PhD in India: Full Form, Duration, Eligibility, Courses & More

  The Doctor of Philosophy or PhD is an extensive research program. It deals with researches in various streams such as science, engineering, management, pharmacy, mass communication, law, commerce, etc. It is the most common and prestigious degree that aims for jobs in academics. Moreover, it is an earned research degree and awarded in diverse specializations. The students need to contribute some original results or ideas in a particular field of interest. Additionally, all PhD students need to submit a PhD thesis or dissertation at the end of the program. These researches will likewise extend the boundaries of knowledge from their end.

The PhD degree involves 3-5 years of research work with a thesis contributing to a subject of interest. Moreover, to complete a PhD degree, a student needs to complete course work, comprehensive examination, research work, and dissertation. However, one needs publication for a PhD degree as well. On the other hand, students need to have a master’s degree for applying to the PhD program. The cut-off score solely depends on the university/Institution. Students also need to qualify for the entrance examination, as well as the interview for admission to the PhD program. However, some universities accept national test scores whereas other universities have their entrance test followed by an interview

What is a PhD? 

The Doctor of Philosophy or PhD is one of the highest academic degrees for an academician. Moreover, it is a doctoral research degree that takes 3-5 years of extensive research work. Students work towards a dissertation and provide an original contribution to the subject of interest. The concept of a PhD was developed in nineteenth-century Germany with the modernized research industry. At that time the highest degree in academia denoted the master’s degree with mastery on a body of fellowship. However, the focus shifted towards the creation of new knowledge and ideas and the PhD degree surfaced for those who had the necessary expertise in a particular area of interest. As of today, the employment of teaching positions in Universities requires a PhD degree. The academicians may also use post-nominal letters like PhD/M.Phil depends upon the awarding universities.

The requirements of earning a doctoral degree vary in different universities. During PhD studies, students are called doctoral students. Moreover, one has to complete the coursework and dissertation successfully to get a doctorate. Students likewise also need to qualify for a comprehensive examination. The comprehensive examination aims to test the basic knowledge of a student.

A student must aim for a good publication in peer review journal while pursuing a PhD. Finally, at the end of the PhD, students need to defend the doctoral thesis before an expert panel. However, in recent years the number of PhD graduates has been increasing drastically which denotes the interest in higher education among students across the globe.

Definition of PhD 

The PhD full form is defined as Doctor of Philosophy. However, the word “philosophy” has a greek meaning which translates to “lover of wisdom”. The minimum time duration of a PhD degree is of 3 years and the maximum time duration is of 5 years.  The 3-5 years of research work with a thesis contributing to a subject of interest complete a PhD degree. Furthermore, to complete the doctoral degree, a student needs to complete course work, comprehensive examination, research work, and dissertation. Also, the main objective of the PhD is to prepare the next-generation scientists and researchers for our academic society. Additionally, students should have a post-graduation degree for applying to the doctoral courses.

On the other hand, students should satisfy all the eligibility criteria and must qualify for the entrance examination for admission to doctoral programs. Moreover, there are some national entrance examinations like CSIR-UGC-NET, GATE, UGC-NET, etc. for admission to the PhD program. However, some universities conduct their own entrance tests for admission followed by interview round. PhD applicants can apply for a doctoral degree in any stream having prior academic experience in the particular subject.  According to UGC circular 2017, the distance PhD is not recognized anymore.

Full-Form of PhD 

A PhD is one of the highest academic qualifications a student can achieve. The full form of PhD is Doctor of Philosophy and the abbreviation of PhD in Latin word is (Ph)Philosophiae (D)doctor. 

Moreover, other doctorate degrees are more specialized or based on more professional or practical subjects. Therefore, all PhD degrees are Doctorates but not all Doctorates are PhD degrees. However, the suffix for the name changes depending on the area of specialization of the PhD degree.

For instance, when a student is pursuing a doctorate in mathematics, the course will be called a PhD in mathematics. However, candidates will get the “Dr.” title after completing the doctoral degree. Additionally, it is a self-directed research degree supported by one or more supervisors in any university.

What is a Doctorate? 

Any qualification that awards a doctoral degree is called a “Doctorate”. However, if a student makes a new contribution to his/her field of interest then he/she can earn a doctorate. Additionally, it is a very advanced degree symbolizing your mastery of a subject. Moreover, the degree requires extensive research and studies. However, students should do detailed research and contribute a new interpretation or an angle of studies in a subject.

