A PhD in USA takes approximately 5 – 6 years of full-time study and can cost between $12,000 – $45,000 per academic year. PhD programs in USA differ from that in the UK and Europe in that students must first take taught classes, coursework and exams before starting their research project.
Why Do a PhD in USA?
The United States has long had some of the most distinguished universities and advanced PhD programmes in the world. Combined with curriculum flexibility, rigorous teaching methods, vast funding opportunities, breathtaking campuses and significant career prospects, it’s no wonder that it is one of the most sought-after study destinations for research students.
In addition to comprehensive training standards, here are a few other reasons why a student may choose to undertake their PhD in the United States:
- Longer learning timeframes – A PhD in the US lasts longer than a PhD in the UK or Europe. This allows students to more confidently transition from undergraduate to postgraduate studies; more commonly referred to as ‘graduate studies’ in the US. This gives you the opportunity to learn more about your subject, research methods and academic writing in general before starting your research project.
- World-class universities – It’s no secret that some of the most well-known higher education institutions that continue to dominate global rankings are based in the United States. Although many factors go into determining whether a position is right for you, a PhD at a high-ranking American university will undeniably have many benefits, from excellent learning standards to access to innovative equipment and deep expertise.
- International network – The US has long been a popular choice among PhD students around the world. As such, the US hosts a diverse and multicultural learning environment in which many research students will quickly feel at home.
- Opportunities – With over 4,000 universities in the US, we can safely say you will have plenty of opportunities to find the ideal combination of project, supervisor and university that works for you.
Universities in USA
Universities in the United States can be divided into two types: public universities and private universities.
Public universities are financed by the state in which they are based. Because of this, public universities charge less for students from within the state and more for students from outside the state, including international students.
Private universities are not financed by their state, but by private donors, research funds and tuition fees. For this reason, private universities generally charge higher tuition fees than public universities and require all students to pay the same amount, regardless of whether they come from out-of-state or abroad.
According to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021, eight of the top ten universities in the world are located in the United States. These are:
|1||UK||University of Oxford|
|4||USA||California Institute of Technology|
|5||USA||Massachusetts Institute of Technology|
|6||UK||University of Cambridge|
|7||USA||University of California, Berkeley|
|10||USA||The University of Chicago|
Method of Study
The main difference between a PhD in the US and a PhD in Europe lies in the program structure. Whereas a European PhD essentially consists of a single phase lasting three to four years, an American PhD consists of three different phases, each with its own time frame.
- Phase One – The first phase lasts approximately two years and focuses on building a basic foundation for the doctoral student. This phase consists largely of taught components such as lectures, tutorials and laboratory sessions, in which the student learns more about theoretical concepts and research methods within their discipline.
- Phase Two – The second phase can be considered an assessment phase, which runs both periodically alongside and at the end of the first phase. Here, students complete coursework and take exams on the basis of the material they have covered of which they must pass in order to proceed to the third phase.
- Phase Three – The third phase lasts approximately three years and resembles the European PhD structure. During this period, the student undertakes an independent research project, including forming a research design, conducting experiments, writing a thesis (more commonly referred to in the USA as a dissertation) and sitting a viva exam.
Besides structure, a key difference between a PhD program in the US and in Europe is the focus on teaching requirements. In the US, doctoral students are expected to lecture, lead tutorials, host laboratory sessions, mark coursework and provide office hours for undergraduate students. Although students studying in European will likely contribute to these at some point during their study, this would normally be on a voluntary basis and involve less time commitment.
Another difference is project flexibility. In Europe, students typically apply to a PhD project predetermined by a supervisor, and although there may be some scope to adapt the project, depending on the funding provider, it will usually be limited to how the project is carried out rather than what it is about. In the US, however, a student applies to become a doctoral candidate within a department rather than applying for a particular research project. This is because students are expected to decide on their thesis topic (also commonly referred to as a dissertation research topic) near the end of their first phase after they have developed a better understanding of their subject and know where their interests lie. Therefore, research students in the US generally have more flexibility and influence in the direction of their research than students in the United Kingdom or Europe.
PhD Admission Requirements in USA
PhD admission into US universities can be highly competitive, both because of the limited number of positions and the large number of annual applicants.
The eligibility requirements for a doctoral program in the USA can generally be divided into four sections:
- Grade Point Average (GPA) – in the US, a scoring system known as Grade Point Average is used to measure academic ability. A student’s GPA is calculated as a weighted score of the subjects they study during their undergraduate degree; an equivalent score is calculated by universities for international applicants. Although universities rarely set minimum GPA requirements for doctoral study, it’s worth being aware that a GPA of 3.0 is equivalent to a UK second class honours (2:1); the typical entry requirement for UK universities.
