What is a PhD?

What is a PhD?

by Susan Huebert
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

When you meet people who are called “doctor,” you expect them to be able to help cure illnesses and fix broken bones. Sometimes, however, doctors can be researchers, fundraisers or consultants. These people are not medical doctors but instead have doctorates (PhDs) in a field such as literature, philosophy, chemistry or business.

In many cases, a PhD or doctorate is the highest level of education that people can get. Students start by studying for three or four years to get a Bachelor’s degree. If they want to go on to further education, they take another year or two to get a Master’s degree. Usually, this degree involves writing a long paper called a thesis. Many people stop their studies at this point, but sometimes they continue on to get a doctorate or PhD.

Basically, the two degrees are the same. Both of them require the student to take classes and to do research on a subject that they choose. When they finish their research they write a long essay called a dissertation. Usually, dissertations for PhD degrees tend to focus on theory but dissertations for doctorates tend to be more practical. A PhD dissertation, for example, might be about the theory of how languages are related to each other. A doctoral dissertation might be about how the theories of language relate to teaching English to speakers of other languages.

When do people need to get a PhD or doctorate? It depends on where they are working and what they want to do with their careers. Because of the theoretical focus of most PhD programs, the connection with specific jobs is not always clear. However, many PhD graduates can find work in research or teaching. In many universities, professors are required to have PhDs or doctorates in order to get a job. A PhD is also very useful for researchers since it helps them develop the skills they need to do their work and to record and write about the results.

Before you decide to get a PhD or a doctorate, you need to decide if the degree is right for you. Are you ready for years of studying after high school? For many people, getting Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD degrees takes ten years or more. University courses can be expensive, and all of those years of study can leave people in debt. Job opportunities can also be limited, especially in university teaching positions. However, options are also open in many other fields. Graduates of PhD and doctoral programs work in government departments, business, finance, community development, education and technology.


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