Doctor of Philosophy (PhD): Degree Overview

Learn about Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs. Get information about degree types, career options and program formats to make an informed decision about your education.

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Essential Information

Ph.D. programs are advanced-level programs that are offered in a variety of disciplines, allowing students to study subjects at an advanced level. Areas of study could include business administration, education, engineering, nursing, science and theology. Ph.D. programs are typically research-based. Some programs offer online courses, often combined with campus residencies. Many programs require that students gain real world experience through internships.

Ph.D. candidates also must write and defend a research project, which is called a dissertation or thesis. Throughout a program, students must pass multiple exams, complete seminars and undergo extensive research that leads to the writing of the dissertation. Ph.D. programs are generally completed over a period of years that is based upon the amount of time needed by the student to complete his or her research and limited by restrictions set by the school.

Education Prerequisites

Admittance into a Ph.D. program typically requires completion of a bachelor's or master's degree, depending on the school and area of study. Schools usually require students to complete graduate-level coursework prior to being admitted to a program. Coursework must be completed with a GPA that meets the minimum Ph.D. program requirements. Students must also pass exams in their chosen areas of study. Schools typically require students to be approved by the doctoral faculty in order to be admitted into a program.

Curriculum

The actual coursework in a program is based upon the area of study, but students in Ph.D. programs will typically complete some graduate courses to advance their knowledge and develop expertise in their chosen topic area. After completing coursework, students move into the research stage of a program.

Before students begin research, their dissertation subject must typically be approved by their advisors and the doctoral committee. Once approval is granted, students may begin in-depth research. Students' advisors are typically available to offer assistance throughout the process of developing their dissertations.

Once the research is approved as being complete and the students have written their dissertations, they go in front of the committee to defend their research and conclusions. If the committee approves the dissertation, it is signed and published, and the student is awarded his or her doctorate.

Popular Career Options

There are a broad range of careers that a doctoral degree holder may enter upon graduation. Some individuals may even continue in their current careers, seeking job advancement in a wide variety of areas, including medicine, education and business. Ph.D. programs are typically designed to prepare graduates to work as:

  • Professors
  • Researchers
  • Postdoctoral fellows

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, postsecondary teachers were projected to see a 19% growth in employment from 2012-2022, which is faster than average. The median annual wage among all postsecondary teachers was $68,970 in May 2012.

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  • School locations:
    • Texas (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Baylor University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Human and Consumer Sciences
      • Human and Social Services
      • Liberal Arts, Humanities, and General Studies
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Public Administration
      • Religious Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
      • Theological, Religious, and Ministerial Studies
  • School locations:
    • California (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Stanford University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Ethnic and Gender Studies
      • Liberal Arts, Humanities, and General Studies
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Public Administration
      • Religious Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
  • School locations:
    • Massachusetts (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Harvard University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Ethnic and Gender Studies
      • Liberal Arts, Humanities, and General Studies
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Public Administration
      • Religious Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
      • Theological, Religious, and Ministerial Studies
  • School locations:
    • Pennsylvania (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Pennsylvania include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: First Professional Certificate, Post Master's Certificate, Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Ethnic and Gender Studies
      • Geography and Cartography
      • Human and Social Services
      • Liberal Arts, Humanities, and General Studies
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Public Administration
      • Religious Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
  • School locations:
    • Rhode Island (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Brown University include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Ethnic and Gender Studies
      • Human and Social Services
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Public Administration
      • Religious Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
  • School locations:
    • North Carolina (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Duke University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Postbaccalaureate Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Ethnic and Gender Studies
      • Liberal Arts, Humanities, and General Studies
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Public Administration
      • Religious Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
      • Theological, Religious, and Ministerial Studies
  • School locations:
    • Indiana (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Notre Dame include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Ethnic and Gender Studies
      • Liberal Arts, Humanities, and General Studies
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Public Administration
      • Religious Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
      • Theological, Religious, and Ministerial Studies
  • School locations:
    • Columbia (D.C.) (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Georgetown University include:
      • Graduate: First Professional Degree, Master
      • Non-Degree: Coursework
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Liberal Arts, Humanities, and General Studies
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Public Administration
      • Religious Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
  • School locations:
    • Tennessee (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at Vanderbilt University include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Undergraduate: Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Ethnic and Gender Studies
      • Human and Social Services
      • Liberal Arts, Humanities, and General Studies
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Public Administration
      • Religious Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History
      • Theological, Religious, and Ministerial Studies
  • School locations:
    • Florida (1 campus)
    Areas of study you may find at University of Florida include:
      • Graduate: Doctorate, First Professional Degree, Master
      • Post Degree Certificate: Post Master's Certificate
      • Undergraduate: Associate, Bachelor
    • Liberal Arts and Humanities
      • Cultural Studies
      • Ethnic and Gender Studies
      • Geography and Cartography
      • Human and Social Services
      • Liberal Arts, Humanities, and General Studies
      • Parks, Recreation and Leisure Studies
      • Philosophy
      • Political Science
      • Religious Studies
      • Social Science and Studies
      • Social Studies and History

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