what does phd career mean

What is a PhD?

  • Types of Doctorates
  • A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is the highest globally recognized postgraduate degree that higher education institutions can award.
  • PhDs are awarded to candidates who undertake original and extensive research in a particular field of study.
  • Full time PhD programmes typically last three to four years, whilst part time PhD programmes typically last six to seven years.
  • A PhD can lead to an academia teaching role or a career in research. A PhD can also equip you with skills suitable for a wide range of jobs unrelated to your research topic or academia.

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 entirely research-based rather than involving taught modules (although doctoral training centres (DTCs) offer programmes that start with a year of lecture-based teaching to help develop your research skills prior to starting your project).

In most English-speaking countries, those that complete a PhD use the title “Doctor” (typically abbreviated to Dr) in front of their names and are referred to as such within academic and/or research settings. Those that work in fields outside of academia may decide not to use the formal doctor title but use post-nominal letters (e.g. John Smith PhD); it’s unusual though for someone to use both the Doctor title and post-nominal letters in their name.

PhD vs Doctorate

A PhD and a professional doctorate are both research-based terminal degrees.

However, where a PhD focuses on original research mostly around theoretical concepts, a professional doctorate focuses on examining existing knowledge to solve real-life, practical problems.

While there is much crossover between the two, a PhD is generally better suited for an individual to wants to advance the knowledge and understanding in their field, and a professional doctorate degree is better suited to a working professional who wants to better be able to apply knowledge and understanding to their field.

What Are the Entry Requirements for a PhD?

To be accepted on to a PhD programme, students usually need to hold at least a high ( 2:1 and above ) undergraduate degree that is related to the field of research that they want to pursue. A PhD candidate may also be expected to hold a Master’s degree , however, this does not mean you must have one, as it is still possible to enrol into a PhD without a Master’s .

Self-funded courses may sometimes be more relaxed in relation to entry requirements. It may be possible to be accepted onto a self-funded PhD programme with lower grades, though these students typically demonstrate their suitability for the role through professional work experience.

Whilst a distance learning project is possible , most PhD candidates will carry out their research over at least three years based at their university, with regular contact with two academic supervisors (primary and secondary). This is particularly the case for lab-based projects, however, some PhD projects require spending time on-site away from university (e.g. at a specialist research lab or at a collaborating institution abroad).

How Long Does a PhD Take?

Typically, full-time PhDs last 3-4 years and part-time PhDs last 6-7 years. However, at the discretion of the university, the thesis writing-up period can be extended by up to four years.

Although most doctoral programmes start in September or October, they are generally much more flexible than taught-courses and can start at any time of the year.

How Much Does a PhD Cost?

Tuition fees for UK and EU students vary between £3,000 and £6,000 per year, with the average tuition fee of £4,712 per year for 2023/24 programmes.

Tuition fees increase considerably for international students, varying between £16,000 to £25,000 per year, with an average tuition fee of £19,600 per year .

Nonetheless, most students will secure PhD funding in the form of studentships, scholarships and bursaries to help pay for these fees. These funding opportunities can either be partial, which cover tuition fees only, or full, which cover both tuition fees and living expenses.

UK national students can also apply for Doctoral Loans from Student Finance England if they are unable to secure funding.

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

What Does a PhD Involve?

To be awarded a PhD, a doctoral student is required to produce a substantial body of work that adds new knowledge to their chosen field.

A PhD programme will typically involve four key stages:

Stage 1: Literature Review

The first year of a PhD involves attending regular meetings with your supervisors and carrying out a search on previously published work in your subject area. This search will be used to produce a literature review which should set the context of the project by explaining the foundation of what is currently known within the field of research, what recent developments have occurred, and where the gaps in knowledge are. In most cases, this will be an extension of your research proposal should you have produced one as part of your application. The literature review should conclude by outlining the overarching aims and objectives of the research project. This stage of setting achievable goals which are original and contribute to the field of research is an essential first step in a successful PhD.

The supervisor is the main point of contact through the duration of a PhD – but remember: they are there to mentor, not to teach, or do it for you . It will be your responsibility to plan, execute and monitor your own work as well as to identify gaps in your own knowledge and address them.

Stage 2: Research

The second year (and prehapse some of your third year) is when you work on your research. Having identified novel research questions from your review of the literature, this is where you collect your data to help answer these questions. How you do this will depend on the nature of your doctoral research: for example, you may design and run experiments in a lab alongside other PhD students or visit excavation sites in remote regions of the world. You should check in regularly with your supervisors to update them and run any ideas or issues past them.

Have the structure and chapters of your thesis in mind as you develop and tackle your research questions. Working with a view of publishing your work will be very valuable later on.

Stage 3: Write up of Thesis

The next key stage of a PhD is writing a doctoral thesis , which typically takes from anywhere between three months to one year. A thesis is a substantial body of work that describes the work and outcomes of the research over the previous two to three years. It should tell a detailed story of the PhD project – focusing on:

  • The motivations for the research questions identified from the literature review.
  • The methodologies used, results obtained, and a comprehensive analysis and discussion of the findings.
  • A detailed discussion of the key findings with an emphasis on the original contributions made to your field of research and how this has been impactful.

There is no universal rule for the length of a PhD thesis, but general guidelines set the word count between 80,000 to 100,000 words.

For your thesis to be successful, it needs to adequately defend your argument and provide a unique or increased insight into your field that was not previously available.

Stage 4: Attending the Viva

A viva voce , most commonly referred to as just a ‘ viva ‘, is an interview-style examination where the PhD student is required to engage in a critical appraisal of their work and defend their thesis against at least two examiners. The examiners will ask questions to check the PhD student has an in-depth understanding of the ideas and theories proposed in their thesis, and whether they have developed the research skills that would be expected of them.

The viva is one of the final steps in achieving a PhD, and typically lasts at least two hours, but this duration can vary depending on the examiners, the university and the PhD project itself.

Once you have done the viva – you’re on the home stretch. You will typically be asked to make some amendments to your thesis based on the examiner’s feedback. You are then ready to submit your final thesis for either:

  • PhD – If you pass the requirements you will be awarded a PhD degree (most common outcome),
  • MPhil – If you failed to meet requirements for a PhD, you may be downgraded to an MPhil degree (uncommon outcome),
  • Fail – No award is given, typically for cases of plagiarism (extremely uncommon outcome).

What Is It Like to Undertake a PhD?

We’re often asked what it is like to undertake a PhD study. Unfortunately, this isn’t a simple answer to this question as every research project is different.

To help give insight into the life of a PhD student, we’ve interviewed PhD students at various stages of their programmes and put together a series of PhD Student Interviews . Check out the link to find out what a PhD is like and what advice they have to offer you.

What Are the Benefits of A PhD?

A PhD is the highest globally recognised postgraduate degree that higher education institutions can award. The degree, which is awarded to candidates who demonstrate original and independent research in a particular field of study, is not only invaluable in itself, but sets you up with invaluable skills and traits.

Career Opportunities

First, a PhD prepares you for a career in academia if you wish to continue in this area. This takes form as a career in the Higher Education sector, typically as a lecturer working their way to becoming a professor leading research on the subject you’ve studied and trained in.

Second, a PhD also enables the opportunity for landing a job in a research & development role outside of the academic environment. Examples of this include laboratory work for a private or third sector company, a governmental role and research for commercial and industrial applications.

Transferable Skills

Finally, in possessing a PhD degree, you can show to employers that you have vital skills that make you an asset to any company. Three examples of the transferable skills that you gain through a PhD are effective communication, time management, and report writing.

  • Communication – presenting your work in written and oral forms using journal papers and podium presentations, shows your ability to share complex ideas effectively and to those with less background knowledge than you. Communication is key in the professional environment, regardless of the job.
  • Time management – The ability to prioritise and organise tasks is a tremendous asset in the professional industry. A PhD holder can use their qualification to demonstrate that they are able to manage their time, arrange and follow a plan, and stick to deadlines.
  • Report writing – Condensing three years of work into a thesis demonstrates your ability to filter through massive amounts of information, identify the key points, and get these points across to the reader. The ability to ‘cut out the waffle’ or ‘get to the point’ is a huge asset in the professional industry.

Aside from the above, you also get to refer to yourself as a Doctor and add fancy initials after your name!

What Can I Do After a PhD?

One of the most desirable postdoctoral fields is working within independent Research and Development (R&D) labs and new emerging companies. Both industries, especially R&D labs, have dedicated groups of PhD graduates who lead research activities, design new products and take part in crucial strategic meetings. Not only is this a stimulating line of work, but the average salaries in R&D labs and emerging start-ups are lucrative. In comparison, an undergraduate with five years of experience within their given field will, on average, likely earn less than a new PhD graduate taking on a R&D position.

It’s a common misunderstanding that PhDs only opens the door for an academic career such as university lecturers and training providers. Although obtaining a PhD opens these doors, the opportunities extend far beyond educational roles. In fact, recent data from the UK’s Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) indicates only 23% of PhD graduates take a position in educational roles . This low percentage is primarily because PhD graduates have a wide range of skills that make them suitable for a broad spectrum of roles. This is being seen first hand by the increasing number of PhD graduates who are entering alternative roles such as research, writing, law and investment banking.

How Do I Find a PhD?

We appreciate that finding a PhD programme to undertake can be a relatively daunting process. According to Higher Education Student Statistics , over 22,000 PhDs were awarded in 2016/17 within the United Kingdom alone. Clearly there are a huge number of PhD programmes available. This can sometimes be confusing for prospective doctorates, particularly when different programmes are advertised in different places. Often, it is difficult to know where to look or where to even start. We’ve put together a list of useful sources to find the latest PhD programmes:

  • A great place to start is with our comprehensive and up-to-date database of available PhD positions .
  • Assuming you are still at university, speak to an existing PhD supervisor within your department.
  • Attend as many postgraduate open days as you can. Whilst there, speak to current PhD students and career advisors to get an awareness of what PhDs are on offer.
  • Visit the postgraduate section of university websites and the PhD Research Council section of the UKRI website.

