Postgraduate education, or graduate education in North America,
involves learning and studying for academic or professional degrees,
academic or professional certificates, academic or professional
diplomas, or other qualifications for which a first or bachelor's
degree generally is required, and it is normally considered to be part
of higher education. In North America, this level is generally
referred to as graduate school (or sometimes colloquially as grad
The organization and structure of postgraduate education varies in
different countries, as well as in different institutions within
countries. This article outlines the basic types of courses and of
teaching and examination methods, with some explanation of their
1 Types of postgraduate qualification
1.2.1 Honorary degrees
1.3 Non-degree qualifications
2.3 Degree requirements
3.1 Types of postgraduate degrees
3.3 Professional programs
3.5 Degree requirements
4.3 Degree requirements
5.1 Types of programs
5.4 Degree requirements
6.1 Specific context
7 Germany and the Netherlands
10 United Kingdom
11 United States
11.1 Degree requirements
12 See also
Types of postgraduate qualification
There are two main types of degrees studied for at the postgraduate
level: academic and vocational degrees.
The term degree in this context means the moving from one stage or
level to another (from French degré, from
Latin dē- + gradus), and
first appeared in the 13th century.
The enrollment of some students in the
University of Bologna.
Although systems of higher education date back to ancient Greece,
ancient Rome, China, the
Indian subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula,
the concept of postgraduate education depends upon the system of
awarding degrees at different levels of study, and can be traced to
the workings of European medieval universities, mostly Italians.
University studies took six years for a bachelor's degree and up to
twelve additional years for a master's degree or doctorate. The first
six years taught the faculty of the arts, which was the study of the
seven liberal arts: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music theory,
grammar, logic, and rhetoric. The main emphasis was on logic. Once a
Bachelor of Arts degree had been obtained, the student could choose
one of three faculties—law, medicine, or theology—in which to
pursue master's or doctor's degrees.
The degrees of master (from
Latin magister) and doctor (from Latin
doctor) were for some time equivalent, "the former being more in
favour at Paris and the universities modeled after it, and the latter
at Bologna and its derivative universities. At Oxford and Cambridge a
distinction came to be drawn between the Faculties of Law, Medicine,
Theology and the Faculty of Arts in this respect, the title of
Doctor being used for the former, and that of Master for the
latter." Because theology was thought to be the highest of the
subjects, the doctorate came to be thought of as higher than the
The main significance of the higher, postgraduate degrees was that
they licensed the holder to teach ("doctor" comes from
In most countries, the hierarchy of postgraduate degrees is as
These are sometimes placed in a further hierarchy, starting with
degrees such as the
Master of Arts (from
Latin Magister artium; M.A.)
Master of Science
Master of Science (from
Latin Magister scientiæ; M.Sc.) degrees,
Master of Philosophy degree (from
philosophiæ; M.Phil.), and finally the
Master of Letters degree (from
Latin Magister litterarum; M.Litt.) (all formerly known in France as
DEA or DESS before 2005, and nowadays Masters too). In the UK,
master's degrees may be taught or by research: taught master's degrees
Master of Science
Master of Science and
Master of Arts degrees which last
one year and are worth 180 CATS credits (equivalent to 90 ECTS
European credits), whereas the master's degrees by research include
Master of Research degree (M.Res.) which also lasts one year and
is worth 180 CATS or 90 ECTS credits (the difference compared to the
Master of Science
Master of Science and
Master of Arts degrees being that the research
is much more extensive) and the
Master of Philosophy degree which
lasts two years. In Scottish Universities, the Master of Philosophy
degree tends to be by research or higher master's degree and the
Master of Letters degree tends to be the taught or lower master's
degree. In many fields such as clinical social work, or library
science in North America, a master's is the terminal degree.