This degree is one of the top-tier degrees in academics. However, there are mainly two types of doctorate degrees available such as research-based degrees and professional application degrees. The research-oriented degree is commonly referred to as a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy). The word “Philosophy ” here refers to the pursuit of knowledge or core of research rather than the actual subject.

Henceforth, the core component of a PhD is the dissertation process. On the other hand, the professional doctorate is called an applied doctorate/terminal doctorate. It focuses mainly on the application of the subject with real-time scenarios. This type of degree helps in career advancements in high-level corporate jobs, building teaching credibility, or establishing a consulting business. This applied PhD degree may or may not include a dissertation. Moreover, it encourages you to handle real-time issues in the field, research, and propose a solution for the problem.

History of PhD – Its Origin 

PhD was developed in the nineteenth century in Germany. Previously, the highest degree denoted the master’s degree with mastery on a body of fellowship. However, the focus shifted towards the creation of new knowledge and ideas. The PhD degree surfaced for those who had the necessary expertise in a particular area of interest. The university of Medieval Europe organized the academics in four faculties like Arts, Theology, Law (civil /canon), and Medicine. Most importantly, all the faculties offered intermediate and final degrees. At that time the Master’s and Doctorate degrees were offered interchangeably for the final degree. Moreover, the doctorate was just a formality for masters or teachers of arts.

However, in the middle ages, the Doctor of Theology/Divinity, Doctor of Medicine, Doctor of Law degrees were standardized in most places. In 1810, the academic situation of Germany had changed through educational reforms. Also, the University of Berlin model was founded by the Prussian Government. The faculty of Philosophy demanded contributions in research attested by the dissertation for awarding the final degree.  Therefore it was originally the equivalent to a master’s degree in Arts in Germany.

In the United Kingdom, the research degrees appeared in the late 19th century in the form of DSc/ScD (Doctor of Science). The University of London first introduced the Doctor of Science degree in 1860 as an advanced course in science after a B.Sc degree. Before the mid 19th century, professorships did not have the criteria of holding an advanced degree in a particular subject. This scenario changed after some scholars went to Germany for obtaining a PhD degree in science and humanities. Therefore, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, New York University and Princeton University started granting the degree in the next two decades.

Why should you do a PhD?

The Doctorate degree is one of the highest degrees in academia. It signifies the achievement of the greatest level of competence in a particular field of study. Moreover, it also signifies the research and analytical skills of the PhD holder. The long journey of a doctoral degree likewise incorporates training in methodology, research, and analytical skills to a student.

A student must know the features of a doctoral degree before pursuing the degree. The PhD course duration is of minimum 3 years and a maximum of 5 years. Additionally, students should have a post-graduation degree for applying to the doctoral courses.

Some Important Points before opting for a PhD:

High Qualification

A PhD course is a higher degree that focuses on a particular area of your study. Therefore, while pursuing a PhD, candidates have to focus on specialization and proceed with the research.

Diverse Career Options

PhD is one of the highest degrees in India as well as abroad. Likewise, students with PhD degrees can have a very good career opportunity in life. Students need to have skills and knowledge to excel in their careers. The most popular job option after a doctorate is a teaching job in a university. There are other job options as well such as R&D, Industrial professional, and start-up mentors, etc. Many industrial organizations consist of PhD groups for their research activities. They help in designing new products and do strategic planning. There is a wide range of career opportunities for PhD holders. Students can apply in R&D, research industry, start-ups, academic publishing, etc.

Knowledge-Based Degree

A PhD degree can give you in-depth knowledge of a particular subject. Additionally, it validates a student’s ability to do individual research. During the PhD studies, one has to complete the coursework and dissertation successfully to get a doctorate. However, after coursework students need to qualify for a comprehensive examination that aims to test the basic knowledge of a student. A student must aim for good publication in peer review journal during PhD lifetime.

Long Term studying options

Some PhD applicants aim to pursue long-term career goals. Candidates can pursue further studies also. A postdoc position is the most traditional step in academia after PhD Candidates can utilize the post-doc years for good publication, earning experience, and building a professional network.

Development of other skills

There is much more in doctoral studies other than dissertation and viva. A student can learn presentation and public speaking skills by presenting your work in seminars and conferences. Moreover, a candidate can learn about time management as well. Additionally, they can make a fruitful network of academicians during this time.

