There are two levels of undergraduate degrees: associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees. An associate degree requires 2 years to complete, and typically is earned at a community college . A bachelor’s degree requires completion of four years of study.

Students interested in earning a bachelor’s degree can either complete their entire degree at a four-year college or university OR they can attend a community college for their first two years, and then transfer to a university for their final two years.

What is a graduate degree?

After a student gets their undergraduate degree, they have two options. They may either get a job or continue with their studies. If they choose to continue with their studies, they pursue a graduate degree.

A graduate degree is any degree that is above a bachelor’s degree. This includes a master’s degree or doctoral degree . Master’s degrees take around 2-3 years to complete. Doctoral degrees take around 5-6 years.

Graduate degrees are typically more narrowly-focused than an undergraduate degree. This enables students to dive more deeply into their specific career interest, gaining the knowledge and expertise needed in their chosen field. Oftentimes, a student must have a graduate degree to get a job. Somebody seeking a career as a clinical social worker, must have their Master’s of Social Work.

You don’t have to get a graduate degree right after you finish your undergraduate degree. Many students take a break after their undergraduate degree and decide to work or travel instead. It’s common to see mature students in their late 20s and 30s (and even older) who decide to go back to school to get a graduate degree later in life.

To get accepted into graduate school, you must have a bachelor’s degree. This means that you must graduate from a 4-year undergraduate college or university. A student can only pursue a graduate degree if they already have a bachelor’s degree.

What is a postgraduate degree?

Students get confused with the term “postgraduate degree.” There actually isn’t a real difference between the two. Postgraduate is used interchangeably with graduate. Like a graduate degree, postgraduate refers to the range of higher degrees past the undergraduate degree. This includes both master’s degrees and Phds .

Difference Between Undergraduate and Graduate and Postgraduate

Difference between undergraduate and graduate and postgraduate

Undergraduate degree programs and graduate degree programs are very different from one another. Undergraduate programs help students gain basic knowledge in a major , or even in a few majors. Students must take a variety of courses, and not only courses relating to their major. They usually spend the first few years fulfilling general course requirements.  

Graduate programs are very different. You go to graduate school to learn something very specific. So, all the courses you take relate to your field of study.

Another big difference between the two is switching majors. In undergraduate programs, students aren’t always sure what they want to major in . Even if they choose a specific major, they may end up changing it. Undergraduate programs allow students to switch majors. It is also fairly easy to transfer to another school for any given reason.

Because graduate programs are so specific, it’s not easy to switch your field of study. You would have to fulfill new requirements and go through the application process all over again.

Another big difference is class size. Undergraduate classes tend to be much larger than graduate classes. In graduate programs, class sizes are much smaller.

Because of the difference in class size, teacher-student interaction also differs. In undergraduate programs, there isn’t much room to interact with your professors. There are also fewer opportunities to participate in class.

Graduate programs are more intimate and thus, more dynamic. Students have more opportunities to participate in class discussions. They also have more opportunities to work with their professors.

To get accepted into an undergraduate program, students must take the SAT or ACT . Other requirements include a minimum GPA , letters of recommendation  and personal statements . Colleges and universities all have their own requirements.

Difference Between Undergraduate and Graduate and Postgraduate

Many graduate programs require students to take an entrance exam such as the GRE, or specialized entrance exams for law school or medical school. Not all graduate programs require an entrance exam, so be sure to check the requirements for the program you are applying for.

Graduate programs also typically require that certain undergraduate classes be completed prior to applying, so you’ll want to check to be sure that you have completed any required courses. Sometimes graduate programs will allow you to complete missing prerequisites while enrolled in your graduate degree program.  

Final thoughts

Whether you have already started your bachelor’s degree or you’re still in high school, it’s nice to get an idea of what your options are. This can help you plan the classes you want to take in college or university and make the most of your degree.

