The doctoral degree
(also referred to as a Ph.D.) is the highest degree awarded by the
universities, and is done so after an extensive program of study and
research in a specialized subject. The degree signifies a capability to
assimilate the most advanced and recondite level of knowledge in the
subject. The degree is crowned with a doctoral thesis, which is
expected to be a thorough and intensive contribution to a specialized
subject based on original research and inquiry.
As is obvious from the
above, a prerequisite for pursuing a doctoral degree is an active
interest in, and the inclination to do, intensive research work. It
requires putting in long and laborious hours of study at a microcosmic
level on a specific subject. In this way, a doctoral degree is quite an
antithesis of the master's degree, which covers a broad range of
subjects in a particular field of study.
: A common misconception is that a master's degree is a prerequisite
for the doctoral degree. It is an advantage but is not necessary. For
3-year degree holders, it is not possible to enroll directly for a Ph.D
program. Some universities do consider admission into a Ph.D directly
after a Bachelors degree, if pre-requisite scores, academics and
experience are sound. You must demonstrate an inclination towards
research and exhibit a good academic record.
Experience of atleast
two to three years in the relevant field is considered important for
admission into a Doctoral program, by most universities.
How the Doctoral
Application Process works :
The application process
has to be initiated atleast one year to eighteen months in advance
before the proposed date of reporting at the university. This is
necessary since identification of professors, interaction with them and
finalizing the program of research with necessary financial assistance
can take a long time.
For any graduate
programme, more so for a doctoral, the applicant has to contend with
two sets of requirements - those set by the graduate school and those
set by the graduate department. You have to meet up with the
eligibility requirements of the university and also find a match
between your area of specialisation and the research interests of the
department you will be studying in.
your subject : The first step towards applying is
deciding on a subject for your doctorate. The essential aspect here is
to focus on as specific a field of study as you possibly can; thus
saying that you wish to do a doctorate in Electrical Engineering is not
good enough, you have to be more specific than that (say, doctorate in
Power Transmission and transmission losses, which is a specific field
within the broad ambit of Electrical Engineering). Spend time on
deciding this - the critical factor here is a very high level of
interest in the specific field you choose. In fact, some experts
recommend that you should have a rough idea of what your research topic
in the doctoral program is going to be even before you apply for
for the standardised tests : The GRE is required for
most doctoral programs in the engineering and other non-management
related fields. In the top graduate schools, securing a doctoral berth
is a tough proposition because they are very choosy about admitting
research candidates. In fact, most schools have a strict ceiling of the
number of doctoral candidates they admit, which can be as low as five
students in a calendar year. Most universities require the general GRE
test as well as the Subject GRE test, with excellent scores. Check this
with the university you intend to apply to. You will also be required
to take the TOEFL and the TSE.
Universities : Along with your test preparation for GRE,
Subject GRE, TOEFL and TSE, you must start identifying universities
that are good in the area that you want to specialise in. You must
check the research interests of the department under which your
research area falls.
the departments and Professors : After identifying a
suitable list of universities and their departments, you should
identify Professors who could be interested to work with you in your
research area. You could do so by visiting the university web sites and
getting the names and contact email IDs of the professors.
with the professors by indicating your interest to work under them.
Indicate as clearly as possible the subject of your research and what
qualifies you to be successful at it.
You must initiate this
process with as many universities as you can. There will be some
Professors who will not be interested in your research area. Identify
those that are, and go ahead and complete the application procedure of
Follow the Application process of the
university : Submit your application to the university,
follow their time deadlines, and comply with all requirements.
yourself well : An essential part of the application is
the statement of purpose (SOP) which all graduate schools require you
to write. This statement should clearly bring out your interest in the
field in which you wish to do a Ph.D. Any previous research experience
in that field will work to your advantage.
your Doctoral Study : Getting financial aid for a
doctoral programme is fairly easy. Most universities will give you a
full financial aid, which will cover your tuition fees and living
expenses. The aid is given either semester wise or on yearly basis. You
have to apply for financial aid by indicating your interest in your
admission application form.
The content of the Doctoral Programme
The doctoral programme is divided into two parts, pre-dissertation
study and the doctoral thesis.
Once admitted, you are required to spend the first year or so in
acquiring a solid foundation in the advanced knowledge of your chosen
field. This entails regular course work - you might have to attend
lectures and seminars with the master's degree students of your stream.
This course work culminates in a "qualifying examination", on clearing
which you are formally admitted to candidacy for a doctoral degree.
In the second and final
stage of the pre-dissertation study, you are expected to acquire
expertise in a specialized field within your chosen discipline. Thus,
if your doctoral subject was organisational behaviour, you may have
narrowed down your research interest to "leadership", an important
element within organisational behaviour. This stage too ends in an
examination, including an oral one, upon passing which you are
considered ready to begin work on your thesis.
The Doctoral Thesis : This final stage of the doctoral study is usually
regarded as the most important, during which you have to complete a
dissertation (a detailed study on a topic, which can be as specific as
"Employee motivation at the XYZ Corporation", but should contribute to
the existing level of knowledge in that field of study. During the
research, you will be assigned to an advisor with whom you are required
to work in close association. This advisor is usually a faculty member
most knowledgeable about the special area of dissertation research.
Thesis research and
preparation is a highly cognitive process. The culmination of the
process is in the form of the final thesis defense, in which you are
presumed to be an expert in your field and are supposed to literally
defend your findings and conclusions on the subject in front of a
committee. The completed dissertation becomes a public document, placed
in the university library and also often published in the university
journal or even on its web site in some cases.
How long does it take?
The entire process of
getting a doctorate degree usually takes a minimum of three-and-a-half
years, nearly two of which are spent exclusively in preparing the
thesis. The degree usually leads to employment in the academic world,
but in recent years, more and more doctorates are finding employment in
the professional world at par with or even ahead of other professionals.