Fantastic Doctorates And Where To Find Them

A short guide to the world of doctoral degrees.

Fantastic Doctorates And Where To Find Them

It is tough to decide on a career; this much is for certain. For some of us, it just seems natural to try and find a job after graduation, whereas for some others, there is more programs to graduate from on the horizon. Those “scholars” among us know about the intricate world of academia quite well, but that may not be the case for everyone.

Perhaps you wish to weigh your options as well, see what works best for you. Maybe, that one wonderful professor of yours was so inspirational for you that you decided to follow an academic’s career path in order to become like him/her in the future as well. You may feel a bit lost at this point, and even as someone who wanted to follow this path for many years now, I also feel a bit lost every now and then. As is the case with most things today, it is important to realize that Google is your friend, and you can find answers for most of your questions online after some thorough research if need be. However, with this short guide of mine, I intend to answer some of your most yearning questions regarding doctorates, one of the more mysterious parts of academia, by separating them from master’s programs first, going over their types later on, and finishing by telling you about some tips and tricks that will make it easier for you to make your own choices when the time comes. It goes without saying that the world of academia is a complex one, that differs widely from discipline to discipline, country to country, and even between a university to another within a single country, and thus do take what I say below with a pinch of salt, and make sure to verify any information for your own personal case if you intend to apply for a graduate program. Keeping this in mind, let us start.

Master’s Degree VS Doctorate

If I saved a penny every time someone asked me the difference between what I am doing now (a master’s program) and what I will hopefully be doing next (a doctorate), I would be a rich man who would study only as a hobby. It also does not help that these two programs are often put together under a “graduate studies” category in most university websites, further strengthening the idea that they seem to be the same thing, or at most only slightly different. The truth could not be further away from this. How I personally differentiate the two is by saying that a master’s program is like a taster whereas a doctorate program is a full course tasting menu. To put things into perspective, master’s programs last around one to three years, and are often awarded after a successful defence of a thesis, which is, to be fair, not that much of an original piece of research in most cases. Doctorates on the other hand require you to study for at least three years, but even up to eight years is not unheard of, though the average seems to be around four years, especially if it is done after a master’s degree is already earned. You need to write a dissertation for a doctoral defence, and if you happen to pass it successfully without a somewhat original research, congratulations, because you just made history. Doctorates almost always provide a heavily research oriented program that culminates in you producing an actual piece of original research, whereas master’s often teach you the skills required to write a good research paper, which may or may not turn out to be an original piece of research. Moreover, doctorates often require you to teach some simpler courses or at least aid in their teaching, depending on your program, which is why you would be paid during your time in such institutions, something that is quite unlikely in a master’s program. Ultimately, both are rather academic programs, but while a master’s degree teaches you how to cook, a doctorate expects you to come up with an innovative new dish. Getting a master’s degree is advisable, at least by me, if you are not sure of pursuing an academic career and need a taster, if you want to hone your academic skills before beginning your doctorate, or if you want to improve your chances of being accepted to better doctorate programs. I happened to desire all these three things, which led me to the master’s program in Global and Regional History here at HSE.

Types of Doctorates

Even if you are familiar with what a doctorate is, it is quite easy to feel like you do not know much about them, and this is simply due to the fact that there are way too many variations of it out there. We do not live in a simple society anymore, universities with a few departments are a 19th century luxury we cannot afford, and it seems like those with tens if not hundreds of programs took their places decades ago. This means that there a ton of doctorate types out there as well. PhD (or DPhil) is likely the one you heard the most about, and refers to a Doctor of Philosophy, which is a title awarded to those that complete a doctorate program in humanities and social sciences. If such people find a more “professional” rather than “academic” program, they may be awarded an EdD (Doctor of Education) or a DSocSci (Doctor of Social Science). An academic program in theology gives you a Th.D. (Doctor of Theology) whereas those that study medicine to a higher degree ends up receiving an MD (Doctor of Medicine). Then, there are the fully professional doctorates that enrich a person’s “craft” such as Doctor of Engineering, Architecture, Business and Management etc. These do not keep you from pursuing an academic career where you can teach others, but they are often crafted in a way to maximize the professional optimization of a student, to improve the efficiency of one during work, not necessarily in research and/or teaching. Last but not least, there are higher/honorary degrees that one can get, such as the prestigious DLitt (Doctor of Letters) for those that are seeking a career in arts and humanities, but the details of these awards/degrees that come later on in one’s academic career are quite alien to me too, and I would like to focus more on my more immediate challenges than the ones that seem to be twenty years into the future. The thing to note in this chapter is the fact that one can easily find a doctorate program that suits their need, so all we need to do is to look out for one. Here are a few tips and tricks to get you started on that part!