- Graduate Records Exam (GRE) – most universities will require you to take a series of examinations known as Graduate Records Exams, which are used to determine your suitability for graduate study. GREs will assess your analytical, reasoning and critical thinking skills as well as your depth of your subject.
- Student aptitude – in addition to academic ability, US universities also look for characteristics of a strong researcher. These include traits such as engaging in the subject in your own time, e.g. by attending talks and conferences, demonstrating a high degree of independence and enthusiasm, and a general passion for your subject.
- English Language Proficiency – international students whose first language is not English must sit language exams such as IELTS or TOELF to demonstrate their English language proficiency.
International students will also require a F1 student visa in order to study in the US, however, you would typically apply for this after you have secured a place into a doctorate program.
Note: A US PhD essentially combines a Master’s degree and a PhD into one program, similar to an integrated PhD degree in the United Kingdom. Therefore, most PhD candidates applying to US graduate schools will have a Bachelor’s degree rather than a Master’s degree.
How to Apply for PhD in USA
When applying for a PhD position at a graduate school, the application process will differ between universities, however, they will all typically ask for the following:
- Academic CV – a short document summarising your educational background and current level of experience.
- Personal statement – a document which outlines why you believe you are suitable for PhD study and your passion for the subject.
- Academic transcripts – a complete breakdown of the modules and their respective marks you have taken as part of your previous/current degree.
- GRE scores – a transcript of your Graduate Records Exam results.
- Research statement – a condensed version of a research proposal outlining your general research interests, if required.
- Recommendation letters – references from several academic referees who endorse your qualities as a person, your abilities as a student and your potential as a doctoral researcher.
Application Deadlines and Fees
Since PhD programs in the United States have taught components, they commence at the same time as all other taught degrees, and therefore share the same application deadlines and start dates. This corresponds to an application period that typically begins in August and ends in February. Admission decisions are typically made in April, with successful students starting in August/September.
When you apply to a graduate school, you will be expected to pay a fee for each doctorate application to cover the school’s administrative costs for processing your application. The fee varies from university to university, but typically ranges from $50 to $100.
Funding your PhD in USA
It’s very common for a PhD student to receive financial aid in the form of a PhD scholarship; in fact, this will be the case for the vast majority of students in the US.
PhD funding can be ‘fully funded’ covering the student’s graduate program tuition fees, accommodation and living costs, or ‘partially funded’ covering the student’s tuition fee only in part or full.
Besides funding, a graduate student can take on an assistantship, such as a graduate teaching assistant or research assistant, in which they take on a part-time salaried position at the university alongside their studies.
Note: In 2020, the average PhD stipend in USA is $28,000 per year, but can range from anywhere between $10,000 to $45,000 per year depending on your scholarship and whether you are on an assistantship. Some PhD stipends can exceed $45,000 per year, but these are typically limited to STEM PhD students in ivy league universities.
Due to the international and collaborate nature of American universities, there are also a number of international scholarships available, such as the Fulbright Scholarship and the AAUW International Fellowship.
PhD Duration in USA
In the US, a PhD takes approximately 5 – 6 years to complete if studying full-time, and 8 – 10 years if studying part-time.
If you already have a Master’s degree, your first phase can be shortened by one year at the discretion of the university.
Cost of a PhD in USA
The cost of a PhD program in the US can vary considerably depending on the type of university, i.e. whether it’s a public or private university, the doctoral course, i.e. whether it’s in a STEM subject such as computer science, engineering or a non-STEM subject, and whether you are a home or international student.
In general, however, the typical annual tuition fee for a PhD in the US is between $12,000 and $45,000 per academic year.
As with any doctoral degree, additional costs may include travel for collaborations, bench fees, accommodation and living expenses.
A select group of students complete their PhDs in two years, while a tiny number of elite students can get it done in 12 months. It's hard to overstate how rare and impressive this is, but it is always a possibility. The key to a fast-track PhD is building up a strong academic CV before you even start.What is the maximum age limit for PhD in USA? ›
Though there's no specific regulation for undergraduate students, they should be at least 17 years old. There is no age limitation for a master's degree and doctoral program.What is the minimum amount of years for a PhD in USA? ›
In total the length of a PhD in the USA is usually 4-6 years (full time). Students spend 1-4 years on the coursework stage of their programme and 2-4 years working on their dissertation.How do I choose a PhD guide? ›
- Take your time. ...
- Decide what kind of doctorate you're looking for. ...