Browse PhDs Now

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What is a PhD?

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding the PhD. Although most people have a vague understanding of what it is, there are a lot of misconceptions about what doing one actually entails. How long does a PhD actually take? Do you have to be a super genius to do one? This article will clear up the confusion and answer some common questions.

First of all, what does PhD stand for?

PhD is an abbreviation of Philosophiae doctor which is Latin for “doctor of philosophy”. All PhD are “doctors of philosophy” regardless of whether the degree is in physics, biology, anthropology or actual philosophy.

So, what is a PhD?

In the simplest terms, it’s the highest academic degree. It is earned by spending three or more years doing original, independent research to produce a thesis which is orally defended.

What does a PhD entail?

A PhD is first and foremost a research degree so the majority of your time will be spent researching. What exactly this looks like depends on the field you’re studying. You may be in a library, or running experiments in a lab, or in the field. Regardless of where you research, you will be regularly meeting with your supervisor to check your progress. Your supervisor will also give you feedback and help you work through any problems you may encounter. They will also provide encouragement and support as you progress through your PhD.

As a doctoral student, you may also have to complete a certain level of graduate-level courses or take exams to demonstrate your knowledge of certain subjects in your field. You will also be expected to participate in other vital aspects of academic life such as teaching, attending and presenting at conferences, grant writing, and publishing in academic journals.

The final step is the PhD defence. The after submitting your written thesis to your committee, they will set a date for your defence. The defence is an oral exam where you show your mastery of the subject area by explaining, discussing, and defending your thesis to a committee of internal and external examiners. The examiners also ask the candidate questions about their dissertation and the field more generally. If the defence is successful, the candidate is awarded their degree and the title of “Doctor”.

How long does it take to earn a PhD?

It can take anywhere from three to six years depending on the country you study in. European PhDs tend to be shorter as candidates begin working on their research projects right away, while American PhDs are longer and require couple years of coursework and exams before the candidate begins their research.

What qualifications do you need to do a PhD?

Drive, determination, and curiosity first of all! On a more practical side, excellent grades, strong letters of recommendation, and the appropriate qualifications. In most parts of Europe, a Master’s degree is a must for PhD applicants, while many American programs allow students to apply for a PhD straight from their undergraduate degree. You can read more about the requirements and PhD application process here .

How much will it cost?

It’s difficult to say how much a PhD will cost as it is so dependant on where you are from, where you study, and what you study. Some PhD are fully funded, such as those at the top American schools, while others are funded through university scholarships or national grants. In some parts of Europe, PhD students are paid nationally-legislated salaries. Occasionally PhD candidates do have to take out personal loans to fund their studies. You can find out more about what funding is available for PhD students from the posting itself, the departmental website, or the university’s graduate school website.

What can I do with a PhD?

A PhD is an essential qualification for a career in academia or research. It is the first step to becoming a lecturer or professor or a scientist at a university or research institute. However, not all PhDs choose to continue on in academia. The advanced research skills you learn during a PhD are advantageous in a variety of diverse fields such as pharmaceuticals, finance, law, journalism, and tech.

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what does phd career mean

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What is a phd.

A PhD is the highest postgraduate qualification level that can be awarded in academic study. This is usually completed over three to four years of full-time study, and involves research into an original contribution in your chosen field. 

PhD is an acronym that stands for Doctor of Philosophy. The name for PhD comes from the Latin term “Philosophiae Doctor”, which roughly translates to “Lover of wisdom”.

Whether you’re finishing up from an undergraduate degree, on a masters course or even just looking to get back into education, you’ll have seen people talking about getting a PhD .

Most people know vaguely what a PhD is – it’s a university course that means you can call yourself ‘Doctor’ without having to do medicine, right? Whilst that is surprisingly close to the truth, we’re here to answer the oft-asked question of ‘what is a PhD?’.

This guide covers everything you need to know about a PhD.

What does a PhD involve?

A PhD will typically take three years to complete. If taken part time, then it will be separated into three different stages:

Year 1: This will involve you speaking with your advisor about your research ideas, finishing your research proposal and beginning to put deadlines in place for your research. You’ll also complete your literature review in this stage. During this, you’ll review the existing research done on the topic that you’re planning to research to help you determine the gaps in the research that you can target

Year 2: During this stage, you’ll begin to conduct your research to gather data. You’ll document this whole process for your thesis and begin to attend conferences where you will have the opportunity to present your current research to other professionals and researchers in the field. You can take this further and take steps to educate the public on the benefits of your research.

Year 3: The final stage of a PhD involves using the data you’ve collected and the documentation of your research to write your thesis. You may still be conducting research at this point, and that’s OK. Once you’ve finished your thesis, you’ll justify your research and decisions in a viva .

How long is a PhD?

A typical PhD will take three to four years to complete when studying full time. Studying part time can take up to six years. The good news is that the thesis can be extended by up to four years. This means that if you haven’t gotten anywhere near finishing your research by the end of the second year, you can apply to extend your thesis and continue your research for up to four more years. Many PhD students will complete their thesis in the 4th year.

How is a PhD different from other degrees?

what does phd career mean

To start with, describing a PhD as a university course can be a bit misleading. Whilst it is a course offered by a university, it’s incredibly different to most courses. Unlike the undergraduate level, you won’t be covering your subject broadly you’ll be focused on one very particular area. Whilst a masters degree, especially a research one, may be focused, it won’t be nearly as focused as a PhD.

That said – don’t expect this focused level of research to necessarily be groundbreaking! Though part of doing a PhD is the intent to produce original research, it’s also primarily there to train your research skills and to prove yourself as a capable researcher.

A PhD is research focused

One of the main differences between PhDs and other types of postgraduate degree is that PhDs are heavily research based. PhDs involve a lot of independent research time, where you'll study your topic in detail using academic resources – such as the university's online library and online materials. This format is different to taught postgraduate degrees, which involve a lot more taught aspects such as lectures and seminars.

Do you need a masters to study a PhD?

In order to study a PhD, you’ll need to have a masters degree and a bachelors degree with a 2:1 or higher. Though self-funded students and students with professional experience in the field may be admitted with lower grades

Some students may begin with a MPhil (Masters of philosophy) or a Mres ( Master of research) and upgrade to a PhD by the end of their studies.

Where can I study a PhD?

Most universities offer PhD programs across a variety of disciplines. It is possible to study a PhD at almost any university and in almost any subject. Since a PhD is an independent research-based program, there is a lot of flexibility in regard to what you’ll study. 

PhD students often choose their own study topics and carry out independent research into that topic. This makes it possible to study your intended PhD at almost any university. 

Although, it is important to check which specific subject areas the university specialises in. For instance, if a university specialises in linguistics, then it would be a good idea to complete a linguistics PhD at that university as opposed to one that specialises in another subject.

It can be difficult to find the perfect course at the right university. That’s why we’ve put together advice on how to find a PhD .

It’s important to remember that a PhD is different from a typical university course. Rather than going to lectures, you’ll be conducting independent research, and so the application process will be quite different. Learn how to apply for a PhD  with our expert guide.

A PhD means attending ‘optional’ lectures and conferences

PhDs do involve some aspects of taught study, including lectures and conferences, although these are often optional and take place less often than on lower level courses.

Now of course, the university doesn’t just accept you, your project and tell you to have fun. You’ll work with a supervisor, and there will be conferences, lectures, and other such things that you can attend. Unlike lower level courses, however, although you won’t necessarily be examined on these things that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go! Conferences are a great way to meet people, get your name out and network . For any career, but especially one in academia, networking is well worth it.

A PhD is a high standard qualification

But what does having a PhD show, other than the fact you spent three to four years working on research and can now call yourself Dr [Your surname here]? 

A PhD is a globally recognised, high standard qualification. This means that if you choose to move elsewhere in the world, your PhD will be recognised as a credible postgraduate qualification.

In addition, a PhD can open up a whole world of new job opportunities! This includes academic roles , such as postdoctoral research posts, or even possibly fellowships. 

Regardless of which career path you choose to take, a PhD is regarded as the highest level postgraduate qualification – reflecting your impressive work ethic, knowledge, and workplace skills.

How to get a PhD

Getting a PhD is not easy by any means. But, if it’s something you truly want to do, it’s well worth it. So let’s take a look at just how to get a PhD!

Choose your research area

Before getting started with your PhD, you want to make sure you know what area you’d like to do it in. Don’t just pick something on a whim – this is something you’re going to be studying for the next four years of your life, and something that, once you finished your PhD, you’ll have your name attached to. So, for arts and humanities students, find an area of your subject that fascinates you enough that you’ll want to spend the next few years writing about it. For scientists, find an area you’d be happy to be working on in a team, and wouldn’t mind moving into as a career!

Find a good supervisor

Once you’ve selected your topic, it’s time to start looking for a supervisor . Depending on what you’re currently doing, asking tutors for contacts or recommendations can be well worthwhile, but if you can’t do this, check out what research your potential supervisor has done. 

In addition, try and arrange an in-person meeting – or at least, a phone conversation. Email can make communication difficult and given this is the person you’ll be working under for the foreseeable future, you want to ensure you get on.

Then, assuming you’re accepted and have appropriate funding, you’ll be considered a probationary PhD student . At the end of your first year, you’ll be expected to prove you’re capable of the full course, so you’ll be tested in the form of writing a report. Once you pass this, you’re good to go!

Your next few years will be spent attending conferences, working on the research and your thesis. Your thesis will talk about what you’ve spent your time doing, how you dealt with any difficulties that arose, and generally show what your contribution to your subject is! Once that’s out the way, you get the fun job of having a viva – that is, talking about your thesis to a bunch of academics.

