How Long Does it Take to Obtain a Ph.D. Degree?

Some people have nurtured the wrong notion that the title “doctor” is primarily applicable to a person with expertise in the medical field or, more concisely, someone with a medical background. However, that is not the case. The truth is it is a technical term that applies not only to one who practices in the medical field but also to anyone with a doctoral degree.

On the flip side, a doctoral degree is a postgraduate degree that highlights a person’s aptitude in a specific subject area. That said, the term doctoral can be taken to mean a learned person or an expert in a particular field. For clarity, let us put it out there that a Doctor of Philosophy or Ph.D. degree is merely one type of doctoral degree, and in fact, there are many types.

A Ph.D. degree is often confused with a doctorate. Many people even go so far as to interchange the use of both words. Perhaps one reason people get confused is that when you key in the search string “how long is a doctorate degree,” results point to both Ph.D. and doctorate. The term doctorate is an umbrella or an all-encompassing term for a degree or rank. On the other hand, a Ph.D. is a specific degree under said umbrella. To make it easier for you to understand, here are some examples of doctorate degrees offered in universities around the world:

●        Doctor of Arts (D.A.)

●        Doctor of Business Administration (D.B.A.)

●        Doctor of Civil Law (D.C.L.)

●        Doctor of Computer Science (D.C.Sc.)

●        Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

●        Doctor of Engineering (D.Eng.)

●        Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

●        Doctor of Liberal Studies (D.L.S.)

●        Juris Doctor or Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.)

●        Doctor of Management (D.M. or D.Mgt.)

●        Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.)

●        Doctor of Professional Studies (D.P.S.)

●        Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.)

●        Doctor of Technology (D.Tech.)

Both Ph.D. and doctorate degrees are considered terminal degrees, which means there is no higher degree you can aim for beyond them. Either one is the highest possible degree you can obtain in any field. And while they may be a bit confusing, two things blatantly set a Ph.D. and other doctorates apart – the focus of study and the study methods. There are other differences between the two, but we will get to that later.

Suffice it to say that if you are wondering how long is a phd program, it typically has the same duration as a full-term bachelor’s degree course, so give or take four to six years or longer. You need to understand that a Ph.D. degree is mostly research-based. As a student, you will spend most of your time doing research projects and studies. Conversely, while having a bit of research component on the side, an applied doctorate mostly involves practical application of the skills and knowledge you learned through your study. So, if you are thinking about how long is a doctorate degree, we can say that the answer depends on these four factors:

1.       The structure of a particular doctoral program

2.       The program requirements of a college or university

3.       The transfer-credit policies set by an educational institute

4.       A student’s preferences and circumstances that may influence the outcome of his studies

Taking a Closer Look into the Ph.D. and Doctorate Degrees

How long is a PHD? The question persists, and since we have already mentioned that it is one of the highest degrees you can aim for, it is safe to say that you can obtain it after about eight years of practical schooling. Just as it is with a doctorate, a student’s program design, study area, and the institution offering the program may impact completion.

To receive a Ph.D. or doctorate, you will need to complete a dissertation and pass a comprehensive exam. Now, you are probably wondering how long is a phd dissertation. The said dissertation is usually 80,000 words long, which is almost as long as your typical novel. However, because a Ph.D. dissertation is a requirement that will determine your fate, it is not something you can work on haphazardly.

This lengthy piece of academic writing, just like a novel, is based on original research. It needs to follow a structure that will depend on these four things: your location, discipline, topic, and approach. Typically, your dissertation will include the following elements:

·         Title page

·         Acknowledgments

·         Abstract

·         Table of contents

·         List of figures and tables

·         List of abbreviations

·         Glossary

·         Introduction

·         Literature review / Theoretical framework

·         Methodology

·         Results

·         Discussion

·         Conclusion

·         Reference list

·         Appendices

You must look for a qualified advisor who can help with your dissertation, especially with the editing and proofreading part. Going back to the original question of how long is a phd dissertation, the average time for finishing one is about 13-20 months. That is barring any unforeseen events that may impede the completion.

As you complete your dissertation, you will realize that while there is a structure that needs to be followed, there are no set rules for the order of sections. Depending on your field of study or where you are currently located, the sections’ order may vary. For instance, a university may require that the conclusion come before the discussion or other such things.

That is why it is good to have an advisor who can help you when it comes to structuring your dissertation. With a capable consultant guiding you, you will be more proactive and efficient as you work on your dissertation; thus, you can finish it within the shorter end of the timeframe. 

The bottom line is you must complete your dissertation if you wish to obtain a Ph.D. or doctorate.

Differences between a Ph.D. and a Doctorate

Earlier, we said that the focus of study and study methods are two of the glaring differences between a Ph.D. and a doctorate. Aside from the two, another difference lies in the programs. A Ph.D. program is primarily designed for college graduates interested in performing original and applied research to test theories and add to the existing knowledge in their specific discipline.

On the other hand, a doctorate is usually for working professionals who already have practical experience in their discipline but want to expand their knowledge, make career advancements, and turn their work experience into a better position of influence, credibility, and leadership.

How long is a PHD? There is no fixed answer since it will all depend on your performance in school. It can last anywhere from four (minimum) to eight (maximum) years. What is essential is you will be able to:

·         Analyze theories and concepts relevant to your chosen field.

·         Evaluate how current, emerging, and seminal theories are relevant to your field.

·         Gauge identified gaps in the research literature being used.

·         Develop the body of information in your chosen field through original research.

·         Effectively communicate with an academic audience and general stakeholders.

On the contrary, if you are wondering how long is a doctorate, a safe answer will be anywhere from four (minimum) to six (maximum) years. The length will depend on how dedicated you are to your studies and unforeseen circumstances, too. However, after completing the program, you will be proficient in:

·         Evaluating how relevant current and developing theories and practices are to your field.

·         Formulating efficient solutions to complicated, actual problems common to your field.

·         Applying existing research to workable problems in your field.

·         Designing meticulous research that increases the professional discipline in your field.

How Can You Earn Your Ph.D. or Doctorate Degree?

The choice is yours, but you may opt to enroll in an actual university and attend classes there, or you may earn your degree through an online program. You can check it out here if you want to see why opting for an online program can be worth your while as opposed to campus-based learning.

There are plenty of benefits when you decide on an online program. One is that you do not need to relocate to be close to campus. Another is you do not need to commute to get to the campus. Moreover, you can complete your coursework from home with a flexible schedule. Hence, if you have a full-time job and family responsibilities to take care of, you can arrange your learning schedule in such a way that it works with your other obligations.

Why Should You Aim for a Ph.D. or a Doctorate Degree?

Perhaps one of the main reasons why you will want to obtain a Ph.D. or a doctorate is the elevated status that comes with it. Having those three letters attached to your name certifies you as an expert in a particular field of study. Another reason is the slew of opportunities that could open for you after you complete the program. The question of how long is a doctorate degree will not matter much once you become qualified to teach a specific subject at the university level.

How long is a PHD? You will not be overly concerned with the length of time you will need to spend studying once you start holding an expert position for your dream job in your chosen field. Indeed, having either the Ph.D. or doctorate title attached to your name will boost not only your self-esteem but also open pathways to more excellent career opportunities for you.