What is a Doctorate Degree?
The PhD degree is actually an abbreviation for a Doctor of Philosophy. It is the highest research-based academic degree awarded in the United States. It is usually pursued by those who wish to enter academia as professors. The time taken to complete it varies quite widely depending on the subject for which the degree is pursued, but usually takes four to eight years. This is because a PhD has a very different educational format than lesser degrees.
The Doctor of Philosophy degree utilizes a unique educational style in teaching its students. There are usually three stages to earning a PhD.
- The first stage is constructed in a similar way to other degrees (bachelor's, master's, associate's, etc) as it teaches coursework through regular classes. This stage usually requires one to three years to finish.
- The second stage is known as a preliminary, and is an examination or series of examinations which tests the students on the knowledge they acquired in the first stage of courses. Passing the preliminary is a requirement before students start working on their doctoral dissertation.
- The final stage of attaining a PhD is completing a dissertation, which is a written report that is original and contributes to the body of human knowledge. This process generally takes from two to four years as the student spends a wealth of time researching the topic they have chosen and preparing the dissertation. The dissertation is a three-part project consisting of a literature review, a description of the research methodology used to obtain a conclusion, and a detailed analysis of findings. When the candidate finishes their dissertation, they are subjected to an oral examination from the PhD committee to earn their degree.
Types of Degrees
The Doctor of Philosophy degree is awarded in many disciplines; pretty much any discipline which is taught in universities can be undertaken by the student.
Where Can I Get a Doctorate Degree?
There are currently 282 universities in the United States that award the Doctor of Philosophy degree. Their admissions criteria are quite stringent; they usually require applicants to possess at least a bachelor's degree in the field, with a master's degree being almost necessary as well. A letter of interest stating why the applicant wants to pursue the degree is another requirement. The applicant must also achieve satisfactory scores on the graduate exam for their program (GRE, GMAT, etc.)
- GRE: The GRE (Graduate Record Examination) is a standardized examination for entrance into most graduate programs. The exam consists of three parts.
- Verbal Reasoning: A multiple-choice section scored from 200-800 points in increments of 10 which mainly tests knowledge of vocabulary. Typically consists of 30 questions and 30 minutes are given to complete it.
- Quantitative Reasoning: This section tests students' reasoning abilities and usually contains 14 quantitative comparison questions, 10 discrete quantitative questions (multiple-choice) and four data interpretation questions. It is scored the same way as the verbal reasoning sections and 45 minutes are given to complete it.
- Analytical Writing: This section asks the test-taker to complete two different essays (Issue and Argument). Both essays are scored on a scale of 0-6.
- Issue: This essay presents an issue to the test taker and asks them to state their feelings/ideas about it. 45 minutes are given to complete this.
- Argument: This essay provides the test taker with an argument and asks them to consider the logic behind it and critique it. 30 minutes are given to complete this.
- GMAT: The GMAT (Graduate Management Admission Test) utilizes the same format as the GRE but presents questions that are more prevalent to those seeking to enter a business-related field.
How Much Will a Doctorate Degree Cost?
According to the Department of Education, the average cost of a doctorate degree at public schools in 2008 was $48,400 per year while tuition for private schools was $60,000. While these costs are high, there are large amounts of aid available for students.
PhD students are typically discouraged from obtaining employment outside of their studies. Due to this, students generally receive a tuition waiver or an annual stipend. Many students work as research or teaching assistants at the school where they are pursuing their degree. Schools strongly encourage students to pursue fellowships which pay for the cost of their education. Often students are also supported by their adviser's research grants.
Transitioning to a Doctor of Philosophy
The different nature of a PhD program to that of your previous studies should not be a reason to fret. Schools understand the pressures of their academic rigor and provide resources to help students.