Finding Fantastic Doctorates

As I stated before, one cannot really speak of doctorates as one definite type of education, therefore, giving tips and tricks that apply to all of its variations is quite hard to do. That is why, I will try my best to write a list of recommendations that I figured out during my own research for a PhD (check out the previous chapter if you do not know what this is) that should apply to most if not all doctorate programs out there.

  • Checking out websites that compile lists for doctoral positions is a good way to start, at least to get a feeling for the “market” at the beginning of your research. You can check the websites I added below to get started. However, you have to understand the limitations of these databases. Not all universities are a part of it, and even when they are, not all of their departments will be updating their recruiting status as often as they should. If you have a specific university in mind that you wish to work at, you better write to them yourself to double check if they have any openings. My undergraduate university almost never used such websites for its announcements and stuck to its own website for details on new positions, so it is a good idea to check such official websites regularly as well.

  • Another place to look for doctoral positions would be Facebook and VK groups that regularly update their followers with such openings from all around the world. Some of these groups are even specific to certain areas or disciplines, giving you a clearer view of your opportunities when the time comes. It is important to note that not all of such groups are reliable, as some are just there to attract masses for advertisement purposes, but after some research I am sure that you will find those that truly have a vibrant and authentic community, based on trust and aimed at helping one another out.

  • Financing your doctoral studies can be easier than you think, because depending on your specific program, it can have a nice financial package associated with it, or scholarships that are bestowed upon its pursuers by companies or governments that can benefit from one’s dissertation topic. In more academic tracks, it is quite likely to find a teaching position within the university, at least as an assistant, or a research-oriented position that lets you help out other scholars with their research and pays you for your extra work to help finance your actual dissertation writing process. Both of these are sources of income for budding doctoral students that are willing to put the extra effort in for some financial cushion during their higher education. Such opportunities seem to be a little less common for more professional tracks, but for those people, there are usually opportunities in consulting or working part-time in industries that you are specializing in. All in all, my research so far showed me that financing your doctoral studies seems to be a bit easier compared to finding bursaries for master’s programs, or even bachelor ones. Since some of your cash flow will come from you actually working for the institution you are enrolled in, one might say that you more than deserve it.

  • Finding an advisor is a must if you want to pursue a doctorate degree. As is the case with many other things in life, it is better to start earlier. Do not be afraid to spam professors you want to work with by sending them mails until you get a response, within reason of course. Try to note down the inspirational articles you come across during your studies and keep a track of their authors. If you see a pattern of some people, or a specific institution where they come from etc. write to them and express your desire to work with them. You may be rejected, but no one came to where they are without any sort of failures, so keep trying!

  • Some doctorates seem to be only research-oriented, where they let you defend your doctoral dissertation every now and then, awarding you a degree for it once it is all done. If that is the case, you may be eligible to study “online,” as in, just continuing to live your life as it is wherever you may be right now and traveling to your institution a few times a year to progress your studies further. This is probably the most viable option for those who already have a life set up, working, with kids etc. but still want to continue their education.

  • Keep your friends close, and contacts closer. It is a wild world out there, and right references can get you into the right program in the right time. But you have to have such contacts first. Make sure to be active in your social life during your studies and make friends with your faculty members if you can. They do not bite, in fact, if they see that you are interested in an academic life just like themselves most of them will welcome you with tips of their own. They will be the best guide for you in your future academic journey, and people writing your references and actually referring you to places whenever they can. This tip applies to all sorts of industries if you ask me, but in academia, I find them to be crucial if not critical.

Websites for further information and doctorate hunting


I hope that this short guide was somewhat useful in answering some of the questions you may have regarding the “graduate life,” especially for those seeking an academic path. It most certainly is not an easy path, nor is it for everyone, but with enough love for your subject and some discipline, there is no limit to your academic career!

Text by
Mustafa Serdar  Karakaya