If you’re really conversant with the benefits of a PhD, you’ll quickly agree that it’s a worthy academic qualification which can boost the holder’s employment chances.

Not only can a Ph.D. qualify its holder for employment, it can also guarantee them job positions with high remuneration. Needless to say, Ph.D. holders in a particular field tend to earn higher salaries than their counterparts with masters or other lower academic qualifications.

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Given that a Ph.D. is very essential, what then is a Ph.D.?

A doctorate or doctoral qualification –or simply a Ph.D. –is the topmost level of academic degree in the university system. It is a form of postgraduate degree which students acquire following years of enrollment in academic study and significant research concerned with a particular subject.

A Ph.D. is a widely admired degree that you can pursue in almost every recognized academic subject. Doctorate programs are known to necessitate extensive research but today, these programs generously combine research with other diverse activities.

The basic structure (as well as components) of Ph.D. programs can vary depending on subjects and universities. Generally however, every Ph.D. program is expected to last a considerable period –an average of 4 years –during which the doctoral student takes advanced classes and carries out extensive research.

Writing Your Ph.D. Dissertation

Dissertation writing is a very crucial part of a student’s Ph.D. journey. The dissertation is a book-like work which the student presents after their coursework.

The writing of this dissertation demands a good deal of time, research and effort simply because the doctoral student will have to defend the assertions in the dissertation before a faculty panel.

The dissertation is expected to focus on a particular discipline by shedding enough light on the discipline and providing fresh ideas/findings that extend knowledge of that discipline. In most cases, the length of time it takes a doctoral student to write their dissertation and defend it (before a faculty panel) can be significantly influenced by the student’s study basis (being full-time or part-time) and their research subject.

What Is the General Duration to Get a Ph.D.?

In general, there doesn’t seem to be any fixed duration for a student to get a Ph.D. This is because the duration may vary depending on the student’s university as well as the subject being taken by the student. Nevertheless, the general duration for a full-time Ph.D. is three to four years.

Based on the survey conducted on selected US awardees of research doctorates, six years is the estimated average duration it takes to complete a Ph.D. The same survey reveals that doctorates in some programs tend to span more than six years and as such, an individual pursuing a Ph.D. in art and humanities may spend up to seven years on their program.

How about a part-time Ph.D.?

A part-time Ph.D. normally demands more time than a full-time Ph.D. (which takes an average of 3-4 years). If you’re enrolling in a part-time PhD, you should be prepared to spend twice the average duration it takes to complete the full-time Ph.D.

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By our estimation, your part-time Ph.D. can span 5-8 year duration depending on your school, subject and the effort you’re committing to your research. Despite demanding more time, the part-time Ph.D. is still highly preferred by many students. Asides offering students the luxury of time to combine studies with occupation, family and other commitments, the part-time PhD is less expensive compared to its full-time counterpart.

What Is the Duration to Get a Ph.D. in the US?

Compared to Europe, Asia and the United Kingdom, the United States tends to have a prolonged Ph.D. model with an average of 4-6 years. If you’ve opted to undergo your Ph.D. in the US, your proposal gets established in your first year of doctoral study.

Generally, the US Ph.D. model incorporates two phases wherein the initial phase combines training and course work. It is in the second phase that the student carries out majority of the research work.

In the US, a doctoral student in their second year will be required to have fulfilled two important expectations –developing a research proposal and passing a qualification examination. While the student will have to defend the research proposal before a panel, this qualification exam relevantly serves as a prelude to the student’s presentation of their defense.

Duration for a Ph.D. in Computer Science

A Ph.D. in computer science can span 4-5 year duration with such a doctorate program helping a student to advance their previously acquired education, experience and knowledge.

Specifically, a doctorate in computer science requires the student to have a given area of specialization in which they will conduct independent study and research. Just like other doctoral programs, a Ph.D. in computer science combines a good deal of research and coursework which eventually result in the final dissertation.

To get your application for a Ph.D. in computer science approved, you’ll likely need to have completed a BSc or (more desirably) master’s program in a relevant discipline. You should also present your recommendation letter and GRE qualifications along with the application.

As a Ph.D. holder in computer science, you’re qualified to offer teaching services to graduate and undergraduate students. You may as well opt to establish a research-focused outfit.

Duration to Complete a Ph.D. in Physics

A Ph.D. in physics can span 5-year duration which combines two-year classroom-based studies and three-year laboratory cum research work. With the latter information, it is obvious that a Ph.D. in physics necessitates committing a generous amount of time to research and laboratory works in addition to the basic classroom studies.

Ph.D. holders in physics can go on to work in industries’ research laboratories where advanced skills and technical proficiency are required. Just like computer scientists with doctorates, Ph.D. holders in physics can also offer teaching services to undergraduate and graduate students.

Just like majority of graduate programs, your Ph.D. in physics may necessitate your completing 90-hours of work credit. And with the help of postgraduate scholarships, you’re very likely to end up completing your Ph.D. in physics without incurring any tuition fees.

