Planning Out Your Path to a PhD

notebook, glasses, and coffee mug

The path to a PhD takes time and effort, but there is a considerable reward at the end of the journey. It is possible for learners to complete a PhD program in just three years. The trick is to set realistic expectations for yourself and understand that PhD programs are not at all similar to other types of degrees.

Understanding Your Motivations

Prospective PhD candidates can expect to be questioned about their motivations for pursuing the degree. The admissions staff, your academic advisor and even your loved ones will likely ask you why you want to earn a PhD. The right motivations will sustain you through research and writing. It is not sufficient to pursue a PhD simply because you want an impressive credential to put after your name. However, a PhD will be well worth it for people who:

  • Are excited by the opportunity to advance a body of knowledge through original research
  • Want to become experts in their area
  • Have a genuine love of academia and intellectual stimulation
  • Desire a lifelong career in academia/academic research

Earning your PhD can open doors for you in the future, and it can allow you to command a much higher salary. In addition to knowing why you want your PhD, you should be able to succinctly explain why you have chosen your particular research topic. Your answer should not solely be because it is the same research you were working on in your previous degree program. It is perfectly acceptable to transition to a different area of research.

Figuring Out If the Time Is Right

After you have made the decision to apply, you will need to figure out when you should begin tackling your PhD degree. Should you take some time off from work or just dive right into it? There is no one right answer: Figure out what is best for your circumstances in life. Some people do decide to take a year or so off and focus solely on their degree program. If you spend that year doing non-degree-related research and similar work, then you will pick up some valuable skills you can use in your PhD program.

Developing Secondary Skills

Few learners receive in-depth guidance in the secondary skills they need along their journey to a PhD. In addition to the intensive research itself, you might do any of the following:

  • Write grant or fellowship proposals
  • Attend conferences
  • Present research at conferences
  • Peer review scientific manuscripts
  • Write scientific papers

Prepare for your degree program by actively seeking programs, workshops, and talks offered by your university on these specific topics. You can also look for a mentor in your program.

At Grand Canyon University, you can choose from PhD degree programs that help you prepare to make a difference in your field. Click on the Request More Information button and answer a few simple questions to get started planning your path to a PhD.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.