Professional degrees such as the
Master of Architecture degree
(M.Arch.) can last to three and a half years to satisfy professional
requirements to be an architect. Professional degrees such as the
Master of Business Administration degree (M.B.A.) can last up to two
years to satisfy the requirement to become a knowledgeable business
These are often further divided into academic and professional
doctorates. An academic doctorate can be awarded as a Doctor of
Philosophy degree (from
Latin Doctor philosophiæ; Ph.D. or D.Phil.)
or as a
Doctor of Science degree (from
Latin Doctor scientiæ; D.Sc.).
Doctor of Science degree can also be awarded in specific fields,
such as a
Doctor of Science in Mathematics degree (from
scientiarum mathematic arum; D.Sc.Math.), a Doctor of Agricultural
Science degree (from
Latin Doctor scientiarum agrariarum; D.Sc.Agr.),
Doctor of Business Administration degree (D.B.A.), etc. In some
parts of Europe, doctorates are divided into the Doctor of Philosophy
degree or "junior doctorate", and the "higher doctorates" such as the
Doctor of Science degree, which are generally awarded to highly
distinguished professors. A doctorate is the terminal degree in most
fields. In the United States, there is little distinction between a
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy degree and a
Doctor of Science degree. In the UK,
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy degrees are often equivalent to 540 CATS credits
or 270 ECTS European credits, but this is not always the case as the
credit structure of doctoral degrees is not officially defined.
In the UK and countries whose education systems were founded on the
British model, such as the US, the master's degree was for a long time
the only postgraduate degree normally awarded, while in most European
countries apart from the UK, the master's degree almost
disappeared. In the second half of the 19th century,
however, US universities began to follow the European model by
awarding doctorates, and this practice spread to the UK. Conversely,
most European universities now offer master's degrees parallelling or
replacing their regular system, so as to offer their students better
chances to compete in an international market dominated by the
In the UK, an equivalent formation to doctorate is the NVQ 5 or QCF
Most universities award honorary degrees, usually at the postgraduate
level. These are awarded to a wide variety of people, such as artists,
musicians, writers, politicians, businesspeople, etc., in recognition
of their achievements in their various fields. (Recipients of such
degrees do not normally use the associated titles or letters, such as
Postgraduate education can involve studying for qualifications such as
postgraduate certificates and postgraduate diplomas. They are
sometimes used as steps on the route to a degree, as part of the
training for a specific career, or as a qualification in an area of
study too narrow to warrant a full degree course.
In Argentina, the admission to a
Postgraduate program at an Argentine
University requires the full completion of any undergraduate course,
called in Argentina "carrera de grado" (v.gr. Licenciado, Ingeniero or
Lawyer degree). The qualifications of 'Licenciado', 'Ingeniero', or
the equivalent qualification in
Law degrees (a graduate from a
"carrera de grado") are similar in content, length and skill-set to a
joint first and second cycles in the qualification framework of the
Bologna Process (that is, Bacherlor and Master qualifications).
While a significant portion of postgraduate students finance their
tuition and living costs with teaching or research work at private and
state-run institutions, international institutions, such as the
Fulbright Program and the Organization of American States (OAS), have
been known to grant full scholarships for tuition with apportions for
Upon completion of at least two years' research and course work as a
postgraduate student, a candidate must demonstrate truthful and
original contributions to his or her specific field of knowledge
within a frame of academic excellence. The Master and Doctoral
candidate's work should be presented in a dissertation or thesis
prepared under the supervision of a tutor or director, and reviewed by
a postgraduate Committee. This Committee should be composed of
examiners external to the program, and at least one of them should
also be external to the institution.
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Types of postgraduate degrees
Programmes are divided into coursework-based and research-based
Coursework programs typically include qualifications such as
Graduate Certificate, six month full-time coursework
Graduate Diploma, twelve month full-time coursework
Masters (of Arts, Science or other discipline), twelve to 24 months
coursework sometimes including a six-month dissertation like the
Australian undergraduate honours degree
Professional Doctorates, which are usually more strenuous and of a
longer duration than a master's degree, e.g. 36 months in duration.
