How do I get a PhD?

G. Wiesen

To get a PhD, or doctorate of philosophy, you will typically need to complete high school and an undergraduate degree, such as a bachelor’s degree. Once this is done, you can look for graduate programs in your particular field of interest, and you will need to apply to an appropriate graduate school for you. You can then begin working on a master’s degree or find a program that will grant you a master’s degree while you work on your PhD. Once you complete the coursework necessary, you will then need to complete your dissertation and present and defend your work to finally get a PhD.

A PhD is the highest academic level to achieve in a field of study.
A PhD is the highest academic level to achieve in a field of study.

A PhD is typically the highest level degree that can be granted in a particular field of study, and to get a PhD you will first need to complete high school or receive a general education development (GED) certificate. You should then attend a college or university that offers a bachelor’s degree program in the area you are interested in. The coursework necessary to receive your bachelor’s degree will typically take about four years.

A PhD takes many years to complete.
A PhD takes many years to complete.

Once you have finished your undergraduate degree, then you will need to look for a school with a graduate program in the field you are studying. Depending on the nature of your particular interest, you may need to work on a master’s degree before you can get a PhD, or you may be able to pursue your PhD directly and receive a master’s degree “en route” to your PhD. You will likely need to take various entrance examinations before working on your graduate courses, such as the Graduate Records Examination® (GRE®) or the Test of English as a Foreign Language® (TOEFL®). The graduate school you apply to will likely have certain required scores you must meet on these tests; you may also need to submit other paperwork when you apply, such as letters of recommendation and your undergraduate transcripts.

After you are accepted into a graduate program, you can then continue working to get a PhD. You should expect about two years of work prior to receiving your master’s degree, though this can certainly take longer, and another three to six years of work before you get a PhD. Once you complete the coursework required of you for your PhD, you will then need to work on your dissertation. This is a lengthy, thoroughly researched paper that presents your original ideas that contribute to your field of inquiry in a new and useful way. Once you prepare your dissertation, you will then present it to a review board consisting of professors at your college, and defend your work before them prior to being awarded your PhD.

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