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Doctorate Information

In short:

The doctorate degree is an academic degree of the highest level. There are three types of doctorates: research, terminal/professional, and honorary. The minimum time for completing a PhD is usually three years from time of enrollment, although most candidates take considerably longer. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Professionals with doctorates have annual incomes $37,265 higher than workers with bachelor's degrees alone.


PhD Requirements

To receive a doctorate in most fields, students have to prove that they've earned a bachelor's degree, or a bachelor's and master's degree. The requirements vary by field. As a rule of thumb, those looking to become physicians, lawyers, dentists, or chiropractors aren't generally required to hold masters degrees before working on their doctorate. Other more academic fields will often require both the bachelor and graduate degree.


If you want to attain the highest level of achievement possible in one of many different academic fields, you'd have to earn a doctorate.

A PhD, or Doctor of Philosophy degree, is awarded by university faculty to students who have made significant contributions to a particular field. This significant contribution usually is a large doctoral thesis or dissertation, which generally has to be defended by the student in front of a faculty committee before the student can earn the degree. There are mainly three types of doctorates awarded from universities and colleges: research, first-professional (U.S. only), and honorary.


How Long Does it Take?

At this level, the time it takes to complete a doctorate is generally up to the students. Most doctoral students, however, take at least three years to complete their studies. Some students spend up to eight years chipping away at their degrees. Most college professors are required to have a PhD, as well as most high level scientific researchers. The degree requirements for medical and law students looking to earn MDs or JDs (Juris Doctor, the most common law school degree) varies by institution but is generally three years full time for law and 3-4 years for medicine, with an additional 3-4 years of additional study (residency).


Timeline for Doctoral Students

Years 1-2 Coursework (Typically longer if you do not have a Masters)

Invest In Yourself

Expand skills and experience through:

  • Teaching Assistant Opportunities
  • Campus Clubs and Organizations
  • Department or campus committees
  • Workshops and courses outside your department
  • Volunteer work, internships, part-time or summer employment

Write CV and/or resume and update quarterly.

Produce timeline for completion of degree and update annually.

Reflect on and evaluate your experience twice a year.

Expanding your Awareness of Career Options

  • Attend career panels with employed faculty and professionals to explore academic career options and requirements for success.

Build Your Network

  • Attend networking workshops through your professional organization, at your school and Career Services.
  • Meet and network with graduate students and faculty in your department and around campus.
  • Keep in touch with previous contacts from undergraduate institution or past jobs
  • Find mentors besides your faculty advisor.

Years 2-4-Dissertation & Research Work

Invest in Yourself

  • Continue relevant suggestions from years 1-2
  • Make tentative career decisions, set goals and create an action plan
  • Get your CV/resume critiqued at Career Services and by faculty in your department.
  • Perform service or take on a leadership role relevant to your interests
  • Seek opportunities to be a mentor to undergraduate or graduate students.
  • If interested in an academic career look for opportunities to give presentations or to get published.

Expanding your Awareness of Career Options

  • Continue relevant suggestions from years 1-2.
  • Conduct informational interviews with employed faculty and professionals.
  • Explore career options (and gain experience and network contacts) through volunteer work, internships, part-time or summer employment, fellowships.

Build Your Network

  • Continue relevant suggestions from years 1-2.
  • Join relevant professional organizations and/or academic societies.
  • Attend conferences, research relevant presenters in advance and network with attendees and presenters.

Years 4+-Final Dissertations & Research Work

Invest in Yourself

  • Continue relevant suggestions from years 1-2 and years 2-4
  • Decide what career option(s) you will pursue during your job search and develop an action plan
  • Choose volunteer work, internships, part-time or summer employment to gain experiences relevant to your career goal.
  • If interested in an academic career, seek the opportunity to participate in job search committees for your department and/or attend job talks of faculty job candidates
  • Attend workshops on the job search process

Build Your Network

  • If interested in non-academic jobs attend campus career fair and employer information sessions, and network with recruiters.

Start Job Search Process

  • Review job ads to see what the job market is like the year before you plan to look for a job and/or start researching post-doc possibilities.
  • Draft application materials for the job search: cover letter and if applicable, statement of teaching philosophy, statement of research interest, etc. and get them critiqued by Career Services and faculty in your department.
  • Learn about interviewing.
  • Meet with those you plan to use as references/ recommendation letter writers; update them on your plans and share an updated resume/CV
  • If interested in academic positions, get copies of all of your teaching evaluations.

Final Year

Invest in Yourself

  • Review and finalize timeline for completion of degree and update regularly
  • Review your job search goals, revise if needed and update your action plan as needed

Expanding your Awareness of Career Options

  • Continue relevant suggestions from years 1-2 and years 2-4.
  • Let network contacts know you are actively looking for a job and your availability.

Continue Job Search Process

  • Update application materials (CV/resume, cover letter draft, etc.) as needed.
  • Keep references/recommendation letter writers informed of your progress.
  • For academic positions, obtain letters of recommendation.
  • Search for and apply to job openings or post-doc openings.
  • Research each organization you are applying to and be sure to tailor your application.
  • For non-academic jobs, participate in campus career fairs; research employers in advance and bring a copy of your resume.
  • Pursue interviews at conferences (if applicable).
  • Practice your interviewing skills.
  • Schedule a mock interview at Career Services.
  • Learn about negotiating before an possible interviews.
  • If you are an international student wanting to work in the U.S., apply for your OPT far enough in advance that you have your card by graduation.
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