How to pursue PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)?

10 minute read

Referred to as the highest level of academic degree, a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) is a suitable option for those who are inherently passionate about a particular field and want to dig deeper into the arena of their interest through a doctoral degree. The journey of the PhD course spans 3-6 years in which the candidates have to do detailed research about a topic (chosen from their discipline of interest) followed by a thesis. Through this degree, candidates get to earn the title of ‘Doctor’ which signifies their speciality in a particular field and differs from the certification imparted to a medical practitioner. This blog aims to take you on a detailed journey of exploring what PhD entails, its different types, perks of pursuing this degree abroad as well as the top academic institutions you can choose from. 

  • PhD is one of the most desired as well as globally recognized degrees.
  • PhD can be acquired in a broad range of disciplines ranging from History, Literature to Physics, Mathematics and Geography.
  • The maximum duration of a doctoral program extends up to 6 years.
  • A PhD degree provides students with an opportunity to explore their chosen area of interest in a deeper manner and formulate a thorough well-written thesis.
  • To pursue a PhD, candidates need to have completed their postgraduate degree in a similar or related field.
  • One can also opt for integrated PhDs which graduates can apply for.
  • The eligibility of the degree varies from one country to another. Mostly, a master’s degree is the most essential requirement for a doctoral course, whereas some universities demand excellent academic performance throughout the year.

Types of PhD 

Research is not the only reason to study for a doctoral degree now as there are different types of PhD degrees available that can bring you an immense number of opportunities. In contemporary times, there is also a specified professional doctoral degree that can assist you in exploring prospects in the corporate sector. Let’s take a look at some of the major types of PhD:

Professional Doctorates

Professional Doctorates usually involve comparatively smaller thesis components and research projects. This type of PhD is opted for by students wanting to study vocational subjects such as Education, Engineering, Medicine etc. This type is basically chosen by the ones who do not want to pursue a career in academia after completing the degree rather they strive for a professional career afterwards. 

Higher Doctorates

This level of doctorate degree is for individuals who have a lot of academic experience. To pursue this degree, candidates need special grants on the recommendation of a committee of external and internal examiners who assess the portfolio of the PhD aspirants, which they have undertaken for many years. The degree involves several award titles like Doctor of Divinity (DD), Doctor of Literature/ Letters (DLitt/DLitt/LitD/LittD), Doctor of Science (DS/SD/DSc/ScD), Doctor of Civil Law (DCL), Doctor of Music (DMus/MusD) and Doctor of Law (LLD). 

New Route PhD

In the course of this degree, it is compulsory to take one year of MRes in the first year before starting with the main doctoral program. The elements taught in this program are blended with thorough independent research. Students are equipped with different and innovative methodologies and transferable skills in the areas like education, media, advanced IT, languages and business.   

Online PhD

When it comes to pursuing a doctoral program, like other degrees there are two ways, the traditional classroom method and the online sessions. Due to some personal or professional restraints, it is not possible for some people to regularly attend offline classroom sessions. In this case, the best option they can opt for is the online PhD programs which do not involve your physical presence at a university. These programs have flexible schedules which students can adjust according to their work commitments. Generally, online doctoral courses cost less than a regular PhD degree. The students enrolled on these online programs, have access to professors from around the world. It is also ensured that there is no compromise in terms of the coursework as well as learning than that of a regular doctoral degree. The following table enlists some online PhD programs and the universities offering them.

Course University 
Online Doctor of Business Administration
Global Humanistic University 
Doctor of Nursing Practice Bethel University 
Doctorate in Business Administration Creighton University
Doctor of Philosophy in Computer Science
and Information Science 
DePaul University
Doctor of Occupational Therapy degree Regis University
PhD in Educational Leadership and Management Drexel University 
Family Nurse Practitioner University of San Francisco

Integrated PhD

Including majorly the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics as their specializations, Integrated PhD Programs are simply research-based courses. Although there are some other fields available such as Arts and Social Science, an integrated doctoral program is a full-time 5-year course which comprises a combination of a master’s and PhD. In the first two years, the students pursue a postgraduate course and in the subsequent three years, they begin their research work for the doctoral program.

