Every researcher has a
Posted by contributor on Feb 28, 2012 in General | 9 comments
I am curious to know how long it takes to complete a phD program in your field of study in your country.
Time to PhD
What is the average time to get a PhD degree ? is a simple question with the following multiple answers.
Before you know about the time you need to spend towards a PhD degree in a particular field, it is helpful to understand well the education system of a country, the policies of an academic institution and the constraints of that field.
For international students who migrate to another region of the world, things are even more delicate because the education system in the destination country may not match the one in their country of origin.
To make things clear for the prospective PhD students, Academic Joy has put together a number of references and pointers to help them understand:
What is the average time to get a PhD degree ?
**** The time to complete a PhD degree in a particular country according
to a particular field of study;
**** The education systems in a number of countries around the world;
**** Simple maps in calendar format to guide students in completing their PhD
in three, five, seven, ten years time frame.
What is the average time to get a PhD degree ? – USA | Europe | Asia | Africa
The PhD journey could be long, so don’t forget to take a break. Have a seat !
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From Bruno somewhere on the Web
According to the US Department of Education, the median time lapse between earning a bachelor’s degree and earning a PhD degree in the US is 8 and a half years in the Humanities and roughly 7 years in Mathematics, Physics, or the Life Sciences. These figures seem excessive, especially by international standards.
In the European Union for example, the standard time to complete a doctorate under the new 3B/2M/3D Bologna system is 5 years beyond an initial bachelor’s degree . In certain fields, especially engineering and hard sciences, students usually take longer, but never more than 6 years counting from the year the bachelor’s degree was awarded (government funding is normally discontinued at this point and degree-granting institutions are heavily penalized with a reduction in research funding if doctoral students do not graduate within a reasonable amount of time).
What is the average time to get a PhD degree ?
The most often heard explanation for the excessive time American students take to get a PhD is that, unlike their counterparts in Europe, doctoral students in the US are required to take a large number of graduate classes and prepare for a series of screening and qualifying exams in the initial years of the program before choosing a thesis topic. That same argument is sometimes used to suggest that US PhD programs are somehow “stricter” or “tougher” than equivalent doctoral programs in the European Union. That is however not exactly true.
First of all, in several European universities, especially in certain deparments in the UK, PhD students now do take classes (and associated final exams) in their first year in the program. Furthermore, it is standard practice in the UK for students coming into the program with a 4-year undergraduate degree (MSci, MEng, etc.) to enroll initially as Master of Philosophy (MPhil) candidates and then be promoted to PhD candidacy following an oral Transfer Exam. Still, they are able to complete the whole program in no more than 4 years beyond their initial undergraduate degree.
Average time to get a PhD degree ? – USA | Europe | Asia | Africa
Second, although that may be controversial, the standard continental European opinion is that the American model of requiring extensive coursework and multiple preliminary exams from PhD students is just a way to compensate for the deficiency of both secondary and undergraduate college education in the US when compared to Europe. In other words, a French commentator would probably argue that a student who holds a “Licence” from a French university or an “Ingénieur” degree from a “Grande École”, and then goes on to earn a “Master Recherche” or the older “Diplôme d’Études Approfondies” , has a level of knowledge in, let’s say, mathematics or physics that is probably comparable to if not higher than that of a US student who has just completed his/her PhD coursework requirements and is about to take his/her qualifying exam. I’m not saying that I necessarily agree with the premise, but the basic understanding, not only in France, but also in Germany and other European countries as well, is that 13 years of rigorous pre-university schooling, plus 5 years of university studies leading to a professional “Diplom” or some equivalent B+M qualification are sufficient for a student to begin independent research work towards a doctoral thesis that is expected to be completed in three or 3 and half years at most (including revisions !).
What is the average time to get a PhD degree ?
Taking a sort of middle-ground position, I believe a 6-year window (1.5 to 2 years for a master’s degree + an additional 4 to 4.5 years for the doctorate) should be perfectly reasonable, even considering coursework and qualifying exam requirements. Six and a half years beyond the bachelor’s degree is actually the median amount of time to get a PhD in engineering in the US ! Anything greatly in excess of that (like, for example, 8.5 years in the Humanities) suggests to me possible inefficiency in the system that should be further investigated/analyzed.
To weigh in…
Firstly, and undergrad degree in the UK is generally 3 years long, as they do not usually have the extensive required core that US unis have (they cover the core in secondary school, but they also attend secondary school longer). Many grads then take an extra year for a post-grad diploma if they are planning on going to grad school, but not all. It’s certainly not required.
Going from an MPhil to the PhD is not a big leap. Both are purely research degrees, so basically for the MPhil you take a couple years and produce a lengthy thesis, then for the PhD you expand on said thesis. Therefore, the vast majority of research is completed, the outline and thesis is finished and critiqued – at which point I would wonder if it took more than 3-4 years to finish the diss.
In the US, however, it is very different. We have not such thing as a pure research degree. If a person goes straight to the PhD from BA/BS, there are 2 yrs coursework, then comps, THEN research. The research portion of the program generally consists of an initial proposal defense, then the research/writing of the diss, then sometimes meetings or readings/comments by committee, then more revisions, then defense, after which sometimes there are more revisions. My understanding (and this could be incorrect) is that at least in the UK, comments/revisions/etc. take place mostly between primary advisor and student only until defense.
If a US student chooses to do the MA/MS before PhD, that’s adding another 2 yrs to the process, as PhD granting institutions rarely transfer more than a couple courses’ worth of credit from MA/MS to PhD.
The result is that UK scholars are, first and foremost, researchers, while the US system focuses on balancing the research and teaching training. Attending classes is seen as necessary, not only as a broader base of knowledge (especially since all PhD students, at least in the humanities, need to also have at least one totally distinct minor field, which isn’t found frequently in Europe), but also as training for the way a class should be run and learning the skills of critique and debate.
