If you know you want to get your Ph.D., but you're having trouble picking a specialization, you may want to consider online PhD programs in general studies. An online general studies PhD is perfect for inquisitive students who wish to become experts in a variety of disciplines, instead of just one discipline. As an online general studies PhD student, you'll design your own curriculum with the help of a faculty advisor or a team of advisors. You'll pick specific topics to focus on throughout your career as a doctoral student that will ultimately help you reach new professional goals of your choice.
You have to be self-motivated and naturally curious as a general studies PhD student. You'll be studying advanced topics in 2-4 different disciplines, and you'll have to balance keeping track of what you're learning in each of those disciplines. Additionally, you'll have to produce a dissertation that connects the diverse topics you've studied in a meaningful way. Once you're awarded your Ph.D., you'll be able to contribute your unique, interdisciplinary perspective in professional and academic settings.
About Online PhD Programs in General Studies
As previously mentioned, general studies PhD students meet with a faculty advisor or multiple faculty advisors from different fields to design their degree plans. The degree plans they create typically must be approved by a graduate advisory committee. Additionally, general studies PhD students have to pick around 48 hours worth of course work and plan to spend around 24 semester hours working on their dissertations for most programs. The process of designing your degree plan as a general studies PhD student will look something like this, based on the protocol at the University of Alabama:
- Using your school's graduate catalogue, you will select 48 hours of online courses from two or more disciplines and write the names of the courses down in the order in which you plan to take them on a proposed course schedule form. The majority of the courses you select should be 600 level courses.
- Next, you will schedule a meeting with a graduate advisory committee to discuss your proposed course schedule.
- During your meeting with the graduate advisory committee, you will provide a formal, written statement that indicates a research topic you would like to explore during your time as a Ph.D. student. This research topic will be the basis of your dissertation and other assignments. It should be relevant to the disciplines you've chosen as well as your professional goals.
Once you complete all of the classes you plan to take, you'll need to spend time working on your dissertation. Your dissertation needs to shed new light on a topic from an interdisciplinary perspective. You will present it to the graduate advisory committee before you receive your doctoral degree.
Value and Criticisms of a PhD in General Studies
If you're interested in a number of disciplines, you can get more value from a general studies PhD program than you could from a traditional Ph.D. program that requires you simply focus on one subject. Additionally, since you have the freedom to design your own degree plan, you also have the freedom to truly study only what interests you. Because you have so much control over what you study and research, you can focus on topics you know will help you advance your career in the academic or professional world once you get your Ph.D.
General studies PhD programs are a relatively new phenomenon, and they don't exist at the majority of universities. Because of this, transitioning into a role as a professor after you get your PhD in general studies may prove to be a challenge. If you want to stay in academia, you'll have to find a way to sell yourself based on the innovative research you did is a PhD student. Additionally, you'll have to target universities who you believe would be interested in your research.
Application & Admission Requirements
Online PhD programs in general studies typically require that you have a master's degree in a field relevant to what you plan to study. Additionally, many programs only accept students who performed well in their previous graduate school courses. When you apply to general studies PhD programs, you'll need to submit transcripts from previous academic institutions you've attended as well as letters of recommendation from former professors and colleagues. You'll also need to complete an online application and write an essay that indicates the disciplines you'd like to study as a PhD student.
Career Options & Job Market
The types of jobs that are available to you once you have your PhD in general studies will vary based on the subjects you studied. In general, those with general studies PhDs can find rewarding careers in academia, as previously mentioned. Additionally, depending on what they study, they can contribute their specialized knowledge in the corporate world as well as work for government agencies. Just as there are many things general studies PhD students can research in school, there are also many things they can do once they're finished with school.
Where to Find Information
- Association for General and Liberal Studies. This is a membership organization that provides colleges and universities support as they develop their general studies programs. It also provides conferences and networking opportunities to those who are involved in the field of general studies.
- Association for General and Liberal Studies. This association facilitates communication between scholars and PhD students in different disciplines to help them work on collaborative research. It also provides a list of helpful links to general studies and interdisciplinary studies programs as well as other resources to those involved in general studies.
- Center for the Study of Interdisciplinarity . Promoting more interaction between academic disciplines, this center is an excellent hub for those interested in the growth of general studies programs. It's also a great resource for learning more about what top academic players in interdisciplinary studies are doing.
How to Get Funding
As a general studies PhD student, your graduate school advisor may be able to nominate you for a fellowship or help you find scholarships. Additionally, your university's financial aid department will be able to tell you about scholarship opportunities as well as loans. It's best to explore all of your financial aid options when you're thinking about enrolling in a general studies PhD program. Here are some specific options you should consider:
- Federal Direct Stafford Loan. General studies PhD students are able to apply to this low-interest federal student loan program. Federal Direct Stafford Loans can provide students with up to $12,000 of aid every year at a fixed interest rate of 6.80%.
- Federal Perkins Loan. Students who need financial assistance in addition to Stafford loans can apply for Federal Perkins loans, which offer up to $3,500 in assistance each year at a fixed interest rate of 5.0%.
- Campus-Based Aid. There may be additional campus-based, low-interest loan programs administered by your university. Additionally, most universities participate in all the available financial aid programs offered by the federal government.
- Think about your future before you apply. You should have an idea of how you'll use your general studies PhD to advance your career in the future before you commit to a program.
- Research programs carefully. You should think about which disciplines you want to study and find programs that offer you access to some of the best faculty members in those disciplines.
- Interview former general studies PhD program students. You should get a feel for what your life will be like while you're in school and when you're out of school.
- Get your finances in order before you enroll. Make sure you have access to the financial assistance you'll need before you start your classes.