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Jennifer Finetti

Jennifer Finetti

As a parent who recently helped her own kids embark on their college journeys, Jennifer approaches the transition from high school to college from a unique perspective. She truly enjoys engaging with students – helping them to build the confidence, knowledge, and insight needed to pursue their educational and career goals, while also empowering them with the strategies and skills needed to access scholarships and financial aid that can help limit college costs. She understands the importance of ensuring access to the edtech tools and resources that can make this process easier and more equitable - this drive to support underserved populations is what drew her to ScholarshipOwl. Jennifer has coached students from around the world, as well as in-person with local students in her own community. Her areas of focus include career exploration, major selection, college search and selection, college application assistance, financial aid and scholarship consultation, essay review and feedback, and more. She works with students who are at the top of their class, as well as those who are struggling. She firmly believes that all students, regardless of their circumstances, can succeed if they stay focused and work hard in school. Jennifer earned her MA in Counseling Psychology from National University, and her BA in Psychology from University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Voiland College names 2024 outstanding students

A group of students with certificates and awards pose with the dean and associate dean of WSU's Voiland College.

Washington State University Voiland College of Engineering and Architecture recognized outstanding students at its annual convocation ceremony on April 11. The event was sponsored by the Boeing Company. Honored award winners included:

  • Outstanding Sophomore: Rylee Gannon A chemical engineering major with a 3.8 GPA, Rylee Gannon is a research assistant for Professor Steve Saunders, where she synthesizes and characterizes nanomaterials for use as catalysts in oxidation reactions Gannon also works in the Frank Innovation Zone and is an active member of the Society of Women Engineers.
  • Outstanding Junior: Ethan Villalovoz Ethan Villalovoz is a computer science student with a GPA of 3.99, specializing in data mining, machine learning, and data science. Some of his more notable achievements include being a CS Research Mentorship Program Scholar, a Generation Google Scholarship Recipient, and a Hispanic Scholarship Fund Scholar. He has also engaged in extensive extracurricular activities, including internships at Google and a research position at Carnegie Mellon University.
  • Outstanding Senior: Katy Ayers A Fulbright Fellowship Award and Marshall Scholarship Semifinalist, Katy Ayers is the first WSU student to win the Udall Scholar in Environment award. Her thirst for knowledge has given her robust research experience around the country and the world. One of Ayers’ nominators said, “Although I have worked with many outstanding students in my 20 years of teaching at the undergraduate level, I don’t think I have met anyone with Katy’s experiences, accomplishments and passion. She is motivated, demonstrates curiosity and critical thinking and communicates incredibly well.”
  • Outstanding Teaching Assistant for grading/office hours: Kutay Sesli Kutay Sesli’s nominators were impressed by his innovative approaches and genuine care for students this past year. Kutay recognized that that conventional ways to grade assignments might not provide a full picture of where students need improvement, so he took the initiative to develop an innovative, consistent, fair, and detailed grading system that helped students develop trust in the grading process and a better understanding of how to improve their performance throughout the semester. He approaches each task with the mindset of a true engineer, and the results left no doubt that his grading was done with meticulous attention to detail and with the best outcomes for students in mind. Among the feedback students have given include: “Kutay is the best TA all semester, excellent job!” and “Kutay is dope!”
  • Outstanding Teaching Assistant — Teaching/Instruction: Chris Pereyda Chris Pereyda has served as teaching assistant in several courses, including Introduction to Computer Programming. In one of his courses there were more than 500 students. One of those students said of Chris: “He is one of the best TAs I have ever had the pleasure of learning from. Being a Computer Science student can be difficult, but his explanations and knowledge of the source material helped me grasp some of the concepts better and persevere.” One of his faculty members said, “Chris was one of my most reliable, impactful, and effective TAs during my twenty years of teaching at WSU. Chris is the ideal example of a lead teaching assistant. He is knowledgeable in the area, patient with TAs and students, flexible and adaptive to different TAs’ and students’ styles and paces. There is not a better example of a TA than Chris.
  • Outstanding Research Assistant: Ali Mahmoodigahrouei As a PhD candidate at WSU, Ali Mahmoodigahrouei has shown an exceptional academic record and research skills. Since joining WSU in 2022, he has published 14 impactful papers with over 300 citations, earning several prestigious awards, including the David C. Goss Scholarship and the “UTC Outstanding Student of the Year Award.” His nominators feel he consistently goes above and beyond expectations, managing multiple projects simultaneously and with great success. He also excels as a mentor, effectively supervising undergraduate students while providing valuable assistance to other PhD students in his research group.
  • Outstanding Dissertation: Lin Shao Lin Shao’s nominators say that he is a truly exceptional graduate student and has done excellent research on chemical recycling of plastic waste by aminolysis and utilization of the recycled compounds for preparation of new polymer materials. His thesis research has received a broad interest from researchers around the world. Shao, as one of guest speakers, was invited to give a seminar at the Royal Society of Chemistry and Chemistry World. His research was also featured by “The Voice of America.”

