What is a PhD?

Leestijd: 4 min · Door Academic Positions

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.

Door Academic Positions  ·  Published 2018-03-09

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