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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD): Degree Overview

Ph.D. programs are advanced-level programs that are offered in a variety of disciplines, allowing students to study subjects at an advanced level. Learn about areas of study, program requirements, and career information.

Essential Information

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 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. Schools usually require students to complete graduate-level coursework, meet minimum GPA requirements, and be approved by faculty prior to being admitted to a program.


Doctor of Philosophy

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 13% growth in employment from 2014-2024, which is faster than average. The median annual wage among all postsecondary teachers was $63,000 in May 2015.

A Doctor of Philosophy program requires students to do extensive research and complete a dissertation. Once the program is completed, students may seek careers as academia, research, or even in medicine.

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