How to get a PhD?

Interested in obtaining a PhD? Learn more about the steps to earn a PhD, careers with PhD, list of colleges offering programs and more.

Updated by Shubharthi Dey on 20th October 2020

A Ph.D. is a postgraduate doctoral degree which is awarded to students who are able to accomplish an original thesis which offering a significant contribution in their respective field or subject. Ph.D. qualifications are available in every subject and are normally considered as the highest level of academic degree one can achieve.

Earning a Ph.D. means that a graduate has comprehended a subject completely. It mainly involves a lot of research work to be carried out to attain the deepest level of knowledge in a particular subject.

How to get a PhD related image                                                                                          Source:

According to Purdue University, less than one percent of the general population earn a Ph.D. degree and this takes 3-8 years to achieve one.

Earning a Ph.D. is completely different in comparison to getting other degrees. You might be studying the identical program, or in the same laboratory, as another student. You might even be working in the same specialist area, with the same supervisor. But your Ph.D. will be absolutely unique, with its research aims, its own core findings, and its own unique contribution to understanding towards that topic.

Steps to obtain a Ph.D

Let's now look into some of the steps a student must follow to getting a Ph.D. degree,

Step 1- Complete an Undergraduate degree

  • Try to do an undergraduate degree, such as a bachelor's degree or an associate degree which would prepare you by providing you with all the basic requirements, so that when the time comes you can use this base to understand the advanced coursework

  • An undergraduate degree typically takes around four years however the length may be shorter or longer depending upon the number of credits

  • During this time try to maintain a high GPA

Step 2- Complete a Masters degree

  • In this, the primary focus should be on the field of study that you want to do research 

  • In a master's degree, you would get a variety of fields from which you can decide which patch to choose.

  • Masters in nursing, education, computer science, business management, accounting, etc.

  • A Masters's degree would take about 2 years to complete; depending on your field of study.

Step 3- Applying for the program

  • To obtain a Ph.D. program, you must submit a statement of purpose and transcripts from previous post-secondary schools and also a letter of recommendation from a professor.

  • Apart from this many colleges requires you to take the GRE (Graduate Record Examination) test.

Step 4- Taking a Course

  • Ph.D. programs are less structured unlike an undergraduate or a master's degree program, which has clearly defined coursework requirements. In the Ph.D., program grades are generally not given for assignments or classes. Students must pass qualifying exams at selected times in their program.

  • The pace of Ph.D. programs is highly variable as the completion times are usually is 3-8 years.

Step 5- Preparing a research proposal

  • Your research proposal is just the part of the Ph.D. application process; it's not the part of your PhD

  • Your research proposal just sets out the aims and objectives of your PhD

  • Even though the proposal won't be part of your final thesis; it plays a vital role in shaping your Ph.D. report.

Step 6- Literature Review

  1. The literature review is the first thing that you will do before starting your project report

  2. In this review, you will conduct an in-depth study of all the research that has happened in your field of study

  3. This literature review will be part of your final thesis.

Step 7- Research And Collect Results

  • From this step, your full focus would be working on your research

  • By carrying out organized research and producing results.

Step 8- Producing a thesis and writing the dissertation

Once you have completed your research and gathered sufficient results you will start to write your final thesis. There is a tendency to interchange the thesis and dissertation. They both have a different meaning:

Thesis Dissertation

This is the argument or the conclusion that you have arrived by combining your research work with the literature review that you did.

This is the final statement of your thesis where you in an order to demonstrate and prove your conclusion.

Step 9- Viva Voce

This is the last part of your Ph.D. report, unlike other degrees where you would be marked on a sheet of paper based on your examinations.

In Ph.D. submission, you need to defend your result and final conclusion in front of the appointed examiners.

After that, they might be some required corrections in your dissertation.

Upon correction and presenting it to the required authority your dissertation will pass and you would be awarded a doctorate and you will be able to add that coveted "Dr." to your title.

Online Colleges offering PhD

Bay Path University

Liberty University

Capella University

Northcentral University

Colorado Technical University

University of Phoenix

Drexel University

Walden University

Well after gaining a Ph.D. degree, people usually opt to become a lecturer in some reputed college or university or mostly stick to academia. However, many of them wish to apply their knowledge in some industries by involving themselves in the research and development domain of an organization. Let's have a look into some of the jobs which are usually sought by a Ph.D. holder. 

Top 5 non-academic careers after PhD

Now let us see the top 5 most sought non-academic careers a Ph.D. graduate seeks after completing his Ph.D.

  • Market Research Analyst

  • Business Development Manager

  • Competitive Intelligence Analyst

  • Product Manager

  • Quantitative Analyst


The highest form of degree which takes the most effort on your part to achieve one. This degree proves that you have the best knowledge regarding the particular field that you had done the Ph.D.

The way Ph.D. is considered to be the highest form of degree is the fact that every Ph.D. degree is different from each other as they might be in the same field but they differ in the final project that has been submitted in the form of a dissertation. This makes a Ph.D. degree unique and stands out from other degree programs.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • 1.1) How long does a PhD take?

    A. According to CBS news on an average, an American Student takes 8.2 years to complete their Ph.D. This can change according to various courses and in various countries.

  • 2.2) What qualifications do I need?

    A. In US Bachelors degree holders can also apply for Ph.D. For applying in a PhD program one should have completed 16 years of formal education. Qualification in the entrance test is also necessary.

  • 3.3) Can I take PhD as a part-time?

    A. Yes, part-time PhD is possible, and it has a more flexible schedule with classes and degree completion. In some programs, a minimum one-year residency is required. But, part-time PhD will take more time, and managing a part-time PhD will be more challenging.

  • 4.4) What is M.Phil?

    A. A M.Phil qualification is less advanced than that of a PhD. In this, the students are expected to master a content area and it can be mastered in two years. Moreover, the PhD dissertation takes more time than an M.Phil dissertation.

  • 5.5) What are Financial Aid options available for me?

    A. For Ph.D. there are a lot of financial aid opportunities available in the form of Scholarship and loans. Eg: National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program.