Find Out the Meaning of a PhD Degree, Admission Requirements and How to Apply, this is a complete guide for all students.
What is a PhD, or What Does PhD Mean? Meaning of a PhD Degree, Admission Requirements and How to Apply are Vastly Covered, Read on!
Of course you know it is a degree, just the highest of them all, lol. PhD is the highest university degree conferred after a masters holder has completed a further study in any field. It is mainly a research degree; if you want to study PhD, you will be required to undertake an original research (thesis or dissertation) that either set the pace in discoveries or expounds the boundaries of knowledge.
You will be required to defend your work against experts in your field. If you don’t possess a PhD, you can’t be addressed as a doctor of academics (Dr). PhD is the short form of Doctor of Philosophy abbreviated as DPhil, or Dr. Philos. It originated from the Greek word Philosophia – meaning; love of wisdom. It requires specialization in a particular field. It takes 3 to 4 years to study and acquire this degree. Some institutions allow students to pass directly from bachelors to PhD depending on the nature of the degree they studied , and they will definitely do it for 4 years. If you want to take the program as a part-time studies, you may take up to 6 years to finish.
Nowadays, instead of the traditionally taught and supervised classroom PhDs, some schools have introduced distance learning and part-time PhD studies.
Admission Requirements for a PhD Studies
- you need a good bachelors and masters degree result
- proof of language proficiency
- evidence of sufficient funding
- medical fitness report
- research proposal or thesis
- publication of former research work if application
Note; These may not apply to your university of choice, find out from them to get specific details. Some universities require that you find a professor in your field of choice, discuss with him or her for approval before you proceed with admission application. The person will supervise you throughout your studies in the school.
Language Proficiency Requirement
Some PhD applications require proof of proficiency in the language in which you intend to study. You can either provide the results of an approved standardized language exam taken recently, or show evidence of having completed undergraduate or postgraduate study in the relevant language.
PhD Employment/Academic references Requirements
Some institutions may also ask for a record of your employment such as a résumé, and/or all your academic transcripts, including details of course modules and module content as part of your PhD application. Details of other research projects you have completed and any publications you have been featured in can also help your application.
Many PhD applicants are also asked to provide references from two or three people who know them well in an academic setting, such as their undergraduate or postgraduate tutors or professors. These references must have a particular focus on your academic performance, coursework and research abilities, your research potential and your interest in your chosen field of study. For this reason, it is important to develop relationships with faculty members during your pre-PhD studies.
PhD Personal Statements for Application
Many institutions ask for a personal statement – a short essay which you can use to demonstrate your passion for your chosen subject. You can outline your reasons for wanting to study a PhD, personal motivations for doing so, any extracurricular activities that are particularly relevant or should be highlighted, and any flexibility in your chosen area(s) of research. If you need help, many institutions have a guide to personal statements on their website, which can also help you tailor your personal statement to each institution.
PhD Applications; PhD Research Proposals
Finally, in order to be considered for a place on a PhD program, applicants are expected to submit a PhD research proposal. A research proposal:
- Outlines your proposed research topics in the context of previous work,
- Highlights your awareness of current debates within the field,
- Demonstrates a suitable level of analysis,
- Identifies relevant gaps in current knowledge,
- Suggests a relevant research hypothesis to fill some of these gaps,
- Explains your intended research methodology in sufficient detail,
- Discusses the implications to real-world policy that your PhD proposal may invite.
This will help admissions tutors to assess your aptitude for PhD research, and also to determine whether your research interests align with their own research priorities and available facilities. They will also consider whether they have the relevant staff to provide you sufficient supervisory expertise.
For this reason in particular, it is important to research institutions thoroughly before applying for a PhD. Not only will you be happier if your research interests fit in with those of your chosen institution, but institutions may be forced to reject your application simply on the basis of discrepancies between their research interests and yours. Note that this initial research proposal is not necessarily binding – it is usually a starting point from which to further develop your research idea.
Some subject areas (such as science and engineering) do not ask for original research proposals. Instead, the institution presents a selection of PhD research projects which are formulated by the supervisor(s) concerned and peer-reviewed. This may be done at a certain time of year or year-round, depending on the institution. Students can then submit a statement demonstrating a clear understanding of the research to be undertaken and their suitability to undertake it.