- Pick a project that pairs passion with practicality. ...
- Research your research. ...
- Try before you buy. ...
- Think about your research environment. ...
- Talk to potential supervisors.
- Media Communication.
- Ministry and Theology.
- Project Management.
- Public Administration.
- Public Health.
- Public Policy.
Obtaining a PhD generally costs more at some universities than others. The status of the student, including whether they are an in-state or out-of-state student, also influences this. For in-state students, the annual cost is roughly $12,410. Out-of-state or international students will pay more than $12,410 in tuition.Is 60 too old to get a PhD? ›
PhD programs do not have age caps for eligibility (nor do master's programs), and most universities welcome qualified applicants of all ages who will benefit from the program's academic training mission.Is 40 too old for PhD? ›
Others were past middle age, looking for a career change. In either case, the answer is ultimately no, it's not too late to get a PhD. However, there are some important things to keep in mind if this is something you're considering.How old is the average PhD student? ›
The average age of PhD students is quite varied, depending on the field of study. Generally speaking however, the average age of a PhD student can range from 27 to 37 years old.Do US PhD students pay tuition? ›
Many Ph.D. programs are fully funded.
Students interested in graduate research in various fields, from public health and English to computer science and engineering, have numerous options for Ph.D. programs that offer full funding. These programs typically provide waived tuition and fees and an annual stipend.
Obtaining a PhD without a masters degree is a unique opportunity that may allow you to shorten your academic journey. Traditionally, a bachelor's degree takes 4 years to complete while PhD degrees can take anywhere from 3 to 5 years, depending on the program and school you attend.Can I stay in USA after PhD? ›
The short answer is YES- a PhD student may apply for a green card! But, to obtain a green card with your advanced degree, you will have to prove that there is a good reason to be allowed to stay in the U.S. Here is a short guide on how a student may apply for a green card.What is a PhD guide called? ›
A doctoral advisor (also dissertation director, dissertation advisor; or doctoral supervisor) is a member of a university faculty whose role is to guide graduate students who are candidates for a doctorate, helping them select coursework, as well as shaping, refining and directing the students' choice of sub-discipline ...Can I guide my wife for PhD? ›
In general, co-supervision by a married couple is not universally disallowed. (In my university it is allowed, and there is a husband-wife pair in my department that successfully co-supervises PhD students on occasion.) Some universities do recognize this as a conflict of interest.What are some signs you have a bad PhD advisor? ›
- Egoistic person. He/she is not open to discussion/ new ideas and believes the students are always wrong.
- Focuses on negativity more. ...
- Not concerned about a student issues. ...
- Expecting the students to put all efforts themselves and not contributing at all. ...
- Too much personal interference.
PhD in Theoretical Physics: For you to emerge a doctor of Theoretical Physics, you must have background knowledge of Mathematics and Physics. A qualitative amount of focus is also required of you so as to be able to imagine the warping of gravitational waves and space-time due to the gravitational field.Is a PhD faster if you have a Masters? ›
It is true that it may not shave much time off of your Ph. d, however, it prepares you for the radically different type of education that is graduate school. Forget about time, an M.A will ultimately contribute to your doctoral success in so many varying ways from acclimation to research habits. Save this answer.What is the easiest PhD program to get into USA? ›
- Adams State University – Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Counselor Education and Supervision (CE&S)
- The University of Texas at El Paso – PhD in English Rhetoric and Composition.
- Prescott College – PhD in Sustainability Education.
Generally, a Ph. D. scholar is paid highly in countries like the USA – with an average salary ranging from about $15,000 to $30,000 per year. This also depends on the nature of the job that the Ph.Can we work while doing PhD in USA? ›
The simple answer is yes, you can work while studying a PhD and in fact, many do. The most common form of work is teaching. But some students may also have part-time (or full-time jobs outside of the university).
One of the main differences is that a PhD is typically an academic degree, while a doctorate can be either academic or professional. Additionally, a PhD is highly theoretical and research-focused, while a professional doctorate is practical and geared toward applying research to specific professional settings.What happens if you don't finish your PhD? ›
Similarly, the skills that candidates have already developed in pursuing their research might be an asset in their job beyond academia. It's important for candidates to know that not finishing a PhD doesn't make you a failure, and it doesn't mean you'll never have the opportunity to do a research degree in the future.Who is the oldest person to get a PhD? ›
At the age of 102, Ingeborg Rapoport became the world's oldest person who was awarded a doctorate. This incredible accomplishment was due to the fact that almost 80 years ago, Nazi oppression prevented her from sitting her final exam. Ingeborg began medical studies in 1937 and wrote her doctoral thesis on diphtheria.Should I get a PhD if I don't want to be a professor? ›
Consider earning a Ph.
