What is a PhD and what are its requirements?
If you have a love for wisdom and academia and have completed your master’s degree, then maybe you are considering taking on a PhD degree. This degree is regarded as the highest level of education in many fields. Read on to find out whether a PhD is a good choice for you and the requirements if you choose to pursue one.
What is a PhD?
A PhD is a degree that is short for a Doctor of philosophy. It’s an academic or professional degree that allows those who achieve it to become professors at university or to work at a highly specialized and advanced role in their field if they choose to do so.
The word philosophy is derived from the Greek word ‘Philosophia’, which you can translate directly to ‘love of wisdom’. In the greek world, the Ancient Greeks used it to refer to someone who has accomplished extensive education in the world’s issues. Today, to get your degree, you still require a deep love for learning and the topics you decide to pursue in a specific field.
This PhD degree is an academic degree that is recognized worldwide at educational institutions. They are typically awarded to scholars who have passed in a thesis that was based on intensive and challenging research in the study area they have chosen. What you will need to do and hand in for your degree differs based on your chosen subject.
Why is it so special?
The PhD degree is the most advanced degree level that a student can accomplish, with some exceptions to the rule. Doctorate candidates usually try to get the degree after following a masters degree. However, some universities allow students to go straight from a bachelors degree to pursuing a PhD degree. Your university might also allow you to ‘upgrade’ your master’s degree to a doctorate degree if you have the grades, skills and knowledge needed to do so.
You typically study for three or four years full-time when pursuing your doctorate. During this time, you complete a deep dive into original research that you present as a thesis at the end of your study period. Some PhD programs need, in addition, a published portfolio of papers or even extra coursework.
Degree candidates need to complete an oral defence of their thesis when they are done with it. This is usually done either in front of a large or small panel, with a session lasting from a time range of one to three hours.
Traditionally, students study in person on campus but nowadays, distance learning and e-learning programs mean that many students now study their degree virtually or part-time.
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In general, when applying for a degree, admission requirements are based on the applicant’s grades, both at the bachelor and masters level. They also take into consideration research abilities and skills.
Most universities also need an honours or masters degree with good grades and excellent bachelor degree grades. However, in some cases, your master’s degree grades are enough. Admission may also be based on funding types. For example, if you choose to self fund your PhD, instead of having a university or company sponsor you, you may be able to apply with lower grades.
Keep in mind that for some universities, you might need to have a professor in the institution you intend to study at to become your advisor throughout your journey before you are officially accepted into the program. Sometimes, the professor even needs to be a tenured one. In other cases, when you have been admitted to the program, they will assign you a supervisor afterwards, based on the subject of your research and the methodology you intend to use.
Whether or not you need to do it before being accepted, it’s always a brilliant idea to get to know professors at your chosen university and department when applying for your degree. This can help the department determine whether your research passion follows along with the department’s interests. They can also help you to find a suitable topic for you, if you know your research direction but still haven’t decided on your specific topic of choice.
Additional optional requirements
When applying for your PhD degree, there could be additional requirements that you may need. For example, some degrees require language proficiencies in specific languages, while others need many academic references. This section talks about the requirements you may need when applying to the doctorate degree of your choice.
Some universities may need proof of being at a certain level in the language you want to study. You can present evidence of proficiency through either a standardized language exam or show evidence that you have previously completed undergrad or postgrad degrees in this language. This proves you are pretty fluent in the language.
You may also need to present a previous resume or academic transcript for some applications. These transcripts may need to include details like courses, research projects, exams and the grades you have received in them. If you have published any publications, you can also add them to your application to boost it.
Universities may also ask for references from two or three respected professors or people who know you well in the academic setting. These could also be teaching assistants or tutors. The written references should talk about your intellectual prowess and showcase your skills relating to the degree you wish to pursue, such as research or presentation skills.
Some institutions may also ask you to write a personal statement document. A personal statement is a short essay where you talk about your passion for the discipline you wish to study. In it, you should write the reasons why you have chosen to pursue a PhD, including personal and professional motivations for doing so. You can also mention any extracurricular activities or occupations that you do that are related to the field of study. Make sure to check the guidelines for the personal statement document for the university you are applying to, as they may have specific requirements or limitations.
What’s a PhD research proposal?
Another vital point to talk about when considering a doctorate is the research proposal. If you want to be considered for a program, you must write a good recommendation. This proposal presents the proposed research topics, giving context to the previous studies you have already done. It also shows your awareness of current events relating to the matter.
You should also present research gaps in the current literature and suggest a hypothesis and research methodology to follow during the course of your own research. You should also add enough detail to make the methodology approach pretty clear. It’s also important to talk about the practical and theoretical implications of your research and how it will make a difference in the world.
The proposal can help those in the admissions department analyze whether you are suitable for the program and whether you will fit in at the institution and take advantage of the facilities and benefit them. They will also check that your research interests align with those of the department.
Alternatives to the Doctorate
When you are applying for doctorate programs, you should also consider other degrees with similar respectful titles such as the Juris Doctor, Doctor of Physical Therapy or Doctor of Medicine. Even though these degrees aren’t doctorate ones because they lack sufficient academic research, they are also respectful titles.
None of the university programs that offer these degrees tends to need academic research or prior requirements to be admitted to the program. Some of them also have research angles and allow you to conduct research that is also presented and published in academic journals. This makes them similar to doctorate degrees, and some employers may consider them pretty equal.
In conclusion, a PhD is a respectful academic degree that is considered the highest level of education. This degree typically requires many prerequisites so that students can be accepted into them, such as prior degrees in related fields and language proficiency. You should study the degree program you want to research thoroughly before applying, so you know exactly what to present them. Fortunately, other prestigious degree types are available as alternatives if you don’t have the requirements needed.