What Is a Ph.D. Degree?

A Ph.D. degree is a graduate degree beyond the master’s level that typically takes four to eight years to complete at most U.S. universities. Required coursework takes two to three years, followed by a dissertation, which is an independent research project that reveals new information in the subject area.

A completed dissertation must be of high enough quality for publication. At most universities, the Ph.D. candidate must undergo examination and defend the research and dissertation before a committee of faculty members in the field of study. The examiners specify whether the dissertation passes and define any failures that need remediation before it is accepted. Academic careers at colleges and universities often require an applicant to possess a Ph.D. degree.