Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated as PhD, Ph.D., D.Phil., or DPhil in English-speaking countries and originally as Dr.Philos. or Dr.Phil. (for the Latin philosophiae doctor or doctor philosophiae), is in many countries a postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities. The academic level known as a doctorate of philosophy varies considerably according to the country, institution, and time period, from entry-level research degrees to higher doctorates. A person who attains a doctorate of philosophy is automatically awarded the academic title of doctor.
Requirements for awarding PhD
The detailed requirements for award of a PhD degree vary throughout the world and even from school to school. It is usually required for the student to hold an Honours degree or a Master’s Degree with high academic standing, in order to be considered for a PhD programme. In the US, Canada, India and Denmark, for example, many universities require coursework in addition to research for PhD degrees. In other countries (such as the UK) there is generally no such condition, though this varies by university and field. Some individual universities or departments specify additional requirements for students not already in possession of a bachelor’s degree or equivalent or higher. In order to submit a successful PhD admission application, you must need copies of academic transcripts, letters of recommendations, research proposal and a personal statement. Most universities also invite for a special interview before admission.
A candidate must submit a project or thesis or dissertation often consisting of a body of original academic research, which is in principle worthy of publication in a peer-reviewed context. In many countries a candidate must defend this work before a panel of expert examiners appointed by the university; in other countries, the dissertation is examined by a panel of expert examiners who stipulate whether the dissertation is in principle passable and the issues that need to be addressed before the dissertation can be passed.
Some universities in the non-English-speaking world have begun adopting similar standards to those of the anglophone PhD degree for their research doctorates.
A PhD student or candidate is conventionally required to study on campus under close supervision. With the popularity of distance education and e-learning technologies, some universities now accept students enrolled into a distance education part-time mode.
In a “sandwich PhD” program, PhD candidates do not spend their entire study period at the same university. Instead, the PhD candidates spend the first and last periods of the program at their home universities, and in between conduct research at another institution or field research. Occasionally a “sandwich PhD” will be awarded by two universities.
In general, the first two years of study are devoted to completion of coursework and the comprehensive examinations. At this stage, the student is known as a “PhD student” or “doctoral student”. It is usually expected that the student will have completed most of his or her required coursework by the end of this stage. Furthermore, it is usually required that by the end of eighteen to thirty-six months after the first registration, the student will have successfully completed the comprehensive exams.
Upon successful completion of the comprehensive exams, the student becomes known as a “PhD candidate”. From this stage on, the bulk of the student’s time will be devoted to his or her own research, culminating in the completion of a PhD thesis or dissertation. The final requirement is an oral defense of the thesis, which is open to the public in some, but not all, universities. At most Canadian universities, the time needed to complete a PhD degree typically ranges from four to six years. It is, however, not uncommon for students to be unable to complete all the requirements within six years, particularly given that funding packages often support students for only two to four years; many departments will allow program extensions at the discretion of the thesis supervisor and/or department chair. Alternate arrangements exist whereby a student is allowed to let their registration in the program lapse at the end of six years and re-register once the thesis is completed in draft form. The general rule is that graduate students are obligated to pay tuition until the initial thesis submission has been received by the thesis office. In other words, if a PhD student defers or delays the initial submission of their thesis they remain obligated to pay fees until such time that the thesis has been received in good standing.
Value and Recognition
PhD students are often motivated to pursue the PhD by scientific and humanistic curiosity; the desire to contribute to the academic community, service to others, or personal development. A career in academia generally requires a PhD, though in some countries, it is possible to reach relatively high positions without a doctorate. In North America, professors are increasingly being required to have a PhD, because the percentage of faculty with a PhD is used as a university ratings measure.
The motivation may also include increased salary, but in many cases this is not the result. Research by Casey suggests that, over all subjects, PhDs provide an earnings premium of 26%, but notes that master’s degrees provide a premium of 23% already. While this is a small return to the individual (or even an overall deficit when tuition and lost earnings during training are accounted for), he claims there are significant benefits to society for the extra research training. However, some research suggests that overqualified workers are often less satisfied and less productive at their jobs. These difficulties are increasingly being felt by graduates of professional degrees, such as law school, looking to find employment. PhD students often have to take on debt to undertake their degree.
A PhD is also required in some positions outside academia, such as research jobs in major international agencies. As well, in some cases, the Executive Directors of some types of foundations may be expected to hold a PhD. In the article “The Peril of Credential Creep in Foreign Policy”, it states that “[m]ore and more foreign policy professionals are required to hold master’s or PhD degrees to compete in their field.” The article states that “If having a master’s degree at the minimum is de rigueur in Washington’s foreign policy world, it is no wonder many are starting to feel that the Ph.D. is a necessary escalation, another case of costly signaling to potential employers.” An article on the Australian public service states that “credentialism in the public service is seeing an dramatic increase in the number of graduate positions going to PhDs and masters degrees [are] becoming the base entry level qualification.”
“Did you ever observe to whom the accidents happen? Chance favors only the prepared mind.” – Louis Pasteur