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The doctoral degree is designed to train research scholars and, in manycases, future college and university faculty members. Receipt of adoctoral degree certifies that the student has demonstrated capacity asa trained research scholar in a specific discipline. 

Atthe doctoral level, the Ph.D. (doctor of philosophy) is the most commondegree awarded in academic disciplines. Other doctoral degrees areawarded primarily in professional fields, such as education (Ed.D. ordoctor of education) and business administration (D.B.A. or doctor ofbusiness administration). Doctoral programs involve advancedcoursework, seminars, and the writing of a dissertation that describesthe student’s own original research, completed under the supervision ofa faculty adviser.

A comprehensive examinationis given, usually after three to five years of study and completion ofall coursework, and when the student and adviser agree that the studentis ready. This exam is designed to test the student’s ability to useknowledge gained through courses and independent study in a creativeand original way. Students must demonstrate a comprehensiveunderstanding of their chosen field of study. Successful completion ofthis examination marks the end of the student’s coursework and thebeginning of concentration on research.

ThePh.D. degree is awarded to those students who complete an originalpiece of significant research, write a dissertation describing thatresearch, and successfully defend their work before a panel of facultymembers who specialize in the discipline. This may take an additionaltwo to three years. To earn a doctoral degree, therefore, may takeanywhere from five to eight years beyond the bachelor’s degree,depending on the field of study.

In theUnited States, you will find a variety of nontraditional doctoralprograms; these programs might have very different types ofrequirements from the traditional programs. Prospective students shouldbe sure of what is required to enter any program they are considering,and what is required to obtain the degree. This information is usuallyavailable from university catalogs and websites or directly fromindividual departments.

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