Why Become a Scholar?

A Doctor of Philosophy, or Ph.D., is the highest research-oriented degree that anyone can earn. Due to the extensive effort that one must put forth to obtain a doctorate, less than one percent of the population attains one. The purpose of a Ph.D. is to demonstrate mastery of a particular field; this is done through intensive research and study. The majority of students are able to receive funding in the form of teaching and research assistantships to cover the cost of continuing their education.

A Ph.D. is extremely prestigious. Society needs individuals with this high level of education to solve problems and help enhance the lives of others. The more knowledge a person has on a certain subject, the more a person can influence policy and help advance study in science, humanities and technology for future generations.

“There is a need for more education, a need for mastery and competent knowledge (of a topic),” Vice Provost for Research and Dean of the College of Graduate Studies James Hageman said. “A bachelor’s degree was adequate 20 years ago. Now there is a need to master many specialties and have a better understanding of things.”

Upon entering a Ph.D. program, a student can expect to complete coursework as they begin to formulate a research topic. Doctoral students work with a faculty advisor (or several) that help in this process and become a key in successfully completing their degree. A dissertation, or major research project, is required and takes up a significant portion of time. Being focused, efficient and motivated are necessary to make it through a program. It’s a lot of hard work, but individuals who are passionate about their field of study are generally able to navigate the process, maintain momentum and ultimately emerge as an expert in their field.

There are numerous options for employment upon attaining a Ph.D. Many people choose to pursue careers as professors in an academic setting. Alternatively, research-oriented positions in government and private industry can also be an option. In many cases, a Ph.D. is required to hold leadership positions in a variety of organizations from non-profits to private companies. Still other people choose to be self-employed and work as consultants in their specific fields. The possibilities are open with a Ph.D.

Here are several questions to consider:
  • Are you passionate about a particular area of study?
  • Are you eager to discover new things?
  • Do you wish to become more intellectually engaged in a certain field?
  • Are you goal-oriented and self-motivated?
  • Do you have determination?
  • Does your career goal require an advanced degree for optimal mobility?
  • Are you willing to accept the challenges that go along with achieving a Ph.D.?