Difference between Integrated PhD and Regular PhD   

For the students confused between opting for either an integrated degree or a regular degree at the doctoral level, here are some major distinguishing factors they need to consider:

  • The minimum qualification for pursuing a regular PhD is a master’s degree but to get enrolled under an integrated PhD, the eligibility criteria is that of a bachelor’s degree. 
  • It is easier to complete a doctoral degree through an integrated program as it is relatively less time-consuming.
  • A regular PhD can be done only in a field in which a candidate has completed the master’s degree whereas on the other hand, in an integrated program, the candidates have the flexibility to choose their specializations.

Best Countries For Integrated PhD

When thinking of obtaining a degree abroad, the foremost thing we consider is where to pursue your chosen course from. Choosing a particular country for a course is not easy especially when it comes to a doctoral degree. There are many parameters one needs to consider while selecting a country for their selected degree. Below mentioned are some of the top countries that offered a wide range of integrated PhD courses to choose from:

CountryPopular Institutions Offering Integrated PhDs
CanadaUniversity of British Columbia
University of Toronto
University of Alberta
University of Montreal
McGill University
GermanyLudwig-Maximilian- Universitat Munchen
Technical University of Munich
KIT- Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
Ruprecht-Karls Universitat Heidelberg
RWTH Aachen University
USAMassachusetts Institute of Technology
California Institute of Technology

Purdue University
Standford University
Johns Hopkins University 
AustraliaAustralian National University
RMIT University
University of Melbourne
The University of Sydney
The University of Queensland

Note: The above list of countries and their universities offering Integrated PhD courses is only for indicative purposes and enlists only the popular ones that are renowned for these programs.

Eligbility Criteria

Here are some of the important requirements to pursue a PhD course.

  • For students in the Arts and Humanities department, it is compulsory for them to apply for a PhD after they complete their Masters.
  • Students belonging to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) don’t always need to have an MSc Degree.

The PhD Process

The latest PhD process is an upcoming and diverse taught degree where you are not only required to spend time in libraries and laboratories but also get accustomed to many other components in the syllabus.

The First-year

  • In the first term of your PhD course, it is necessary to get a compatible supervisor according to your research topic.
  • Then the candidate will start working on their literature review at the beginning. The literature review is the crucial part of your research project which defines the beginning and conclusion of your project.
  • You are required to submit a draft of your literature review and get upgraded to an MPhil level.

The Second-year

  • The second year of your PhD has more emphasis on getting well-versed with your research developments
  • This is the time when will start working on adding new chapters to your dissertation.
  • After getting well-versed in the research work you will be ready to present your own insights into the topic
  • This is the right time to present your research work at academic conferences or get it published in journals.

The Third-year

  • Also known as the writing up phase, in the third year of PhD, the main objective is to transform your thesis into a dissertation.
  • This is the time when your supervisor will get extensively involved to help you out with the end of the writing process of your dissertation.
  • After this, the candidate is required to attend an oral examination where you discuss the thesis with the internal and external examiner.

Top Countries Offering PhD Courses

Pursuing a PhD may seem like a herculean task but all the intensive research work is worth it if the expected outgrowth comes out to be the best. Perusing your doctoral program abroad will improve your career prospects bringing a plethora of job opportunities to you. Below we have listed down some of the major countries that offer world-class exposure and research prospects for those wanting to pursue their doctoral degree abroad:


The coursework of PhD programs in the USA is divided into three parts. Generally, the duration of the program ranges from 4-8 years. But the specific duration depends on your chosen program. Though, the eligibility criteria for a doctoral course might vary from one institution to another, here are some of the basic prerequisites you need to fulfil:

  • A Statement of Purpose (SOP) highlighting how you are the right fit for the course, what you aspire to gain from it as well as what you are aiming to contribute to the institution.
  • Under the program you are applying for, you also might have to take the GRE Subject Test for your chosen specialization and any of the language proficiency tests like IELTS, GRE General Test.
  • Academic essays like Statement of Purpose (SOP) and Letters of Recommendation (LORs) are also usually required for a degree like a PhD. 