Pass the viva? Then you’ve succeeded.

So that’s how to get a PhD!

UK Research Councils

There are a selection of UK Research Councils, each of whom are part of the  UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) organisation. Collectively, these UK research councils provide an average of £380 million in PhD studentship funding every year – acting as the largest PhD funding body in the UK. 

Here’s an overview of UK research councils:

  • Science and Technology Facilities Council
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council  
  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
  • Economic and Social Research Council
  • Medical Research Council
  • Natural Environment Research Council  

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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 a PhD?

As the highest degree level achievable at university, completing a PhD shows that you've made a meaningful new contribution to your chosen research field

PhDs at a glance

  • Involves three or four years of full-time study, or up to seven part time.
  • Typically undertaken after achieving a Masters degree.
  • Can either be funded or self-funded.
  • Assessed through a written thesis and oral exam.
  • Many Doctoral graduates choose to pursue an academic or research career.

What is the meaning of PhD?

The term PhD or Doctorate of Philosophy is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase 'philosophiae doctor'.

A PhD degree typically involves students independently conducting original and significant research in a specific field or subject, before producing a publication-worthy thesis.

While some Doctorates include taught components, PhD students are almost always assessed on the quality and originality of the argument presented in their independent research project.

How long is a PhD in the UK?

Full-time PhDs usually last for three or four years, while part-time PhDs can take up to six or seven. However, the thesis deadline can be extended by up to four years at the institution's discretion. Indeed, many students who enrol on three-year PhDs only finish their thesis in their fourth year.

While most PhD studentships begin in September or October, both funded and self-funded PhDs can be undertaken at any point during the year.

If you're planning on studying for a PhD abroad, take a look at our individual country profiles .

Do I need a Masters to do a PhD?

The majority of institutions require PhD candidates to possess a Masters degree , plus a Bachelors degree at 2:1 or above. However, some universities demand only the latter, while self-funded PhD students or those with significant professional experience may also be accepted with lower grades.

You may need to initially register for a one or two-year Master of Philosophy (MPhil) or Master of Research (MRes) degree rather than a PhD. If you make sufficient progress, you and your work will then be 'upgraded' to a PhD programme. If not, you may be able to graduate with a Masters degree.

If you need an MPhil or MRes before enrolling on your PhD, search Masters degrees .

What does a PhD involve?

A standard PhD degree is typically split into three stages. A three-year PhD may follow this pattern:

  • First year - You'll meet with your supervisor to discuss your research proposal and agree an action plan with deadlines. You'll then complete your literature review, in which you'll evaluate and critique existing works to inform the direction of your project and ensure that your research will be original.
  • Second year - Your focus will shift to gathering results and developing your thesis, and potentially begin writing chapters of your thesis. You may also present your results and ideas at academic conferences, gain teaching experience, collaborate with other students on similar projects, communicate the benefits of your research to the general public through workshops, lectures and presentations, or submit work for publication in an academic journal or book.
  • Third year - Primarily involves writing your thesis, though your research may still be in progress. After your supervisor gives their approval, you'll submit your thesis before undertaking a one to three-hour oral exam ( viva voce ) in which you'll discuss and defend your thesis in the presence of at least one internal and external examiner.

How do I find a PhD?

As a PhD is different to other degrees, you're committing to more than simply an advanced qualification. You've chosen to engage in a large-scale independent research project and so you'll need to take into account a range of factors that will drive your search.

A methodical approach to the process is required and you'll need to consider the subject you're interested in carrying out research in and the type of Doctorate you're looking for, making sure this is the right project for you. Only when you're fully prepared and have a good idea of your research proposal should you search for PhD opportunities .

What other types of Doctorate are there?

Alternative types of PhD include:

  • Higher Doctorate - These are usually granted on the recommendation of a committee of internal and external examiners, which assesses a portfolio of published, peer-reviewed research you've undertaken over the course of many years. This type of Doctorate is usually for those with several years of academic experience. Common award titles include the Doctor of Civil Law (DCL), Doctor of Divinity (DD), Doctor of Literature/Letters (DLit/DLitt/LitD/LittD), Doctor of Music (DMus/MusD), Doctor of Science (DS/SD/DSc/ScD) and Doctor of Law (LLD).
  • Integrated/New Route PhD - This four-year PhD course is offered by over 30 universities and involves taking a one-year MRes before studying a three-year PhD. It combines taught elements with independent research, allowing students to learn different methodologies while building their transferable skills.
  • Professional Doctorate - Geared towards students of vocational subjects such as medicine, education and engineering, professional Doctorates are focused on teaching and so normally involve smaller research projects and thesis component. They're often favoured by those aiming for a career outside of academia and are usually supported by employers.

How much does a PhD cost?

Tuition fees vary, but usually fall between £3,000 and £6,000 per year for UK students and those from the European Union (EU) with settled status. UK Research Councils pay universities £4,596 per year (from 2022/23) on behalf of each funded PhD student, so this gives a good indication of the average figure.

For EU students looking to pursue a Doctorate in 2022/23, you'll need to have gained settled or pre-settled status to be eligible for student finance - see PhD loans .

Non-EU students may pay considerably more for their tuition fees.

Despite this, many PhD students are now part or fully funded - scholarships and bursaries are widely available, and particular attention should be paid to Research Council grants .

PhD studentships and assistantships involving a mixture of research and teaching are also common, with scientific studentships usually paid at a higher rate.

How do I apply for a PhD?

Some students propose their own research area and apply for funding, while in some cases a supervisor may already have funding for a project and advertise it like a job. When making a PhD application, you'll typically be asked to submit:

  • an academic CV
  • your academic transcripts
  • two or three academic references
  • a personal statement
  • a research proposal.

International students without settled UK status looking to study certain courses in medicine, mathematics, engineering and material sciences are required to comply with the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) . This involves undergoing a security clearance process with the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. International students may also have to prove their English proficiency.

What can I do next?

Your ability to critically analyse, display intellectual maturity, and research independently and honestly is highly valued within academia and the workplace.

Many students who undertake a PhD get an academic job or become an industry researcher, possibly following the PhD with postdoctoral study, then a fellowship or lectureship.

Other career options will depend on your study area.

Discover what a PhD degree can lead to at your PhD, what next?

Find out more

  • Consider your PhD options at 5 routes to getting a Doctorate .
  • Get help with choosing your PhD supervisor .
  • Explore funding postgraduate study .

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What is a PhD Degree? [2024 Guide]

As you’re taking a look at potential grad school programs, you might be asking yourself, “What is a PhD degree?”

What is a PhD Degree

Understanding what a PhD is and what’s involved in earning one can help you decide whether to enroll in this type of doctoral program. You might decide that a PhD is a strategic step for you to take to further your career.

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If you choose to pursue a PhD, you’ll be glad to know that you can also earn this type of degree online through an accredited university.

What Is a PhD Degree?

students pursuing PhD degree, doing research

After earning a bachelors degree and a masters degree, you may be considering taking your education even further.

The next step for you might be a Doctor of Philosophy degree, better known as a PhD. As a terminal degree, a PhD can set you apart as an expert in your field. Earning a doctoral degree is not a small undertaking. The process includes multiple steps and can last for several years.

Components of a Ph.D. degree program often include:

  • Advanced courses in your chosen field
  • Classes in research methods, data analysis, and scholarly writing
  • Examination of current literature and studies related to your field
  • Oral or written comprehensive exams
  • Original research project—includes writing and defending a major paper about your research

The dissertation, sometimes known as a thesis, is usually the part of a PhD program that takes the longest. During the dissertation process, you’ll work under the supervision of a faculty advisor, often someone whose research interests correlate with yours. You’ll design a research project, carry it out, and write about your findings. This project is meant to contribute new ideas to your field.

A PhD is particularly suitable for students who love school settings and want to pursue academic careers. For instance, professors often have PhDs. It’s also common for scientists and other researchers to hold this type of degree. Outside of  academia, a PhD could set you apart as a knowledgeable leader in your field.

Benefits of a PhD Degree

students taking PhD degree, in group study

Getting your PhD can be an incredible personal goal worth achieving. Plus, a degree at this level can offer many professional benefits, such as:

  • Career advancement . As a person with a PhD, you may be considered an expert in your field. That could help qualify you for a variety of top roles within your line of work.
  • Higher earnings . A job promotion or a new employer might offer you a higher salary.
  • Networking . You can meet new people and build professional connections as you work toward a PhD.
  • Preparation for becoming a professor . Universities typically prefer to hire faculty members who hold PhDs in their area of expertise.
  • Research opportunities . Before you can earn your PhD, it’s necessary to complete an original research project called a dissertation. After completing your degree, you may have additional opportunities to contribute research to your field.

If you’re willing to put in the work, then getting your PhD could be worth the effort.

How to Know If a PhD Is Right for Me

Woman taking PhD degree online

Before you sign up for a PhD program, it’s helpful to carefully weigh the decision and make sure it’s the right choice for you. You might ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I willing to commit years to the process ? PhDs take at least 3 years, and most take longer than that.
  • Do I want to carry out original research ? This is a research-focused degree, and the purpose is to contribute new ideas or theories to your field.
  • Does an academic career interest me ? Many people get PhDs because they want to work in higher education as teachers or researchers. Those who plan to remain as practitioners often consider professional doctorates instead.

It can also be helpful to speak with faculty members and current students to get a feel for what you can expect from PhD studies.

Applying for a Ph.D: Education Requirements

Friends applying for PhD Education online

It’s necessary to put in years of study before you can apply for a PhD program. Most students need to hold at least two degrees already. But, in some cases, one may be sufficient.

