For those that have already received their Master’s or Bachelor’s degree, making a move towards a doctoral degree is a decision that requires careful and thorough consideration. The commitment to undertake an additional four years of study and research needs to be taken seriously.
If you plan to continue your education in a Ph.D. program, you are probably getting advice from colleagues, professors, and family members. This kind of decision requires a lot of research and consideration before embarking on the challenge. When the benefits of pursuing your doctorate outweigh the hardships that you will face, you may have a better idea about whether you want to commit to a program.
The best advice will come from those that have already gone through the process. You may daydream about collecting your Nobel prize one day, but you need to understand the type of monumental undertaking you are embarking on. Let’s look at a few critical things to consider before you start your PhD program.
Do Your Research
Ph.D. programs aren’t often advertised in glossy catalogs that you can scan through for a subject of interest. Most Ph.D. programs can be found internally through college colleagues and postings and won’t be easy to find through traditional channels like your college career center. Discussing your professors and alumni options can help you find a program that will fit your interests. Online searches and in-depth investigation of collegiate websites may also offer an insider look at research programs available across the country.
Understand the Process
It’s essential for those considering a Ph.D. to understand that a doctorate program is unlike any other type of study. It is not a simple continuation of your Master’s degree. Although Ph.D. candidates will be required to complete a set of topic-related courses, the program’s focus is to create original research and development and produce a valid thesis for review.
When you complete your Ph.D. program, you will not be judged on your grades or class placement. Your research itself will be reviewed and judged for its originality and scientific worthiness in the form of a thesis. Although your grades will be considered in the final process, your class studies will take a backseat to your research efforts. A minimum grade point average is all that is required to complete your program. The research is what will be scrutinized the most at the end of your program.
Choose a Field of Study
Your current Master’s degree doesn’t necessarily have to remain your field of interest in a Ph.D. program. Although most candidates stay within their broader field of expertise, many choose to focus on entirely different research areas when pursuing their Ph.D. Your program will be entrenched in research effort in the library or the lab and less on the theory of the subject. If you find an area of research that interests you but is not directly related to your previous Master’s research, it’s okay to branch out to something that interests you more.
Location and Reputation
It’s not always possible to find a suitable Ph.D. program at the institute where you completed your Masters’s degree, which means a move to another campus. Considering the location of your doctoral program should be an essential factor in your final decision. You will be in the program for a minimum of four years, so your campus location will make a difference in many aspects of your life. If you prefer to be close to a large city or somewhere closer to your family and friends, consider a program that will meet your personal needs.
With lower degrees like your Bachelor’s and Master’s, the reputation of your school is an essential aspect of your success. This isn’t the case with your Ph.D. program. Schools from all tiers and reputations can house research programs that stand alone in their respective areas. When considering your new campus, focus on the importance of the individual projects and not on the institution’s reputation.
Deciding whether or not to embark on a Ph.D. program is a big step in your education journey. For some, the lure of higher education and accomplishment in research is enough to push them towards their doctorate. If you are thinking about entering a Ph.D. program, consider these aspects to help you decide where you will go in your future.