Research degrees generally consist of either Masters or Doctorate
programs. In some disciplines it is acceptable to go straight from the
undergraduate degree into a Ph.D. program if one achieves a very good
Honors degree (see Admissions below), and in others, it may be
encouraged or expected or simply advantageous in varying amounts for
the student to first undertake a research Masters before applying to
Research master's degrees may be still called an M.A.
or M.Sc., like a course work Masters, or may have a special
appellation, e.g. M.Phil.
Doctorate programs may lead to the award of
a Ph.D. or a D.Phil. depending on the university or faculty.
The D.Litt is a higher research degree for exemplary achievement.
Generally, the Australian higher education system follows that of its
British counterpart (with some notable exceptions). Entrance is
decided by merit, entrance to coursework-based programmes is usually
not as strict; most universities usually require a "Credit" average as
entry to their taught programmes in a field related to their previous
undergraduate. On average, however, a strong "Credit" or "Distinction"
average is the norm for accepted students. Not all coursework programs
require the student to already possess the relevant undergraduate
degree, they are intended as "conversion" or professional
qualification programs, and merely any relevant undergraduate degree
with good grades is required.
Ph.D. entrance requirements in the higher ranked schools typically
require a student to have postgraduate research honours or a master's
degree by research, or a master's with a significant research
component. Entry requirements depend on the subject studied and the
individual university. The minimum duration of a Ph.D. programme is
two years, but completing within this time span is unusual, with
Ph.D.s usually taking an average of three to four years to be
Most of the confusion with Australian postgraduate programmes occurs
with the research-based programmes, particularly scientific
Research degrees generally require candidates to have a
minimum of a second-class four-year honours undergraduate degree to be
considered for admission to a Ph.D. programme (M.Phil. are an uncommon
route). In science, a British first class honours (3
years) is not equivalent to an Australian first class honours (1 year
research postgraduate programme that requires a completed an
undergraduate (pass) degree with a high grade-point average). In
scientific research, it is commonly accepted that an Australian
postgraduate honours is equivalent to a British master's degree (in
research). There has been some debate over the acceptance of a
three-year honours degree (as in the case of graduates from British
universities) as equivalent entry requirement to graduate research
programmes (M.Phil., Ph.D.) in Australian universities.[citation
needed] The letters of Honours programmes also added to the confusion.
For example: B.Sc. (Hons) are the letters gained for postgraduate
research honours at the
University of Queensland. B.Sc. (Hons) does
not indicate that this honours is postgraduate qualification.
Difficulty also arises between different universities in
Australia—some universities have followed the UK system.
There are many professional programs such as medical and dental school
require a previous bachelors for admission and are considered graduate
Graduate Entry programs even though they culminate in a bachelor's
degree. Example, the Bachelor of
Medicine (MBBS) or Bachelor of
There has also been some confusion over the conversion of the
different marking schemes between British, US, and Australian systems
for the purpose of assessment for entry to graduate programmes. The
Australian grades are divided into four categories: High Distinction,
Distinction, Credit, and Pass (though many institutions have
idiosyncratic grading systems). Assessment and evaluation based on the
Australian system is not equivalent to British or US schemes because
of the "low-marking" scheme used by Australian universities. For
example, a British student who achieves 70+ will receive an A grade,
whereas an Australian student with 70+ will receive a Distinction
which is not the highest grade in the marking scheme.
The Australian government usually offer full funding (fees and a
monthly stipend) to its citizens and permanent residents who are
pursuing research-based higher degrees. There are also highly
competitive scholarships for international candidates who intend to
pursue research-based programmes. Taught-degree scholarships (certain
master's degrees, Grad. Dip., Grad. Cert., D.Eng., D.B.A.) are almost
non-existent for international students, so they are usually required
to be self-funded.
Requirements for the successful completion of a taught master's
programme are that the student pass all the required modules. Some
universities require eight taught modules for a one-year programme,
twelve modules for a one-and-a-half-year programme, and twelve taught
modules plus a thesis or dissertation for a two-year programme. The
academic year for an Australian postgraduate programme is typically
two semesters (eight months of study).