BA degrees normally take 3 years to complete in the UK. In engineering/CS and natural sciences (physics, chemistry, biology, etc.), it is now common though for students to enroll (BrEng enrol) in 4-year programs (BrEng programmes) that lead both to a BA (Honours) and a so-called “undergraduate master’s degree”, e.g. an MEng or MSci degree.
If a student graduates with a 4-year undergraduate degree, he/she may be allowed to go straigth into a PhD program without having to obtain a postgraduate master’s first. Students in arts and humanities, who normally hold a 3-year BA only, are however usually expected to get a 1-year MPhil before being accepted as PhD students. For example, with only very few exceptions, the Faculty of History at Cambridge U. requires a postgraduate master’s degree for all applicants wishing to read for a PhD. In any case, all accepted PhD students remain on probation during their first year in the program and are only confirmed as PhD candidates after a “research evaluation exercise” (similar to a US PhD Thesis Proposal) by the end of the third term.
It is true though that, all together, a student in the UK may get a BA, a master’s, and a PhD degree in seven or, more likely, seven and a half years. By comparison, it would normally take 8 years to do the same in France and at least 10 years (most likely more) in the US. As someone wrote in this forum before, I suspect the pressure for degrees to be completed in shorter times comes from the fact that UK universities are not as well funded as their US counterparts and institutions are heavily penalized (BrEng penalised) with government funding cuts if PhD students graduate in more than four years.
The fact that fund is lacking stems from the fact that there people in France and UK don’t pay for their undergrad (and graduate) education. Also, the study in undergrad is a lot more focused than in the US. On the other hand, high school education is also more advanced, and focuses more on the liberal arts.
Time to a PhD ?
For example, France requires 2 foreign languages to be learnt in high school (some students learn 4 languages), a philosophy course (6 hour essay for the baccalaureate), calculus, advanced chem and physics (calculus based for some) just to GRADUATE. Also there is a major emphasis in literature. In the US, you just don’t write essays (in french, it is called “dissertation”) on Existentialism or Realism with the depth french high school students does. Needless to say, French secondary education is much more superior than US secondary education.
That’s why they can allow focused studies later on in college (a bio major no longer takes literature after high school).
It’s much more efficient that way, and also allows students to get their degrees faster.
In general, you will hear that a PhD program, will require at minimum 3 years after a Master degree. However, in reality, few people finish in 3 years and manage to complete it within 4 years. This time projection assumes full-time participation in the doctoral program across those 4 years. For persons who combine a master’s degree and a PhD at the same institution, 5 years seems to be a typical length of time to completion.
It is difficult to predict with certainty the length of any individual’s PhD program because completion of the program entails course work, a variety of research experiences, qualifying exams, and the dissertation. Different people take different lengths of time to successfully complete these experiences.
Many factors influence an individual’s rate of progress through a PhD program. If you are a part-time doctoral student, your program will necessarily be longer. Family obligations may cause a person to move more slowly through a PhD program. Completion of research experiences, including the dissertation, is influenced by the time needed, for example, to recruit appropriate study participants, to prepare stimuli for the study, and to pilot test procedures.
When speaking with current and former doctoral students, ask about their time line through the PhD program. Ask potential advisors how long their students have taken to complete the degree. you may also verify this information at student office.
The PhD Candidate page
This text from the American Historical Association gives a clear picture about this discipline:
How Long to the PhD?
By Robert B. Townsend
One of the recurring questions we hear from doctoral programs and doctoral students is, “Just how long does it really take to get a PhD?” The answer, it appears, is around eight years.
As we noted in the January 2006 issue of Perspectives (“A Statistical Snapshot of History PhDs: 2004″), published information from the federal Survey of Earned Doctorates offers two rather unusual measures of the time spent earning the degree—the time since the baccalaureate degree, and the years spent registered for courses after the baccalaureate degree. For history, the former has hovered around 11 years, while the latter was a bit over 9 years.
Of course, for many directors of graduate studies and doctoral students, this particular measure is of little use for assessing how much time someone should (or will) spend in a doctoral degree program. So the AHA staff asked the National Opinion Research Center, which administers and tabulates the survey, to look at some of its unpublished data for a more precise figure.
As expected, the actual time spent in specific doctoral programs is much lower than the published figures. Among new history PhD recipients in 2004, the median amount of time spent in a particular program was 8 years. This included 3.5 years on coursework and exam preparation, and 4 years on the dissertation.
Continue reading here:
I just found a fantastic document titled “Time to Degree of US Research Doctorate Recipients” . It is available here http://bit.ly/I6Vd6G (second half of left column)
You may also want to visit the PhD Candidate page for more resources.
Time to Degree
The number of years required to complete a U.S. research doctorate vary by subject as well as by whether the student pauses during the program or continues straight through to the end. The median time lapse from earning a bachelor’s degree to earning a research doctorate, for students remaining registered, is (in academic years):
For academic disciplines:
Humanities–Nearly 8 and one-half years;
Life Sciences–Seven years;
Mathematics–Nearly 7 years;
Physical Sciences–Nearly 7 years;
Social Sciences/Psychology–Seven and one-half years;
and for professional and applied fields:
Business and Management–Over 7 years;
Education–Over 8 years;
Engineering–About 6 and one-half years; and
Other Professions–Over 8 years.
The median number of registered years for all fields is just over 7 years. This means that, when added to the average of 4-5 years for a bachelor’s degree, U.S. citizens who earn an American research doctorate have spent around 11 or more academic years in school as full-time students and researchers. During that time they are in structured and supervised programs, not on their own, and they do not benefit from government stipends or from any legal privileges permitting them to enjoy protected student status.
Source: U.S. Network for Education Information.
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