These PhD research projects may also have been formulated in consultation with another organization that may provide funding/scholarships for the successful candidate. These pre-defined PhD projects are less common in arts, humanities and social sciences subjects, where it’s more common for students to submit their own proposals.
Applying for a PhD without Relevant Qualifications
If you wish to do a PhD but do not have the relevant qualifications or their equivalent, you may still be able to apply for a PhD program by fulfilling additional requirements as stipulated by your institution of choice. Some possible requirements could be to undertake specified extra study or passing a qualifying examination.
PhDs through MPhil
Another option available for potential PhD candidates is to apply as a general research student or for an MPhil degree. This is a common path taken by PhD candidates. The MPhil is an advanced master’s degree awarded for research and can be suitable for students who do not have a strong research background. You will be required to take some taught courses to get you up to speed with things like research methods.
The successful completion of a one-year taught program may lead to the award of the MRes degree, which includes more taught components than the MPhil and can be awarded in lieu of a PhD for students who have not completed the required period of study for a PhD. Alternatively, the successful completion of original research may lead to the award of the MPhil degree, which can be awarded without the candidate having to present a defense of their dissertation (a requirement to achieve a PhD).
If, after the first or second year of your research (i.e. during your MPhil), the institution is satisfied with the progress of your work, you may then be able to apply for full PhD registration. Usually, your supervisor or tutor will be in charge of determining whether you are ready to progress to a PhD. If you’re deemed to be ready, you will then need to develop a title for your thesis and choose your PhD program.
Starting a PhD Studies
When registration has been completed you should be formally informed of: your supervisor(s) and their area(s) of expertise; the topic or field of PhD research for which you have been accepted; the minimum length of time required before submission of your thesis; the formal assessment methods preferred by the institution.
Most institutions will also provide you with a comprehensive list of provisions and available facilities for PhD and research students at the university. They will also include a detailed outline of the milestones you must reach on your journey to achieve a PhD. Your supervisor will be in charge of going through these milestones with you, making reports on your progress, and advising you on your next steps. You will need to make adequate progress each year in order to continue your PhD studies.
Alternatives to a PhD Studies
When looking for PhD programs, keep in mind that there are several types of degrees which have the term “doctor” in their title, such as the Juris Doctor (common in the US, Canada, Australia, Mexico and parts of Asia), the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) or the Doctor of Pharmacy (DPharm) and the US and Canada version of the Doctor of Medicine (MD).
These degrees are generally not classified as PhDs as they lack that vital component that really defines the PhD: academic research. These other types of doctorate degrees are instead referred to as ‘entry-level doctorate degrees’. Candidates who wish to pursue a PhD may do so afterwards, and this may be known as a ‘post-professional doctorate’.
Neither the JD nor the US/Canada MD programs universally require students to complete a specified academic research component in order to be awarded the degree title. However, there are also many research degrees such as the MD, which conduct scholarly research (medical in the case of the MD) which is published in peer-reviewed journals. This makes them very similar to PhDs, and some countries consider them equivalent. Some institutions therefore offer combined professional and research training degrees, such as the MD-PhD dual program, which is useful for medical professionals looking to pursue a research career.
Degrees that some people term higher than a PhD
In addition to various degrees which may be considered equivalent to a PhD, there are also some ‘higher doctorate’ courses considered to be a step above the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). These are most common in UK universities and in some European countries, although they are increasingly awarded as honorary degrees. The US does not have a system of higher doctorates, and offer the titles solely as honorary degrees. Honorary degrees are sometimes signified by adding ‘hc’ (for honoris causa) to the end of the degree title. To me they don’t seem higher because you will still be called a Doctor and not a Professor.
Some higher doctorate degrees include;
- Doctor of Science (DS/SD): Awarded in recognition of a substantial and sustained contribution to scientific knowledge beyond that required for a PhD.
- Doctor of Literature/Letters (DLit/DLitt/LitD): Awarded in recognition of achievement in the humanities or for original contribution to the creative arts.
- Doctor of Divinity (DD): Awarded above the Doctor of Theology (DTh), usually to recognize the recipient’s ministry-oriented accomplishments.
- Doctor of Music (DMus): Awarded in the UK, Ireland and some Commonwealth countries on the basis of a substantial portfolio of compositions and/or scholarly publications on music.
- Doctor of Civil Law (DCL): Highest doctorate excepting the DD, offered on the basis of exceptionally insightful and distinctive publications that contain significant and original contributions to the study of law or politics in general.
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