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  • Masters vs PhD – Differences Explained
  • Types of Doctorates

The decision of whether or not to pursue a Masters or PhD (or both) after you complete your undergraduate studies is not necessarily a straightforward one. Both are postgraduate degrees but are different in terms of the academic experience and the career paths taken afterwards.

In short, a Masters degree involves a year of study, primarily through taught lectures and a final dissertation research project, whilst a PhD (also referred to as a doctorate degree) is a three-year commitment of independent research on a specific subject.

There’s more to it than that, however – read on for more information.

What Is a Masters Degree?

A Masters degree is the next level of education after the completion of an undergraduate degree, commonly known as a Bachelors.

These degree levels are often referred to in terms of cycles so that a Bachelor’s is a first-cycle degree, a Masters is a second-cycle and finally, a PhD is the third-cycle of higher education (and the highest).

Masters degrees demand an intense period of study, usually centred around a core series of lectures and taught modules, coupled with coursework assignments and exams, followed by the completion of a contained research project usually taking students 3-4 months to complete.

These types of degrees are attractive to recent graduates who want to delve deeper into their specific field of study, gaining some research experience and more specialised knowledge beyond what an undergraduate degree can offer.

Equally, some pursue a Masters degree program in a subject that is only tangentially related to their Bachelors degree, helping them gain a broader depth of knowledge.

These degrees also serve as a significant stepping stone for those already in employment who want to progress their current career development and earn a higher salary. They can also be an excellent method for helping in changing careers completely by learning new skills and subject knowledge.

What Is a PhD Degree?

A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is the highest academic degree that can be awarded and is the third and final cycle in the progression of higher education.

A doctoral degree is earned on the basis of producing a significant, independent and novel body of work (a Thesis) that contributes new knowledge to a particular research topic.

These are research degrees that are a significant investment of a candidate’s time, resources and energy and are all but a pre-requisite for anyone considering a career in academia, such as eventually becoming a professor.

There are some exceptions to this, such as those with a medical background who may earn an MD (Doctor of Medicine), which is the equivalent of a PhD.

Doctoral degrees can also have a significant positive impact on career development outside of academia, especially in fields such as engineering, business and finance that have a high demand for highly qualified and capable people.

A graduate student engaged in PhD study is commonly known as a PhD student, PhD candidate or doctoral student.

What are the Benefits of a Masters Degree?

There are several reasons one might consider doing a Masters degree rather than a PhD in their graduate education. These include:

  • It takes approximately a third of the time to do compared to a doctorate degree and costs less too.
  • It’s a good way to differentiate yourself from those that hold only an undergraduate degree without having to commit to a substantial research degree.
  • The end goal is more career-focused as opposed to research-focused. For example, it is practically an ‘easier’ route to changing or progressing your career if that aligns with your professional goals.

What are the Benefits of Doing a PhD?

You may continue on into a doctoral program after a Masters or you may even dive straight in after completing your undergraduate studies. So, what are the advantages of completing this third-cycle?

  • You’ll have developed a wealth of transferable skills at graduate school, such as effective communication of complex concepts, multi-tasking time-management and the ability to adapt to and solve unexpected problems.
  • A doctorate helps to establish you as an expert within your chosen subject area; your work will hopefully have furthered the knowledge in this.
  • It will open up career paths and teaching positions within academia that may otherwise be very difficult to get a hold in (although these career paths will still be very competitive).
  • You can add the title ‘Dr’ in front of your name!

Which Degree Is More Impactful: A Masters or a PhD?

