What is a Ph.D.?

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What is a Ph.D.? Some people may ask.

As a student in the world today, It’s quite important to know what one of the stages of higher tertiary education is really all about as well as to know how much it mean to your status when acquired.

We’d breakdown everything you need to know as a scholar in this article on What is a Ph.D.? at Start Skool to help you understand what a PhD is really all about.

What is a Ph.D.?

A Ph.D. forms one of the three phases that make up higher tertiary education, the other two being the undergraduate phase (bachelor’s degree) and the first post-graduate phase (master’s degree).

It is seen as the highest academic honour an individual can attain. There are other academic honours that are seen on equal standing with the Ph.D., one of such is the Doctorate. These two may be close in meaning, but they represent two different aspects in a certain academic field as we would see later on.

We will get to that, but first, I must briefly shed light on the history and origin of a Ph.D. degree.

Origin of the PhD

Originating from the Latin words philosophiae doctor which means “doctor of philosophy”, this degree can first be traced back to medieval Europe. The Ph.D. is the highest degree that a student can attain in most fields, with the notable exceptions of law and medicine that have their own doctorates.

The degree originated in the 19th century when the word “philosophy” had the broader meaning of “love of wisdom,” and so it exists in neurobiology, physics, and many other academic disciplines, as well as in what we now call philosophy.

One thing to note is that there are many origin stories for a Ph.D. According to Keith Allan Nobel, the first Ph.D. was awarded in Paris, in the year 1150, while another source has it that a Ph.D. was first awarded in the 9th-century schools in the Muslim world, before spreading into Europe.

While there may be differences based on different accounts, there are many similarities these accounts share. For example, most sources of history have it that German had processed and refined the title and use of the Ph.D. in the 17th century.

Read here for a more detailed dive into its history.

As you maybe well aware, not every academic discipline awards a Ph.D. They offer an alternative that is seen in equal standing. This brings forth the need to distinguish between the different types of Ph.D.

Types of a PhD

We will classify the possible types of Ph.D. based on what they are called in different fields of study and what they mean. While a Ph.D. may be seen as the highest possible research qualification, there are certain qualifications which may be for specialisation, or they may be a professional doctorate.

  1. DBA – Doctor of Business Administration. This doctorate is specific to professionals in business administration.
  2. MPhil – Master of Philosophy. This particular degree faces extreme stigmatisation in the world of academia. It is often seen as a “failed Ph.D.”. It is also misconstrued as an M.Sc or their equivalent. The MPhil is also a research degree that was held in high regard during the ’60s and ’70s.
  3. EdD – Doctor of Education. This is a professional doctorate awarded to teachers with experience and other educational specialists. It is solely for those who have gone into teaching.
  4. DSocSci – this is a professional doctorate awarded to those who complete a doctorate program in Social sciences.
  5. DProf – Doctor of Professional Studies. This is a professional doctorate that comprises all subjects.
  6. DArch – Doctor of Architecture. Awarded to those who complete a progamme in architecture. It is a professional degree.
  7. MD – Doctor of Medicine. This is a professional/higher degree awarded to those who complete the doctoral programme in Medical sciences.
  8. Th.D – Doctor of Theology. This is a purely academic degree awarded to those who finish a doctorate course on Theology and Religious studies.
  9. DSc/ScD – Doctor of Science. A higher or honourary degree awarded to any student who completes a course in any branch of  STEM ( science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
  10. DLitt/LittD – Doctor of Science. While the title includes science, this higher or honourary degree is awarded to those who complete a doctorate programme in Arts and Humanities.

Now that you know the types of PhDs, it is paramount that you understand the requirements for taking on a Ph.D. programme.

If this article interests and helps you, you can also check our helpful articles on studying in America. It’s a very lengthy guide to help any international student who may want to study in America.

Requirements for obtaining a PhD

Requirements for obtaining a PhD

There is no way on earth that every academic institution which offers a Ph.D. degree will have the same criteria for those who wish to undergo the programme. They vary according to the academic standard, subjects in which the degree is offered, the mantra of the institution, etc.

This offers a variety of Ph.D. holders with different mindsets needed to overcome new academic and professional challenges that we face.

A general overview of what is required of students by offering institutions will be given in this article.