Although it may be possible to become a professor in your field with only a master's degree, earning your Ph. D. may provide you with more job opportunities. It may help distinguish you from other candidates when applying for positions.
Getting a PhD can be a very challenging process that requires several years of intensive research, coursework, and writing. However, the difficulty of obtaining a PhD can vary depending on factors such as the specific program and field of study.Can you get a PhD without a Masters? ›
Yes, it is possible to earn a PhD without a master's degree. Though the traditional path entails completing a master's program before embarking on a doctorate, some schools and programs offer options to skip the master's entirely. Actually, in select cases, it's the preferred approach.How rare is a PhD? ›
There are of course country-specific differences. In Denmark and Germany, for instance, roughly 1% of the total population held a PhD in 2021. In the US and the UK, approximately 2% of the total population held a PhD in 2021. And in Slovenia, it was 5% of the population in 2021!What percentage of the US population has a PhD? ›
The United States is tied with European countries when it comes to being a highly educated population. About 2% of the U.S. population holds a Ph. D.
On average, the total cost comes out to $32,846 per year, including tuition and living expenses. Students typically take 4-8 years to finish a Ph. D. program, so a doctoral degree can cost anywhere from $131,000-$263,000 before grants and assistantships.What is the age of the youngest PhD holder? ›
The youngest person to be awarded a PhD is the German child prodigy Johann Heinrich Friedrich Karl Witte (born 10 July 1800; better known simply as Karl Witte), who received his doctorate from the University of Giessen, Germany, on 10 April 1814 at the age of 13 years 283 days.
Universities usually have funding of their own to offer potential PhD students. This might take the form of a small fee discount (often for alumni) or limited grant for living costs. Or it might be a full studentship funded out of the university's own research budget.How do PhD students make money in USA? ›
Most PhD programs expect students to study full-time. In exchange, they're usually offered a stipend — a fixed sum of money paid as a salary — to cover the cost of housing and other living expenses.
The Fully-funded Ph. D. programs in the USA cover various programs such as studentships, scholarships, and grant and bursaries programs. Some American universities offer fully-funded doctoral projects as well.Is it harder to get into a PhD program without a Masters? ›
Not having a Master's degree may prove to be a hindrance during your application process. This is because many other students will also apply to the same research projects, and it's likely that the majority will hold a Masters. This will put you at a disadvantage to them.Is it better to get a Masters or a PhD? ›
A master's degree is designed to deepen career-oriented knowledge and skills. A doctorate degree is a heavily research-based degree, designed to develop critical research,analytical and writing skills in an effort to fill industry knowledge gaps.Is it better to get a masters before a PhD? ›
A Masters can be a way of easing yourself into the real world of research and can give you an insight into what a PhD will be like. It gives you a chance to get used to the self-motivation, increased freedom, longer hours and greater sense of ownership of a project that sometimes feels more like work than uni.Does PhD in US guarantee a green card? ›
Sadly, there is currently no direct path to getting a green card through your PhD. Having it will not automatically grant you a green card – no matter if it is EB-1 or any other category. However, it will provide an advantage if you are lacking in some other requirements for the EB-1.How many research papers are required for PhD in USA? ›
Length of PhD in USA
Students are generally expected to publish at least 2 research papers in good international journals before they submit their PhD thesis. In the USA, an academic year includes two teaching semesters – August to December, and January to May.
Do PhD students get summers off? No, you'll be expected to continue working on your research throughout the summer – there's no dedicated summer holiday period in addition to the annual leave you're entitled to as a PhD student.What are the two types of PhD? ›
There are two major types of doctoral degrees: the research-oriented degree, and the professional application degree (also called an applied doctorate). The difference between the two types of programs may be a bit murkier than you think.
Students in a master's degree program will write a thesis, whereas students in a doctoral degree program will complete a dissertation.How do you write a PhD after your name? ›
When writing about someone's PhD, the correct way is to write the term in full and capitalize each letter. This should be done for all academic degrees, not just PhDs. For example, it would be “Doctor of Philosophy” or “PhD” instead of “Ph. D.”, “Dr.”, or “DPhil”.What age do PhD students get married? ›
Women with a doctorate degree had the highest age at first marriage at 32.0. Men showed a similar pattern. Those with less than a high school education had the lowest median age at first marriage at 28.5.Can two people share a PhD? ›
A joint PhD is a doctorate that is done at two or more degree-awarding institutions. Sometimes referred to as a split-site PhD, doing a joint PhD doesn't mean that you're simply supervised by one supervisor in one university while another supervisor at a different university advises you on an informal basis.Can a PhD student bring his wife to USA? ›
Per U.S. government regulations, only married spouses can obtain a dependent visa status. The student, scholar or employee can add a dependent spouse to his or her record, and the spouse can then obtain a dependent visa status (F-2, J-2 or H-4).What are the most common reasons for rejecting PhD program applicants? ›
- You haven't completely figured out your goals. ...
