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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)

A Doctor of Philosophy (commonly abbreviated as a PhD) is a globally recognized academic degree awarded to doctorates for completion of independent research on an original topic. It is the highest academic degree a student can achieve and is considered the de facto entrance qualification for a career in academia. A person who attains a Doctorate of Philosophy is automatically awarded the academic title of Doctor. The degree is designed to be four to eight years, depending on the advancement of the subject area, country, and the research scope of the degree.The Doctor of Philosophy is usually offered in almost areas of study including science, engineering, finance, arts, literature, economics, etc. and carried out with the support of one or more expert academic supervisors.


  • Admission. As a PhD is largely based on independent study, you will usually have to submit a research proposal before being accepted. This will outline exactly what you are looking to investigate and the methodology you will use.
  • Recognition. Globally recognized
  • Duration. Typically 4-8 years
  • Subjects. You can complete your doctorate in any of your desired fields including engineering, finance, economics, world literature, statistics, physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology, foreign languages, fine arts, history, linguistics, media and communications, geography, sociology, philosophy, psychology, etc.
  • Assessment. As a PhD candidate you must submit a project, thesis or dissertation often consisting of a body of original academic research, which is in principle worthy of publication in a peer-reviewed journal. You have to defend it in front of the panel to complete your studies.
  • Grading. Varies based on country, university, and subject.


Unlike most Masters courses (or all undergraduate programs), a PhD is a pure research degree and normally involves:

  • Carrying out a literature review (a survey of current scholarship in your field).
  • Conducting original research and collecting your results.
  • Producing a thesis that presents your conclusions.
  • Writing up your thesis and submitting it as a dissertation.
  • Defending your thesis in an oral viva voce exam.

These stages vary between subjects and universities, but they tend to fall into the same sequence.

All PhD projects/coursework are completed with the guidance of at least one academic supervisor. They will be your main point of contact and support throughout the program.  Your supervisor will be an expert in your general area of research, but obviously won’t have researched on your exact topic before.

Global Differences

The PhD is awarded across the globe and admission is generally on the basis of completion of a relevant advanced degree i.e. Masters, however this is not always necessary.

In Canada, Admission to a doctoral program usually requires completion of a Master’s degree in a related field, with sufficiently high grades and proven research ability.

In the UK, universities admit applicants to PhD programs on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the university, admission is typically conditional on the prospective student having successfully completed an undergraduate degree with at least upper second-class honours, or a postgraduate master’s degree, but requirements can vary. For example, at the University of Oxford, the one essential condition of being accepted is evidence of previous academic excellence, and of future potential.

In the United States, the PhD degree is the highest academic degree awarded by universities in most fields of study. U.S. students typically undergo three phases in their course to work towards the PhD degree. The first phase consists of coursework in the student’s field of study and requires one to three years to complete. This often is followed by a preliminary; a comprehensive examination, or a series of cumulative examinations where the emphasis is on breadth rather than depth of knowledge. The student is often later required to pass oral and written examinations in the field of specialization within the discipline, and here, depth is emphasized.

Is Doctor of Philosophy right for me?

A PhD provides you the opportunity to make a direct contribution to your field and makes you an expert in your chosen area. However, academically, the PhD is very demanding involving the writing of a thesis based on original research work and then defending it in front of the panel. Additionally the exact duration is unknown as it’s dependent on the completion of your research. Not only do you need to support yourself during these years, you also will not be directly engaged in a professional career. Thus, it’s imperative you evaluate if it’s the right option for you.

When deciding whether a PhD is the best fit probe into the following:

  • Subject. Do you have an original area of research that is exploring a new area or pushing the boundaries of your field beyond what is currently known?
  • Career options. Does the PhD provide the right foundation for your future job?
  • Entry requirements. Do you have the appropriate entry requirements e.g. masters?
  • Interest. Do you have the desire to study and research more in your chosen area?

To conclude, when deciding to pursue a PhD degree, students must be sure about their interests and passion to study further. Connect with students, lecturers and experts in your area of interest to gain a complete understanding before delving into your next academic endeavor. Good luck!

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