Duration for a Ph.D. in Education

The estimated duration to complete a doctorate in education (Ed.D.) may span three years. Individuals willing to pursue doctorates in education can select between the conventional full-time campus degree and the online degree program. Whichever option the Ed.D. applicant deems preferable, he/she must have completed a master’s program in education before being considered eligible.


Ed.D. students may have to maintain agreeable GPAs (not less than 3.0) in the course of the three-year doctorate in education. Failure to maintain this agreeable GPA may deny an Ed.D. student the right to bag the degree. Another key requirement is completing the stipulated number of credits.

With regard to the associated mandatory residency requirements, the students might be required to maintain full-time status successively over three summer sessions or two semesters.

As you must have expected, a Ph.D. in education demands that students present their dissertations. Normally, a dissertation is expected to be an original work which must have been borne out of extensive writing. This is why a good deal of effort and time should be committed to the dissertation writing. Finally, the dissertation will be presented to a doctoral committee for approval.

Duration for a Ph.D. in Psychology

A doctorate in (research) psychology can span 7-8 year duration but in the case of clinical psychology, the duration will likely differ. Also, there are differing requirements for the doctoral programs in clinical psychology.

Graduates willing to enroll in doctoral programs in psychology may opt to pursue careers in either of research and practice. A psychology career in research is termed Ph.D. while the one in practice is termed PsyD. Quite interestingly, you can choose to combine both so that you’ll end up acquiring doctoral degrees as a Doctor of Philosophy cum Doctor of Psychology.

Both PsyD and Ph.D. offer a good deal of employment opportunities. While the Ph.D. is largely concerned with research and experimental methods, PsyD generously emphasizes clinical practice and work. Armed with any of these two degrees, you’ll be qualified to operate in various institutions including healthcare systems, social service agencies, government establishments, universities, and schools.

PsyD programs usually last 4-6 year duration while Ph.D. programs in psychology span 5-7 year duration. Notably, a Ph.D. program in psychology comes with the added requisite of an internship or residency session with supervision. At the end of your program, you must have duly carried out a successful dissertation project.

The essence of bagging a Ph.D. in the field of psychology can never be underestimated and this, of course, is why psychology constitutes the disciplines with high population of postgraduate students. A Ph.D. in psychology will definitely boost your chances of securing employment in government agencies, social services, school systems and healthcare structures.

Duration for a Ph.D. in Engineering

A number of factors determine the length of time it will take you to complete a Ph.D. in engineering. Some of these factors include your doctoral project, requirements, dedication, commitment, and PI. While you’ll normally have a two-year period for taking courses, you’ll also be required to pass qualification examinations.

It should interest you that a doctorate in engineering –or EngD –is the topmost academic qualification in the field of engineering and acquiring such a qualification can qualify you for the position of a postdoctoral researcher or full-time university professor. To be awarded this doctorate however, you must have extensively undergone advanced studies and completed relevant research. Such research will cut across engineering and applied sciences.

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We don’t seem to have provided any definite duration for completing a Ph.D. in engineering but based on factual records, it takes less time to complete a Ph.D. in engineering compared to the duration for the same degree in the social sciences or humanities.

Duration for a Ph.D. in Biology

Students fascinated about biological research and biology in general can take advantage of a Ph.D. in biology to achieve advanced qualifications that alighn with their passion.

Before you can be deemed eligible for a doctorate in biology, you must have acquired a BSc in a relevant discipline or in biology itself. Following your successful enrolment in a Ph.D. program in biology, you can expect to spend a five-year period combining academic study and summer work. In the course of their program, doctoral students in biology will be required to have at least 3.0 GPA and complete a total of 64 credits. It’s important that the students accumulate half of the 64 credits in the courses of laboratories, seminars and/or conferences.

Essentially, a doctorate in biology prepares students for employment in important sectors and areas including biotechnology, government and academia.

Duration to Get a Ph.D. via Distance Learning

Normally, your distance learning program for acquiring a doctorate degree can span between five and six years. Majority of Ph.D. programs based on distance learning can be taken on a part-time basis. This gives the impression that distance learning could be the most flexible means for you to undertake your Ph.D.

Distance learning does have a number of desirable benefits but one major headache is that distance education might not prove effective for Ph.D. in a subject that demands physical presence and a good deal of laboratory work.

There’s no denying that some doctoral students have considered distance learning the best route for carrying on their Ph.D. programs. Instead of having to appear physically before supervisors, such students can get in touch with the supervisors via electronic means.


At this juncture, we are very hopeful that this post has given you a clue about the length of time it should take you to complete a Ph.D. While the duration varies depending on the study mode, subject, school, student’s commitment and other factors, four years is most commonly the average duration for completing a Ph.D.

As we have discussed the duration it takes to complete a Ph.D. in select fields, we would advise that you learn more about the duration that specifically applies to your chosen field if not mentioned.

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