  • Bachelor’s degree . All graduate programs require students to have earned a four-year undergraduate degree before enrolling in advanced studies. Most PhD programs don’t specify that your bachelors degree must be in the same field as your hoped-for doctoral studies, but it can help you move through a graduate-level program with more ease.
  • Master’s degree . Colleges often expect students to have earned a master’s degree before applying for PhD studies, but some programs do allow students straight out of bachelor’s degree programs. Doing a master’s degree first can provide strong preparation for the advanced coursework, research, and writing that are required in doctoral programs.

It is often required that the degrees you have be from accredited colleges. It may also be necessary to meet a minimum GPA requirement, such as a score of 3.0 or higher. Some colleges prefer PhD applicants who have graduated from previous programs with honors.

Doctor of Philosophy: Admissions Requirements

Man preparing requirements for Doctor of Philosophy

Doctoral programs can be quite selective about whom they admit because they’re looking for capable students who can keep up with the demands of the program and contribute valuable new research to the field.

In addition to meeting the education requirements, you’ll also be required to turn in records that demonstrate your academic potential. Here are some common admissions requirements:

  • College transcripts and professional resume
  • Letters of recommendation from people who know you academically or professionally
  • Statement about relevant background, research interests, or professional goals
  • Proposal that presents the original research project you’d be interested in doing
  • Scores from the GRE or GMAT (not always required)

You might also connect with the department’s faculty members and find someone who would be willing to serve as your academic supervisor for your dissertation. It’s beneficial for this person’s research interests to align with your own.

Some schools have you do this before admission, and others connect admitted students to supervisors later in the enrollment process.

What Does PhD Stand For?

Students taking a PhD degree

PhD stands for “Doctor of Philosophy.” It doesn’t mean that you’ve studied philosophy at the highest levels. Rather, the word “philosophy” in the name refers back to ancient Greek. It implies that you are someone who loves and seeks wisdom and knowledge.

You can get a PhD in many different subject areas—such as a Doctor of Philosophy in Mathematics or a Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology. PhD students explore their chosen field of study in great depth. They also learn how to conduct original research, and they undertake major research projects. By graduation, they are considered experts in their fields.

What Do You Learn in a Doctoral Degree?

Friends getting Doctoral degree, researching in library

In a PhD program, you’ll learn about your chosen area of study, such as biology or sociology. You will also study a niche area within that field in great depth.

Research is a significant topic in any PhD program. Your courses might include topics on:

  • Advanced statistics
  • Dissertation preparation
  • Literature review
  • Quantitative and qualitative methods
  • Research methodology

These research-focused classes may be tailored to your particular area of study, such as research methodology in the social sciences or advanced statistics in criminal justice research.

What Can You Do with a PhD Degree?

Biochemists with PhD degrees, working in the lab

Many people earn PhD degrees because they want to teach at the college level. This degree is often required for tenured faculty positions at universities.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that most postsecondary teachers earn between $46,690 and $172,130 each year. Research scientists often hold PhDs as well. Examples include medical scientists, biochemists, and physicists.

Additionally, there are some career paths that require a doctorate for licensure. For instance, clinical and counseling psychologists usually need to receive training at the doctoral level before they can practice independently.

Do You Need a Masters to Get a PhD?

Woman with masters degree, pursuing PhD

Whether you’ll need a masters before you can begin the PhD process will depend on the program you choose.

Many PhD programs require a master’s degree as an admissions requirement. Completing a master’s program can provide a strong research and writing foundation that can help you during this advanced program. Other programs, though, let students enroll with only a bachelors degree.

There might be additional classes required to prepare you for working at the graduate level, so it may take a bit longer to complete your studies. For more information on whether you need a master’s to get a PhD , you can consult the admissions requirements of each program you’re considering.

Can You Get a PhD Online?

Man taking PhD degree Online

There are many online PhD programs available for aspiring students looking for flexibility. Some PhD programs are offered entirely online. You can take all of your classes online, and you can also receive guidance from your faculty advisor and defend your dissertation from afar.

Other programs are mostly online but require some in-person experiences. You might be asked to come to campus for a week or two of intensive study. Also, you may be asked to show up in person for your dissertation defense. Either way, online PhD studies are often more accessible for working professionals than fully on-campus programs.

How Long Does It Take to Get a PhD?

students taking PhD degree, attending class in university

Students often spend 3 to 5 years completing a PhD program. Online programs sometimes include features like year-round classes and short course terms that encourage quick completion.

The shortest PhD programs typically do not involve writing a dissertation. There may be a different final assignment, such as a capstone project, instead. You might be able to finish one of those programs in about 3 years. Not all students finish within 5 years. Some spend around a decade on this massive undertaking. Some PhD programs set an upper limit for completion, such as 7 or 8 years.

Is a PhD a Doctor?

People with PhD degrees

People with PhDs are considered experts in their fields, and the degree includes “Doctor” in its name. For that reason, PhD holders often use the title “Doctor.” A college professor, for example, might go by Dr. Smith.

Even still, there’s a difference between MD vs. PhD. A person who holds a PhD is not a medical doctor. Medical doctors earn a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree before becoming licensed to practice medicine. In most contexts, though, people refer to professionals with PhDs as “doctors.”

What Jobs Can You Get with a PhD?

College professor guiding students in class

People with doctorate degrees work in both academia and professional practice. Being a college professor is quite popular among people who hold PhDs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that a PhD can also be helpful for obtaining jobs in higher education administration, particularly as a dean or a provost.

PhD graduates may work in research as well. Research jobs are available with colleges, government agencies, and private institutions. Researchers are needed in many different fields, including biology, mathematics, computer science, and economics. PhDs also help people rise to the top in their industries, perhaps as chief executives.

How Much Does a PhD Cost?

People attending PhD program

Some graduate schools charge just $300 to $400 per credit hour. Others may charge $2,000 per credit hour or more.

Per-credit-hour rates between $600 and $1,000 are quite common. It’s helpful to keep in mind that state universities often charge less for in-state residents than nonresidents. Your total number of credit hours may depend on how many years you spend working on your dissertation.

Some universities offer tuition-free PhD programs for qualifying participants. The students may even receive a stipend in exchange for research or teaching assistance. This arrangement is more common for on-campus programs than online ones.

What’s the Difference Between a Doctorate vs. PhD Degrees?

Is a PhD a doctorate degree ? For your terminal degree, you may have the choice between a PhD degree and a professional doctorate. While they are both doctoral degrees, they do have some differences.

Professional doctorates are sometimes a year or two quicker than PhDs, but that’s not always the case.

Is a PhD Worth It?

Man pursuing PhD degree online

Yes, a PhD is worth it for many students. For one thing, holding a PhD could be the key to fulfilling your professional dreams.

If you want to be a professor, for instance, there’s a good chance that you’ll be required to have this advanced degree. Even if that’s not your ultimate goal, a PhD could be beneficial. The more education you have, the more your job security usually increases.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there’s an inverse relationship between education and unemployment. As education increases, unemployment rates decrease.

Getting Your PhD Degree Online

student getting PhD degree online

An exciting future as an expert in your field may await. You can earn a PhD to increase your knowledge, prove your capability, and contribute new ideas to your area of study. Getting this degree is an impressive accomplishment, and it may open new doors for your career. For convenience and accessibility, you might take a look at online PhD studies.

Many accredited colleges offer robust online PhD programs. You’ll get to take advanced courses and work with respected professors. An online program can also offer opportunities for completing a thesis or a doctoral project. You could graduate prepared to make a difference in your field.

Why not start exploring your options today?

what does phd career mean

what does phd career mean

  • April 2, 2024
  • Academic Advice

What Does Ph.D. Stand For?

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Ever wondered why someone with the title “Doctor of Philosophy” isn’t necessarily pondering the mysteries of existence like Descartes or Nietzsche? That’s because the term encompasses many disciplines beyond its traditional confines. Whether it’s exploring the mysteries of the cosmos, deciphering intricate economic systems or unraveling the complexities of human behavior, a Ph.D. can be earned in any field ranging from science and economics to humanities and beyond. 

In this article, we’ll explore the multifaceted world of Ph.D. studies, beginning with the fundamental question: What does Ph.D. stand for? 

Beyond merely defining the acronym, we provide crucial information to assist you in determining whether pursuing this advanced degree aligns with your goals, aspirations and intellectual passions.

Meaning of Ph.D.

A Ph.D., short for Doctor of Philosophy, is an esteemed academic degree marking the pinnacle of in-depth study and innovative research in a specific area of expertise. Attaining a Ph.D. involves not just a broad mastery of the field at large but also acquiring specialized knowledge and insights into a distinct facet of that discipline.

For instance, pursuing a Ph.D. in literature involves acquiring a thorough understanding of literary theory and criticism while also focusing deeply on a particular literary period or genre, such as Victorian literature, postcolonial literature, or contemporary poetry. This process ensures that Ph.D. candidates achieve a comprehensive grasp of their broader discipline while also cultivating an expert-level specialization.

Education Requirements for a Ph.D.

In order to pursue a Ph.D. program, you must first fulfill some education prerequisites. Both a bachelor’s degree and often a master’s degree serve as essential stepping stones toward this advanced academic pursuit.

Bachelor’s degree

A bachelor’s degree is a fundamental requirement for individuals who aspire to pursue higher education, including Ph.D. studies. Although having a major directly related to the intended Ph.D. field is not mandatory, it can undoubtedly provide a beneficial foundation for handling advanced coursework. Therefore, aligning undergraduate studies with future graduate pursuits can significantly ease the transition into more advanced academic pursuits, ensuring a smoother progression through graduate coursework.

Master’s degree

To be eligible for Ph.D. programs, candidates typically need to have completed a master’s degree. The duration of a master’s degree program can vary depending on whether a student is enrolled part-time or full-time, but typically it lasts between one and three years. 

