PhD in USA

8 minute read

With its unparalleled focus on research, innovation, and development, the USA offers innumerable career opportunities to individuals in not only STEM courses, but also in Social Sciences, Humanities, and Languages. Further, with outstanding faculty, an internationally recognised curriculum, as well as bright career prospects both in enterprises and research organisations, a wide range of academic institutions in the USA have etched their names in the list of top universities in the world. These institutes are not only revered for their undergraduate and MS programs, but are also known for their comprehensive Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs. So, in this blog, we will shed light on the details pertaining to pursuing a PhD in USA and its related components.

Total Universities in the USA 4500+ Universities
Nobel Prizes 383
Oldest University Harvard University (1636)
International Students 997,000+
Academic Year August to May

Why Pursue PhD in USA?

With almost 1 million foreign students enrolled in its universities and colleges, the United States’ popularity as a study-abroad destination shows no signs of fading. Here are a few valid reasons to pursue your PhD in the United States right now:

  1. Accessibility – A graduate program in the United States takes longer than a PhD in the United Kingdom, however, this might help you get your feet as a PhD student. Instead of being forced to focus on your dissertation proposal right away, you’ll have more time to get a deeper grasp of your subject to use as the foundation for your own study.
  2. Quality Education – While rankings aren’t everything, US schools continue to dominate the top of worldwide league tables. This reflects the country’s major investment in research output and skills, among other factors.
  3. International Community – Universities in the United States are accustomed to receiving large numbers of international students from all over the world. You will be welcomed as a member of a varied academic community, whatever and wherever you study.
  4. Innovation – The United States is a (post)graduate trendsetter to a larger extent than it is often given credit for. After Germany, America was the second country to embrace the modern PhD degree, and its organised approach to doctorate training is increasingly influencing PhD studies in the United Kingdom and Europe.
  5. Opportunities – With 50 states, six time zones, and hundreds of higher education institutions, it’s safe to assume that student life in the United States has something to offer you, no matter what you want to get out of your PhD.

PhD Course Duration in USA

A PhD programme in the United States typically lasts 4 to 6 years. Some students, on the other hand, take an average of 8 years to finish the degree. The years of course work are divided into two categories: one to four years of course work and two to four years of dissertation study. The academic year in the United States is split into 2 teaching semesters: August to December and January to May.

PhD in USACourse Structure

The PhD in the United States differs from that of other countries in that it is not only a research degree. The course includes a unique creative current method given by the United States educational authority. It is not purely a research degree, as the curriculum requires students to present major theses. In the first years of a PhD program in the United States, regular courses, student evaluations, and the organization of a comprehensive curriculum are all required. The thesis and dissertation are not required during the first two years of study. Students must confirm their final dissertation subjects for the research area after passing the first round of evaluation and examinations.

The USA is home to several prestigious universities that offer a high standard of education in the field of research and development, thus motivating candidates to pursue a PhD in USA. Tabulated below are some of the most popular PhD options in the Arts stream as well as STEM courses

Field of Concentration Courses
Health / Education PhD Physical Therapy
PhD in Cell, Molecular and Developmental Biology
PhD in Education in Health Professions
PhD in Community Health Sciences – Medical Education
PhD in Medical Science – Critical Care Medicine
PhD in Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation
Doctor of Medicine
Engineering / Science PhD in Bioengineering
PhD in Environmental Science & Engineering
PhD Astrophysics
PhD in Materials Science & Mechanical Engineering
Microsystems Engineering PhD
Doctorate in Electrical & Computer Engineering
Law Doctor of Philosophy – Law
PhD Law and Criminology
Law PhD / MPhil / MJur
Doctor of Philosophy Integrated (Law)
Social Sciences and Humanities PhD in Theory and Research – Journalism, Media, and Culture
PhD in Journalism and Mass Communication

PhD In USA: How To Choose A University?

In the United States, there are a total of 282 universities that offer a PhD degree program. The requirements for applying to a PhD program in the United States vary depending on the university chosen by the students.   In the United States, the primary requirements for a Ph.D. program are as follows:

  1. Valid GRE Score – The candidate must have passed the GRE Test, which is an English language competence test. Candidates with higher scores will have a better chance of being accepted into a PhD program.
  2. English Proficiency Tests – To fulfill the language competency criteria, students seeking admission to PhD programmes in the United States must submit a high TOEFL, IELTS, or Cambridge exam score.
  3. Statement Of Purpose – Candidates must submit an SOP (Statement of Purpose) to the universities from which they wish to pursue a PhD program. The SOP shows your compatibility with the program and teachers.
  4. Financial Aid – Students must ensure that they have adequate finances to cover the costs of pursuing a PhD at the university they have chosen. Students who do not have enough money to pay for university tuition in the United States might apply for admission to colleges that provide scholarships. Some universities in the United States waive tuition fees and provide annual stipends to students in need of financial assistance.
  5. Letter Of Recommendation – Candidates will be required to submit a recommendation letter to the university from where they wish to pursue a PhD program. The goal of the PhD and an essay on that topic must be included in the recommendation letter.

