Is a US doctoral degree right for you?

Are you most comfortable in an academic setting? Or are you yearning to become a doctor, lawyer or veterinarian? If so, you’re probably considering a US doctoral degree. But before you do, make sure you know if a US doctoral degree will suit you best, or whether a master’s degree is better for your professional goals.

How to Decide if You Should Get a US Doctoral Degree

Going to school for either a US master’s degree or US doctoral degree requires a significant amount of time and money. Before you make that commitment, and certainly before you decide which degree to earn, be sure to identify your own career goals. If you seek to advance in a career field you have already entered, a master’s degree might be the best option. If you plan to earn a master’s degree but think you might continue your studies to receive a US doctoral degree, ask your school if master’s degree credits can be applied toward a doctoral degree.

Types of US Doctoral Degrees

A doctorate is the highest academic degree in the US, and obtaining one requires research that meets that high standard. Many US doctoral degrees will require a research project, a dissertation and an oral defense in front of faculty. All of this could take anywhere from three to eight years.

A US doctoral degree can be awarded in many fields, but a doctor of philosophy (PhD) is the most common. Often, PhDs are earned by people who want to become American university professors.
Some jobs in the US require a doctoral degree before you can practice in that field. These professions include doctors, lawyers, dentists and veterinarians. People in these fields may also have to receive professional US licensure.

International students must earn the equivalent of a US bachelor’s or master’s degree before being admitted to a graduate program. You may also have to submit translations of academic records (if they aren’t in English) and take an English proficiency test, such as the TOEFL.

Earning either a US master’s or US doctoral degree will require more specialized coursework than what was needed to merit an undergraduate degree, and you might have to complete a research project. Make sure a US doctoral degree is for you before you enroll in a lengthy program. A US doctoral degree may be an absolute necessity for practice in your chosen field, but you may find that a master’s degree is adequate. Find job listings for positions in your field. What type of degree is required or preferred? This will help you determine what type of college degree is right for you.