Getting a Ph.D. is an excellent way for military personnel to advance their career within the military or gain valuable qualifications that can help when transitioning to civilian life. Because of the wide range of roles and responsibilities in the armed forces, military personnel can benefit from getting a Ph.D. in an equally wide range of subjects, from international relations to business management. The study time-frame for most Ph.D. programs in not set, as most of the work done is research-based. However, regular supervision by a faculty advisor and the defense of research in front of a panel is a standard part of most doctoral programs.
Ph.D. Program Admissions
Generally, entry onto a Ph.D. program requires the student to have completed their master's degree or baccalaureate in a relevant subject and achieved a merit or distinction grade. Some classes do offer the opportunity to bypass the master's and proceed directly to the Ph.D. Depending on the program, students may be required to have a minimum GPA, such as 3.0 or 3.3, on their master's or undergraduate work. GREs are typically required and students may need to meet certain minimum scores on those as well. Letters of recommendation are commonly expected. International students may need to prove their proficiency in the English language by providing TOEFL or other test results.
Best Ph.D. Programs for Advancing a Military Career
Ph.D. in Security and Strategic Studies
A doctorate in security and strategic studies helps military members build the critical analysis skills needed to study and assess the myriad of current global security threats. Typically research-based, security studies programs can vary from school to school. For example, students might acquire a strong foundation in the politics and the history of security, the military and international relations or they might focus more on intelligence and counterterrorism. Required coursework is roughly in the range of 10 to 16 courses, plus a dissertation.
Ph.D. in Engineering
Engineering skills are a valuable addition to a military member's resume and those serving the sections such as the logistics corps or motor pool often already have a firm grounding in mechanical engineering. Coursework for a Ph.D. in engineering often consists of studying core subjects in the student's specific field of engineering, such as mechanical, civil or environmental, alongside additional courses chosen by the student and a dissertation.
The minimum number of required credit hours varies from program to program but generally ranges from 35 to 42 for students who have master's degrees. In addition, students are often called upon to pass several written and/or oral exams before they are awarded their Ph.D. degree.
Ph.D. in Politics and International Relations
Studying politics and international relations at a Ph.D. level offers military members a chance to specialize in a wide range of subjects, including dispute resolution, international politics, political theory and business conflict management. Students are expected to complete between 30 and 75 credit hours and a dissertation. Course topics include the history of political theory, the international economy and foreign policy.
Ph.D. in Policy Analysis and Management
Public and governmental policy has a distinct impact on the actions of the military and, for a military member looking to make an impact on how that policy is formed, a Ph.D. in policy analysis and management is an important qualification. Completion of a Ph.D. in policy analysis and management can also create career opportunities in civilian government as well as business and industry.
Studying policy analysis at the Ph.D. level can vary from programs with a broad view of governmental policies to those that let students specialize in areas such as economic policy, international development and security, and social policy. Ph.D. students are generally required to complete around 12 to 16 courses and a dissertation, to be completed within five to eight years of starting Ph.D. study.
Ph.D. in Management and Business
Leadership skills are a crucial part of every military officer's training, and a Ph.D. in management and business can help to translate those skills into a valuable qualification that opens up career advancement opportunities in both civilian and military life.
Management and business Ph.D.s are research-based and focus on imparting critical-thinking and analysis skills alongside in-depth knowledge of their chosen area of business. Common areas of study include accounting, finance, information systems, management science, and marketing. A Ph.D. student in management and business is generally required to complete 10 to 18 courses and a dissertation over the course of three to four years.
By continuing their education to a Ph.D. level, military members can build on the skills and experiences gained during their tours of duty, increasing their chances of career advancement within the military or focusing on acquiring marketable skills for the civilian job market. A Ph.D. sets applicants apart as having a detailed, nuanced, and complete understanding of their chosen subject.