PhD in USA Application Requirements

Materials to be submitted at the time of application include scores of exams like the GRE or GMAT along with English-language proficiency scores of IELTS or TOEFL. The other application requirement for doing a PhD in USA have been given a rundown below:

  • Application Form
  • Fee Receipt
  • 2-3 Letters of Recommendation (LORs)
  • Statement of Purpose (SOP)
  • Updated Resume/CV
  • Transcripts of all the degrees completed
  • Proof of Scholarship Funding
  • Passport Copy

Though GRE and Language proficiency scores are common requisites for pursuing PhD in USA, some institutions may also require GMAT for Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), MCAT for MD, and DAT for Doctorate in Dental Surgery. Furthermore, you may also have to provide scores of the GRE subject test in some of the universities. For instance, to pursue PhD in Applied Mathematics at UC Berkeley, you will have to submit both, GRE General and GRE Subject Test scores.

Eligibility Criteria

If you are aspiring to pursue a PhD in USA, you need to fulfill the eligibility criteria set by your chosen university. Following are some of the essential prerequisites you need to keep in mind while applying: 

  • Work experience of 1-2 years is also demanded by some institutions, however, this is not an essential requirement.
  • A personal interview may also part of the application process. This is typically conducted by the supervising board for the programme. 
  • Once you have supplied these documents, the doctoral committee you are applying will confirm your eligibility to pursue a PhD in the USA

List of PhD Scholarships 2023

A wide range of scholarships/financial aids are provided to PhD aspirants, which are either funded by the universities in the USA or are offered by national and international organisations. There are some scholarships for Indian students exclusively, while others are open to all international applicants. Enlisted are some of the popular scholarships for pursuing a PhD in USA: 

  • Desk and Derrick Educational Trust Scholarship  
  • Fulbright Nehru Doctoral Research Fellowships
  • WACCI, University of Ghana PhD Training Scholarship
  • MDS-PAS Visiting Trainee Grant scholarship
  • LRF Postdoctoral Fellowship for International Students
  • International Students Fully Funded Knight Hennessy Scholars Program at Stanford University
  • Everglades Foundation Scholarship and Fellowship Program
  • Temple University Postdoctoral Position
  • Rose Marie Pangborn Science Scholarship at Purdue University
  • IWPR Postdoctoral Fellowship in Economics 
  • CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service Programme for International Students
  • Negotiating Agreement in Congress Research Grants at SSRC
  • Fulbright US Student Program at Texas Tech University
  • Auburn University Fully-funded PhD Positions for International Students
  • East Tennessee State University Undergraduate, Masters and PhD Academic Merit Scholarship 
  • Fulbright Nehru Doctoral Research Fellowships for Indian Scholars
  • Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowships for International Scholars 
  • Harvard South Asia Institute Raghunathan Family PhD Fellowship for International Students
  • Howard Mayer Brown Fellowship for Graduate Students

The USA is home to some of the top institutions in the world which offer quality education through comprehensive degree programs, provide a platform to conduct exhaustive research, state of the art infrastructure, and top-notch faculty. Furthermore, the emphasis these academic institutions have laid on developing scientific temperament has made USA an excellent study abroad destination to pursue research-based courses. (masalabox) Listed below are some of the top universities [domain wise] to pursue a PhD in USA. 

Education Harvard University
Stanford University
University of California, Berkeley
University of Columbia
University of Wisconsin
Law Harvard University
Yale University
Stanford University
University of California, Berkeley
Columbia University
Engineering Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Stanford University
University of California – Berkeley
Harvard University
Georgia Institute of Technology
Natural Science Massachusetts Institute of Technology
California Institute of Technology
Harvard University
Princeton University
University of Chicago


Is research statement required to pursue PhD in USA?

For PhD programmes in USA, a research statement is not a necessary document. You can decide on your PhD thesis subject in the initial years. However, for doing a PhD in UK or Europe, you need to have a thorough knowledge of the field you want to study a doctorate in.

Is GRE compulsory to study PhD in USA?

To pursue PhD in USA, you need to have a minimum of a bachelors degree. Hence, in most cases, you have to submit GRE scores.

What are the deadlines to apply for a PhD in USA?

Usually, the deadlines for applying for a PhD in USA is between December and February. However, this can vary from one university to another.

What is the duration of a PhD in USA?

In USA, completing a PhD can take anywhere between 5-6 years.

Thus, developing a flourishing career in Research needs hard work, dedication, and the right direction. If you are planning to pursue a Ph.D. in USA but are not sure how to go about it, then Leverage Edu can guide you through the process. Right from application to the arrangement of funding, the counsellors will provide assistance at every step so that you can take a step towards building a rewarding career!

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