The doctorate is the highest degree awarded in academia. The PhD degree signifies that you have attained the greatest level of competence in your field of study. The degree can also signal to employers that you have the requisite analytical skills to carry out rigorous research tasks, because doctoral studies usually include training in methodology and statistics. The PhD is important to obtain for employment and career considerations as well as for name recognition.
Mastery of a Subject
The PhD degree is an indicator of your competence in a particular field of study, because to obtain the PhD degree, you passed preliminary qualifying examinations demonstrating your knowledge of the current debates, concepts and dilemmas in your field of study. In addition, you successfully complete a complex process of developing a research proposal, creating a research plan, carrying out research in your field and presenting the results of that research to other experts in the field who have evaluated your work and deemed that it meets the highest standards of the academic world.
Preparation for the Academy
Holders of the PhD are able to teach at the university level as assistant, associate of full professors. Traditionally, the PhD degree was necessary to begin a career in academia; though not entirely true today, the degree is still generally a guarantee of an academic position at universities worldwide. The Economist reported in 2010 that the output of PhDs in the United States was 64,000 annually and that, in 2009, the average salary for full professors was $109,000; these statistics demonstrate the continuing viability of the PhD in academia.
Doctoral programs usually encompass intensive training in research methods, including interviewing, surveys, questionnaires, clinical trials and laboratory experiments; later, those skills are put into practice when the doctoral candidate conducts fieldwork for his dissertation. Skills gained in qualitative and quantitative research methodology and statistical analysis are transferable to non-academic research environments, particularly for industrial research. In addition, employers outside of academia seek individuals with sound research skills to carry out projects at think tanks and research institutes in both the private and government sectors.
Higher Remuneration and Prestige
The doctoral degree increases earnings potential because the PhD is a terminal degree and the highest academic credential. Those in possession of a doctorate can also expect higher pay both inside and outside of academia. In 2010, the Economist cited a study by Bernard Casey in the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management that demonstrated that the earnings premium for a PhD is 26%. The PhD has also been historically viewed as a mark of prestige; the holder -- having demonstrated remarkable talent -- is considered to belong to the class of intellectual elite.
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