How to Get a Doctorate?

how to get a doctorate
October 25, 2023 6 min read Liaison

In this article, we discuss what a doctoral degree is, how to get your doctorate, and the benefits of earning it.

Key Takeaways

A doctorate is the highest academic degree. There are two types of doctorates: research and professional.

Usually, earning a doctoral degree can take at least four years, but the time varies from student to student.

To apply to a doctoral program, you'll need academic transcripts, a resume or CV, recommendation letters, a statement of purpose, and perhaps GRE or GMAT scores.

During undergraduate studies, apply for internships and aim to have a 3.0 GPA.

During your master's program, work on your problem-solving and analytical skills.

Workers with a doctorate may have more job opportunities and earn higher-than-average salaries.


If you're on your academic journey, you may be curious about the highest degree you can earn in a university – the doctorate. Here, you'll learn how to get a doctoral degree and what's needed along the way.

By completing a doctoral program, you'll gain problem-solving skills, critical-thinking abilities, and other valuable knowledge that will help advance your career. Also, you may be able to earn a higher salary than individuals with different types of degrees.

In this article, we talk about different types of doctoral degrees, what you need to do to apply to a program and complete your doctoral studies, and the benefits of earning this advanced degree.

What Is a Doctorate?

A doctorate is the highest level of graduate degree you can earn at a university. Doctorate holders are experts in their fields. You can do a doctorate in various fields, but only some job positions require this degree.

Research doctoral degrees are focused on research in a specific field. This type of degree is generally for those who want to work as professors or researchers.

  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
  • Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)
  • Doctor of Business Administration (D.B.A.)
  • Doctor of Arts (D.A.)
  • Doctor of Theology (Th.D.)

A professional doctorate, on the other hand, gives students the skills required to work in certain fields, such as law and medicine.

  • Juris Doctor (J.D.)
  • Doctor of Medicine (M.D.)
  • Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.)

How Long Does It Take to Get a Ph.D. or Other Doctorate?

Earning a Ph.D. or other types of doctoral degree typically takes 3-4 years if you're a full-time student. However, it's essential to note that this timeline can extend to up to eight years if you choose to pursue your degree on a part-time basis.

The duration of your doctoral journey largely depends on factors such as your field of study, research complexity, and the time needed to complete your dissertation. It's a substantial commitment, but the knowledge and expertise you gain during this time are often highly rewarding.

How to Get a Doctorate?

In order to get a doctorate, you need to complete your undergraduate and graduate degrees. Also, you need to find a school where you can enroll in a doctoral program aligned with your interests and area of academic focus.

Undergraduate Education

Earning an undergraduate degree usually takes up to four years in a full-time program. However, it depends on how many credits you can earn during each semester.

Note that one of the requirements for Ph.D. studies is a good GPA from your undergrad school. It should be at least 3.0.

As a doctoral candidate, you'll need some work/volunteer experience, so try to find an internship to gain experience in your area of interest.

Graduate Education

After undergraduate studies, you typically need to complete a graduate program. (Depending on the field, you may be able to go right into a Ph.D. program without first getting a master's.) Master's degree programs offer specialized knowledge and skills in a chosen study area.

Usually, students need two years to complete a master's program, but some schools offer accelerated programs that you can finish in a year.

Choose a master's degree program that aligns with your interests and desired career path.

During your master's program, start thinking about a doctorate and where you could earn it. As you evaluate each program, consider the following factors:

  • Industry reputation
  • Curriculum
  • Specialization options
  • The employment rate of graduates
  • Cost
  • Admission requirements

Enroll in a Doctoral Program

A bachelor's and master's degree are usually required to qualify for a doctoral program. Typical application requirements for doctoral degrees include your academic transcripts from both your undergraduate and graduate studies, your resume or curriculum vitae (CV), GRE or GMAT scores, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose.

In a doctoral program, you'll engage in advanced coursework and research specific to your field. While the exact curriculum differs depending on the particular program, it typically includes:

  • In-depth classroom study
  • Extensive research
  • Writing a dissertation

The dissertation is a comprehensive research project that involves thorough study of a specific topic and a presentation of your findings to the program's faculty.

studying for a doctorate

Source: Unsplash

Is It Worth Getting a Doctorate?

In this section, we'll talk about the benefits of earning a doctoral degree.

  • Reputation — Obtaining a doctorate allows you to become more respected in your field and shows your expertise in an industry.
  • Higher salaries — Individuals with a doctorate usually have higher salaries than other degree holders because they have completed advanced coursework and demonstrated proven expertise in their field.
  • Gaining important skills — During a doctoral program, you'll gain problem-solving, research, analytical, and writing skills.
  • More specialized job options — With a doctoral degree, you can find a job focusing on very specific subjects at universities, government agencies, nonprofits, and private companies.

How to Get a Doctorate — Conclusion

A doctorate is the highest level of degree you can earn at a university or college. There are two types: research doctorates for those interested in academia and professional doctorates for career-specific fields.

Earning a doctorate typically takes three to four years, but part-time students may need up to eight years.

To pursue a doctorate, you need prior graduate and undergraduate degrees. You'll also need to submit an application that includes transcripts, recommendation letters, a statement of purpose, a resume or CV, and perhaps GRE or GMAT test scores.

Undergraduate degrees usually take four years to complete. Note that you'll need to maintain a good GPA because it's required for doctoral studies, along with work or volunteer experience. After your undergrad studies, you'll need a master's degree as well, which can take about two years. You should choose a program that lines up with your interests and career goals.

At a doctoral program, you'll engage in advanced coursework and research specific to your field, and you'll have to write a dissertation. Earning a doctorate offers benefits like enhanced reputation, higher salaries, valuable skills development, and broader job opportunities in academia and industry.


It can take four to five years to complete a doctoral program, but it can be longer. It depends on how much time you'll need to research and write your dissertation. In some cases, earning a doctorate can take from six to twelve years.

The cost varies based on factors including the type of degree, institution, and location. According to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of getting a Ph.D. degree is $112,350.

Completing a doctoral program and getting a degree can be a long and rigorous process, including coursework, researching a topic, and writing a dissertation. Don’t expect it to be easy.

Some students work part-time, often as research assistants, while earning their degrees. Research and writing a dissertation can take much of your time, so working full-time could be challenging.

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