Doctoral Studies Overview

For students who are considering PhD studies, it is important to first get a basic idea of what the general entry requirements and what to expect once in the doctoral degree program. The PhD is the terminal degree in most fields, and it just so happens that graduates with advanced degrees automatically receive more respect and prestige in both their personal and professional lives.

In addition, with with a doctoral degree, you would likely be better off in terms of career advancement and financial reward for most fields. In many cases, students pursuing a doctoral degree tend to be self motivated and driven. They also like to learn, just for the sake of learning. They also enjoy conducting research and writing, and many graduates look for position in higher education, research institution as well as managerial and administrative positions.

One thing to keep in mind however is that the degree is challenging yet rewarding, It requires tenacity and dedication, to the point where one needs to be well organized with great time management skills. This is perhaps more important for those students who have a family or a demanding job and are considering pursing PhD studies.

General Entry Requirements

  • Entry requirements for doctoral degree programs typically include:
  • Graduate admission application
  • Statement of purpose or goal statement
  • Resume or CV
  • Official masters and bachelor degree transcripts with a good GPA. This will vary from program to program but is usually at least 3.0 or 3.5.
  • A bachelors and/or masters degree in a related field is often a prerequisite. In cases where students do join the program from another professional area some prerequisite courses may be required.
  • Two (2) or three (3) letters of recommendation depending on the program
  • Admissions Tests – Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores for most graduate programs. The Graduate Management
  • The Admission Test (GMAT) is required for MBA programs. Other entrance exams include the Miller Analogy Test (MAT), The Law School Admission Test (LSAT) for law school, and Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) for medical schools, and Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) for Pharmacy schools admission.
  • Test of English as a foreign language (TOEFL) scores for international applicants
  • Documented evidence of financial support
  • Interview – Some graduate programs also require students to attend an interview, either face-to-face, via the phone, or video conferencing depending on location and proximity.

PhD Studies Quick Tips

  • A doctoral degree is the terminal degree in many disciplines.
  • A bachelor’s and master’s degree are often a requirement to join a doctoral program. Some programs may offer a combined masters-PhD or bachelor to PhD after the bachelors degree.
  • A PhD typically takes about 3-5 years to complete on a full time basis or up to 8 years on a part-time basis. Exceeding this time line may require students to reapply or petition to remain in the program. In many programs you also start to lose earlier credits if the timeline is exceeded.
  • In addition to coursework, PhD degree programs typically require students to complete one or more of the following: Practicum, comprehensive exam, internship, etc.
  • A dissertation is a requirement of most PhD programs. A dissertation is makes a new and creative contribution to a field of study and usually requires empirical research. Students work with a committee of four or five on the dissertation.
  • Residency is a requirement of most doctoral degree programs. The role of residency in PhD studies is to ensure doctoral students contribute to and benefit from educational and professional through activities like research, physical residence, teaching, etc
  • Doctoral degrees include: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Doctor of Education (Ed.D), Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.), Doctor of Public Administration (DPA), Doctor of Practical Theology (DPT), Doctor of Professional Studies (DProf or DPS), Doctor of the Built Environment (DBEnv), or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.), Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), Law (Juris Doctor or J.D.), Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.), Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.).
  • A minimum GPA of 3.0 or 3.5 is often required for entry depending on the particular program.
  • Graduate entry exams like the GRE (Graduate Record Examination), are often required for admission. Professional postgraduate programs require entry exams like the LSAT (law school), MCAT (med school), PCAT (pharmacy school), etc
  • Students can work as Graduate Assistants (GA), Research Assistants (RA), or Teaching Assistants (TA) when opportunities are available. Assistantships often offer tuition remission and/or a stipend during the academic year.
  • Many students keep their full time jobs and take part-time classes if they do not get assistantships. Some doctoral degree programs require students to have some related work experience in their profession for consideration.
  • Many PhD studies programs and doctoral degree programs require students to maintain at least a “B” average to remain in the program.
  • In some PhD studies and doctoral degree programs, courses are offered online, on campus or both.