On paper, the answer should be clear: A doctorate degree is the highest degree you can earn, so has more impact than a Masters, which in turn has more impact than a Bachelors.

The reality is that the size of the impact (if any) really depends on the subject area and the career path you choose (if the measure of impact is how it positively improves your career prospects, that is).

For someone with aspirations of becoming a professor, a PhD will be of greater value than a Masters alone.

Equally, it’s also possible that someone with a PhD entering a different field or one that doesn’t require a PhD may find that their degree has no bearing on their career or in some cases may even be seen as a ‘negative’ with a concern of the person being ‘over-qualified’ for a position. There are many scenarios in which professional experience would be more valuable to an employer than a doctorate degree.

Check out the links below to our interviews with Prof. Debby Cotton and Dr Nikolay Nikolov to read their experiences of when a going through a PhD program has had a clear benefit (Prof. Cotton) and when it hasn’t been helpful (Dr Nikolov).

Debby Cotton_Profile

Do You Need to Have a Masters to do a PhD?

This really depends on the university, department and sometimes even the project and supervisor.

From a purely application process perspective, some institutions may formally require you to hold a Masters degree relevant to the subject of the PhD project before you can enter their doctoral program.

In another scenario, most universities are unlikely to accept candidates that were awarded below a 2:1 (in the UK) in their undergraduate degree but may consider someone who has ‘made up’ for this with a high-grade Masters.

Lastly, some universities now offer PhD programmes that incorporate an additional year of study in which you would complete a Masters degree before carrying directly on into a PhD project. As you’d expect, even if a university doesn’t formally require you to hold one, a Masters degree can help separate you from other applicants in being accepted on the project.

Check out our detailed guide to doing a PhD without a Master’s .

Why Do a Masters before Your PhD?

Even if you don’t need to have one, it could still be beneficial to begin your postgraduate study by doing a Masters first before you embark on your doctorate journey.

As mentioned previously it’ll help you stand out from applicants that don’t have one, but beyond that, it’ll give you a taster of what research life could be like, especially if you stay at the same university and department for your PhD.

The one-year commitment (in the UK at least) of carrying out a Masters first, and in particular your research project, will help you better understand if this is truly something you want to commit the next three or more years to.

You’ll learn some of the skills of independent research, from performing detailed literature searches to more complex, analytical writing.

At the end of it, you should be in a stronger position to consider your options and decide about whether to continue into a PhD at graduate school.

Finding a PhD has never been this easy – search for a PhD by keyword, location or academic area of interest.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Masters Degree?

In the UK, a full-time Masters degrees take students one calendar year to complete: The programme of study usually starts in September, the final research project the following April and final project viva around August. Part-time degrees are usually double the time.

How Long Does It Take to Get a PhD?

In the UK, most PhD projects take 3-4 years to complete , as reflected by the majority of funded projects offering stipends to cover living expenses of about 3.5 years.

For many reasons, projects may end up taking longer to complete, however. This might be because of difficulties in collecting enough data, or if the project is being done part-time.

Which One is More Expensive to Do?

As you’d expect, as a PhD takes three times as long to complete as a Masters degree, it will cost you more to do as far as university fees are concerned.

Another thing to consider is that many PhD projects come with some level of funding equivalent to a low salary, which may cover the cost of tuition fees and living expenses, whilst it is usually more difficult to obtain funding for Masters study.

Conversely, a Masters graduate may progress into a higher (versus PhD funding) salary sooner whilst a PhD student will endure three years of a comparatively low income.

A Masters vs a PhD: Conclusion

If you’re considering continue further graduate study after your undergraduate degree, the question of doing a Masters vs a PhD is likely to come up. They are both considered an advanced degree, each with their own advantages.

There are benefits to doing either of these graduate programs or even both of them; your decision here can be easier if you have an idea of the career you want to follow or if you know you have a love for research!

Browse PhDs Now

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Join thousands of other students and stay up to date with the latest PhD programmes, funding opportunities and advice.

