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10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Selecting a Ph.D. Course

UserMark time04 December,2015

Most students dream of obtaining a Ph.D. degree to establish their expertise in a particular field of study. They are highly motivated and are ready to devote a substantial part of their lives to research for a field of study, for which they have a hunger to know more. The benefits of completing the Ph.D. degree are numerous, but the methods of pursuing it determine whether the degree is attainable or not. There are numerous points that students should keep in mind before selecting a University for their Ph.D. program.

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This article tells you about 10 questions that students should ask themselves before finalizing a University as their destination for a Ph.D. program.

  1. Why should you do the Ph.D. Course?

Students have different reasons for pursuing a Ph.D. course. Some of the popular reasons are –

  • It is the highest possible educational degree that a student can achieve. Those students who strive towards greatness in the academic field have Ph.D. as their academic life’s ultimate goal. They also become recognized experts in their field. And maybe, their research work can help them make crucial discoveries, earning them a Nobel Prize in the process. Winning the Nobel Prize is the greatest achievement for a Ph.D. student.
  • Some jobs require a Ph.D. qualification. For example, to be a lecturer of a particular subject in a reputed University, a Ph.D. in that discipline is mandatory. For students seeking to become lecturers, getting a Ph.D. is, therefore, vital.
  • The hunger for further knowledge in the chosen field of study is often an adequate factor for a student to do the Ph.D. course.
  1. How long will it take to complete the Ph.D.?

Completing a doctorate is not easy. Many students give up and leave their Ph.D. courses when they face difficulties in their research or when their research seems to lead nowhere. Students should have the will to persevere and complete their Ph.D. no matter how long it takes. Students doing their Ph.D. in different subjects take different times to complete them. Also, students of different Universities take varying times to complete their Ph.D. as well. There are a number of variables that decide the time of completion for a Ph.D. If the funding for research is cut off, the students have to juggle multiple jobs to keep their research funded. This reduces the time in which they could have researched further for their Ph.D. topic.

The average time for completing a Ph.D. and writing the thesis dissertation is around 4 years. Students may even take 7-8 years to complete their Ph.D. if the topic requires prolonged research and experimentation.

  1. Which topic should you do your Ph.D. in?

Some students jump into the first Ph.D. course that they are accepted in by their preferred University. This decision comes back to haunt them because eventually they lose interest in the subject as it was forcibly chosen. Students should spend time with their parents, peers and graduation professors to get opinions on the topic of Ph.D. These people know the students best and can give the most appropriate advice to them. Parents and peers can tell the students what they are passionate about. And professors can tell them about the topic in which they have the most potential to provide breakthroughs if they decide to pursue their Ph.D. in it.

Choose your topic of research wisely because it is difficult to change the topic after a few years of research on one topic. A poor choice will lead to frustration, dissatisfaction and a general lack of interest in the topic.

  1. What are the necessary qualifications for a particular Ph.D. course?

The necessary qualifications to get admitted into any Ph.D. course vary from University to University. Each University sets its own guidelines for admission into its Ph.D. programs. The common qualifications that Universities expect from students who desire to get admitted into their Ph.D. programs are –

  • In USA, two to three academic years of full-time study beyond the bachelor’s degree is required for a residence Ph.D. course. For regular admission, a formal admission to the degree program with a first class or upper second class score is mandatory.
  • Some Universities have not made it necessary for students to have studied the same discipline or to have attained a Master’s degree. They admit students who show a high level of scholarly ability with career objectives matching the chosen Ph.D. program.
  • If you are an International student whose country’s official language is not English, you will have to take an English proficiency test (IELTS/TOEFL) to be admitted into Universities of UK, USA, Australia, Canada etc. This is mandatory for students of the non-English-speaking countries even if all their courses were taught to them in English.

Students have to search for the University whose qualification criteria match their degrees, skills and career objective.

  1. When should you begin your Ph.D. course?

Many students have made the mistake of joining their Ph.D. program right after their graduation or post-graduation courses. Working in a relevant industry for some time often makes sense before beginning the Ph.D. program. This work helps students to gain experience in the practical aspect of their future research. This experience can then be applied to the theoretical research as evidence to the research’s theories and arguments.

Also, the period of work helps you to earn money that can be used in your research at times when the funding or grants for your research have been stopped. Thus, to become a self-sufficient Ph.D. student, working for some time after your higher education but before beginning the Ph.D. program is the best thing to do.

  1. Where should you pursue your Ph.D. course?

The distance from your residence to the University is a deciding factor for the place where you should pursue your Ph.D. If your Ph.D. research work is mostly done outside the University (field research), then you need to visit the University only when it is necessary. This also gives the students time to work in a part-time job to support their research.

If your research work requires you to work in the University for long hours, you should choose the University that provides a residence Ph.D. This Ph.D. will ensure that you do not have to waste time in traveling and pay rent for an apartment that you hardly use. You will get to live within the University premises itself and use its research and other facilities.

  1. What are the resources available for research in the chosen University?

For your Ph.D. program’s major dissertation part, you have to be sure that the University has enough resources for you to conduct your research. These resources are not just limited to a library that contains most books or a computer network with an Internet connection.

  • There should be enough office equipment like printing machines, photocopying machines etc to keep hard copies of your research within your reach.
  • There should be relevant devices that help you in conducting experiments and running tests.
  • There should be adequate funding for research.
  1. Is the department of your research versatile in tradition?

The University in which you choose to pursue your Ph.D. should be versatile in providing equipment. They should not be traditional in favoring one method of research over the other. If the student’s research method is similar to the traditionally allowed method, then the University is the perfect choice. If the students have radical research methods that are completely against any traditional method, then they should choose the most flexible University in that respect.

The stipend of the research depends on the type of research done. The University’s reluctance or acceptance of the type of research methods used should be taken into consideration before selecting it for pursuing your Ph.D.

  1. Is a job available in the University or in its vicinity?

Doctorate students need a source of livelihood to meet their personal as well as Ph.D. research expenses, but they also face a severe shortage of time. The only solution to this problem is that they find a University that offers them a job either within the University campus or outside it. Within the University, doctorate students can get a job as an assistant researcher for a senior Ph.D. student or a professor. This way, the students can make new discoveries in their own research with the help of their superiors.

If the job is outside the University, it should be near the University so that students do not waste time in traveling. Also, they should make it clear to their employers about their priority to research work.

  1. Are other types of amenities and activities available in the University?

Doctorate students spend a considerable part of their lives inside the University if they are resident students. Therefore, it is necessary for them to be involved in the social activities of the University.

  • They can join clubs or fraternities that share the same interest in a hobby or a subject. For example, they can join a swimming club or a Physics club to interact with like-minded people. They can also get valuable second opinions on their work.
  • They can join sports teams to continue the sport that they have been playing before joining the University, or to learn a new sport and make new friends in the process.
  • They can learn a new language and interact with International students who speak that language. This promotes networking and increases the chances of landing a future job.

Thus, it is evident that only knowing about the proximity of the University to your native place or knowing about its temperature is not sufficient for choosing it as your Ph.D. program destination. Students should ask the above mentioned questions to themselves to determine whether a University is the correct place for them to be pursuing their Ph.D. degree program.

Also, they should remember that pursuing a Ph.D. only to obtain a high paying job is not enough motivation to complete the program. In all probability, you will leave the program before completion that will lead to the sacrifice of the desired job, and also wastage of your life’s precious time. Therefore, students have to possess the passion, desire and motivation to learn more about their subject and topic to pursue the Ph.D. degree program and complete it.

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