Contribution to the Field of Research

Students will also get a chance to contribute to their chosen field of research by their findings. It can shed light on a new angle of a topic. Moreover, a new contribution can improve research and guide future researchers in your subject of interest.

Duration of PhD in India 

The PhD duration normally is 3-5 years in full-time and 5-6 years in part-time mode. However, a PhD is a pure research degree, unlike under-graduation and post-graduation. In modern times the PhD has become very diverse and consists of various qualifications in different components. The degree moves towards various stages.

Read Below to find the different stages in a PhD:

All students have to conduct a meticulous literature review and a survey of scholarship options in the subject of interest.

  • They have to conduct research and collect experimental data.
  • Students have to produce a thesis comprising all data and findings of their research.
  • They also have to complete writing the thesis and present it as a dissertation.
  • Finally, students have to defend their work and thesis in the viva voce examination.

Students can get a doctoral degree satisfying all the stages and qualifying for the viva and examination. However, these stages vary from university to university. These steps follow the same sequence over 3 years in the PhD program. However, the PhD duration solely depends on some factors such as funding, country/institution, and the research topic/research nature. Some research work requires additional training, projects, teaching which can extend the duration. In general, part-time PhD studies take twice the duration as full-time. Therefore it will take almost 5-6 years. The work is the same as the full-time work just it is less intensive through the weekly routine. The part-time PhD supports students with other employment or family commitments. However, there is some instance where part-time students will convert to full-time PhD students if applicable.

Duration of PhD in India: 3-5 years

First Year of PhD 

All students have to make a solid ground as a researcher and get complete information about the PhD scholarships scheme available as per their eligibility. They will also have an initial meeting with the supervisor for discussing the topic of research, plan of action as per the research proposal. Moreover, students have to do a detailed literature review for the decided topic.

The student will also need the expert guidance of the supervisor for surveying and evaluating your research topic which will ensure the novelty and the importance of their work in the current scenario. The literature review will give details about how much work is done in the particular subject and what kind of results were present previously.

Additionally, students can start the primary base work which may involve designing and planning experiments, resources, and time management. In the first year, the M.Phil up-gradation can happen where the students initially take admission as M.Phil degree and then upgraded to the PhD depending upon their work progress. Moreover, students have to appear before the research committee for submitting the work progress and can be upgraded to doctoral candidates.

Second Year of PhD

The second year is the most important year where you do your core research work. However, the detailed process varies for each subject of research, but the main focus of the year is to conduct experiments, gather experimental results, survey, archival research, and others. A students’ dissertation is based on the research path.

Moreover, students can start writing thesis chapter by chapter to form the total thesis. The meetings with supervision should go regularly and a supervisor will keep an eye on the research progress and path. Additionally, a supervisor will provide feedback on the progress, new ideas and read the drafts the student will produce in this timeline.

This second year is the most important time for a research scholar as you have started to collect the data and develop insights from this data. Nonetheless, you will not face the pressure of submitting the dissertation within the timeline. Therefore, in this time students can present their work in seminars, conferences, publish research work in journals, and can gain teaching experience.

Third Year of PhD

The third year of doctoral students is mainly dedicated to writing as it is the writing-up phase. In this time students will be pulling together all the results from the previous 2 years and combining them in their dissertation. This job is very crucial. However, it’s not a good practice to still be adjusting the experiments, collecting results, and starting some new work. In some cases, students can extend their research work and use the fourth year for finalizing the dissertation. This adjustment depends on the funding as well as the terms for PhD enrollment in a University. However, you have to write the thesis and submit it on time. Additionally, the supervisor will help the students in this phase and check the final draft for making any changes or adjustments.

Students can submit the thesis only after getting a nod from the supervisor. However, after the submission students have to appear for a final viva voce for defending the thesis and will have a formal discussion with the internal and external examiner. This is the assessment procedure for getting a PhD. After qualifying for the viva students will be awarded a PhD degree.

Selection Criteria for PhD Aspirants in India 

A full-time PhD usually takes a minimum of 3 years and a maximum of 5 years to complete. For a part-time PhD, it usually takes 5-6 years. Every University has its own selection criteria and all applicants need to fulfil the eligibility criteria to take admission for a PhD. Here are some of the important details for PhD selection criteria:

The PhD applicants must have at least 55% in their post-graduation.