Requirements for research-based programmes vary among universities.
Generally, however, a student is not required to take taught modules
as part of their candidacy. It is now common that first-year Ph.D.
candidates are not regarded as permanent Ph.D. students for fear that
they may not be sufficiently prepared to undertake independent
research. In such cases, an alternative degree will be awarded for
their previous work, usually an M.Phil. or M.Sc. by research.
In Brazil, a Bachelor's, Licenciate or Technologist degree is required
in order to enter a graduate program, called pós-graduação.
Generally, in order to be accepted, the candidate must have above
average grades and it is highly recommended to be initiated on
scientific research through government programs on undergraduate
areas, as a complement to usual coursework.
The competition for public universities is very large, as they are the
most prestigious and respected universities in Brazil. Public
universities do not charge fees for any level/course. Funding, similar
to wages, is available but is usually granted by public agencies
linked to the university in question (i.e. FAPESP, CAPES, CNPq, etc.),
given to the students previously ranked based on internal criteria.
There are two types of postgraduate; lato sensu (
Latin for "in broad
sense"), which generally means a specialization course in one area of
study, mostly addressed to professional practice, and stricto sensu
Latin for "in narrow sense"), which means a
Master of Science
Master of Science or
Doctorate, encompassing broader and profound activities of scientific
Types of programs
Graduate certificates (sometimes called "postgraduate certificates")
Admission to a graduate certificate program requires a university
degree (or in some cases, a diploma with years of related experience).
English speaking colleges require proof of English language
proficiency such as IELTS. Some colleges may provide English language
upgrading to students prior to the start of their graduate certificate
Admission to a master's program generally requires a bachelor's degree
in a related field, with sufficiently high grades usually ranging from
B+ and higher (note that different schools have different letter grade
conventions, and this requirement may be significantly higher in some
faculties), and recommendations from professors. Some schools require
samples of the student's writing as well as a research proposal. Some
programs require Graduate Record Exams (GRE) in both the general
examination and the examination for its specific discipline, with
minimum scores for admittance. At English-speaking universities,
applicants from countries where English is not the primary language
are required to submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign
Language (TOEFL). Nevertheless, some French speaking universities,
like HEC Montreal, also requires candidates to submit
TOEFL score or
to pass their own English test.
Admission to a doctoral program typically requires a master's degree
in a related field, sufficiently high grades, recommendations, samples
of writing, a research proposal, and typically an interview with a
prospective supervisor. Requirements are often set higher than those
for a master's program. In exceptional cases, a student holding an
honours B.A. with sufficiently high grades and proven writing and
research abilities may be admitted directly to a Ph.D. program without
the requirement to first complete a master's. Many Canadian graduate
programs allow students who start in a master's to "reclassify" into a
Ph.D. program after satisfactory performance in the first year,
bypassing the master's degree.
Graduate students must usually declare their research goal or submit a
research proposal upon entering grad school; in the case of master's
degrees, there will be some flexibility (that is, one is not held to
one's research proposal, although major changes, for example from
premodern to modern history, are discouraged). In the case of Ph.D.s,
the research direction is usually known as it will typically follow
the direction of the master's research.
Master's degrees can possibly be completed in one year but normally
take at least two; they typically do not exceed five years. Doctoral
degrees require a minimum of two years but frequently take much
longer, not usually exceeding six years.
Graduate students may take out student loans, but instead they often
work as teaching or research assistants. Students often agree, as a
condition of acceptance to a programme, not to devote more than twelve
hours per week to work or outside interests.
Funding is available to first-year masters students whose transcripts
reflect exceptionally high grades; this funding is normally given in
the second year.
Funding for Ph.D. students comes from a variety of sources, and many
universities waive tuition fees for doctoral candidates.[citation
Funding is available in the form of scholarships, bursaries and other
awards, both private and public.
Graduate certificates require between eight and sixteen months of
study. The length of study depends on the program. Graduate
certificates primarily involve coursework. However, some may require a
research project or a work placement.