Australia is another popular destination for doctoral programs and attracts numerous scholars around the year wanting to peruse their degree here. The country also offers varied research scholarships every year such as International Postgraduate Research Scholarship (IPRS), university scholarships, government scholarships etc. to provide financial aid for foreign students studying their PhD here. These scholarships are offered mainly to meritorious students and are based on one’s academic records and qualifications.

New Zealand

In New Zealand, the duration of a PhD program varies from 3-4 years. The general coursework of a doctoral course remains the same as the candidates are asked to submit their research thesis after which it is evaluated by the institution. The general eligibility criteria for applying for doctoral programs in New Zealand are as follows:

  • Students have to qualify for the English language proficiency test such as IELTS, and TOEFL
  • A bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from a recognised institution and in a related field in which they are applying for a doctoral course.


The United Kingdom is another prominent and highly sought-after destination for doctoral degrees. The country offers PhD degrees with a research duration of around 3 years. Students are evaluated orally related to their written thesis as there are no pen-paper examinations for it. To achieve a PhD degree in the UK, the candidates have to make sure that they have the relevant academic qualifications in their chosen field and scores of international admission tests such as GMAT, GRE, IELTS, and TOEFL might also be required.

Top Universities for PhD

While finding suitable academic institutions for pursuing a highly intensive degree like a PhD, it is important to explore the research opportunities every university has on offer and how those align with your chosen field of interest. The following table enlists some of the top global institutions that are known for their doctoral programs:  

UniversityTHE World University Rankings 2021
University of Oxford 1
Stanford University 2
Harvard University 3
California Institute of Technology 4
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)5
University of Cambridge 6
University of California, Berkeley 7
Yale University8
Princeton University9
University of Chicago10
Imperial College London11
Johns Hopkins University12
University of Pennsylvania 13
ETH Zurich 14
University of California, Los Angeles15
University College of London 16
Columbia University 17
University of Toronto 18
Cornell University 19
Duke University =20

Career Scope

A PhD degree is usually pursued by students having a deeper interest in a particular discipline or area of study. Moreover, after attaining your doctorate, the most common path is to apply for a lecturership or pursue opportunities in research and development. Negating this notion that a PhD can only bring you prospects in academia and research, there are many professional career options available in different sectors that one can go for. Let’s take a look at what these non-academic career prospects entail for those who have completed their doctoral course:

Non-Academic Career Aspects 

Other than the commonly chosen academic career paths, you can discover a plethora of opportunities in both public as well as private sectors after completing your PhD. The process of acquiring a doctoral degree equips the candidates with multiple skills and abilities which can turn out to be an asset in the corporate sector. After grabbing a PhD in the STEM courses, here are some popular work profiles you can opt for:

  • Business Development Manager
  • Market Research Analyst 
  • Product Manager 
  • Management consulting 
  • Competitive Intelligence Analyst 
  • Medical Communication Specialist 
  • Quantitative Analyst 
  • Operation Research Analyst 
  • Medical Science Liason 
  • Healthcare Information Technology Specialist


How long does it take to get a PhD?

A Ph. D. might take up to eight years to finish on average. A doctoral degree usually takes four to six years to finish, depending on the programme design, the academic area you’re studying, and the institution delivering the programme.

What exactly is a PhD qualification?

A PhD is a globally recognised postgraduate academic degree offered by universities and higher education organisations to a candidate who has completed considerable and unique research in their chosen field.

Is a PhD a master’s degree or a doctorate?

In summary, a Master’s degree entails one year of study, mostly through taught lectures and a final dissertation research project, but a PhD (sometimes known as a doctorate degree) entails three years of independent research on a specific field.

Thus, we hope that this blog has provided you with all the key essentials of what a PhD is as well as its different types and top countries to study this degree from. If are planning to earn a doctorate but don’t know where to pursue it, get in touch with our experts at Leverage Edu and we’ll help you find a suitable doctoral course and university that can provide you with immense research opportunities to explore your field of interest and delve deeper into those specializations that are yet to be unravelled.

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  1. The blog was very helpful for me as it helped me sorting out various issues. This was totally awesome and resourceful.
    Am Happy to find such good and valuable information.

  1. The blog was very helpful for me as it helped me sorting out various issues. This was totally awesome and resourceful.
    Am Happy to find such good and valuable information.