Things to Know Before Starting a PhD Program(2019)

Start preparing for your Ph.D. study abroad with the help of this comprehensive guide, which includes the top countries and best programs to build your career. Discover everything about your Ph.D. program, including program requirements, fees, career outlook, salary, and the benefits of pursuing a Ph.D. after MBA.

PhDs are an essential part of the knowledge economy as completing a Ph.D. is all about creating new knowledge, discovering new things, and developing new skills. A postgraduate doctoral degree is awarded to students who complete an original thesis offering a significant unique contribution to knowledge in their subject.

Some of the stages in a typical Ph.D. includes typically:

  • The student has to carry out a literature review or a survey of current scholarship in your subject.
  • The next stage will be conducting original research and collecting your results.
  • Present your conclusions by producing a thesis.
  • Once you prepare a thesis, you need to submit it as a dissertation.
  • The final stage is defending your thesis in an oral viva voice exam.

Even though a Ph.D. is challenging and demanding, it is immensely rewarding as it is your chance to contribute to the sum of human knowledge. Another added advantage is that there is no age limit to applying for a Ph.D. program, which means it’s never too late to fulfill your dream of doing research.

Why do a Ph.D.?

If you are wondering why do you want to do a doctorate, here are some excellent reasons to pursue a Ph.D. :

  • If you have ambitious enough to challenge yourselves and desire to achieve something significant in your field of study, a Ph.D. would be the right choice for you.
  • A Ph.D. would help you learn or discover something new.
  • A Ph.D. degree helps you develop transferable skills such as being team players and problem solvers, which will go well with the employers.
  • Another reason to pursue a Ph.D. program is that it allows you to carry out cutting edge research.

The research process of a Ph.D. program can be broke down into three years as follows:

  • First Year

The first step in a Ph.D. program will be your literature review. You will seek guidance from your supervisor to ensure your work is original. This literature review will be the beginning of your research and also involves designing and implementing experiments.

  • Second Year

You will start doing your core research in your second year of Ph.D., and your primary focus will be on gathering results from experiments, archival research, surveys, or other means. The second year is a crucial stage in your program as you will start writing chapters which will be part of your dissertation.

  • Third Year

The third year is the writing up phase in your Ph.D. program, during which your main task will be pulling together your results and finalizing your dissertation. The final part of your Ph.D. program will be your oral viva voice exam, which is a formal discussion and defense of your thesis.

Ph.D. vs. Doctorate

A Ph.D. is a high-level degree which you get after three or four years of graduate study, which includes creation, submission, presentation, and defense of a research dissertation.
Even though a doctorate is also a high-level degree, but it only emphasizes on existing bodies of knowledge and raising questions to solve a problem and applying theories to a real-world setting.

Some of the other differences are:

  • One of the significant differences is that with Ph.D., you generate a new theory whereas, with a professional doctorate, you start from a place of practice.
  • The goal of a Ph.D. is to advance the field through theoretical research and constructing new knowledge and theories whereas the purpose of a professional doctorate is to improve the field through applying an existing body of knowledge, research, and history.
  • The expected outcome of a Ph.D. is to conduct theoretical research and seek a tenured academic position. The result of a professional doctorate is an opportunity to practice in the field and advance to leadership. You can also teach in higher education institutions.

Ph.D. After MBA

You can pursue a Ph.D. program after an MBA because the Ph.D. program allows you to do research, independent study, and obtain specialized knowledge in a particular field which is not the case with the more useful and commercially useful MBA degree. The most popular career path post, a Ph.D. after an MBA is to become a professor. But this is not the only option you have as there are several areas in which you can specialize while pursuing your Ph.D. after an MBA. Some of the areas of specialization are:

  • Entrepreneurship
  • Accounting
  • Strategy
  • Decision Sciences
  • Economics
  • Ethics and Legal Studies
  • Human Resource Management
  • Leadership
  • Operations Management
  • Marketing
  • Healthcare and Management
  • Organizational Behaviour
  • Finance
  • Statistics

Even though the majority of the doctoral graduates find jobs as faculties in universities, some of them head towards industry positions as well. The degrees of a Business Ph.D. along with an MBA, provides a set of unique skills which will go well with the employers.

Application Process

Before you apply for a Ph.D. program, make sure you understand the requirements for the same. Here are some of the requirements:

  • Academic record

An excellent academic record is one of the main things the universities look for in students applying for a Ph.D. program. While some Ph.D. programs require you to have a master’s degree, there are still some countries where they take students directly after their undergraduate program.

  • Language scores

For all English based programs, it is compulsory to pass a language exam like IELTS or TOEFL.

  • Letters of Recommendation

Most of the universities require you to send three letters of recommendation. Your previous academic advisor should provide one, and other letters can be from people who have supervised you in a work or community service.

  • Research Proposal

The research proposal is the most critical part of your Ph.D. application as it will help you showcase your knowledge in the subject.

  • Letter of Motivation

You will have to submit a letter of recommendation to explain your objectives and determination to work on the project.

  • Ph.D. entrance exam

Some of the universities might want you to write an entrance exam, which is the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) to gauge your skills and knowledge. But it is not mandatory for all the universities as it depends on the country you have chosen.

  • Resume

If you have some academic experience or work experience, you need to outline it on a resume to grab the committee’s attention.

Top Countries and Cost

Some of the top countries to pursue your Ph.D. degree are:

  • France
  • Germany
  • Hong Kong
  • United Kingdom
  • United States of America
  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Japan
  • Singapore

Some of the top Ph.D. programs are:

  • University of Oxford
  • University of Cambridge
  • Stanford University
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • California Institute of Technology
  • Harvard University
  • Imperial College London
  • Columbia University
  • University of Toronto
  • University of California
  • Carnegie Mellon University

The average cost for a research-based doctoral program is $36,000 and $48,900 for professional postgraduate degrees. The top 5 countries for low-cost Ph.D. study are:

  • Germany
  • France
  • Finland
  • Sweden
  • Norway

Ph.D. support is of three types:

  1. Teaching Assistantship: In this, you can assist in one or more courses or even teach a section of your course in exchange for a salary.
  2. Research Assistantship: In this, you can help a professor in his research in exchange for a salary.
  3. Fellowship: A fellowship is offered by the university or an outside agency to support your graduate studies.

Career Prospect and Salary

Ph.D. graduates earn around $15,000 to $30,000 per year depending on the field of study and institution. The salaries also vary depending on your field.  The most sought after jobs after Ph.D. are University professor, Industrial Lab professionals, and start-up mentors. From financial to the public, Ph.D. graduates are found in every industry these days. Some of the areas of work are:

  • College Professor
  • Public Sector and Science
  • Medical Research Centres
  • Analysts
  • Geological Sectors
  • Government Sectors
  • Science Writing
  • Scientific Advisor
  • Patent Lawyer
  • Medical Research and Development Centres

The addition of Ph.D. to your resume brings both knowledge and skills which can be utilized by any job. Earlier, the scope of Ph.D. was limited to academia, but the advent of start-ups has increased the options for Ph.D. graduates.

Nowadays, Ph.D. graduates are willing to join a new organization to use their expertise and skills and design new products through their research and developmental capabilities. In this age of start-ups, the demand for Ph.D. graduates will only increase with time as almost all the industries seek their knowledge and expertise.