24 November 2012

Earning A Doctorate Degree or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

A Doctoral Degree (PhD) is the highest academic degree that one can attain. The student is conferred a level of Doctor of Philosophy. The word "philosophy" in this context refers to the original greek meaning of the word (philosophia) which means 'love of wisdom'. A person who earns a Ph.D. is addressed with the title 'Doctor'.

Requirements for earning a doctorate degree vary from country to country and from school to school. Fundamentally, one must master the subject completely and extend the body of knowledge about it to attain a PhD. A PhD program demands extensive studying and dedicated effort from the student.

Mastering A Subject

Before applying for a doctorate degree, most universities require that the student has earned a Bachelor's degree (usually a four year undergraduate course) and a Master's degree, a post-graudate degree course that follows a bachelor's degree.

To master a subject, the student has to be knowledgeable and aware of everything that is known about the subject. Universities mainly look at three things as proof of mastery of the subject:
  1. Complete additional graduate courses on the subject
  2. Maintain a high grade point average
  3. Take special examinations on the subject
Examinations given on a PhD level are evaluated by a committee of experts who are all holders of a doctorate degree.

Extending Knowledge

Universities also requires that the student attain a deep understanding of the subject. He or she must explore, investigate, and contemplate all the underlying principles and mechanisms that encompasses it.

Video: Why Pursue A PhD Degree

Research is the essence of attaining a PhD. He must prepare and present results from the research in an academic paper called a dissertation. This dissertation is presented to the faculty and defended in an oral examination.

The committee responsible for reviewing the dissertation consists of the primary supervisor or advisor and two or more committee members. They supervise its progress and also act as the examining committee at the oral examination of the paper.

The members of the committee must be doctorate degree holders in their field and at least one must be a professor in an unrelated department from the student's subject.


One sensitive subject that is often discussed is the motivation on earning a PhD. The one important reason to attain this academic level is for the further pursuit of knowledge.

Some believe that a PhD is a way to earn a higher salary or get a better job which is not always the case. Companies who hire Ph.D. graduates, hire them mostly for research. In times of economic crisis, it is usually the research departments that are vulnerable to job cuts.

As for higher pay, Purdue University, in an article by their computer science department, stated that on their observation, that "...for a period of at least five years that we know, the payoff was clearly negative." and that a PhD is not the optimal route to wealth.

As proof to their observation, some of the wealthiest people in the world are college dropouts.


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