What is a Ph.D.?

2014-10-02 13:41:24

A PhD degree means different things for different people.

  • A terminal degree
  • A licence to teach
  • A licence to conduct research
  • Validation of intellectual ability
  • A research apprenticeship

In a PhD, you learn a lot of technical knowledge about a field. In fact, at the end of the PhD you will be the world expert or close to it in your particular area. However, at the end of your PhD, you will typically be working on a narrow problem.

In a PhD you will learn how to do research. This will range from formulating and solving problems and writing and presenting the results.

Research is very different from taking classes. You will be guided by your advisors, but you are expected to be pro-active, self-motivated and hard working in order to become an expert in your area of research. You will need to do a lot of reading in order to become familiar with the state of the art and to know the frontier of knowledge on the problem you are investigating. This is fundamental for you to be able to innovate and make original contributions to the problem you are addressing in your research, and thus deserve the awarding of the PhD degree.