What Is a Ph.D.?

Carolina Jacobs

Apr 29, 2021
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Many students continue their education after receiving their bachelor’s degree. Having more advanced accreditation can open up job opportunities and further enhance a specific skill within your desired career field. However, there are multiple types to consider, such as a Ph.D. Here are some important things to know about this specialty.

You Need to Know: What Is a Ph.D.? 

A Ph.D. is an academic degree focusing on research, data analysis, and theory. It stands for doctor of philosophy and is a type of doctorate. To obtain a doctorate, you need to contribute new knowledge to your field of study. You will then present your research through a dissertation or thesis.  

What Does the Program Entail?

Ph.D. programs are for those who enjoy doing in-depth research. Through the program, you will gain a broader understanding of how to:

  • Analyze theories and concepts
  • Evaluate the relevance of new theories
  • Find gaps in current research
  • Conduct original analysis
  • Communicate effectively to a professional audience 

Steps to Completing Your Dissertation 

To create your dissertation, you must examine concepts in an approved area of study. You want to add new information or find gaps in the existing research. Here are some steps you will follow when writing your dissertation:

  1. Draft a proposal for your paper and defend it orally 
  2. Conduct the research
  3. Write the essay, including methods and findings
  4. Orally defend your completed dissertation to a committee

Types of Ph.D. Programs 

A Ph.D. usually takes a minimum of four years to complete and could be longer depending on the student or program. You can earn the degree through an accredited college either in person or online. Here are some of the fields of study you can obtain a Ph.D. in:

  • Computer science
  • Biology
  • Physics
  • Economics
  • Mental health care
  • Chemistry 
  • Psychology
  • Mathematics
  • Philosophy

Some universities offer fully funded programs. They usually waive tuition and fees but are competitive to get into. Some of them include: 

  • Harvard University: It offers a Ph.D. in biological sciences and public health to provide students with expert knowledge on disease prevention and treatment. 
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology: It gives a Ph.D. in business to study marketing and accounting. 
  • Cornell University: It provides a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, and participants must minor in two subjects. 
  • Northwestern University: It has a Ph.D. program in civil and environmental engineering and prepares students to get jobs in research or teaching. 

What Are the Benefits of a Ph.D.?

Once you understand what a Ph.D. is, consider if it could be the next step in your career path. Here are some of the main benefits of earning a Ph.D. 

Grow Your Professional Skills 

Completing your dissertation involves a high level of critical thinking and analysis skills. You also improve your written and verbal communication abilities while defending and writing your essay. 

These traits set you apart from other job candidates.  

Increase Your Job Opportunities

Having a Ph.D. makes you more attractive to recruiters because it shows you have extended knowledge in your field of study. The skills gained when completing your dissertation also make you more marketable to potential employers. 

You will also be a step ahead of your competition since some jobs require a Ph.D. 

Boost Your Confidence 

Your confidence will grow as you conduct your research. You will have higher self-esteem as you aim to provide insight into a topic or subject other people haven’t focused on yet. Significantly contributing to your field of study is mentally stimulating. 

Enhance Your Learning 

If you enjoy learning about new concepts, then you will feel right at home. You will examine multiple sources of information when writing your thesis. While it may be a little intimidating at first, you will gain new skills in conducting research efficiently. 

Things to Consider Before Obtaining a Ph.D.

There are many things to think about once you’ve decided to pursue a Ph.D. This will be a major investment on your part.


Pursuing any degree typically costs money. If you have already paid for an undergraduate degree, this might not be a financially feasible option. Consider your fiscal situation before deciding to pursue a Ph.D. Keep in mind that it can be economically valuable once you start working full time. 


Many degrees require between six to eight years to complete, so you must be committed to focusing on your education for an extended period. Suppose you currently dedicate your time to other responsibilities, such as taking care of a family member. In that case, you might want to consider waiting until you can put forth all your effort. 


Make sure you can find a graduate school that offers a Ph.D. in your desired field of study. You want to make sure you are passionate about the program since you will dedicate so much time and effort to it. Consider its overall reputation as well. 

Look for a school that is in your dream area. You want to study at a place where you can find activities to do outside of your work. 

Understanding What a Ph.D. Is 

Advancing your knowledge can help create more opportunities. A Ph.D. is one example of continued education. Now you no longer have to ask “what is a Ph.D.?” and should have an idea if this is the right direction for you. It takes a major investment of time, money, and effort, but the results can pay off in big ways.

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