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Onrí Jay Benally receives 2024 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

Onri in a pale shirt and green jacket standing in a hallway outside the nano lab

Doctoral student Onri Jay Benally is a 2024 recipient of the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Benally is currently pursuing his doctoral research under the guidance of Distinguished McKnight Professor and Robert F. Hartmann chair Jian-Ping Wang exploring the world of quantum computing and spintronic devices. 

A Navaho (Diné) tribesman and carpenter, Benally comes to us from the mountains of Red Valley and Oak Springs, Arizona. After graduating from tribal high school, he found himself building off-road electric vehicles at a Utah State University lab led by Professors Curtiz Frazier and Jared Barrett. Two years later, in 2017, he transferred to the University of Minnesota and accepted a Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) through the NSF-funded Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) at the University. During this time, he worked with Professor Vlad Pribiag (School of Physics and Astronomy) building nanoelectronic devices in the cleanroom for Majorana fermion research. The REU was Benally’s first brush with quantum technology exploration. He returned to the MRSEC REU in summer 2018 and this time he worked with Wang on micro and nanoscale magnetic tunnel junctions for classical computer memory and logic applications. He earned his bachelor’s degree in multidisciplinary studies from the University in 2021. 

While Benally was working on his undergraduate degree, he earned an IBM certificate in quantum computation using Qiskit, and began hypothesizing how metallic-based spintronics and new architectures could be used to support the expansion of quantum supercomputing worldwide. The initial hypothesis motivated him to enter ECE’s doctoral program in fall 2022. 

Reflecting on his interest in quantum technology and his skills as a carpenter, Benally says, "Carpentry was my livelihood on the tribe before completing my undergraduate degree. It is a big part of who I am and has indirectly led to my success as a nanofabricator of spintronics and quantum chips." Benally shares that one of his first toys as a kid was a toy hammer. 

Benally’s research interests revolve around the engineering of quantum computing hardware and spintronic devices. An interdisciplinary area, his research involves the nanofabrication of ultrafast nanoscale magnetic tunnel junctions, cryogenic magnetic random-access memory (cryo-MRAM), and hybrid spintronic quantum processing units (QPUs), systems that can form scalable, sustainable quantum hardware architectures. Under the guidance of Wang, Benally designs and fabricates these systems at the Minnesota Nano Center at the University. Benally addressed these new developments in his keynote speech at the Arizona State University-led Quantum Collaborative Summit this past fall in San Antonio, Texas. Over the upcoming summer, Benally will be a graduate intern with IBM Research in Yorktown Heights, New York. As a quantum hardware engineer, he will be working on cutting edge cryogenic electronics for large-scale superconducting quantum computers.

Benally has accepted the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship and feels honored to start delivering on his proposed ideas on supporting quantum supercomputing through spintronics and new architectures. 

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program helps “ensure the quality, vitality, and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States.” Learn about the program and eligibility requirements.

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Former MIT researcher who killed Yale graduate student sentenced to 35 years in prison

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — A former researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was sentenced Tuesday to 35 years in prison for the killing of a Yale University graduate student found shot outside his car on a Connecticut street.

Qinxuan Pan, 33, who pleaded guilty to murder in February, apologized during a hearing in a New Haven courtroom packed with family and friends of the victim, Kevin Jiang.

“I feel sorry for what my actions caused and for everyone affected,” Pan said. “I fully accept my penalties.”

Jiang, 26, a U.S. Army veteran who grew up in Chicago and a graduate student at Yale’s School of the Environment, had just left his fiancée’s apartment in New Haven on the evening of Feb. 6, 2021, when he was shot multiple times by Pan, according to police and prosecutors. The couple had just gotten engaged days earlier.

Several of Jiang’s relatives and friends spoke in court before the judge handed down the sentence, which Pan agreed to as part of his plea bargain.

“My son was a remarkable young man who cherished life and held deep (belief) in God. He had a bright future ahead — one that promised to spread God’s love far and wide,” said Jiang’s father, Mingchen Jiang.

A motive for the killing was never made entirely clear. Investigators said they discovered that Pan and Jiang’s fiancée were connected on social media and had met while at MIT, where both had graduated from and where Pan was working as a researcher at the time of the shooting.