Both master's and doctoral programs may be done by coursework or
research or a combination of the two, depending on the subject and
faculty. Most faculties require both, with the emphasis on research,
and with coursework being directly related to the field of research.
Master's candidates undertaking research are typically required to
complete a thesis comprising some original research and ranging from
seventy to two-hundred pages. Some fields may require candidates to
study at least one foreign language if they have not already earned
sufficient foreign-language credits. Some faculties require candidates
to defend their thesis, but many do not. Those that do not, often have
a requirement of taking two additional courses, at minimum, in lieu of
preparing a thesis.
Ph.D. candidates undertaking research must typically complete a
thesis, or dissertation, consisting of original research representing
a significant contribution to their field, and ranging from
two-hundred to five-hundred pages. Most Ph.D. candidates will be
required to sit comprehensive examinations—examinations testing
general knowledge in their field of specialization—in their second
or third year as a prerequisite to continuing their studies, and must
defend their thesis as a final requirement. Some faculties require
candidates to earn sufficient credits in a third or fourth foreign
language; for example, most candidates in modern Japanese topics must
demonstrate ability in English, Japanese, and Mandarin, while
candidates in pre-modern Japanese topics must demonstrate ability in
English, Japanese, Classical Chinese, and Classical Japanese.
At English-speaking Canadian universities, both master's and Ph.D.
theses may be presented in English or in the language of the subject
(German for German literature, for example), but if this is the case
an extensive abstract must be also presented in English. In
exceptional circumstances, a thesis may be presented in
French. The exception to this rule is McGill
University, where all work can be submitted in either English or
French, unless the purpose of the course of study is acquisition of a
French-speaking universities have varying sets of rules; some (e.g.
HEC Montreal) will accept students with little knowledge of French
if they can communicate with their supervisors (usually in English).
For historical reasons dating back to the French Revolution of 1789,
France has a dual education system, with
Grandes Écoles on one side,
and universities on the other hand, with the
Grandes Écoles being
considered as much more prestigious. The Grandes écoles deliver the
French diplôme d'ingénieur, which is ranked as a master's degree.
Note that France ranks a
Doctorate in health sciences (i.e. physician,
surgeon, dentist, veterinarian diplomas) as equivalent to a master's
degree in any other discipline, to account for the difficulty gap
between getting a medical degree and getting non health related
doctoral degrees, the latter requiring much tougher research.
There are 87 public universities in France, and also some private
universities, and they are based upon the European education ladder
including bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D.s. Students gain each degree
though the successful completion of a predetermined number of years in
education, gaining credits via the European Credit Transfer System
(ECTS). There are over 300 doctoral programs that collaborate with
1200 research laboratories and centers. Each degree has a certain set
of national diplomas that are all of equal value, irrespective of
where they were issued. There are also other diplomas that are
exclusive to France and are very hard to attain.
Germany and the Netherlands
In some programs in the traditional German system and the traditional
Dutch system, there is no legal distinction between "undergraduate"
and "postgraduate". In such programs, all education aims towards the
master's degree, whether introductory (Bachelor's level) or advanced
(master's level). These one-tier programmes take between 4.5 and 5
In the meantime, Germany introduced the
Bologna process with a
separation between Bachelor and Master programmes in many fields,
except for education studies, law and other specially regulated
In the Republic of
Ireland higher education is operated by the Higher
Admission to a postgraduate degree programme in Nigeria requires a
bachelor's degree with at least a Second Class Lower Division (not
less than 2.75/5). Admission to
Doctoral programmes requires an
Academic master's degree with a minimum weighted average of 60% (B
average or 4.00/5). In addition to this, applicants may be subjected
to written and oral examinations depending on the school. Most
universities with high numbers of applicants have more stringent
Postgraduate degrees in Nigeria include M.A., M.Sc., M.Ed., M.Eng.,
LL.M, M.Arch., M.Agric., M.Phil., PhD. The master's degree typically
take 18–36 months with students undertaking coursework and
presenting seminars and a dissertation. The doctoral degree is for a
minimum of 36 months and may involve coursework alongside the
presentation of seminars and a research thesis. Award of postgraduate
degrees requires a defence of the completed research before a panel of
examiners comprising external and internal examiners, Head of
Postgraduate Coordinator, Representative(s)
of Faculty and
Postgraduate School, and any other member of staff with
a PhD in the department/faculty.
