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Doodle Nandi

Doodle Nandi is a content editor for Hotcourses India- an IDP company, and helps write articles that help students with their study abroad journey.


10 Nov 2016 33.3K Book icon 5 mins Share

FAQs on studying PhD abroad

Aiming for your research in a country overseas? Get an idea on how you must plan for your PhD abroad

10 Nov 2016 33.3K Book icon 5 mins Share
Doodle Nandi

Doodle Nandi is a content editor for Hotcourses India- an IDP company, and helps write articles that help students with their study abroad journey.


Share this article
FAQs on studying PhD abroad

Please note: This article has been written to serve as a piece of information, and not as a comprehensive guidance. Also, we don’t offer any counselling services for students seeking admissions into PhD programmes abroad, neither do we offer any sort of advice for their admissions.

Ph.D or D.Phil – A Doctor of Philosophy (also, Doctorate of Philosophy) is the highest level of formal education. It encompasses different subject areas as diverse as science, humanities, engineering, etc., and is considered to be the first step towards beginning a professional academic career as a professor, researcher or scientist.

A PhD requires a lot of hard work and dedication. It comprises a diverse set of knowledge from various streams and helps you reach the border line between knowing something and knowing everything.

How to achieve a PhD?

A person who achieves a PhD is awarded the title of ‘doctor’. To achieve a doctorate degree, you need to have a bachelors or masters degree with good academic records (first class or upper-second class in your UG or PG). Research publications are equally important if you want to see yourself making a mark in your chosen field.

A PhD thesis is an integral part of your journey towards achieving a doctorate. On successful completion of a doctorate degree, you will be eligible to work as a professor or researcher.

How to apply for a PhD?

You can apply for a PhD either with scholarship or without scholarship. To obtain a PhD with scholarship, you need to secure a good GRE score. Some countries prefer IELTS/TOEFL scores for enrolling a candidate into a PhD programme. 

All you need is to formulate your own ideas on a particular topic on which you wish to obtain a PhD.  The more homework you do, the better the chances of getting a good supervisor. Find a supervisor who will be able to guide you in your thesis and encourage your homework. This will prove that you are serious about your goals. Choose a professor who will understand and show interest in your line of work. It's better to choose a professor whose work is in line with your research interests.

Read about the supervisor and study his publications deeply. Understand if the work done by the professor complements your future research interest.

To study PhD, you will need to have a visa or study permit (based on your preferred country).

Where to study a PhD abroad?

1. Germany

To study a PhD in Germany, you need to be aware of the following:

  • Individual doctoral studies: This is more of a traditional approach, comprising research under one dedicated supervisor. Ideally, this system takes about 3-5 years to complete.
  • Structured doctoral programme: Under this programme, you will be supervised by several university teachers. This programme leads to a PhD in about 3 years.


Doctoral students usually work part time either as research or academic assistants to support themselves while doing PhD. Organisations like DAAD provide PhD scholarships to international students.

2. The UK

A PhD in the UK provides the freedom to choose your field and explore your chosen field where you are required to possess a strong interest in the subject. It usually lasts for 3 years. Students should produce an externally examined original research work (thesis) and are to be present for an oral examination (viva voce).

3. The USA

It normally takes 4–8 years of study after the bachelors and a minimum of 3 years for those who complete a PhD after masters. To pursue a PhD at US institutions, a candidate must meet following requirements:

  • Should network with the faculties to figure out who would be suitable to assist them for a PhD.
  • Networking should begin early since most faculties have very limited positions available for research. Ideally, the best time to network is from August to October so that by November they should start applying.
  • Any prior research experience will be useful for applying for a PhD in the USA.
  • Faculties in the USA clearly inform students saying either ‘yes, we can take you’; no, we cannot take you’ or may direct you to fill up the application first.
  • Should take up standardised tests like the GRE and the IELTS.
  • Should send research proposals stating their purpose of PhD to the institute they wish to apply at.
  • Students with an undergraduate degree and with a short-term experience like an internship or an exchange programme are also eligible to apply for an integrated PhD in the USA.

4. Canada

In Canada, students must produce an original research work during their PhD studies. PhD in Canada usually last for 3 years.

Both government and various industries support research in varied fields like telecommunications, medicine, agriculture, computer technology and environmental science.

Institutions that are among the most research intensive in the country and specialise in offering joint research programmes include –

  • University of Alberta
  • University of British Columbia
  • University of Calgary
  • Dalhousie University
  • Laval University
  • McGill University
  • McMaster University
  • University of Montréal
  • University of Ottawa
  • Queen's University
  • University of Toronto

5. Australia

For students who wish to pursue a PhD in Australia, they can avail research scholarships, such as the international postgraduate research scholarships (IPRS), university scholarships, alumni scholarships and also some government scholarships. Students with outstanding academic profile and research background can apply for these scholarships.

6. New Zealand

A PhD in New Zealand is a 3-4 year, full-time course during which a student has to create a notable thesis under a professor's supervision. No written examination is required, but successful completion of the thesis, followed by an oral examination.

Requirements to get a PhD in NZ:

  • Should have valid academic documents and be able to meet all basic requirements laid down by the institutions.
  • Should apply for the English language proficiency test.

Clauses you should know!

  1. You must reside in NZ during the entire tenure of your doctoral programme.
  2. You can undertake research activities overseas during your PhD, but not for more than 12 months.
  3. If you have children, they can attend the primary schools at the same subsidised rates since they will be treated as domestic children.
  4. If you have a spouse, he/she will be eligible for an open work permit for the entire duration of your study.
  5. You will be eligible for a 12-month post-study work visa which will allow you to seek an employment.

What you need to do?

You will need to secure excellent IELTS/TOEFL scores. Some universities in the USA prefer good GRE scores so take these tests seriously!

Ideally, a PhD abroad takes from 3 years to 7 years to be completed. If you are lucky, you can finish it within 4 years; it all depends on the field you work on and, undoubtedly, on your supervisor.

To complete your PhD, you will need to have a dissertation topic on your mind and work on it sincerely. You will need to devote all your time towards it and ensure your end goals are targeted towards bringing some research outputs and good publications because the majority of research will depend on funding. Not to forget that funds crunch is a common problem in almost every country these days.

What's the cost of studying a PhD abroad

You may receive a PhD with assistantships or without assistantships. So you need to check the estimated cost of studying a PhD abroad and plan well ahead of time. 

In Germany, you are expected to pay a semester contribution of around €250. Doctoral students are generally exempted from paying tuition fees for the first six semesters because in Germany virtually every doctoral student gets a scholarship!

An additional amount of €670 per month should be paid by students for other expenses. This amount is subjected to vary under certain conditions.

In the USA, the average cost of studying PhD is nearly US$20,000–40,000 per year.

In the UK, the average total cost of studying PhD and living is nearly £10,032 per year.

In New Zealand, the average cost to study PhD is nearly NZ$6,698.00 per annum.

In Australia, The average total cost of doing a PhD in science is nearly AUS$60,562; in Business it is nearly AUS$55,730 and in Arts it is nearly AUS$54,764 for the entire duration of the programme.

Hope the information will suffice your query about studying a PhD abroad. We have tried to include all basic details that will give you an idea on how your approach should be when planning for a PhD abroad.

Read this article to learn more about PhD funding.