According to the documents, Jiang’s fiancée told authorities she and Pan “never had a romantic or sexual relationship, they were just friends, but she did get a feeling that he was interested in her during that time.”

After the shooting, Pan fled the scene and eluded police for three months before being apprehended in Alabama , where officials said he was caught living under a fake name with $19,000 in cash, a passport and several cellphones.

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Graduate Student Edition - April 22, 2024

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Congratulations to the graduate students and faculty honored with Graduate School Awards and participants of the Graduate Showcase of Scholarship and Creative Activities!

The awards and events highlight the important contributions that graduate students make to the JMU community.

Thank you to the faculty and students who support the Graduate Showcase and Awards as program planners, reviewers and members of the juries.

We are proud of the accomplishments of all our graduate students.

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Outstanding dissertation awards.

Dr. Raghav Jha Communication Sciences and Disorders, Ph.D. Committee Chair: Dr. Erin G. Piker “Effects of age on Amplitude-modulated cVEMP Temporal Modulation Transfer Function”

Dr. Elizabeth Narehoo Strategic Leadership Studies, Ph.D. Committee Chair: Dr. Benjamin Selznick “Leading a Community Promise: A Mixed Method Study Exploring the Dynamics of Adaptive Leadership and Student Success”

Outstanding Thesis Awards

Megan Moore Communication and Advocacy, M.A. Committee Chair: Dr. Kathryn Hobson “Conversations with the “Queens of Lez,” “ChapStick Lesbians,” and Fellow Femmes; A Qualitative Exploration of Queer Femmeness, Femme Sex, and Femme Relationships”

Rysa Thomas Biology, M.S. Committee Chair: Dr. Rocky Parker “Energy homeostasis in an extreme vertebrate: relationships between life-history status and the molecular stress response in red-sided garter snakes”

Civic Engagement Award

Doruntina Maliqi Communication and Advocacy, M.A.

Community Engagement Award

Joshua Orndorff Strategic Leadership Studies, Ph.D.

Showcase of Graduate Student Scholarship & Creative Activity Awards

Graduate student presenters were awarded top honors from a jury of faculty.

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Hannah Greer-Young Master of Music, M.M. The JMU Lab Band Initiative

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Gabrielle Gieringer Physician Asst Studies, M.P.A.S. The effect of gut-directed hypnotherapy on alleviating symptoms of IBS in adults  

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Ruth Hurley Doctor of Nursing Practice, D.N.P.

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  1. What Is An Undergraduate Degree Vs Graduate?

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  2. Masters Vs PhD: The Difference Between Masters & PhD/Doctorates 2023+

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  3. What is the Difference Between Undergraduate and Graduate and

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  4. What Is The Difference Between PHD And Doctorate Degree

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  5. Is A Bachelor Degree Undergraduate Or Graduate

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  6. How to get a PhD: Steps and Requirements Explained

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  1. Is PhD End

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  3. Can't wait for campus to look like this again 🌳🍃

  4. Is a PhD Worth It (From Oxford University)

  5. Is a PhD losing its value? What they don't want you to know

  6. The University of Pecs Fully Funded Scholarship 2024 in Hungary


  1. Doctor of Philosophy

    A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD, Ph.D., or DPhil; Latin: philosophiae doctor or doctor philosophiae) is the most common degree at the highest academic level, awarded following a course of study and research. The degree is abbreviated PhD and sometimes, especially in the U.S., as Ph.D. It is derived from the Latin Philosophiae Doctor, pronounced as three separate letters (/ p iː eɪ tʃ ˈ d iː ...

  2. terminology

    A Graduate student is usually enrolled with the objective of doing a PhD, many Graduate students, provided they have the coursework and thesis, might get a Masters degree in the middle of the program along with the PhD.

  3. Explained: What Is a PhD Degree?

    The typical length of a PhD is three to four years full-time, or five to six years part-time.. Unlike most Masters courses (or all undergraduate programmes), a PhD is a pure research degree. But that doesn't mean you'll just spend years locked away in a library or laboratory.

