Students who are interested in earning a PhD in science should be prepared to complete meaningful research that will benefit the scientific community. This research is typically presented in the form of a dissertation that must be approved by a committee. Students who can successfully complete, present, and defend their dissertation will be awarded with a PhD in science, and they will be qualified to teach science subjects at all levels. Most Ph.D. programs take anywhere from four to eight years to complete. While conducting research for their dissertation, doctoral students must also complete courses in scientific theory and research methodology, and many also teach undergraduate classes.
With a Ph.D., you will have the credentials to teach both undergraduate and graduate-level courses in your field of study. You will also have the skills needed for conducting high-level research in both the public and private sectors. Although most doctoral program graduates become college professors or academic research directors, some choose to work in the private sector as heads of research and development or as consultants. A PhD in science is especially useful in today's private sector, where health care and technology are dominating and where those who understand various scientific subjects are needed.
About Online PhD Programs in Science
Although it's rare, it is possible to earn an online PhD degree in science. Courses are completed online, and students communicate with their professors and advisors via the Internet. However, a student's dissertation research may require them to work on campus or at another site from time to time. This is especially true if a student is conducting survey or experimental research or a case study. Most traditional and online PhD programs in science require students to specialize in a specific science subject, such as chemistry or public health. Courses are tailored to fit the subject but are similar in that they all focus on research and theory. Capella University requires its online Ph.D. students to take courses like those listed below.
- Advanced Action Research Methods. This course will teach students how to conduct advanced academic research in their field.
- History and Theory. This course will teach the history of the science subject and will review all theories related to the subject.
- Dissertation Research 1. This course will teach students how to begin conducting research for their dissertation. Professors will provide feedback and help students build a solid foundation for their thesis.
- Experiential Project. This course will teach students how to conduct a scientific experiment through a hands-on approach.
- Dissertation Research 2. This course is a continuation of Dissertation Research 1. Students will continue to build on their dissertation research.
- Dissertation Research 3. This course is a continuation of Dissertation Research 2. Students will begin to gather and analyze their data.
- Dissertation Research 4. This course is a continuation of Dissertation Research 3. Students will begin to finalize their research and write their paper.
The dissertation is the main focus of all Ph.D. programs. Students must present an idea by the first year of the program, and the idea must be approved by a dissertation advisor. The topic must be related to the science subject being studied. The best dissertation topics are those that shed new light on something or are beneficial to the public.
Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Science
If you are interested in teaching a science-related subject at the undergraduate or graduate level, then you must earn a Ph.D. in the subject you want to teach. High-level research jobs also require a doctoral degree. If academic work has been your lifelong dream, you should seriously consider pursuing a doctoral degree. The highest levels of academic respect and credibility are earned when a student earns his or her doctoral degree.
On the flipside, if you aren't necessarily interested in becoming a professor or research director, it isn't logical to pursue a Ph.D. degree. These programs take time and a lot of hard work, and the primary goal is to teach or conduct research at the highest academic level. Additional criticisms of earning a PhD in science include academia job shortages and an overall loss of lifelong earnings from years spent in school.
Application and Admission Requirements
Students who want to pursue a PhD in science must hold a bachelor's degree in a science subject. Some schools also require a master's degree for admission into their Ph.D. program. Most traditional and online colleges require applicants to submit two to three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and graduate school exam scores, along with a program application and official transcripts from all higher education institutions attended. Many schools also ask applicants to participate in a face-to-face interview. No work experience is necessary.
Career Options and Job Market
A PhD degree in science prepares someone for a career as a post secondary teacher or academic researcher. Most Ph.D. program graduates work at public or private universities and colleges. The employment outlook for post secondary educators is better than average, and this is especially true for science and math teachers, who are highly sought after. Currently, the average salary for a university professor is around $60,000 per year, but this number can vary, depending on the institution. Graduates of doctoral programs in science can also find success in business, working to develop new technologies, products, and methods.
Where to Find Information
- The American Association for the Advancement of Science. Founded in 1848, the AAAS works to encourage the advancement of science all over the world through its many programs, publications, and online career resource.
- POPSCI. Popular Science magazine is a leading science and technology news resource that has been in circulation since 1872.
- The National Academy of Sciences. This private, nonprofit group provides scientific advice to the government, publishes academic research, hosts lectures, and provides resources for fellowship opportunities.
How to Get Funding
There are a variety of ways to fund a doctoral education, including loans, teaching assistant jobs, and fellowships. Although, graduate students are not eligible for federal grants or federal subsidized loans, they may apply for federal unsubsidized loans. More information about federal student loans can be found through the links listed below.
- Federal Direct Stafford Loan. This aid program offers students low-interest loans while they pursue their PhD in science. The maximum loan available is $12,000 per academic year, and there is a fixed interest rate of 6.80%.
- Federal Perkins Loan. In the case of full-time students with the most need for financial assistance, the Federal Perkins low-interest loan can be awarded, offering an average of $3,500 per academic year — with a fixed interest rate at 5.0%.
- Campus-Based Aif. Campus-based programs are managed by the financial aid office of your university. Of course, all schools actively participate in almost every program made available by the federal government.
- Speak to current Ph.D. students about their experiences. Ideally, these students should be enrolled in the same program you are interested in applying to. Ask them about the challenges they have met and the benefits they hope to earn by completing the program.
- Apply sooner than later. Once you know where you want to go, find out what you need to do to qualify and send in your application. If you can get your application in before the early admission deadline, you will increase your chances of acceptance and find out where you will be going sooner.
- Get some work experience. Students who are interested in earning a PhD in science should have some research and laboratory experience. There are plenty of research assistant positions available that only require a bachelor's degree. Working as an assistant will give you a leg up when you go to apply for admission into a doctoral program.
- Secure enough funding. Getting a PhD degree in science can lead to a successful and profitable career. However, there are many sacrifices that have to be made to make it happen. Although most graduate students receive financial assistance to fund their education, it is still important to be sure you will be able to pay back all loans after graduation. It is also important to ask around about potential fellowships or scholarships, which don't have to be paid back after graduation.