Admission to undertake a research degree in the UK typically requires
a good bachelor's degree, or Scottish M.A., (at least lower second,
but usually an upper second or first class). In some institutions
Doctoral candidates are initially admitted to a Masters in Research
Philosophy (M.Phil. or M.Res.), then later transfer to a Ph.D./D.Phil.
if they can show satisfactory progress in their first 8–12 months of
study. Candidates for the degree of
Doctor of Education (Ed.D) are
typically required to hold a good bachelor's degree as well as an
appropriate master's degree before being admitted.
Funding for postgraduate study in the UK is awarded competitively, and
usually is disseminated by institution (in the form of a certain
allocation of studentships for a given year) rather than directly to
individuals. There are a number of scholarships for master's courses,
but these are relatively rare and dependent on the course and class of
undergraduate degree obtained (usually requiring at least a lower
second). Most master's students are self-funded.
Funding is available for some Ph.D./D.Phil. courses. As at the
master's level, there is more funding available to those in the
sciences than in other disciplines. Such funding generally comes from
Research Councils such as the Engineering and Physical Sciences
Research Council (EPSRC), Arts and
Research Council (AHRC),
Research Council (MRC) and others. Masters students may also
have the option of a
Postgraduate loan introduced by the UK Government
For overseas students, most major funding applications are due as
early as twelve months or more before the intended graduate course
will begin. This funding is also often highly competitive. The most
widely available, and thus important, award for overseas students is
Research Student (ORS) Award, which pays the difference
in university fees between an overseas student and a British or EU
resident. However, a student can only for one university apply for the
ORS Award, often before he or she knows whether they have been
accepted. As of the 2009/2010 academic year, the HEFCE has cancelled
Research Student Award scheme for English and Welsh
universities. The state of the scheme for Scottish and Northern
Irish universities is currently unclear.
Students studying part-time for a master's degree can apply for
Jobseeker's Allowance provided their timetabled hours are
fewer than 16 hours per week. This also entitles the student to
housing benefit provided by their local council.
Full-time students (of any type) are not normally eligible for state
benefits, including during vacation time.
Additionally, doctoral students who have advanced to candidacy but not
filed a dissertation ("ABD," for "all but dissertation") often receive
master's degrees and an additional master's called a Master of
Philosophy, or M.Phil., or
C.Phil. "Candidate in Philosophy" degree.
The master's component of a doctorate program often requires one or
two years, and some students, because doctoral programs are sometimes
better-funded, apply for doctoral programs while only intending to
earn a master's degree. This is generally not acceptable and, if a
student's advisor learns of the student's plans, can result in early
Many graduate programs require students to pass one or several
examinations in order to demonstrate their competence as scholars.
In some departments, a comprehensive examination is often required in
the first year of doctoral study, and is designed to test a student's
background undergraduate-level knowledge. Examinations of this type
are more common in the sciences and some social sciences, and
relatively unknown in most humanities disciplines.
Some graduate students perform teaching duties, often serving as
graders, tutors, or teaching assistants. In some departments, they can
be promoted to
Lecturer status, a position that comes with more
Doctoral students generally spend roughly their first two to three
years doing coursework, and begin research by their second year if not
before. Many master's and all specialist students will perform
research culminating in a paper, presentation, and defense of their
research. This is called the master's thesis (or, for Educational
Specialist students, the specialist paper). However, many US master's
degree programs do not require a master's thesis, focusing instead
primarily on course work or on "practicals" or "workshops". Such
"real-world" experience may typically require a candidate work on a
project alone or in a team as a consultant, or consultants, for an
outside entity approved or selected by the academic institution, and
under faculty supervision.