  4. What Is a Doctorate or a Doctoral Degree?

    A doctoral degree is a graduate-level credential typically granted after multiple years of graduate school, with the time-to-degree varying depending on the type of doctoral program, experts say ...

  5. How to Prepare for a PhD as an Undergraduate: 13 Steps

    Getting a PhD is highly rewarding and equally tasking. You should get to know as far in advance as possible that there is a good amount of prep work to do. ... Many universities also offer cross-listed classes, which are courses open to both graduate and undergraduate students. Take a few of these to get an idea of the work you'll be doing ...

  6. What Is a PhD?

    The unemployment rate for PhD graduates is 1.5 percent compared to master's degree holders at 2.6 percent . Requirements to apply to a PhD program. PhD programs expect you to meet several requirements before enrolling. Here are some examples of common requirements: Have an undergraduate degree, usually with at least a 3.0 overall GPA.

  7. What Does 'PhD' Stand For?

    A PhD is a terminal academic degree students typically pursue when they're interested in an academic or research career. A PhD is the highest possible academic degree a student can obtain. PhD stands for "Doctor of Philosophy," which refers to the immense knowledge a student gains when earning the degree. While you can actually get a PhD in ...

  8. What is a PhD? Advice for PhD students

    In addition to an undergraduate degree, many PhD programmes also require candidates to hold postgraduate or master's degrees, often in fields related to the intended PhD research. A master's degree offers a deeper exploration of the subject matter and enhances your research skills. Possessing a master's degree signifies a higher level of ...

  9. What is a PhD?

    In general, however, the PhD is the highest level of degree a student can achieve (with some exceptions). It usually follows a master's degree, although some institutions also allow students to progress straight to a PhD from their bachelor's degree. Some institutions also offer the opportunity to 'upgrade' or 'fast-track' your ...

  10. What is a PhD?

    Definition of a PhD - A Doctor of Philosophy (commonly abbreviated to PhD, Ph.D or a DPhil) is a university research degree awarded from across a broad range of academic disciplines; in most countries, it is a terminal degree, i.e. the highest academic degree possible. PhDs differ from undergraduate and master's degrees in that PhDs are ...

  11. Master's vs PhD

    The two most common types of graduate degrees are master's and doctoral degrees: A master's is a 1-2 year degree that can prepare you for a multitude of careers. A PhD, or doctoral degree, takes 3-7 years to complete (depending on the country) and prepares you for a career in academic research. A master's is also the necessary first ...

  12. What Is Graduate School and Should You Apply?

    Tags: graduate schools, education, students. Grad school is an advanced course of study in an academic discipline that people can complete after they already have a college degree. Experts warn ...

  13. PhD in USA

    It's very common for a PhD student to receive financial aid in the form of a PhD scholarship; in fact, this will be the case for the vast majority of students in the US. PhD funding can be 'fully funded' covering the student's graduate program tuition fees, accommodation and living costs, or 'partially funded' covering the student ...

  14. Is a PhD Worth It? The Pros and Cons of Getting a Doctorate

    This includes staff with undergraduate degrees. So, when a hiring manager peruses your résumé and sees that you've earned a PhD, they'll know immediately that you've spent years honing your skills at compiling research, organizing mountains of data and writing about your results in a cohesive and persuasive way.

  15. Difference Between Undergraduate and Postgraduate Study

    Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Doctor of Engineering (EngD). Key Differences between Undergraduate and Postgraduate Programmes Level of Specialisation. An undergraduate degree offers a broad overview of a subject. The aim is to provide you with the basic skills, knowledge and experience you need to start a successful career in your chosen field.

  16. 9 things you should consider before embarking on a PhD

    2. A PhD program is not simply a continuation of your undergraduate program. Many students don't internalize this idea until they have jumped head-first into a PhD program. The goal is not to complete an assigned set of courses as in an undergraduate program, but to develop significant and original research in your area of expertise.

  17. What Is A PhD Student? A Definition

    PhD students are all mature students, as they have already completed undergraduate and postgraduate degrees already. Most PhD students will have done a masters in preparation for starting a PhD , this is often an MPhil or a Masters by Research. All of this previous study means that PhD students have strong study skills and have spent time ...

