The Doctor of Philosophy, (PhD, Ph.D., DPhil or D.Phil.) is a degree a person gets from a university by finishing a doctorate program. In many areas of study, the PhD/DPhil is the highest degree that a person can earn (this is called the "terminal degree"). There are PhD/DPhil degrees for many different fields, such as PhDs/DPhils in literature, philosophy, history, science, mathematics, and engineering. Some PhD/DPhil degrees have existed for hundreds of years, such as the PhD/DPhil in Canon Law. Other PhD/DPhil degrees were developed in the 1970s and 1980s, such as the PhD/DPhil in Computer Science.
Requirements for degree
To be admitted to a PhD/DPhil program, a person usually has to have completed their Bachelor's degree or Master's degree that is related to the PhD/DPhil degree. For example, a person applying to be admitted to a PhD/DPhil degree in Theater would normally have to have a Master's degree such as a Master of Arts (MA) degree in Theater, English Literature, or a related area.
Elements of a PhD/DPhil degree
The PhD/DPhil degree usually takes between three to six years of full time study to complete. They may or may not require a master's degree beforehand. Many PhD/DPhil degrees begin with a period of graduate courses. After the PhD/DPhil student has taken these courses, they take examinations to test what the student knows about their area of study. After the student passes the exams, they begin to do original research. The product is a long research report called a dissertation (or a "thesis"). Some PhD/DPhil degrees also require students to pass exams in languages (such as French, German, or other languages). Many PhD/DPhil students teach undergraduate students or assist professors with research during their PhD/DPhil studies.
As a requirement for university teaching
Requirements for university teaching vary in different subjects and in different countries. A PhD/DPhil is necessary or usual to become a university professor in many fields, especially in science. However, many famous professors have not had higher degrees, though that is less common today. In some fields, there is no PhD/DPhil, and so another degree is required to become a university professor. For example, the highest degree in Fine Arts fields such as printmaking or graphic design is the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree. A person with an MFA degree can become a university professor in some Fine Arts fields.
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