In the second and third years of study, doctoral programs often
require students to pass more examinations. Programs often require
a Qualifying Examination ("Quals"), a Ph.D. Candidacy Examination
("Candidacy"), or a General Examination ("Generals") designed to test
the students' grasp of a broad sample of their discipline, or one or
Special Field Examinations ("Specials") which test students in
their narrower selected areas of specialty within the discipline. If
these examinations are held orally, they may be known colloquially as
"orals". For some social science and many humanities disciplines,
where graduate students may or may not have studied the discipline at
the undergraduate level, these exams will be the first set, and be
based either on graduate coursework or specific preparatory reading
(sometimes up to a year's work in reading). In all cases,
comprehensive exams are normally both stressful and time-consuming and
must be passed to be allowed to proceed on to the thesis. Passing such
examinations allows the student to stay, begin doctoral research, and
rise to the status of a doctoral candidate while failing usually
results in the student leaving the program or re-taking the test after
some time has passed (usually a semester or a year). Some schools have
an intermediate category, passing at the master's level, which allows
the student to leave with a master's without having completed a
For the next several years, the doctoral candidate primarily performs
his or her research. Usually this lasts three to eight years, though a
few finish more quickly and some take substantially longer. In total,
the typical doctoral degree takes between four and eight years from
entering the program to completion though this time varies depending
upon the department, thesis topic, and many other factors.
For example, astronomy degrees take five to six years on average, but
observational astronomy degrees take six to seven due to limiting
factors of weather, while theoretical astronomy degrees take five.
Though there is substantial variation among universities, departments,
and individuals, humanities and social science doctorates on average
take somewhat longer to complete than natural science doctorates.
These differences are due to the differing nature of research between
the humanities and some social sciences and the natural sciences, and
to the differing expectations of the discipline in coursework,
languages and length of thesis. However, time required to complete a
doctorate also varies according to the candidate's abilities and
choice of research. Some students may also choose to remain in a
program if they fail to win an academic position, particularly in
disciplines with a tight job market; by remaining a student, they can
retain access to libraries and university facilities, while also
retaining an academic affiliation, which can be essential for
conferences and job-searches.
Traditionally, doctoral programs were only intended to last three to
four years and, in some disciplines (primarily the natural sciences),
with a helpful advisor, and a light teaching load, it is possible for
the degree to be completed in that amount of time. However,
increasingly many disciplines, including most humanities, set their
requirements for coursework, languages and the expected extent of
thesis research by the assumption that students will take five years
minimum or six to seven years on average; competition for jobs within
these fields also raises expectations on the length and quality of
In some disciplines, doctoral programs can average seven to ten years.
Archaeology, which requires long periods of research, tends towards
the longer end of this spectrum. The increase in length of degree is a
matter of great concern for both students and universities, though
there is much disagreement on potential solutions to this problem.
Many departments, especially those in which students have research or
teaching responsibilities, offer tuition-forgiveness and a stipend
that pays for most expenses. At some elite universities, there may be
a minimum stipend established for all Ph.D. students, as well as a
tuition waiver. The terms of these stipends vary greatly, and may
consist of a scholarship or fellowship, followed by teaching
responsibilities. At many elite universities, these stipends have been
increasing, in response both to student pressure and, especially, to
competition among the elite universities for graduate students.
In some fields, research positions are more coveted than teaching
positions because student researchers are typically paid to work on
the dissertation they are required to complete anyway, while teaching
is generally considered a distraction from one's work. Research
positions are more typical of science disciplines; they are relatively
uncommon in humanities disciplines, and where they exist, they rarely
allow the student to work on their own research.