  18. What Is Graduate School? Why Go? Master's and PhDs

    PhD programs generally expect students to have some preexisting academic training in the discipline or a related field, usually from the student's undergraduate degree. Most PhDs will not expect incoming students to have Master's degrees, although some might.

  19. Undergraduate Vs. Graduate: What's The Difference?

    ⚡ Quick summary. The main difference between undergraduate and graduate is that undergraduate is always used in the context of the first level of college or university education (the level where you can earn a bachelor's degree).In terms like graduate student and graduate degree, graduate refers to a level of advanced education beyond the undergraduate level, especially a master's degree ...

  20. PhD Candidate vs Student: What's the Difference?

    A PhD student may not have selected their research topic or settled on a particular research question. A candidate's research is in progress and they should already have a clear research question. 3. Relationship with Advisors. A PhD student may not yet have an advisor. A candidate has an established working relationship with their advisor ...

  21. Difference Between Undergraduate, Graduate and Postgraduate

    In graduate programs, class sizes are much smaller. Because of the difference in class size, teacher-student interaction also differs. In undergraduate programs, there isn't much room to interact with your professors. There are also fewer opportunities to participate in class. Graduate programs are more intimate and thus, more dynamic.

  22. How important are my grades to the rest of my PhD career?

    7. I will actually take a strong opinion that my subpar grades from undergrad and graduate school are a large factor in why my PhD is going to take a long time. As David Ketcheson mentioned, quality grades and GRE scores are important denominators for Graduate fellowships.

  23. Voiland College names 2024 outstanding students

    As a PhD candidate at WSU, Ali Mahmoodigahrouei has shown an exceptional academic record and research skills. Since joining WSU in 2022, he has published 14 impactful papers with over 300 citations, earning several prestigious awards, including the David C. Goss Scholarship and the "UTC Outstanding Student of the Year Award."

  24. Masters vs PhD

    A Masters degree is the next level of education after the completion of an undergraduate degree, commonly known as a Bachelors. These degree levels are often referred to in terms of cycles so that a Bachelor's is a first-cycle degree, a Masters is a second-cycle and finally, a PhD is the third-cycle of higher education (and the highest).

  25. Onrí Jay Benally receives 2024 NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

    Doctoral student Onri Jay Benally is a 2024 recipient of the prestigious National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Benally is currently pursuing his doctoral research under the guidance of Distinguished McKnight Professor and Robert F. Hartmann chair Jian-Ping Wang exploring the world of quantum computing and spintronic devices. A Navaho (Diné) tribesman and carpenter, Benally ...

  26. 2024 Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Support

    Two dedicated UW-Madison staff members have been awarded the 2024 Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Support. The award is a collaboration between the Graduate School and the Office of Academic and Career Success. Ana Garić is the Graduate Program Manager for the Neuroscience Training Program (NTP). In her over 24 years with UW ...

  27. Update from Dean Priestley on Graduate Student Unionization (Tuesday

    April 23, 2024Dear Graduate Students,The University has entered into a stipulated election agreement with the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE). As we notified you on Wednesday, April 17, UE recently petitioned the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) seeking an election to represent certain Princeton graduate student...

  28. Former MIT researcher who killed Yale graduate student sentenced to 35

    FILE - In this Monday, Feb. 8, 2021, file photo, a memorial for Yale School of the Environment student Kevin Jiang near the scene of his shooting at the corner of Nicoll and Lawrence Street in New ...

  29. Graduate Student Edition

    Earth Day: 7 ways CU Boulder researchers are driving change. Climate & Environment News Headlines. April 22 is Earth Day, and this year's theme is "Planet vs. Plastics.". Read about seven exciting research projects at CU Boulder as you ponder the importance of Earth Day.

  30. Graduate Student Award Winners 2024

    Showcase of Graduate Student Scholarship & Creative Activity Awards. Graduate student presenters were awarded top honors from a jury of faculty. Top Oral Presentation Award. Hannah Greer-Young Master of Music, M.M. The JMU Lab Band Initiative. Top Poster Presentation Award. Gabrielle Gieringer Physician Asst Studies, M.P.A.S.