How to do PhD in the USA

The USA is one of the most preferred destination for further studies for international students, especially preferred for its world-wide recognized PhD programs.

Follow the steps below to apply for PhD in the USA:

  1. Select the subject you wish to major in:

Students mostly select the stream they have completed their bachelor’s in, although there is no such hard and fast rule to pursue the same subject but the candidate has to present strong reasons for being selected in that field.

2. Research universities:

Once the aspirant has completed the selection of his/her subject, the next step is to find universities that offer an above average course in that field.

  • The top PhD universities in the USA are:
Cal Tech
Stanford University
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Yale University
Harvard University
Princeton University
University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Los Angeles
  • Eligibility:

A majority of universities in the US accept student’s enrollment for their PhD programs solely on the basis of Bachelor’s degree as here, a master’s degree in the concerned field is not mandatory.

  • 16 years education:

A majority of the US universities require 16 years of education i.e. 4 years of education after 10+2 is mandatory for admission in any of the US university.

  • Master’s:

Having completed a master’s program in the field you wish to pursue your PhD in from the US university, is the ideal thing to do, and also stands forth as a standard norm in many universities.

  • Tests:

The candidate applying for PhD in the US needs to appear for certain tests and qualify them with an above average score to certify for a good university. The tests to be appeared for are as follows:

GMAT: GMAT is taken for admission in management studies. This test is taken widely across business schools to test the caliber of their to-be students.

GRE: GRE is mandatory for all graduate level students, in any field inclusive of the management studies. Some universities also ask for appearance and scores in GRE subject test.

IELTS: IELTS is an English proficiency test for students from non-native English-speaking countries. It tests your command on four parameters: Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking.

TOEFL: TOEFL too is an English proficiency test for students belonging from non-native English-speaking countries.

  • Application requirements:

Statement of Purpose (SOP): Statement of Purpose is one the most crucial aspect of your college application. It reflects candidate’s goal in life and candidate’s commitment in joining the college for the PhD program. SOP should clearly reflect what the candidate wants from the program.

Letter of Recommendation (LOR): Letter of Recommendation is the assessment of candidate’s potential from outside source, preferably a professor or an employer.

  • Resume:

At PhD level, the candidate is required to submit his/her resume which consists of basic information about the candidate and his/her achievements.

  • Interview:

Many colleges of the US conduct a separate interview round for its selected PhD candidates.

The questions asked are related to the candidate’s field of study.


  1. Am I eligible enough to pursue PhD?

That depends. What would you like to research? Would you like to research or not?
Predominantly, one needs to identify what one’s future ambitions. A PhD is foremost a period of research training and intellectual challenge. Does this feel appealing to you? When we talk about eligibility on the other hand, have you cleared your masters? Or are you on the path of clearing it? Does the subject you study, genuinely interest you? Would you be okay studying it and researching about the same field for a majority of your life? With the questions mentioned, find answers and you’ll know whether you suit PhD or not.

2. How long does PhD take to complete?

There is no definite answer to this as the time taken for PhD varies from course to course. In the US, you are eligible for PhD even after you have completed your bachelors and sometimes, master’s completion is not necessarily required. Although it is always a better option to complete your masters prior to PhD so that you have gained access to the in-depth knowledge of your field, but the choice rests in your hands.

3. What qualifications do I need?

A Master’s degree, or its international equivalent, is often required for entry onto a PhD and this is generally the case in arts and humanities subjects. In the sciences, however, students can sometimes move directly towards a PhD after their undergraduate degree. In addition to some postgraduate requirements, you’ll also need to demonstrate good performance during your undergraduate degree. An upper second class bachelor’s degree is usually the minimum entry requirement. If the PhD you applied for and are going to study is not conducted in your first language, then you’ll have to provide evidence of proficiency through a language test.

4. Am I allowed to study part-time?

Absolutely. Many students choose to study part time, particularly when they are self-funded so as to work and earn funds for college in the other half of their time. It is likely that the majority of
funded PhD positions will require a full time commitment but the self- funded ones, without the hold of any sponsorship, can study part-time and work the other half.

5. What is an MPhil? Please Elaborate. M.Phil is known as Master of Philosophy which is a advanced postgraduate Degree. Although most universities in the USA don’t award a M.Phil degree but some universities under some circumstances provide this degree.

Some of the universities which provides M.Phil degree are:

  • Yale University
  • Columbia University
  • George washington University
  • CUNY graduate center

6. How do I decide where to do PhD from?

You should study all the popular universities and their courses in order to see what interests you. You can consult an advisor who helps you with figuring out which university from which country is best for you.

You can see the job prospects after you complete your PhD from the particular university also you can see which country is best and affordable.

7. What should I put in my application?

You should put every relevant information and skills about yourselves in the application forms such as:Your academic recordCertificate of required languageLORsResearch proposalsLetter of motivationPhD entrance exam scoresResumeThe information should be true and relevant otherwise you can suffer some consequences in the admission.

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About the Author

Piyush values education and has studied from the top institutes of IIT Roorkee, IIM Bangalore, KTH Sweden and Tsinghua University in China. Post completing his MBA, he has worked with the world’s # 1 consulting firm, The Boston Consulting Group and focused on building sales and marketing verticals for top MNCs and Indian business houses.

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