Some Ph.D. programs last five years or more, and the cost is high.
A doctor of philosophy, or Ph.D. or doctorate, is a significant academic honor, but it is challenging to attain. Sometimes it is difficult to find a job after getting a Ph.D., and it can take several years to complete the program, making it more costly than some of its alternatives. If you cannot get into a Ph.D. program or think academia might not be for you, several options still exist, both academic and otherwise.
Masters or Post-Baccalaureate Program
Instead of spending another five years in school, opt to study for only two more years and graduate with a master’s or post-baccalaureate degree. This degree will demonstrate to employers that you have advanced knowledge in your field, but these programs generally cost less and take less time. Three primary types of master’s degrees exist: the master of arts (M.A.), the master of science (M.S.), and the master of business administration (MBA). A post-baccalaureate is similar to a master’s degree but generally serves as more of a stepping stone to a future Ph.D. in almost any subject or a medical program.
Medical or Law School
Medical school and law school are just as rigorous as a Ph.D. programs, but medical and law schools offer more practical applications and a wider array of potential jobs. Medical school is a viable alternative for students considering a Ph.D. in science or engineering, while law school is suitable for students of the humanities. These programs generally last between three to five years. After graduating medical school, you will have to spend several years as a resident before becoming a full doctor. Law students may find work immediately, but when jobs are scarce, they too may have to perform years of grunt work before they can actually practice law.
One of the most common alternatives to entering a Ph.D. program is simply to embark on a career path. Depending on the type of doctoral program that interests you, a variety of careers may be suited to your skill set. If you are considering a Ph.D. in the humanities, you may instead opt for a position as a journalist, editor, freelance writer, human resources agent or entrepreneur. An alternative to a Ph.D. in the sciences might include researching in a medical laboratory, tinkering at a high-tech company such as Apple or Google, engineering infrastructure for your local community or inventing your own products.
An honorary doctorate is an award given to recognize outstanding achievements of notable dignitaries, alumni or benefactors. If you donate a significant sum of money to your alma mater, win an international prize or contribute significantly to society, you or someone you know can apply to have you considered by a university’s honorary degree committees. A university may also decide of its own accord to recognize you, especially if you are a world leader. Some online programs purport to offer honorary degrees, but these are often scams and rarely accredited. Notable recipients of honorary degrees include Benjamin Franklin, Maya Angelou and Stephen Colbert.