Aspiring Ph.D. students can use an online resource provided by the U.S. Department of Education to find programs that meet their needs based on their academic interests, as well as the type of school that they want to attend.
U.S. Department of Education Ph.D. Services
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) website, which is a part of the U.S. Department of Education, offers a College Navigator tool that can help students locate Ph.D. programs. This Ph.D. finder allows individuals to search for doctoral degree programs in all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and several U.S. territories, such as Guam and the Marshall Islands. Individuals may use the Ph.D. finder services to search for doctoral degree programs by school, state or academic discipline.
Searching By Discipline
The NCES search tool makes it possible to find schools that offer Ph.D. programs in specific disciplines. Not only can students search for broad departmental categories, like math or engineering, but they can also search for subspecialties within fields. Under the broad category of mathematics, for example, individuals may search for Ph.D. programs in applied math, computational math and theoretical math. Users may also research multiple engineering disciplines, including architectural engineering, civil engineering and computer engineering.
Searching By Institutional Attributes
Another way to use the NCES search tool to find an ideal institution at which to complete a Ph.D. is to search by institutional attribute. The tool makes it possible to find schools based on criteria such as:
- Institution type
- Tuition and fees
- Total student enrollment
- Admission selectivity
- School setting (city, suburban, rural)
- Distance learning program availability
- Weekend and evening class availability
- Credit offerings for previous life experience
- Religious affiliation
- Historically Black College and University (HBCU) status
Creating and Saving Searches
Individuals can use the Ph.D. program finder to create and save lists of schools, including the criterion used to generate the results. The lists provide detailed information about each school under basic categories such as tuition and fees, retention rates and graduation rates. Aspiring Ph.D. candidates may use the finder to obtain information about a school's institutional and departmental accreditation of Ph.D. programs.
Additional resources offered by the U.S. Department of Education's Ph.D. finder services include information on financial aid and careers. A Spanish-language version of the Ph.D. program finder is also available.
Ph.D. Program Overview
Ph.D. programs vary considerably depending on subject area, but they typically consist of a mixture of advanced coursework and independent research under the supervision of a faculty mentor. Over the course of a program, students may be required to pass comprehensive examinations or qualifying examinations to advance to Ph.D. candidacy. There are also Ph.D. programs that offer co-terminal master's degrees. Teaching experience may also be required for completion. At the end of a Ph.D. program, students submit a final research-based dissertation and defend it in front of a committee of faculty experts.
It is important to note that, unlike some other graduate programs, Ph.D. students typically receive a stipend. The total time to program completion can vary depending on the student, but some schools have funding and general completion time cutoffs. In general, students can expect anywhere between 3 and 7 years to earn a Ph.D.
Individuals who are interested in enrolling in a Ph.D. program can use the NCES to locate schools, programs, and institution attributes that align with their academic and career goals.