You should research the requirements of the institution you wish to apply to. Their criteria will be what you should work towards. Some of the general criteria you’d expect to see from most institutions are;

  • An undergraduate degree of the minimum grade being a second class upper.
  • A master’s degree with a grade of at least merit.

Different other specifications are required before one can be admitted into a Ph.D. programme. Visit this site for greater detail on requirements for offering a Ph.D. course.

Popular programmes to Obtain a Ph.D. in

What is a PhD

There are so many courses and programmes in the world, and most of them have Ph.D. offerings. However, I will look at the courses and programmes that have been popular over the academic ages. They are the very well-known professions and the ones which offer the most pay for either professors or professionals in the field.

  1. Engineering – the world we currently live in is a full-blown product of engineering and all the practices involved in it. It spans a wide range of subfields such as mechanical engineering, soil, and water engineering, to even bioengineering. Obtaining a Ph.D. in engineering is very rewarding, especially considering the competition for jobs in this field. Those who have higher credentials position themselves better. A Ph.D. in engineering would involve researching and expanding the knowledge base of an already broad field. However, with the expansion into new technology such as blockchain, eco-friendly cars, and so on, there is still room for new groundbreaking thesis in the field.
  2. Medicine and Health Sciences – another member of the famed “career trio”. Medicine is another career path with a vast selection of possible Ph.D. study paths. Medicine could arguably have the longest number of study years. This profession demands only the best and as such, the pay on offer is great, especially for doctors and practitioners in higher positions. Most who aspire for the best positions in this field take on a doctorate programme to boost their prospects with potential employers.
  3. Business – “money makes the world go round.” A popular saying made ever more true when you think of the central banks, hedge funds, multinational corporations, and big organisations that control the economies of the world. They run the game and set the rules. Anybody in this field who does not desire to climb to the higher positions by obtaining a DBA is not aware of the huge potentially juicy opportunities they will be missing out on.
  4. Language and Literature – a Ph.D. in language may not be looked at with the same vigour as engineering nor medicine, but it certainly has an authoritative demeanour in the academic sphere. Most who obtain a doctorate in this field move on to teaching roles, but this is by no means a limit to what they can venture into. Other aspects such as technical writing and office management are just a few of the options available to Ph.D. holders from this field.

Looking for more, you can find a list of some of the most popular Ph.D. offerings in America here.

Now, a lot of people seeking to take up a Ph.D. are overwhelmed by the large number of schools offering their desired doctorate, it becomes burdensome for them to decide which institution they will choose. This leads to procrastination and missed opportunities. So, I have come up with a solution to this problem.

I will offer you critical points that you must consider when deciding on the institution of choice.

What Institution Should you Choose to Study for your Ph.D.?

What is a PhD

This will give you the edge you need to identify the best institution to further your education. This observation is made purely by collecting and analysing observations of other bloggers, students, and teachers. I believe that experience is the best teacher and so will use the experience of these people to give you definitive steps and points to rely on.

  • The cost of the programme is the most important thing, to me. I see no reason in searching for a school or choosing one when you have no financial means of keeping yourself there. Always look for a school within your financial limits. This cost is not only limited to the programme, but your cost of living must also be considered.
  • The standard of education must be scrutinized. You don’t want to learn in a below-par institution. Highly scrutinized the educational capacity of any institution before proceeding with your choice.
  • The faculty staff is another factor to consider. You will mostly be on your own during your doctorate studies and most of your research will come through your hard work. However, you will need the help of the faculty staff at some points, and finding out how open these people are is a very important thing to consider.
  • The location of the institution matters a lot. You need to make sure that the location of the institution suits you very well. Is it in a city you are comfortable in? Is it close to your city of residence? These are some questions you should be asking.
  • Your time is important, and so knowing how your time will be utilised while studying becomes a priority.

To see more criteria you need to look at, read this in-depth article.

We will lastly look at the length of a Ph.D. programme.

Length of Study for a PhD

This is seen as a concern for most aspiring Ph.D. students. However, it should not be. The average time for studying for a Ph.D. is 3 – 4 years.

While this may seem like a long time, it isn’t. Ph.D. students are swallowed in workload. The amount of work to be done for a Ph.D. is not on the same level as the work carried out during a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Ph.D. students must go beyond the proverbial “extra mile”.

So, having come this far, I’m pretty confident that you have a very solid foundation on the subject matter. I will leave you here, and I wish you good luck in your postgraduate adventure.

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