Maintaining a high GPA during master’s studies can improve your chances of getting into a Ph.D. program. Generally, a GPA of 3.0 or higher is seen as favorable. However, this can vary based on factors like your field of study and the program’s competitiveness.

How Long Does a Ph.D. Take?

The typical duration of a Ph.D. program ranges from five to six years, yet this timeframe can vary significantly depending on the academic field and individual circumstances.

Several factors play a pivotal role in determining the length of Ph.D. studies. Firstly, the depth and breadth of the research project can significantly influence the timeline. The dissertation phase, which involves original research, data analysis, and presenting your findings, often requires a considerable amount of time. Secondly, the availability of funding and resources is crucial. Access to financial support and adequate research facilities can either speed up the process or cause delays.

Moreover, specific program or institutional requirements, such as compulsory coursework, teaching commitments, or comprehensive exams, may affect the overall timeline. These obligations can increase the academic workload, potentially prolonging the time necessary to fulfill all degree requirements.

The Process of Obtaining a Ph.D.


The process of obtaining a Ph.D. is a journey that involves passing through various milestones and academic achievements, each contributing to the culmination of advanced scholarly expertise. Let’s go through some of the steps below: 

Completing coursework

Coursework is a foundational step in the Ph.D. process, helping students cultivate profound subject-matter expertise and establish essential knowledge within the field. These courses equip students with the requisite theoretical framework and shape potential dissertation research topics.

Completing one or more doctoral residency experiences

Doctoral residencies provide a structured platform for refining research skills, receiving guidance, and engaging in scholarly discourse. Often conducted virtually, these experiences allow students to focus on specific study and dissertation preparation activities while fostering connections with faculty and peers for invaluable mentorship and collaboration.

Passing a comprehensive assessment or exam

The purpose of the comprehensive examination process is to comprehensively evaluate the student’s depth of knowledge in their area of specialization and their familiarity with the published research within the field. Additionally, the examination verifies whether the student possesses the critical thinking and analytical skills required for dissertation research.

Developing and completing an independent research project

The dissertation is a comprehensive written document that typically consists of five chapters and addresses a unique question or problem within the field. Faculty experts and the ethical review board play integral roles in assessing the rigor and ethical aspects of the research project, ensuring scholarly integrity and adherence to ethical guidelines.

Seeking approval of your completed dissertation manuscript

The approval process entails evaluation by a faculty committee and the school dean, culminating in a final defense where students defend their research, analysis, and conclusions. Meeting specific professional standards, as applicable to the field, is often a requirement before the publication of the approved dissertation, marking the culmination of the Ph.D. journey.

Career Opportunities for Ph.D. Holders

Ph.D. holders are equipped with a wealth of specialized knowledge and advanced skills, opening doors to many career opportunities that vary depending on their field of study. The roles they can pursue encompass a wide range of leadership, managerial, research, academic, and consulting positions, such as:

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5 Reasons to Get a Ph.D.

The decision to pursue a Ph.D. is a significant one that holds the potential to shape both your career trajectory and personal growth. Here are five compelling reasons why pursuing a Ph.D. may be worth considering:

Become an expert in the field

One of the primary motivations for pursuing a Ph.D. is the opportunity to become an expert in a specific field. Obtaining expert-level knowledge allows you to contribute significantly to your chosen field while providing you with a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. 

You can make a difference through research

The true value of a Ph.D. lies in the potential to make a positive impact through research. Across various fields, impactful research has the power to drive innovation, solve pressing societal challenges, and advance human knowledge. Whether it’s discovering new treatments for diseases, developing sustainable technologies, or understanding complex social phenomena, Ph.D. research has the potential to change the world for the better.

Broaden your job opportunities

In today’s competitive job market, a Ph.D. can set you apart from the crowd. While it’s highly relevant for academic careers, a Ph.D. also opens doors to diverse opportunities in industries ranging from technology and healthcare to finance and government. Employers value the advanced research, analytical, and critical thinking skills that Ph.D. holders bring to the table, making them highly sought after in various professional settings.

Increase your salary potential

Earning a Ph.D. can lead to significant financial benefits in the long run. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics , Ph.D. holders typically command higher salaries and have lower unemployment rates. While the journey toward a Ph.D. may require dedication and perseverance, the potential for increased earning potential is a compelling incentive for many aspiring scholars.

You can reach your full potential

Perhaps the most rewarding aspect of pursuing a Ph.D. is the opportunity for personal growth and development. Along the way, you’ll acquire valuable skills, including resilience, problem-solving, and effective communication, that will serve you well professionally and personally. By pushing yourself to tackle complex problems and overcome obstacles, you’ll reach your full potential not only as a scholar but also as an individual ready to leave their mark and make a meaningful difference in the world.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, Ph.D. programs are indispensable components of the academic journey for individuals seeking to enhance their expertise, enrich scholarly knowledge, and pursue fulfilling careers in academia, industry, and beyond. 

As you reflect on your academic and professional aspirations, consider the transformative potential of pursuing a Ph.D. program tailored to your passions and ambitions. So, dare to delve deeper, embrace the challenge, and pursue this path of intellectual discovery and personal growth.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Is a ph.d. harder than a master’s degree.

While both degrees require significant dedication and effort, a Ph.D. typically involves more extensive research and independent study, making it a more demanding academic pursuit than a master’s degree.

Which is higher: Ph.D. or doctorate?

A Ph.D. lies within the category of doctorate degrees, so one is not inherently higher than the other.

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What is a PhD and Why Should YOU do one?

male and female conducting experiments in lab

In the UK, a PhD stands for ‘Doctor of Philosophy’, sometimes referred to as a ‘doctorate’. It is the highest level of degree that a student can achieve. At some institutions, including Oxford University, a Doctor of Philosophy is known as a DPhil. It is distinct from professional doctorates such as an Engineering Doctorate (EngD).

Entry requirements

An undergraduate degree is a minimum requirement and many will also require a master’s degree (such as an MA, MSc or MRes). Some scholarships will be on a 1+3 basis, which is one year of a master’s plus three years of PhD funding.

How to apply for a PhD

Prospective students are usually expected to submit a research proposal to the department they wish to undertake their study in. Some departments will encourage students to discuss their ideas with an academic working in that field first. The proposal will outline what they intend their research to investigate, how it relates to other research in their field and what methods they intend to use to carry out their research. Some PhD’s however, particularly in the sciences, are advertised as studentships where the research aims are more prescriptive.

How long is the course?

A PhD usually lasts three years (four for a New Route PhD – see below), or rather, any available funding usually lasts for that time. Students may be able to take extra time in order to complete their thesis but this will usually be at their own expense. For part-time, self-funded students, it can take up to seven years.

What’s involved

A PhD usually culminates in a dissertation of around 80,000-100,000 words , based on research carried out over the course of their study. The research must be original and aim to create new knowledge or theories in their specialist area, or build on existing knowledge or theories. Many departments initially accept students on an MPhil basis and then upgrade them to PhD status after the first year or two, subject to satisfactory progress. Students who are not considered to be doing work appropriate for the level can instead submit a shorter thesis and gain an MPhil.

There is little taught element, students are expected to work independently, supported by their department and a supervisor. There may be seminars to attend and/or lab work to complete, depending on the subject. During their study, students will try and get academic papers published and present their work at conferences, which will allow them to get feedback on their ideas for their dissertation.

New Route PhD

Introduced in 2001, the New Route PhD is a four-year programme that combines taught elements, including professional and transferable skills, with the student’s research. There are now hundreds of doctoral students studying a variety of subjects at a consortium of universities across the UK.

Career prospects for PhD Students

PhD graduates who go on to work in academia usually start off by undertaking postdoctoral research and then a fellowship or lectureship. Other career options will depend on what the PhD was in – commercial research is an option for some, and many are able to use their specialist knowledge and research skills in areas of business and finance.   

For a real insight into what it’s like to study at PhD level, see our vlog series ,  where we have invited students at various stages of their PhD and locations to film themselves over a month and share their videos with you.

Why do a PhD?

If you are considering doing one make sure that you do it with a purpose. Do one because you want to and know why you want to do it and have a clear idea of what  it could lead to .  How is doing a PhD going to help you achieve what you want to in your future?

Reasons to do a PhD.

  • It’ll be good for your career. No one expects you to have your whole career plan mapped out when you start a PhD, but having some ideas of where you want to get to can be useful. Be aware though that you may not get the career benefits of a PhD straight away.
  • You want to be an expert in a particular area of your subject. If you complete a PhD you will be. No-one, not your supervisor, not your external examiner at the end of your PhD, no-one, will know more about the subject you researched than you do.
  • You want to achieve something. You want to work hard and demonstrate a passion for your subject and show how much time and effort you put in and how motivated you are.
  • Showing your ability to motivate yourself is one of many skills you’ll be able to demonstrate to employers after doing a PhD, which is  handy for entering a competitive job market .

Reasons not to do a PhD.

  • Don’t do it just because your degree research project supervisor asked you if you wanted to do one with them. If you wanted to do one and it’s in an area that interests you then great, go for it. If you hadn’t thought about doing one before they asked, and you’re not sure why you want to do one, make sure you work that out before saying yes to them.
  • Don’t do it because you don’t know what else to do. Many people do a PhD because they don’t know what else to do and think it will give them time to work that out. Doing a PhD is a huge commitment, at least 3-4 years of your life, and hard work, so before you take one on, make sure you understand why.
  • And do it because YOU want to, not because your family, or others expect it of you, or because your family or friends are doing one, or have done one. Make it your decision, not someone else’s.

Why Should YOU Do A PhD?

It is your decision to commit to a significant period of time and work and it needs to be something you approach positively and with enthusiasm but also with realism about the pros and cons of undertaking original research.

Who does a PhD?