- You are applying for the wrong program. ...
- No advisor fit. ...
- Lack of research experience. ...
- Weak letters of recommendation. ...
- Low grades or test scores. ...
- Mistakes in the application. ...
- Bad timing.
Getting a doctorate could be one of your biggest life achievements—provided you can make it to the finish line. Drop out rates vary by discipline, but as many as 50 percent of students don't complete their doctorate.What are the cons of doing a PhD? ›
- Incurring additional costs and time. Doctorate degrees can take several additional years to complete compared to standard higher education degrees. ...
- Increasing workload. The further education you pursue, the more specialized the subject matter becomes. ...
- Limited job experience.
- Working independently.
Research shows that the average amount of time to complete a PhD across disciplines is 4.4 years. Depending on the country, a PhD will take anywhere between two and seven years to complete depending on whether there is a coursework component (US universities).Are PhD programs 2 years? ›
But, the time it takes to complete a Ph. D. program also has a huge role in making both students and professionals think twice before committing. Doctoral programs typically take four to six years to complete if you include both the time spent on the coursework and research.
If your aim is to find the fastest PhD program, you can complete one in less than 3 years if you opt for a short program (fewer credit hours), accelerated doctoral courses, and no dissertation requirement.How long is a PhD if you have a bachelor's degree? ›
The average student takes 8.2 years to obtain a doctoral degree, that figure is assuming you begin your bachelor's and stay a student all the way to doctoral completion. In most cases, students return to school at a later time to complete their PhD or Doctoral degree.How long does a PhD take if you have a masters? ›
It takes five to eight years to get a Ph. D. after a master's. This is the case for traditional on-campus P.h.D. programs.How long does a PhD take without a Masters? ›
Obtaining a PhD without a masters degree is a unique opportunity that may allow you to shorten your academic journey. Traditionally, a bachelor's degree takes 4 years to complete while PhD degrees can take anywhere from 3 to 5 years, depending on the program and school you attend.How difficult is PhD? ›
For most PhDs there will be a certain amount of knowledge you're expected to have picked up from your previous degree(s), but the pace of a PhD is undoubtedly much more slow. The reality is that the breadth of a PhD topic is really quite limited, though it can often span several disciplines.Should I quit my PhD after 2 year? ›
Sometimes the best plans can go badly. It is worth quitting your PhD if you have got nowhere with your research after two years. Sometimes research does not reward you for hard work and it can be a very frustrating time. Look at the progress of your research and focus on stuff that is working.How long does a PhD take in USA? ›
While many PhD programs are designed to be finished in four or five years, the average time to completion is actually much longer when you factor in the time it takes to research and write a dissertation. In 2020, doctoral students took between six and twelve years to complete their PhD .What is the most difficult PhD? ›
PhD in Theoretical Physics: For you to emerge a doctor of Theoretical Physics, you must have background knowledge of Mathematics and Physics. A qualitative amount of focus is also required of you so as to be able to imagine the warping of gravitational waves and space-time due to the gravitational field.When can a PhD student be called doctor? ›
A doctoral degree (PhD) is a degree that one earns after a master's degree. A PhD entitles a person to use the title doctor. These are the social and physical scientists who conduct and evaluate published research.How many people start a PhD but don t finish? ›
Getting a doctorate could be one of your biggest life achievements—provided you can make it to the finish line. Drop out rates vary by discipline, but as many as 50 percent of students don't complete their doctorate.
The length of time required to complete a PhD or master's degree varies. Unsurprisingly, PhDs take much longer, usually between 3–7 years. Master's degrees are usually only 1–2 years.Is there a degree above PhD? ›
Doctor of science
It is considered to be the highest terminal degree in many countries and is often a requirement for academic positions within universities and research institutions. The Doctor of Science requires 6-8 years after obtaining a PhD, and involves rigorous coursework, research, and examinations.
One of the main differences is that a PhD is typically an academic degree, while a doctorate can be either academic or professional. Additionally, a PhD is highly theoretical and research-focused, while a professional doctorate is practical and geared toward applying research to specific professional settings.