Earning a Ph.D. is a grueling endeavor, even for the best of students. But the payoff can be spectacular. From reaching the pinnacle of a career in research to earning more money within your chosen profession, there are many reasons to pursue a master’s degree or Ph.D.

A Ph.D. can take years of challenging course work filled with demanding hours in labs and being hunched over research material while living off of a small stipend or fellowship. However, the investment of your time and labor pays off in a heftier salary in a shorter amount of time than other degrees can offer. Earning a Ph.D. opens doors to opportunities you may not have known existed or expected.

Length of Time a Ph.D. Can Take

The time it takes to complete any degree depends on the design of the program, the subject that the student is studying and the specific requirements of the college and other areas that need to be met in order to graduate.

The first two to three years of a doctoral program typically concentrate on a base of required classes with a sprinkling of elective courses. The research components of the classes can eat up a graduate student’s time.

A Ph.D. in physics has a duration of about five years. A doctorate degree can be obtained in about this amount of time, typically between four to six years.

What is a Dissertation?

The average length of a dissertation program is about eight years. Education and humanities degrees take longer than hard sciences such as astronomy or physics. A dissertation is a lengthy essay and complex work on a specific subject. It is completed as a requirement of a Doctor of Philosophy Degree.

The difference between a thesis and a dissertation is the level of degree. A thesis is a compilation of research that showcases what you have learned and your knowledge of the master’s program. It is turned in before the student can graduate. A dissertation is ongoing during the graduate student’s doctoral study and is an opportunity for the students to include new knowledge, practice or theory they may have discovered during their program.

Included in a dissertation is:

  • Introduction 
  • Abstract model of what the student is attempting to prove.
  • Validation of the model and proof of theorems
  • Measurements and significant data
  • Additional results that have been collected that point to the central thesis
  • Conclusions and future work, limitations or special cases that a student foresees

Career Paths for a Ph.D.

Once you obtain your Ph.D., you can become a leader in your field. Most careers that require a Ph.D. are research oriented.

Ph.D. careers include:

  • Systems Engineer
  • Computer Engineer
  • Computer and Information Research Scientist
  • Mathematician or Statistician
  • Biologist
  • College Administrator
  • Healthcare Administrator
  • Cultural and Linguistic Preservationist

Income for Ph.D.

The median income for someone with a Ph.D. immediately upon graduation and gaining employment in their field of interest is about $80,000. That is roughly 20 percent more than a master’s degree will get a graduate. The more competitive the field, the more money there is to earn. A Ph.D. in engineering, aeronautics, technology, math or science can earn a graduate a six-figure income within the first year of employment.

Astronomer Education Requirements

An astronomer is also a scientist who studies the universe and its celestial objects to discern how the universe works. Most astronomers have earned a Doctor of Philosophy degree in astronomy, physics or a related field during their school career.

To get a Ph.D. in astronomy you will need more than just an advanced graduate degree. The astronomer education requirements include a proficiency in math and science in both a laboratory and observatory setting along with problem solving and critical thinking skills.

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