Doctoral Studies

To write a strong application, applicants must understand the purpose of the degree to which they are applying.

Purpose of a Ph.D.

The Ph.D. prepares people for advanced managerial or research positions in industry or tenure-line academic positions, which usually mandate that 40 percent of the position is to produce original research, a key component to earning tenure (hence the adage, "publish or perish"). In addition to research training, Ph.D. students receive training and gain experience in teaching, often receiving tuition for teaching what are called service courses, which are introductory courses taken by students from majors across the university.

The Ph.D. program is essentially an apprenticeship program. It consists of approximately two full-time years of course work, six months of one year of studying for comprehensive exams, and the writing of a dissertation under the guidance of a committee, led by a committee chair. The process generally takes a minimum of four years, and students finishing in five to seven years is not unusual. When the Ph.D. is obtained, the student is ready to become a faculty member and begin supervising the entire process for others. Ph.D. holders also obtain positions in industry, frequently in research-intensive positions.

The overall goal of the Ph.D. application is to demonstrate that the applicant is ready to become a scholar, a producer of research. This involves showing a mastery of knowledge about technical communication, an understanding of the nature of the degree, an ability to do graduate-level study, and a research interest.

For more information about applying to graduate schools and to see a fairly current list of Ph.D. programs, see this article.