The idea of the “perpetual student”, i.e. someone who stays on after an undergraduate and/or masters degree, to do a PhD, is perhaps a traditional view of PhDs. Some of you reading this will fall into the category of those who work through the tiers of higher education in this sequential fashion (it does not necessarily make you a “perpetual student” though!). The PhD population today is very diverse and not made up entirely of 21 to 25-year-olds who have stayed in educational settings for the majority of their lives. Others may be considering a return to education in order to change your career or as part of your professional development within an existing career. Some of you may be considering coming to study in the UK independently or with support from an organisation in your home country. Whatever your situation it is very important that you take time to recognise and understand why you are making this commitment and what it entails.

Let us move to the positives of why YOU should do a Ph.D. Broadly, the positive reasons can be classified into:

You WANT to or You NEED to

Some academic colleagues were asked to give reasons why someone should do a PhD and all came back with statements that had the word “passion” in them. This is having a real passion for your subject and an area of it that you want to investigate further. My colleagues also offered some interesting comments on the reality of making a decision to do a PhD even when you have this passion. Some commented on the need to consider doing the right PhD for you and not just any PhD, and I think it is important that you take this seriously as it can be dangerous to compromise too far and embark on research that you are not interested in just because it will lead to a PhD.

Academic colleagues also wanted you to look ahead and consider where your PhD may take you. Do you want to continue in an academic career or apply for jobs in industry or other organisations where a PhD is a requirement or will help you to work at a different level? Interestingly, research on the career intentions of students, undertaken by Vitae revealed that less than one-third had firm career ideas even in the latter stages of their Ph.D. This statistic is concerning as it may mean that PhD students miss opportunities to add to their range of experience. You don’t need to have an exact career plan in place at the start of your Ph.D., but doing research on where it may take you is valuable. For those already in a career and undertaking a PhD as part of their professional development, or those who are viewing a PhD as part of a career change into academia, they should also look ahead and ensure that plans for the future are realistic and achievable.

A decision to undertake a PhD involves the same steps as any other career decision, you need to find out as much as possible about what a Ph.D. really involves. Alongside considering where your passions lie and where they might lead to, you need to research such things as:

  • The working environment and how you will adapt to any differences with your current situation
  • Working with a supervisor
  • What funding is available and what it covers, i.e. fees only or fees and living costs?
  • Most importantly what behaviours, skills and experiences YOU have that will make you a successful and productive researcher

These points and others are covered in more detail in 7 Ph.D Application Tips .

Find your PhD here

For further PhD tips see:

What Can You Do With a PhD?

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20th August 2020 at 12:31 am

Excellent article. I am know more motivate to get a scholorship for my PHD program. I have to enhance my all effort because it’s not easy to get a fully funded, require more effort and time taken.

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10th March 2022 at 9:58 am

Good morning,

Hope are well? I am thinking of gong for PHD. In any UK universities. Hope to hear from you soonest.

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10th March 2022 at 1:08 pm

Cool, thanks for your advice. It’s an inspiration to let my “passion” be abroad. Best for you.

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9th November 2022 at 8:33 pm

This article is timely and so educative. I’m now better informed on how to make a decision on going for my PhD. Thanks a lot.

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abbreviation or noun

Definition of phd, examples of phd in a sentence.

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'PhD.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

New Latin philosophiae doctor

1839, in the meaning defined above

Dictionary Entries Near PhD

Cite this entry.

“PhD.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/PhD. Accessed 28 May. 2024.

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What does ph.d. stand for, published by steve tippins on may 17, 2024 may 17, 2024.

Last Updated on: 17th May 2024, 09:47 pm

“What does Ph.D. stand for?” This is a question that can be answered several different ways. First of all, typically Ph.D. stands for doctor or doctorate in philosophy. I know that can be a little confusing because, in theory, I would think that it should be DPH but it’s Ph D. However, Ph.D. actually comes from the original Latin where Philosophiae Doctor was shortened to Ph.D.  This signifies the highest achievement in an academic field. Others also call it the terminal or last degree that you can get within a specific topic area. It has become acceptable to use either Ph.D. or PhD.

A Ph.D. Is a Terminal Degree

That gets us to our next definition of Ph.D., and that is the pinnacle, the top, the terminal degree, the ultimate that you can do within a field of study. Instead of just defining it as a doctor of philosophy, we acknowledge that you, or the holder, has obtained the highest level of education possible in a particular field. To reach this threshold, one must contribute new knowledge to the field of interest. That means that the holder of the degree has been conferred the honor and the distinction of having contributed new knowledge and is now allowed to announce to the world their achievement. Upon completion of the degree, the recipient is free to use the title of Dr. or Ph.D. and becomes eligible for opportunities such as working as a professor at a university, as most universities require professors to hold the terminal degree, Ph.D. 

While a Ph.D. is considered the ultimate degree, it is also not the only doctorate that exists. There is an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education), DBA (Doctorate of Business Administration), Dp.H. (Doctorate of public health), as well as a number of others. In fact, there are over 50 doctoral degrees that have been identified in the United States. These are all the pinnacle degrees within their discipline.

Over 50% of doctoral candidates don’t finish their dissertations.

what does phd career mean

“Piled Higher and Deeper”

There is another definition of Ph.D. that is sometimes used and that is “Piled Higher and Deeper”. This may be considered a derogatory term to denote that academic writing can be very dense. The purpose however is to make sure that there are no misunderstandings about what has been written and that a given stream of research can be reproduced to confirm the results.

What Does Ph.D. Stand For? Final Thoughts

Ultimately, what is a Ph.D.? A Ph.D. is a degree indicating mastery of knowledge in a specific field where the holder has created new knowledge and has the skills and tools to continue the quest for knowledge.

Steve Tippins

Steve Tippins, PhD, has thrived in academia for over thirty years. He continues to love teaching in addition to coaching recent PhD graduates as well as students writing their dissertations. Learn more about his dissertation coaching and career coaching services. Book a Free Consultation with Steve Tippins

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EdD vs. PhD in Education: What’s the Difference?

EdD vs. PhD in Education: What’s the Difference?

Industry Advice Education

If you’re interested in pursuing a doctoral degree in education, one of the first questions you’ll face is: Should I apply for a Doctor of Education (EdD) or a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Education?

The decision between these two culminating degrees can be career-defining as each serves a very different purpose despite being equivalent in level. In order to ensure you choose the path that best aligns with your future goals and career path, it’s important to take the time to first understand the differences in program curriculum and future career opportunities that relate to each degree.

Read on to learn about the defining qualities and key differences of an EdD and a PhD in Education to determine which program is the right fit for you.

EdD vs. PhD in Education

A Doctor of Education (EdD) is a professional degree designed for practitioners pursuing educational leadership roles. A PhD in education , on the other hand, is designed to prepare graduates for research and teaching roles.

“With a PhD, [students are] reviewing the research, seeing a gap in the literature, and generating new knowledge based on a theory or hypothesis,” Joseph McNabb , a professor of practice in Northeastern’s Graduate School of Education , explains. “Conversely, an EdD student starts with a problem of practice and [works to learn] the skills it will take to resolve that complex problem of practice.”

EdD vs PhD

What is an EdD Degree?

An EdD, or Doctor of Education , is a professional doctorate best suited for experienced educators and mid- to senior-level working professionals who want to lead and implement change within their organization.

EdD candidates work in a broad range of fields ranging from K-12 and higher education to nonprofits, government, healthcare, and the military. What each share is a desire to transform their everyday environment and apply the lessons learned through their doctorate to a complex, critical issue facing their workplace. 

The EdD is practice-based. Students in an EdD program don’t want to just research their area of interest, but leverage that research in ways that could positively influence their community or organization’s decision-making process.

Learn More: 5 Tips for Choosing Your EdD Concentration

Those who pursue an EdD focus on qualitative, exploratory research. Students collect data and conduct individual interviews, observations, or focus groups to construct hypotheses and develop strategies that can help solve or clarify a specific problem of practice, such as how to support student veterans transitioning to civilian life or how to foster more female leaders in higher education—two dissertation topics recently explored through Northeastern’s EdD program .

Download Our Free Guide to Earning Your EdD

Learn how an EdD can give you the skills to enact organizational change in any industry.


What Can You Do with an EdD Degree?

While an EdD can be applied to a variety of industries and career options—such as K-12, higher education, the nonprofit sector, or civic service—there are several job titles you’ll likely come across within your cohort of classmates. They include:

  • Postsecondary Education Administrators: Postsecondary education administrators work in colleges or universities, and typically oversee faculty research, academics, admissions, or student affairs. Some job titles that fall under this category include president, vice president, provost, and dean. The average annual salary for a postsecondary education administrator rings in at $99,940 .
  • Elementary and Secondary School Education Administrators: Superintendents, who are the top executives of a school district, fall under this category. They manage academic programs, spending, and the staffing of all educational facilities within their district, and typically earn an average of $106,850 per year .
  • Top Executives : In education, a top executive could be a “chief learning officer” or “chief academic officer”—senior-level professionals who drive and develop strategies that help their organization meet critical business goals. Top executives make an average of approximately $100,090 per year .
  • Instructional Coordinators : Instructional coordinators create and manage school curricula and other educational materials. They help teachers implement effective classroom learning strategies and measure the effectiveness of what’s being taught and how. The average annual salary for instructional coordinators is roughly $66,490 .

what does phd career mean

These are just a few of the many career opportunities available to EdD graduates.

Learn More: Top Careers with a Doctorate in Education

What is a PhD in Education?

A PhD in Education is a terminal degree best suited for individuals who want to pursue a career in academia or research at the university level.

Students in PhD or doctoral programs take a more theoretical, study-based approach to learning. In most cases, their goal is to master a specific subject or add their unique findings to a body of existing literature. PhD candidates conduct original research in the hopes of driving change in their field or inspiring others to make change based on their work.

