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Ph.D. Positions in Universities

Updated on July 14, 2014

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree is the highest academic degree. Ph.D. degree can be obtained in any research fields such as science, arts, commerce and finance. The Ph.D. program is designed to discover new knowledge in the field. In U.S., Canada, U.K., and European countries, research institutions and universities are constantly looking out for qualified national and international candidates for Ph.D. programs in respective fields. You can do your Ph.D. work either full-time or part-time.

What qualification do I need to enroll for a Ph.D. program?

Doctoral positions are open to candidates holding Master’s degree, M.D., (or equivalent) in related disciplines. Your application will be more competitive if you have some field experiences or have worked on a project at Master’s degree level. Try to publish your project work in a peer-reviewed journal.

How long is a Ph.D. program?

The length of the Ph.D. program depends upon several factors and varies between universities, areas of research, dissertation advisor and location. Usually, Ph.D. programs are three to seven years. In European countries, most of the Ph.D. programs last within 3-4 years, whereas in U.S. universities it is between 5-6 years.

It is common among Ph.D. students to face a kind of frustration during this long period. Therefore, it is important that you do some research on choosing a university, thesis advisor, area of research and location before enrolling for a Ph.D. program.

Scholarships and Benefits

Universities in U.S. and European countries support Ph.D. students with generous stipend and benefits. Additionally, the tuition fee is waived for the entire duration of the degree program. The amount of stipend varies and depends on the field in which you are working, and also between universalities. Ph.D. students are encouraged to work as teaching or research assistants to receive the salary. Ph.D. students are also eligible to receive finical assistance directly from project advisers’ research grant.

Many universities offer subsidized medical, dental and accidental insurances for Ph.D. students. Further, graduate students have tax benefits.

What documents do I need to apply for a PhD program/scholarship?

Keep ready with the below mentioned documents to apply for a doctoral program.

  • Cover letter
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Personal letter stating why you are interested in the particular project
  • Two to three reference letters
  • Copy of a degree certificate and associated certificates
  • Copy of your Master’s degree project work

Some universities may ask for all the documents and some may not.

How to find a Ph.D. program?

There are several ways to find a suitable Ph.D. program. Here I am giving you three easy and most effective ways of finding a Ph.D. position. You should plan ahead, and the selection process may take at least 3-4 months. Choosing appropriate Ph.D. program depends on your knowledge and interest to the field, motivation and desire. Attempt to find the Ph.D. position in all the three ways stated below.

Finding Ph.D. positions through university web page

Universities in U.S. and European countries have their own Ph.D. programs in all specialties. If you are interested to enroll in for a Ph.D. program at a particular university, then you should go to that university website to find more details about eligibility criteria and selection process. Every university receives a large volume of applications from national and international students. Thus, to avoid disappointment, it is better to apply for more than one university.

Finding Ph.D. positions through open advertisements

Everyday, numerous Ph.D. positions are advertised in magazines related to the field. For example, if you are looking for a Ph.D. program in neuroscience, search in Nature Neuroscience ( or Science ( journals. First, find out the leading journals within the field. Next, search for Ph.D. openings in the job sections of the journal. Most of the journals are published on-line and provides advanced search tools to find Ph.D. programs of your interest. You can also register free to get a new job alerts directly to your e-mail account.

Additionally, you can also find Ph.D. openings in the web pages of major funding agencies in the related field. For example, if you like to do Ph.D. in the areas of health- related problems, then look at National Institute of Health (NIH) ( web page. You can also search for scholarship/awards that support Ph.D. work from federal and non-profit organizations.

Finding Ph.D. positions by directly contacting the Principal Investigator (PI) of the project

Funding agencies supports most of the research work of all disciplines. If you are interested to do a Ph.D. in any specific area/project, try to collect the information about that research work and the PI of that project. You can directly write to the PI of that project expressing your willingness to do your thesis work under his/her supervision. The PI has the authority to hire and finically support the Ph.D. candidates to work on their projects. The contact information about the PI can be found from their lab web pages or through the publications.

I hope these tips will help you to find a suitable Ph.D. program, Good Luck!


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