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Earning an academic doctorate gives you the chance to make a real contribution to your field. After years of focused study and examination, your published work stands for itself as a symbol of your achievement and knowledge.

The experience of earning a PhD is wholly unique in the educational system. No other degree program allows for such a high level of focus. Years of intense study give you a chance to completely immerse yourself in your field. After those intense years, you're required to create a unique work and add your new voice to the discourse.

One Degree for a Lifetime of Research

The academic doctorate is not a run-of-the-mill degree. It sums up years of research and study, standing as the cornerstone of a lifetime of academic achievement. Graduates of PhD programs often move into academia, either teaching or performing high-level research.

Many PhD graduates go on to work in the professional world--illustrating the versatility of these kind of programs--even though the degree is designed with a research and academic focus in mind. Employers of academic doctoral degree holders are in the market for individuals with a long history of research and innovative thought.

The Basics of Academic Doctorates

While all doctoral degree programs require some level of research, professional doctorates are more likely to draw from established facts and theories. Academic doctorates, on the other hand, require a high level of original thought from doctoral candidates. The research you complete as a doctoral student must be publishable in a peer-reviewed academic journal.

Though the subjects in which you can earn an academic doctorate vary, the process looks similar: complete coursework, attend meetings with an adviser, complete a large amount of original research, and present that research to a committee after an oral examination.

Popular Academic PhD Programs

Look to the academic doctoral degree for a chance to spend a lifetime studying and teaching in the field you love. Whether you're studying on-campus or online, these popular doctorates are available to give you the focused study you need to excel. Online PhD programs are becoming increasing popular, especially among students who don't want to take time off of work or away from family. Don't be fooled, though; online doctoral programs are just as rigorous--and just as valuable--as their campus equivalents.

Spotlight: Online PhD in Liberal Arts

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) offers the study you need to work in most any academic or research capacity you choose. Within the liberal arts, doctorates are available in fields ranging from English literature to psychology, politics to education and more. In the United States, on-campus and online PhDs in liberal arts have three stages:

  • Coursework: Specialized high-level classes in your liberal arts field of choice and often, pedagogical classes or other related requirements--generally takes 1 to 3 years to complete, depending on your field of study
  • Exams: Oral and written exams are required; though, the level, difficulty, and distribution of these exams varies greatly by program
  • Dissertation: Research and study on a new topic of thought in the field. Students must complete a book-length work, which can take anywhere from 2 to 4 years--sometimes more

The process for earning an PhD in liberal arts online may look slightly different from on-campus degree programs, but the resultant degree is the same.

Spotlight: PhD in Engineering

The PhD in engineering allows graduates to complete high-level research, or teach at the university level. The engineering industry splits into different categories, including electrical, civil, mechanical, and computer engineering. PhD programs can be quite a bit more specific than these broad topics. For example, check out the following specializations for a PhD in Civil Engineering:

  • Transportation engineering
  • Structural engineering and design
  • Earthquake engineering
  • Geotechnical engineering
  • Construction engineering
  • Structural mechanics
  • Coastal engineering

Prospective students typically need a master's degree, high GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose. While many PhD programs in engineering can be completed online, some require the hands-on experience of lab-based research.

PhD Programs Offer a Range of Knowledge

Completing a doctorate degree is an educational journey different from any degree you've earned thus far. As a doctoral candidate in an academic degree program, you'll appreciate the challenge of truly contributing to your field. Make your mark, and let your voice be heard with this auspicious degree.



  • Harvard University: Useful Things to Know About Ph. D. Thesis Research, by H.T. Kung
  • USC: Ph.D. in Engineering

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