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A doctorate degree is the highest level of academic degree in most fields. For research or university teaching, the degree is usually a PhD, while applied professional doctorates include the Doctor of Medicine (MD), the Doctor of Education (EdD), and the Juris Doctor (JD), among others but you can earn a doctorate in almost any subject area. For example, most states in the USA require licensed psychologists to hold a doctorate degree in psychology.

On Average, a doctorate degree takes four years to complete the degree. If you already hold a master’s degree, you may be able to complete a doctorate in the same subject area with only three years of additional full-time study.

PhD Admission Requirements

You have to meet the basic requirements if you are willing to apply for PhD admission in the USA.

Get the Required Degree First– Most of the PhD programs require a recognized bachelor’s degree. Whereas, there are some programs that may require a Masters degree. You have to confirm whether you have completed the required academic qualification.

GRE with Good Marks– If you are keen to do PhD from the USA then it is required to clear the GRE with good marks. It will take a couple of months to get your GRE score so ensure that you have applied on time. It is suggested to take your GRE minimum of 3 to 6 months before the application process starts.

Appear for TOEFL or IELTS– If English is not an official language of your country then you must take the TOEFL or IELTS. The score requirement varies from university to university. You should have a minimum 600 or above in paper-based test or 95 to 100 in Internet-based test. If you have appeared in ILETS then your score must lie in between 7.0 to 7.5.

Doing a PhD in the USA will cost you high– Unquestionably, the USA is the utmost choice of students to get a high-end degree. However, it is costly. Make sure that you are capable to afford the fee.

Contact Schools for their specific requirements– The application process may vary from school to school. So, please read the related instructions carefully before you apply to a particular school. Analyze the special requirements therein and fulfil the same.

What to Submit Along with Your PhD Application?

Letter of Recommendation– Please remember that most of the universities want a minimum two to three letter of recommendation. The recommendation is nothing but an overall about you. Therefore, it must be written either by your college professor and/or employers.

Provide Statement of Purpose (Portfolio) – If you want to study PhD then you must have to submit your statement of purpose which will detail your commitment towards joining the PhD programme and your ultimate goal behind this. You should brief your purpose of joining the programme.

Your Resume– You also need to submit your resume along with your application while applying to a PhD programmed. The resume shall comprise of information like your academic qualification, date of birth and your previous work experience.

Additionally, students must submit

  • Academic transcripts
  • A transcript/record of your previous courses
  • English language testing scores (TOEFL/IELTS)
  • Evidence of scholarship or funding
  • Work experience letter
  • WES Evaluation documents (some universities may require it)
  • A photocopy of their passport
  • Certificates against extra-curricular activities they did in the past.

How Much Does a Doctorate Degree Cost? 

Understanding the costs of doctoral programs is complex. Like undergraduate education, the sticker price for tuition and fees is not the net cost that students pay. Almost all doctoral students receive some amount of grant aid to attend graduate school. The published tuition and fee totals for doctorate education can range from around $6,000 per year to over $90,000 per year for non-resident students. Some online schools will give students an in-state tuition rate no matter their state of residence, but this is not true for all schools. In addition to tuition and fees, graduate students need to consider their living expenses, especially if they do not plan to work while pursuing their doctorate. 

How much you pay per year for a graduate program is dependent not only on the cost per credit at the school you choose but also on how many credits you take. Many programs have more courses for the first two years, and thus the credit load would be higher. The later years of a degree program will usually see the students writing a dissertation or completing a capstone project, and the number of credits they take will be lower. So, the price could vary for each year of the program in a doctorate.

 The upshot on pricing is that you will need to see how much financial aid is available for your program and more specifically, what is available to you. More professional doctoral programs that lead to licensure as a doctor or lawyer have, on average, less financial aid, so students will either need to use their own funds or take out loans. Because these professional careers also have higher salaries than research careers, the extra cost may not be such a burden. However, as with all educational loans, it is important for students to consider how much debt they are willing to take on and how this will impact their lives after the degree. Because there are no reliable published statistics about graduate degree costs, prospective students will need to do their own research to verify the amount of money that will be needed to complete each doctoral program.

Financial AID options

Prospective PhD candidates have an abundance of financial aid options to help fund their graduate studies. Typically, students are fully funded by a combination of sources, including scholarships, fellowships, research assistantships, teaching assistantships, or student loans.

It is important for students to note that most sources of aid are awarded by individual academic programs, so they should follow-up with their department for up-to-date information.


PhD students can apply for a variety of scholarships that award students with funds that can be used to help cover the cost of tuition, books and other fees.


Grants are similar to scholarships and are academic-based awards that can be used to augment other sources of financial aid.


