Is a PhD a graduate degree? Graduate school vs PhD

When you are entering the world of higher education it can be confusing to distinguish between the different programs. Undergraduate, postgraduate, and graduate certificates, where do they all line up in this grand scheme of things?

A PhD, or Doctor of Philosophy, is a type of graduate degree that typically requires several years of advanced study beyond a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Graduate education refers to education beyond the undergraduate level and includes master’s, doctoral, and professional degrees.

Luckily, it is relatively easy to understand where a PhD fits into the higher education model and this article will share with you everything you need to know about PhD’s and graduate degrees.

What Is Graduate School and a Graduate Degree?

Graduate school is a type of higher education institution, which offers graduate degrees.

Graduate schools offer master’s and doctoral degree programs, which often require original research. There are also graduate certificates and other qualifications you can get after your bachelors that are considered graduate courses.

The various types of graduate degrees available are:

  • PhDs
  • professional degrees (MD, JD, MBA)
  • master’s degrees (MA, MS)
  • Graduate certificates

Programs offered at graduate schools usually require more advanced coursework than undergraduate programs with original research projects and projects.

Students may also have the opportunity to specialize in a particular field or topic of interest by completing an individualized degree program.

Graduate school is a great way for students to further their knowledge and skills in their chosen field.

So how does it differ from a PhD?

What Is a PhD Degree? PhDs explained

A PhD Degree, or Doctor of Philosophy, is the highest academic degree that can be achieved.

Earning a PhD Degree indicates a commitment to scholarship and research in an area of study and is often necessary for a career in academia. But many people do not answer academia and use it as a way to specialise in a field for their career.

A doctoral degree can also lead to a career outside of academia.

For example, one of my friends got his PhD in medical imaging and medical physics to access higher pay scales in the national health service in the United Kingdom.

To earn a PhD Degree in the United States, one must first complete their graduate studies and become a PhD Student.

However, in other countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia you do not have to complete graduate studies and you can enter the research portion of the degree right away.

This is why PhD’s are typically much shorter in these countries.

A PhD in every country includes extensive research and writing of a dissertation that demonstrates the student’s mastery of their field.

Earning a PhD Degree demonstrates expertise in an area as well as dedication to furthering knowledge and understanding in their field of study.

Is a PhD the Same as a Doctoral degree?

A PhD, or Doctor of Philosophy, is a doctorate that can be obtained from an accredited institution.

It is the highest degree available in most fields and it signifies an individual’s advanced knowledge and expertise.

A doctoral degree is an academic title that indicates the holder has completed a research-based program of study and received a doctorate.

The Doctor of Philosophy is usually considered the most prestigious type of doctoral degree. It requires:

  • extensive research,
  • writing, and
  • defending a dissertation

before it can be awarded.

Both a PhD and a doctoral degree signify that the holder has achieved an advanced level of knowledge in their field, however they are not necessarily interchangeable terms depending on the field.

What Does a PhD Student Study?

A PhD student is someone who has chosen to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree.

A PhD is the highest academic degree awarded by universities.

PhD students are typically enrolled in a three to seven year program where they will conduct research, attend courses, and write a dissertation to demonstrate their mastery of the subject matter.

PhD student daily schedule

The field of study that a PhD student pursues can range from business administration to humanities. If you can find a supervisor that matches your research interests there are no limits on what you can study at the PhD level.

Depending on the discipline, some programs may require more postgraduate coursework while others may rely more heavily on independent research.

Regardless of the type of program, all PhDs require an original contribution to knowledge in their field and take significant dedication and hard work to complete.

How Hard Is It to Get into a PhD Program?

Getting into a PhD program is no easy task.

A doctorate degree is the highest level of education and requires dedication, hard work, and perseverance. You need to convince the admissions office that you are up to the challenge.

It is not simply an extension of a bachelor’s or master’s degree program; instead, it involves rigorous coursework and in-depth research in a specific field of study.

To complete a PhD program, you must submit original research in the form of a dissertation to contribute to your field.

This dissertation may take years to complete, as you must develop strong skills in your area of expertise and demonstrate mastery of the subject matter.

As such, getting into a PhD program requires careful planning, dedication, and hard work.

You may be asked to submit a statement of purpose, research proposal and other documents to be reviewed before admission into a course.

Wrapping up

This article has been through everything you need to know about what a PhD is in the grand scheme of graduate degrees.

A PhD is a graduate degree and you will require an undergraduate degree and, in some cases, a masters before being accepted into the program.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.