Before you decide to pursue a doctorate degree, it's important to understand all of the necessary steps and requirements.
Steps to Pursue a Doctoral Degree
Depending on your university of choice, the sequence in which you will complete your doctoral studies may vary. For your reference, here is an example of what a Northcentral University doctoral student will experience.
1. Complete an Undergraduate Degree
The first step in the journey toward completing a doctoral degree is to obtain an undergraduate degree. For the best start, choose a bachelor’s degree program at a regionally accredited university. Undergraduate degrees typically take around four years to complete; however, the length could be shorter or longer depending upon the number of credits taken per semester. During your time as an undergraduate student you should strive to maintain a high grade point average (GPA) and pursue a degree that will prepare you for advanced coursework and research in your field of interest.
2. Complete a Master's Degree
Your next step is enrolling in a master's degree program. A master’s degree focuses primarily on a specific field of study or professional practice of applied and theoretical topics. Pursuing a master's degree may take about two years to complete, depending on your chosen field of study, and whether or not you choose an accelerated program that is geared toward working professionals. Should you choose an accelerated program, you may be able to complete your master's degree in as few as 12-14 months. While your acceptance into a master's degree program will rely upon your previous academics, be aware that some colleges and universities may require you to complete a graduate entry exam such as:
- Graduate Record Examinations (GRE)
- Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT)
For this reason, you'll want to conduct thorough research to choose the right college or university for your educational goals. This means making sure you understand the admissions requirements as well as the program and specialization offerings. But remember, not all schools require graduate exams as a contingency to enrollment. You should check with your school of interest for admission requirements and plan accordingly. Once you have narrowed your search to a few schools, choose your best options and then work with the admissions departments to start the application process. When you finally choose the school that best meets your needs and you've gone through the enrollment process, you're now reading to get started toward completing your master's degree!
3. Complete a Doctorate Degree
Now that you've completed a bachelor's and master's degree, you are qualified to pursue a doctoral degree to enhance your knowledge on research and theory within a specific subject or field of study. First, you should research to find the doctoral degree program that best fulfills your interest in theory or applied research. Next, start looking for the best college or university that matches your personal and professional interests. Much like in your master's program, you'll want to make sure you understand the admissions requirements and programs and specialization offerings before moving forward. Once you've chosen the right school, work with admissions to start the application process and get started toward completing your degree! Typical required materials for enrollment in a doctoral program may include but are not limited to:
- Undergraduate and graduate transcripts
- Resume or CV
- Recent GRE or GMAT scores
- Letters of recommendation
- Statement of purpose
How Long will does Take To Get a Doctorate 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. The true answer is, it depends. If you take breaks between courses, if you require more time to complete your dissertation, if your schedule doesn't permit you to manage a full course load, your completion time will vary significantly. It's best to research the program you are interested in and speak to your enrollment advisor about your time concerns.
What to Expect Throughout Your Doctorate Program
The beginning of your doctoral study will focus on your field of study. You'll expand your knowledge in scholarly writing, improve your research skills and enhance your understanding of your specialization of choice. Of course, you'll also be preparing for your ultimate accomplishment as a doctoral student during this time – your dissertation. The final few years of doctoral study will be focused on the preparation of your doctoral dissertation or thesis. Your doctoral dissertation is a written document focused on the research interest you chose and spent your time developing through academic research in the first portion of your doctoral program. Depending on your degree program of choice – PhD or professional doctorate – you may focus your dissertation on a newly developed theory or practical application of research you conducted. You should be prepared to orally defend your dissertation to your committee in a semi-public forum. You should not be intimidated. Take this opportunity to passionately defend your research and findings and use this as a springboard to your next personal, professional or educational triumph. Once you've successfully defended your dissertation, you'll be awarded with your doctoral degree and can add that coveted "Dr." to your title.