What is a PhD and How Do I Get One?
What is a PhD?
Getting a PhD can seem like an overwhelming undertaking, only pursued by the most ambitious and smartest of people. In Canada, a PhD or Doctor of Philosophy is synonymous with a doctorate degree in many fields of study. It signifies the highest form of academic achievement.
As the title suggests, the PhD was originally awarded to academic scholars pursuing an in-depth study of Philosophy. Now, it is a research centric nomination, awarded to those who demonstrate the ability to apply the knowledge they’ve accumulated over the course of their university education in the real world. In Dr. Frank Gannon’s discussion of the PhD, he offers an appropriate summation of the experience. “In essence, my PhD showed that I developed from a dependent student into an independent scientist”.
Getting a PhD
A PhD candidate or a person in the process of completing his/her degree is responsible for demonstrating specific subject matter expertise on his/her chosen topic. Obtaining a PhD opens the door to becoming a researcher or a professor.
To qualify for a PhD in Canada, most universities will only accept applicants who have already completed a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree. Exceptions to the rule may be considered for special cases where an applicant already has substantial practical experience in the topic area.
Application requirements at different universities can vary. Generally, applicants are required to provide full transcripts for every year of post-secondary education completed up until that point. Professional and academic reference letters will also be required, as well as a detailed proposal of what the applicant intends to study. Admission to the PhD program is ultimately decided by the supervising professor.
How Long Does it Take?
The time it takes to obtain a PhD varies. It can take anywhere from 3-8 years to complete depending on the candidate and the nature of the research. By the end of his/her PhD, the candidate will have produced a thesis to be presented before a PhD board for approval.
Many universities offer financial awards to encourage graduate students to pursue doctoral studies. The research done by PhD candidates benefits the research progress achieved by the university. Most students are able to conduct their research through grants and living allowances awarded by the university.
Along with compiling a thesis, PhD students may also be required to serve as teaching assistants (TA) for their supervising professors. TA’s can be expected to instruct intro level classes for undergraduate degree students and assist in marking students’ coursework, like research papers and exams.
Once a candidate has successful completed his/her degree, they may choose to go by the salutation “Doctor”.