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Obtaining EmploymentObtaining a Ph.D.

Obtaining a Ph.D.

Entering into a Doctoral Program


20 Relevant Questions to ask 
Graduate Schools, Departments, and Programs

Time to Degree

  1. What is the average departmental time to degree for Ph.D.'s?
    If an incoming student already has a Master's, how long is the time to degree?
  2. What is the timeline of completion (including course work, comprehensive exams, and dissertation milestones)?
  3. What is the attrition rate?


  1. What are the guidelines, if any, for faculty mentoring?
    How does a student find a mentor?
    How do committee members mentor?
    How many times per year do doctoral advisors meet with students to monitor progress?
    What has the advisor published?
    Is the advisor actively involved in research? What is the advisorís reputation as a teacher?
    To what extent is the advisor willing to involve students in his/her research?
    To what extent does the advisor show interest in or support the studentís own research?
  2. Can mentors/advisors/committee members be selected and appointed from outside the university?

Program Options

  1. Are joint dissertations possible?
  2. What interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary opportunities are available?
  3. What types of teacher training are available for both academic and nonacademic careers?
  4. What types of internships or externships are available?
  5. Are there electronic portfolio tools available to gather information about/products of the degree process?
  6. How actively are students involved in departmental governance?
  7. What types of teaching, research, or administrative assistantships are available?
  8. Are there opportunities and training in grant-writing, and publishing?
    Is there exposure to disciplinary associations, publications, and conferences?


  1. What types of funding are available? For how long? 
  2. What types of health care benefits are available to graduate students?  
    What types of childcare options are available?

Career Planning

  1. What types of professional development activities (groups, colloquia, seminars, etc.) are organized for/by the students?
  2. Are there any opportunities for networking/training with outside professionals (both in various types of institutions and outside the academy)?
  3. What types of positions (academic and nonacademic) do students find after graduation?
    Can the department/program provide accounts of graduates' job experiences after graduation?  
    What are the salary expectations/scales?
    Does the department/program keep track of its alumni, and have any of the alumni offered to be contacts for current doctoral students?
  4. What proportion of students get jobs?
  5. What types of career placement services are there?


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