A PhD is the degree most popular amongst those who aspire to become a professor or obtain a tenure position. Through these programs, students tend to focus on getting published in well-respected journals, presenting at national conferences, and learning how to teach future educators.

What Can You Do with a PhD in Education?

While some of the above roles can also be earned through a PhD program, the most common job titles for PhD-holders include:

  • Postsecondary Teachers: Postsecondary teachers instruct students at a college or university. When they’re not in the classroom, they’re often focused on conducting research, attending conferences, and publishing scholarly papers and books. Postsecondary teachers earn an average $80,840 per year .
  • Academic Researcher : Researchers often have the opportunity to create their own centers or institutes, hire staff to help carry out their work, and secure funding for that work. Salaries often vary by subject area, but a general academic researcher typically earns an average $83,971 per year .

EdD or PhD: Which is Better For You?

Once you’ve explored the differences between an EdD and PhD in Education, the most relevant question to consider will be: What’s the next step I want to take in my career, and which degree can help me achieve my professional goals? The answer to this question will determine which degree program you ultimately pursue.

Earning your doctorate can pay off no matter which path you choose. Professionals with a doctoral degree earn an average $98,000 a year —nearly $20,000 more a year than master’s degree holders. Similarly, doctoral degree holders see an unemployment rate of only one percent compared to the national unemployment rate of two percent.

Regardless of which degree you ultimately pursue, there is enormous potential for you to advance your career in the field of education. Evaluating your needs and values will help you understand whether an EdD or PhD in Education is best suited to your personal and professional goals.

Download Our Free Guide to Earning Your EdD

This article was originally published in July 2017. It has since been updated for accuracy and relevance.

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The median annual salary for professional degree holders is $97,000. (BLS, 2020)

Doctor of Education

The degree that connects advanced research to real-world problem solving.

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benefits of doing a PhD

Benefits of Doing a PhD

L K Monu Borkala

  • What is PhD?
  • What does a PhD entail?
  • Benefits of doing a PhD

You all must have heard about PhD and the value attached to a PhD. So, what is a PhD and why is it given so much weightage?

To begin with, a PhD is a research degree that confers the highest academic qualification on the person.

World over, a PhD is regarded as the highest degree in any academic field. PhD is an acronym for Doctor of Philosophy, and students who attain a PhD can attach Dr. before their names.

However, this does not mean that you can treat patients but means that you have attained a doctorate in the particular field of study.

What Does a PhD Entail?

A PhD usually takes up to three to four years to complete and includes an entire thesis and research work based on the field of work.

Students pursuing a PhD must contribute a new and original contribution in the particular area of study.

So, What Does It Take to Become a PhD?

If you intend to pursue a PhD in a particular area of study, then you must be willing to dedicate 4 to 5 years of committed learning and research in the field. Here is what you will have to do while pursuing a PhD

  • Thorough research and deep investigation into the subject matter
  • Critical and analytical analysis of research material
  • Development of new content to form original ideas and theories on the particular subject
  • Writing a thesis on your findings
  • Explanation of thesis through oral examinations with experts.

Pursuing a PhD is not an easy task. It requires years of research and investigation before the thesis is accepted.

Therefore, after years of hard work, it is a given that doing a PhD will have innumerable benefits. Let’s look at why earning a PhD is an advantage.

1. Improves Writing Skills

Pursuing a PhD improves writing skills. While doing your PhD you have to submit your thesis and dissertations on the particular subject.

Writing a thesis is not simple, It requires excellent writing skills and knowledge. As you do your PhD, you will be guided by mentors who will coach you on your special writing skills. These writing skills develop as you go along the way.

A PhD paper will be published for academic purposes, which is why having good writing skills is important.

2. Enhances Soft Skills

Soft Skills

Soft skills are skills that are a requisite for life. Whether you are pursuing a career or not. Soft skills include communication skills, analytical skills, critical thinking skills, and teamwork among other skills.

While pursuing a PhD, these soft skills get honed. Doing a PhD means that a lot of your skills will be put to test. You will automatically hone your skills and be a master by the end of your PhD.

3. Personality Development

A PhD is a prestigious degree. It is the highest degree anyone can attain. So, it is a given that doing a PhD will require a lot of skills, hard work, and dedication .

These skills required to do a PhD also help to build a great personality. With all the knowledge you gain while researching for your PhD, you become more learned. This in turn develops your overall personality.

4. Gain Vast Knowledge

While pursuing a PhD, you will introduce yourself to a world of information. PhD entails years of research and long hours of deep-rooted investigations.

While doing this, you simultaneously expand the horizons of your knowledge power. The knowledge you gain while studying for a PhD is extensive.

This knowledge can be used at any stage in your life, for practical application , and while writing your thesis.

With more knowledge in your hands, you will be able to contribute your findings on various subjects.

5. In-Demand Jobs

PhD holders have vast knowledge of the subject matter which gives them a better advantage when it comes to securing a job of their choice .

A PhD degree benefit is that they will be in a better position to secure a job of their choice rather than to settle for what is given to them.

6. Great Deal of Respect

One of the benefits of doing a PhD is that it earns you a great deal of respect in society.

When people around you come to know that you are a PhD you automatically earn their respect because they are aware of the knowledge you have and the hard work you have put in to achieve the status.

7. Asset to The Country

Very few people are able to complete PhD degrees. This is because of the difficulty level and time taken to complete a PhD.

Therefore, if you are one of the few who are able to complete a PhD, then you will be considered a valuable asset to your country.

8. Developing Critical Thinking Skills

Another PhD advantage is that it allows you to develop critical thinking skills which is important in every walk of life, especially in your career.

Every job requires a workforce with exceptional critical thinking skills to be able to achieve the objectives or goals of the job. While pursuing a PhD, you hone your critical thinking skills throughout the whole process.

9. Large Network Base

People network

One of the benefits of doing a PhD is that for research purposes you will acquaint yourself with innumerable people including scholars, mentors, peers, and guides. These acquaintances may be able to help you at any later point in your career.

During this process of obtaining your PhD your acquaintances may develop into stronger bonds that lead to business associations at a later stage.

10. Communication Skills

Communication is important when it comes to your career or life as a whole. As we all live in a society, it is important to communicate with otters in order to live a fulfilling and fruitful life.

As mentioned above, pursuing a PhD will introduce you to a host of people. Interacting, working and talking with these people will improve your communication skills .

Not only will you learn to communicate but will also learn to communicate effectively with different genres of people.

11. Increased Job Opportunities

Another reason why earning a PhD is an advantage is because it increases your chance of securing your dream job.

In a job interview where there are two or more than two candidates eyeing the job, the PhD holder will definitely make it as the top choice for the job, surpassing a master’s degree and even a candidate with years of experience.

12. Changes Your Perspective

A PhD holder has spent years trying to deeply understand theories and decipher new and original ideas for his/her thesis.

During this course, you spend hours and years in research. This time spent on research can change your perspective on certain issues and can even be a life-changer for some.

13. Matter of Pride

Attaching the symbol Dr. in front of your name can instill pride and honour to yourself. It is a matter of great honour to be referred to as Dr. in the society. That is why earning a PhD is of great advantage.

14. Contributes New Information to Society

While writing your thesis, you will be extensively researching on a particular subject matter. The thesis you write will cover new and original information which is not copied from other writers’ works.

Through your thesis, you will be giving society original and new information which has never been read before.

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15. Enough Finances to See You Through

A PhD can be taken up at any point in your life. There is no age limit for doing your PhD. Therefore, if you wish to pursue your PhD in the middle of your career, you do not have to worry about the continuation of your finances to feed your family.

PhD degrees are usually supported by the parent institute you are pursuing the PhD from. This support amount is usually enough to conduct all your research, write your thesis and live comfortably.

Pursuing a PhD may seem tough and a long process, but the benefits you get after completing the PhD is encouragement enough to pursue a PhD degree.

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‘There are no jobs’: PhD graduates struggle to build careers in academia

Ian Corbin, who holds a PhD in philosophy from Boston College, is a researcher at Harvard Medical School's Center for Bioethics. The academic job market has become especially tight.

For the first time in decades, Ian Corbin has dental insurance.

Over the past 15 years, Corbin has been a doctoral student, an adjunct professor, and a postdoctoral fellow. And trying to scrape together a living has been tough. “I was always hustling,” he says.

When Corbin — who holds a PhD in philosophy from Boston College and works at the intersection of ethics and medicine — was a postdoc at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in 2019, he earned about $50,000 a year and had kids to support. “So I was always teaching classes in the evening and publishing articles as fast as I could. Just taking on really anything that anyone would give me,” he says.


Corbin’s story isn’t unusual. For many of those with doctorates, who typically spend between four and seven years in graduate school, the employment picture is increasingly bleak, especially for jobs in academia.

Maren Wood, who founded a firm that helps those with doctorates find jobs, says that the market for full-time professors has collapsed. Between 2007 and 2020, the number of openings in philosophy dropped by roughly half. The number of openings in English fell by about 60 percent .

Universities staffed up to accommodate millennials, she says, and now they’re trying to cope with declining enrollments, which are predicted to continue indefinitely . “There’s nothing wrong with a PhD,” says Wood, chief executive of Beyond the Professoriate, whose platform is currently used by Harvard and BC . “The problem is there are no jobs.”

Wood holds a PhD in history, and her breaking point was in 2011 when she came in second place for a job thousands of miles away. The gig was a one-year position. In Reno. And she was told the pay wouldn’t even be enough to live on.

The woman doing the hiring encouraged Wood. “You came in second place!” she exclaimed.

“For what?” Wood asked.

Wood had hoped to be a professor. She had been a top student and earned her PhD from the University of North Carolina. But it didn’t take long to realize: Despite the fact that she had a prestigious degree, there were virtually no decent jobs in universities.