Fellowships are a different type of funding that may encompass a scholarship or grant and can be used to fund research, study and teaching in the US and internationally. Many fellowships provide full tuition and a yearly stipend to students.

Assistantships and Fellowships

Graduate assistantships

Graduate assistantships are a form of academic appointment and are provided by individual departments. Competitive in nature, they are typically awarded based on the student’s academic accomplishments and potential in the graduate program of study. Most programs provide appointments for one year at a time and students receive a tuition credit or waiver and monthly stipend. There are three types of assistantships: Teaching Assistantships, Assistant Lecturers, and Research Assistants.

Teaching Assistantships

Teaching assistants perform a range of support duties for faculty members at a university, including grading papers and teaching classes.

Assistant Lecturers

Lecturers may serve as instructors in the academic department where they are studying.

Research Assistants

Research assistants conduct and assist faculty members with research projects in the student’s area of interest.


Fellowships are short-term funding opportunities (typically 9- to 12 months) provided to students in the form of tuition credits and/or stipends. They support a student’s graduate study in their field of choice, may assist them in their research, or gain professional training in an area of interest. Fellowships are competitive and are available in two types: University-based and External.


Individual schools, colleges, and departments at a university (e.g. College of Science, Department of English) may have endowed fellowships. Students are either nominated for an award by their department or may be open to an application process.

External fellowships

External fellowships are funded by foundations, government agencies and other groups and provide opportunities to study both in the US and abroad. For example, the Department of Defense offers the National Defense Science & Engineering Graduate Fellowship to engineering students studying in one of sixteen engineering specialities.

What Types of Doctoral Degrees are There?

There are two basic categories of doctoral degrees: a research degree, which is often a PhD, or a professional degree like an MD or JD. Both represent the highest level of training in the specific field, and both can be required for certain jobs or to qualify for higher salaries.

Research Degrees

The most common degree is the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), which is awarded in most humanities and scientific subjects. The PhD is the usual qualification for people who wish to become full professors at post-secondary institutions. The PhD is also required in many research jobs in everything from plasma physics to population studies. PhDs are available in many different specific subjects.

The course of study will usually include two years of advanced courses and then an allotted time such as two years to complete a final project that advances the field of study in some way. These advances may be the discovery of a whole new phenomenon or theory, or they may build on advanced research of previous scholars. For scientific or social science projects, the research may include experimental results and study design. For theoretical subjects, the process will more likely be deep scholarly research and the development of original ideas.

Applied & Professional Doctorates

For applied fields, there are numerous other special doctoral degrees such as Doctor of Education (EdD), Doctor of Public Health (DrPH), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), or the Doctor of Social Work (DSW). These degrees are more geared towards applying the knowledge gained in the industry or field, and there are often licensure requirements for the specialized and advanced jobs that they qualify students to obtain. 

 The Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) is an advanced degree often requiring long experience in the managerial side of the business before acceptance into a program. In the United States, business administrators may alternatively seek a PhD in Business Administration, which is the equivalent degree. 

Applied doctorates are similar to professional degrees like the Doctor of Medicine (MD) or the Juris Doctor (JD), which is a common degree for lawyers. These professional degrees allow entry into the highly paid professions like doctors or lawyers, along with qualifying exams and possible work experience in the profession.

After finishing a bachelor’s degree, aspiring physicians will take four years of medical school and then complete residency programs for another three to six years. JD programs typically have three years of required coursework after the bachelor’s degree, though some allow students to attend part-time and take four years. These programs, perhaps even more than other rigorous doctoral programs, require hard work, long hours, and serious dedication for students to succeed. 

Quick Facts About Doctoral Degrees

Why earn a doctorate degree? 

People with a doctorate earn an average of 63% more than those with only a bachelor’s degree. Some of the most prestigious and remunerative professions in our economy, like doctors and lawyers, require a doctoral degree.

How long does it take?

Usually three to six years. The median time to completion is 5.7 years, with some students taking up to eight years to complete the degree. 

How much does it cost? 

The average cost of tuition and fees for one year at a public institution is $11,120, while at a private university, the average is $44,020. Some online programs offer doctoral tuition at rates below $6,000 per year, and the most expensive doctoral programs charge around $90,000 for out-of-state students. However, many students get financial aid that reduces the actual cost.

Is it worth It? 

That depends on the industry of employment, as some professions allow people with a master’s degree into the highest levels. Doctoral programs are intense and challenging, but many of the top positions in our economy require a doctorate.

What types of doctoral degrees are there?

There are research doctorates, like the PhD, and there are applied doctorates, which include the MD, JD, EdD, DBA, DPT, and DNP among others. 

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