Doctor of Philosophy (PhD): Degree Overview
Learn about Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree programs. Get information about degree types, career options and program formats to make an informed decision about your education.
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 and all follow the same general framework.
Applicants need a bachelor's degree at least, and many programs also call for a master's degree in a relevant field of study. Some programs offer online courses, often combined with campus residencies. Many programs require that students gain real world experience through internships.
Ph.D. candidates 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 students to complete their research and limited by restrictions set by the school.
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.
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:
- 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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