  • SC/ST/OBS/specially-abled candidates should have at least 50% in post-graduation to apply to the PhD program.
  • The students with prior job experience in the same area of interest are preferred for PhD application.
  • There are some national entrance examinations like CSIR-UGC- NET, GATE, UGC-NET, etc. for admission to the PhD program.

Some other details regarding the Selection Criteria:

Language Proficiency
Abroad, a student who doesn’t have English as a first language need to give an English proficiency test for the PhD program. Students with English at the university level can be exempted from the test. The most popular language proficiency tests are IELTS and TOEFL. However, in India students do not need to appear for a language proficiency test.

Academic Details 

As mentioned above, the PhD applicants must have at least 55% in post-graduation. Likewise, SC/ST/OBS/specially-abled candidates must have at least 50% post-graduation. Also, the students with prior job experience in the same area of interest are preferred for PhD application. Furthermore, students have to clear some national entrance examinations like CSIR-UGC- NET, GATE, UGC-NET, etc. The format of the entrance test solely depends on the governing body of the examination or the University.

The announcement of cut-off marks is done each year by different Universities.

After selection, students need to take admission in the respective department and a research guide is assigned to the student as per the PhD guidelines of the University.
Some Universities specify the criteria for the PhD applicants to have M.Phil for pursuing a PhD.
The candidates who have cleared UGC NET can get direct admission for PhD at some Universities.
Students applying for PhD in Engineering and Technology should have a qualifying score in the GATE examination.

What to Study after PhD? 

PhD is considered as one of the highest qualifications in academia. However, there are several career opportunities after a PhD. A candidate can apply for a teaching job at University or as a research assistant, R&D work, Industrial professional, and start-up mentor, etc. Many industrial organizations as their PhD groups for research activities, designing of new products, and strategic planning. Nevertheless, candidates can pursue further studies also.

A postdoc position will be the most traditional step in academia after a PhD. Students can get a contract of varying length such as 1-4 years depending upon the project. Students can also stay in the PhD institution and continue the work of PhD or they can apply for other institutions. Moreover, candidates can utilize the postdoc years for good publication, earning experience, and building a professional network.

Doctor of Science 

Doctor of Science is also called Scientiae Doctor and abbreviated as D.Sc./ Sc.D./ S.D./ D.S. It is an academic research degree that is awarded in many countries. In some countries, it is a standard doctorate but in most countries, it is a higher doctorate. This degree is awarded to students who have substantial scientific knowledge and made notable contributions to the academic community. Additionally, a student will need to have a PhD for applying to a Doctor of science. In some cases, it is an honorary degree. This degree was first used in Russian Empire in 1819 but abandoned later. Then again, the degree resurfaced and got approved by the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR in 1934. This degree is awarded by a national government agency called the Vysshaya Attestatsionnaya Komissiya, (VAK). Moreover, students need to defend their dissertation before this committee.

It is a 20-member committee and each member should hold a Doctor of Science degree. At least five members of the committee should have the same subject area as the applicant. In this degree, candidates have to conduct independent researches and there will be no academic supervisor. However, at this time they can supervise some PhD students.

Doctor of Literature 

Doctor of Literature is also called as D.Litt and it is a 2-year Postgraduate Doctorate course. It includes writing, literature, composition, poetry, fiction, etc. Students should have a PhD in literature with at least 50% marks from a university or institution. However, the selection of candidates depends on the merit or the results of the entrance test. There are some entrance examinations available for a D.Litt degree such as DEB, UGC, AIU, NEE, etc. The course fees vary from INR 2000 to INR 1,50,000 depending upon the college or university. Furthermore, students can get job opportunities as an assistant professor, senior research scientist, senior political advisor, educational departmental head, chief research scientist, operations manager, etc. after completing D.Litt’s degree.

Postdoctoral Researcher 

A post-doctoral researcher is also called an ad postdoc. It should conduct independent professional research after doctoral studies. The objective is to conduct research, teaching, and training for pursuing a better career in academia or other fields. The postdoc researcher can avail scholarships from the funding bodies. At this time the researchers should aim for high-impact publications in reputed journals. Several premier Institutes like the Indian Institute of Science, Indian Institutes of Technology, Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research, Indian Institutes of Management offer different postdoctoral positions. Also, the salary of a postdoctoral fellow varies from INR 40,000 to INR 70,000 per month.