Departments often have money for limited discretionary funding to
supplement minor expenses such as research trips and travel to
A few students can attain outside fellowships such as the National
Science Foundation (NSF) and National Physical Science Consortium
(NPSC). Funding differs greatly by departments and universities; some
universities give five years of full funding to all Ph.D. students,
though often with a teaching requirement attached; other universities
Foreign students are typically funded the same way as domestic (US)
students, although federally subsidized student and parent loans and
work-study assistance are generally limited to US citizens and
nationals, permanent residents, and approved refugees. Moreover,
some funding sources (such as many NSF fellowships) may only be
awarded to domestic students. Other factors contributing to possible
financial difficulties include high costs to visit their families back
home, supporting one's family who is not allowed to work due to
immigration laws, tuition that is steep by world standards, and large
fees: visa fees by US Citizenship and
surveillance fees (such as Student and Exchange Visitor Information
Systems, or SEVIS) by the
United States Congress
United States Congress and the United
States Department of Homeland Security.
List of fields of doctoral studies
^ Verger, J. (1999), "Doctor, doctoratus", Lexikon des Mittelalters,
3, Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler
^ Verger, J. (1999), "Licentia", Lexikon des Mittelalters, 5,
Stuttgart: J.B. Metzler
^ Curiously, Oxford, Cambridge and Dublin continue to award Master of
Arts (M.A.) degrees to undergraduates without any further study seven
years after matriculation. These universities also award Bachelor's
degrees for some forms of postgraduate study (e.g., see BCL)
Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.)".
^  Archived February 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
^ OFQUAL qualification and assessment-framework Archived 2010-05-27 at
the Wayback Machine.
^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-05-07. Retrieved
Scholarships in Argentina
^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on
2006-10-31. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
^  Archived February 21, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
^ "Higher education, Postgraduate". Studies In Australia. Hobsons
Australia Pty Ltd. Retrieved 29 December 2014.
^ "Bachelor of Science (Honours) – Courses and Programs – The
University of Queensland, Australia". uq.edu.au.
^ "Ser Universitário – Tudo pra você chegar ao Ensino Superior".
Ser Universitário – Seu Mundo Universitário &
^ "McGill Charter of Students' Rights" (PDF). Archived from the
original (PDF) on 7 October 2016. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
^ "HEC Montréal – Admission – Ph.D." hec.ca. Archived from the
original on 2010-07-16.
^ "Niveau de diplôme (degrees ranking)".
UNN Nigeria General Entry Qualifications for
^ Fiona Cownie (2010). Stakeholders in the
Law School. Hart
Publishing. p. 267. ISBN 978-1841137216.
^ "Funding for Overseas
Research Students Awards Scheme (ORSAS) is no
longer available". orsas.ac.uk. Archived from the original on
^ Eligibility guidelines from Jobcentre plus website Archived
2009-02-04 at the Wayback Machine.
^ a b Dale Bloom, Jonathan Karp, Nicholas Cohen, The Ph.D. Process: A
Student's Guide to Graduate School in the Sciences, Oxford University
Press, 1998, ISBN 0-19-511900-2.
Dissertation Writing Service".
dissertationwritingservices.org. Retrieved 2016-12-30.
^  Archived April 1, 2004, at the Wayback Machine.
J.A. Burns. "Master of Arts" (The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1909)
E.A. Pace. "Doctor" (The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1909)
William G. Bowen & Neil L. Rudenstine, In Pursuit of the Ph.D.
(Princeton UP, 1992; ISBN 0-691-04294-2).
Growth of the Ph.D., Discusses innovations in doctoral training.
Levels of academic degree
ISCED level 5
Higher National Diploma/Diploma of Higher Education/Certificate of
ISCED level 6
ISCED level 7
ISCED level 8
Candidate of Sciences
No dominant classification
Ad eundem degree
Stages of formal education
Early childhood education
Junior high school
Senior high school
By educational stage
Adult high school
Sixth form college
University technical college
Institute of technology
Upper division college
By funding / eligibility
Free school (England)
UK Independent school
State or public school
State-integrated school (New Zealand)
By style of education
Folk high school
Ancient higher-learning institutions
Schools imposed on
in New Zealand
in the United States
in South Africa
Informal or illegal
in South Tyrol