Students walk on campus at the University of North Carolina on May 1. Maren Wood, who founded a firm that helps those with doctorates find jobs, had been a top student and earned her PhD from the University of North Carolina. But it didn’t take long to realize: Despite the fact that she had a prestigious degree, there were virtually no decent jobs in universities.

Often, those with doctorates serve as adjunct professors — sometimes while they look for a more permanent gig. To students, adjuncts and tenure-track faculty may appear to be the same. They have PhDs. Students call them “professor.”

But when it comes to stability, they’re worlds apart. Adjuncts rarely get health care. They’re generally paid between $3,000 and $7,000 per class, and you might have to drive considerable distances to get from one job to another.

Over 30 percent of nontenure-track educators in higher education make under $25,000 a year, according to a 2019 survey by the American Federation of Teachers . Another 30 percent make between $25,000 and $50,000 a year. But over the past few decades, the number of adjuncts has grown much faster than the ranks of full-time faculty.

The dearth of jobs has been particularly tough on those in the social sciences, humanities, and some sciences, including biology. Richard Larson, a professor of data, systems, and society at MIT, has noted that many professors churn out lots of doctoral students over the course of their careers — and a good chunk of those students would like to be professors themselves.

But the math simply doesn’t work. Only a few of those grad students — fewer than 20 percent — can get the sort of job that their advisers have. (Though there are certainly disciplines — including chemical engineering and computer science — in which graduates can find jobs fairly easily, often in industry.)

Kristina Aikens, who earned her PhD in English from Tufts University, initially tried to piece together a living as an adjunct. For a year and a half, she says, she was teaching four or five classes in two or three locations, which is a common — though brutal — workload.

Aikens doesn’t believe that doctoral students — particularly in humanities — understand the real threat of finding themselves in an unstable position. “I think people think it won’t happen to them,” she says. “It’s not because they think that they’re better than anyone else. It’s just a denial that they’re in.”

But the threat of job instability is considerable. Massachusetts is not only the state with the highest percentage of people with undergraduate degrees; it also has the highest percentage of those with graduate degrees . And while many of those degree holders are thriving, too many live in precarious situations — situations made all the more precarious by the extraordinarily high cost of housing in the Boston area.

So if the supply of academic jobs has waned, why don’t doctoral programs simply slim down and admit fewer students?

Most of the people I spoke with noted that professors may be loath to give up their graduate students because they genuinely enjoy working with them. Grad students can talk about esoteric areas of scholarship, built on years of deep study.

“I think that faculty want to believe that they’re doing good,” says Wood. “I think that graduate deans generally believe that graduate education does good. And the fact that universities have paid so little attention to career outcomes means that they don’t actually have good data to work with.”

It’s also possible that schools’ reluctance to admit fewer graduate students is financially motivated. Universities often run on the work of grad students, as the Boston University strike has demonstrated . Grad students teach sections of large classes. They work in labs. They perform in-the-field research.

“The business model only works with a lot of cheap labor,” Corbin says. “I think it’s bad. I think it’s bad for students. I think it’s bad for the classroom. I think it’s bad for the grad students and the perennial adjuncts.” But, he believes, doctoral students represent an enormous pool of untapped talent.

Corbin is now a tenure-track researcher in neurology at Harvard Medical School, with a secondary appointment in bioethics. It’s a job he likes, and life feels much more stable. “It’s becoming less desperate,” he says.

Aikens — who now serves as the program director of writing support at Tufts — says she doesn’t regret getting a doctorate, and she doesn’t think we should preclude people from pursuing that sort of intense study.

Coming from a working-class background in West Virginia, she had wanted to see if she could do it. And the six years she spent getting a PhD were hard. But she knew that success wouldn’t necessarily lead to employment:

“At my graduation, literally at the ceremony, I turned to my friend and said: ‘Should I apply to law school? Because I don’t think this is going to work out.’”

Follow Kara Miller @karaemiller .

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Into the weeds of what DEA rule changes on marijuana mean for feds

what does phd career mean

The Drug Enforcement Agency is taking an incremental step in reclassifying marijuana as a less dangerous substance.

Schedule I drugs are rolled under the strictest restrictions, so when news broke that the DEA was considering loosening those controls for marijuana, it made rather high waves. However, drug policy and employment experts said the potential change has few, if any, immediate implications for users, especially those who work in government.

“It does not mean that the 17% of Americans that admit to regularly using cannabis ... are legal cannabis consumers under federal law,” Karen O’Keefe , director of state policies at Marijuana Policy Project, told reporters during a May 2 briefing. “This shows that the federal government is recognizing ... that cannabis has current medical use, but that doesn’t fix the lack of harmony between state and federal law.”

Experts said the DEA’s announcement, first reported by The Associated Press, leaves more questions than answers because of the legal complexity of overlapping state and federal regulations. Notably, the rescheduling hasn’t happened yet, so much of the discussion around marijuana is hypothetical — at least until officials hash it out.

what does phd career mean

Drug agency is holdout in Biden push to loosen federal marijuana rules

Federal law still delegates the authority to classify drugs to the dea administrator..

“Employers are very confused right now,” Chase Stoecker, a Florida-based labor attorney for McGlinchey Stafford, said in an interview. “They’re putting together their handbooks and their policies when it comes to cannabis use. There’s a lot of questions. What can they allow? What can’t they allow?”

There’s also a lack of clarity for employees. Two dozen states have legalized recreational use of marijuana , which is the most commonly used federally illicit drug in the United States. A lack of joint rules and the continuation of overlapping jurisdictions have resulted in confusion for employees of the U.S. Forest Service, in particular, where Deputy Chief Tony Dixon issued a memo revealing “a noticeable uptick in cases of employees failing drug tests” last year.

“Those results have been associated with the legalization of marijuana and have resulted in corrective action, including suspensions and loss of employment,” he said.

Making marijuana a Schedule III drug would open the door for it to have accepted medical use and be dispensed lawfully as a prescription, assuming approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It’s possible the government could face employment questions from workers who seek to use marijuana as a prescribed medication. It’s also possible employees may try to advance claims that the Americans With Disabilities Act ought to cover medical marijuana as a reasonable accommodation. These claims were generally only successful under applicable state laws.

But to be blunt, the government isn’t facing a sea change in drug policy. The DEA’s proposal isn’t changing federal law, which means current policies on drug use for the civil service remain in effect, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

Agencies are still required to check for marijuana when conducting workplace drug tests.

No 'high times' for federal employees

OPM did not say what actions it would take, if any, to adjust employment procedures should marijuana get baked into the category of Schedule III drugs.

For some time, though, Stoecker said employers have been evaluating drug use — particularly for marijuana — on a case-by-case basis. Even OPM has said in its guidance that “agencies cannot find an individual unsuitable [for employment] unless there is a nexus between the conduct and the ‘integrity or ... efficiency of the service.’ ”

Drug use can jeopardize one’s ability to obtain a security clearance, but the intelligence community has also said marijuana use may not necessarily be an automatic disqualifier.

“We obviously believe that we want to have the talent that exists in America. And when somebody is using [cannabis] experimentally in a legal state, that’s something that shouldn’t on its own essentially disqualify,” Avril Haines, director of national intelligence, said during a hearing last year. “We continue to approach this from a whole-person perspective.”

According to the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency, which conducts 95% of all background investigations for more than 100 agencies, data specific to marijuana use is not tracked. However, so far this fiscal year, 25% of clearance denials and revocations are granted due to drug involvement and substance misuse, a spokesperson for DCSA said.

Though the future is hazy, Stoecker said a situation could arise in which exceptions are carved out for employees who deal with national security or sensitive work. For example, state laws permitting some off-duty marijuana use still prohibit use for “safety sensitive” employees , like law enforcement officers or child care workers.

Opportunities for research

Whether rescheduling opens the door for more federal research on cannabis is another question. While a lot of research has been done on cannabis, much of it has taken place at the academic level via observational studies, which recruit self-identified marijuana users.

Currently, researchers who want to administer a cannabis product to a patient must procure it from a federal source. Clinical studies must have approval from the FDA and the U.S. attorney general, according to Paul Armentano , deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, who spoke to reporters during a briefing.

Aim high: Air Force green-lights waivers for THC-positive applicants

“The hurdles that have made doing this research very cumbersome, historically, have not been explicitly tied to the fact that cannabis is a Schedule I controlled substance. Those hurdles are specific to cannabis itself,” he said. “If you want to change those hurdles, actual laws need to be changed, as well.”

At the Department of Veterans Affairs, for example, the Office of Research and Development is funding 11 clinical and preclinical studies focused on the potential risks and benefits of cannabis. However, researchers are still bound by the Controlled Substances Act’s requirements and federal guidelines.

VA press secretary Terrence Hayes said “marijuana use remains prohibited at VA under federal law,” even as an increasing number of states have legalized its use.

“Unfortunately, I think even after all the dust settles, there’s still going to be quite a bit of confusion among patients, consumers, lawmakers, doctors, the industry, pharmacists, regulators and everyone else,” Armentano said.

Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Duke is the champion of the 2024 ACC baseball tournament.

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2024 ACC baseball tournament bracket

2024 ACC tournament bracket.

Click or tap here to view the bracket in pdf form

2024 ACC baseball tournament schedule, scores

All times ET

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Wednesday, May 22 — Pool Play

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Thursday, May 23 — Pool Play

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Sunday, May 26 — Championship

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  1. Doctor of Philosophy

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    First of all, typically Ph.D. stands for doctor or doctorate in philosophy. I know that can be a little confusing because, in theory, I would think that it should be DPH but it's Ph D. However, Ph.D. actually comes from the original Latin where Philosophiae Doctor was shortened to Ph.D. This signifies the highest achievement in an academic ...

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