Study PhD in USA– A complete Guide in 2022-2023

Study PhD in USA: By now you should know that the USA is not just one of the most popular study abroad destinations but also one of the countries with a lot of PhD programs and scholarship opportunities that can help you foot the cost of your studies if you fit the requirements.

Every year many the USA Universities attract over 10,000 students from all walks of life for all levels of higher learning.

The reason is not far-fetched.


Over the years, the USA has been a center of the novelty in many types of research and educational developments.

Its approach to education is unique causing the high influx of students from all countries of the world.

When it comes to PhD programs, many students prefer to study in the USA due to its structure and level of organization when compared to doctoral programs in the UK and Europe.

PhD programs in the USA are well-structured degree programs that feature comprehensive training alongside independent research.

Having a doctoral degree from the USA says a lot about your quality of education and training.

Little wonder most students never give up the chase to become a USA doctoral graduate.

I guess that’s why you’re here?


In this guide, we have explicitly explained what it’s like to run a PhD program in the USA.

We have specified the cost of PhD programs in the United States and answered the question of whether or not it’s possible to study a PhD program on a USA scholarship.

Because applying to a USA university for PhD can be pretty difficult, we place you one step ahead by putting together the requirements you will need to make the application easy for you.

The information in this piece will help you know what it would be like studying in a PhD program in the USA.


Welcome Aboard Scholar!!!

ALSO READ: Study PhD in Finland – A complete Guide in 2022-2023

What You Need To Know About Studying PhD in the USA

If you’re considering studying in the most popular study abroad destination then you should be looking at the US.

The USA records about 1 million international students in its colleges and institutions of higher learning.

This number includes a higher number of British students than there are students from other countries.

What this invariably means is that the USA has a high standard of education recognized across all continents of the world.

No level of studies in the USA is underrated but the PhD programs in the country are highly rated. 

For a research-focused academic level, the standard of training and professional development in most USA universities often surpasses the minimum requirement for research doctorates in other countries.

If you’re wondering why many students keep applying to study PhD in the USA, here are some reasons that will help you understand why the number will keep increasing over the years;

#1. USA PhD Programs Are Elaborate And Accessible.

Compared to most graduate programs in other countries where PhD students focus on their dissertation proposal, USA universities give you time to study.

In the USA, PhD programs take longer than in the UK because students are required to develop a more detailed understanding of their subject as the basis for their own research.

That way you get to understand what you are working on before embarking on research.

#2. The USA Is Home To World-Class Universities

Being one of the most popular study abroad destinations can be traced to the standard of each of the universities in the United States.

Each institution of higher learning in the USA reflects the country’s investment in research output and expertise.

Also, we see from university rankings that most schools of higher learning in the United States occupy the upper echelons.

In the global league tables, USA institutions continue to dominate the upper rows.

#3. Studying In The United States Releases You To A High-Level International Community

As we pointed out earlier, over 1 million students in the United States are international students. 

The USA is home to a large number of overseas students from countries across the world.

Regardless of your nationality, you are welcome to the USA which is a diverse academic community.

#4. The USA Is Home To Many Novel Innovations.

Most schools in the USA have credit for being trendsetters in some of the world-leading innovations brought about by their postgraduate courses.

When it comes to novel innovations, Germany comes first and America comes second.

Being home to novel innovations can be traced to the adoption of the modern PhD degree structured approach to doctoral training that is now influencing PhD study in the UK and Europe.

#5. The United States Is A Land of Opportunities

What you cannot find in the USA, arguably you can’t find it elsewhere.

One of the reasons why many students choose to study PhD in the USA is the vast opportunities across the 50 states.

You can find jobs upon graduation and have the opportunity to meet lifetime connections.

#6. The PhD Structure In The USA Is Unique

Unlike PhD programs in most other countries, a USA doctoral program is almost never a pure research degree. 

What this means is that, rather than focusing on the thesis and dissertation firsthand and graduating in 2 years, you will have to do a lot more along the way if you’re studying in the US.

USA doctoral students begin with taught classes and assessments, culminating in a comprehensive exam. 

It’s only after passing this stage that a student confirms their final dissertation topic and gets to work researching it.

Keep in mind that original research is still a key requirement for an American doctorate.

At the end of your program, you’ll still present and defend a substantial thesis. 

Long and short, student life in the USA has something to offer you, whatever you’re seeking from PhD study.

The USA has so much to offer beyond great education and an internationally recognized degree.

What Factors Should I Consider When Choosing A School For A PhD Program In The USA?

Although the USA is a great place for education, especially for a PhD program following the factors we listed above, not all schools are fit for you.


Yes. Not all schools in the USA are good for PhD programs.

There are important factors you must put into consideration before you settle to apply to any institution for a doctoral degree.

How do you find the right university for a PhD program?

To find the right school, you have to take your time and evaluate options carefully using these factors as a guideline;

#1. Course Of Choice

For a PhD program, the course you’re enrolling in is more important than the school itself.

Some schools may not rank high in university rankings, but they rank high for specific courses and programs.

So look at the specific classes, training, facilities, and other opportunities offered by your graduate program.

Is that what you want?

Is it in line with the demands of your program?

If yes, you can start your application but if not, you already know what that means.

#2. Presence of Extracurriculars. 

4 to 6 years is such a long time to spend just within the four walls of a university.

Your choice of university should be one that is within vicinities, cities, and areas where you can enjoy living as well as studying in.

This is very important because “all work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy”.

#3. School Accreditation Status

You wouldn’t want to spend 4 to 6 years in heavy research only to find out that the school you’re studying in is not accredited.

Ensure your school you’re applying to has proper recognition by the appropriate bodies.

Check the accreditation status of the school even as you are checking its reputation.

If the school you’re applying to has easygoing admission requirements and processes, it’s a red flag to keep you on your toes.

#4. The School Cost of Tuition 

Without doubts, studying in the USA is expensive.

When choosing a school to study for a PhD in the USA, you should consider the cost of tuition and all other expenses.

Factoring this consideration into perspective will help you know if you have enough finances to run the program or if you are going to look for a USA PhD scholarship.

Although we do not limit the factors to consider when searching for PhD programs in the USA to these few, it’s sure a good place to start.

ALSO READ: Study PhD in Australia – A complete Guide in 2022-2023

PhD Programs In The USA: Types And How It Works

There are various types of PhD programs in the USA which includes;

  • The standard PhD program
  • Professional PhD programs.
  • Specific PhD programs

#1. Standard PhD Program 

The standard PhD program is often known as the academic doctorate. 

It is the regular kind of Ph.D. program offered in other countries that lead to a production of a dissertation.

#2. Professional Ph.D. Program

The professional PhD programs in the United States are professional doctorates such as the DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) and EdD (Doctor of Education). 

Students carrying out this program focus on specific practical projects and case studies even as they engage in academic classes and dissertation research.

#3. Specific PhD Programs

There are other kinds of PhD programs in the USA available to students seeking to qualify for regulated professions such as law or medicine. 

These specific PhD programs include JD (Doctor of Laws) and MD (Doctor of Medicine) degrees.

However, these courses are not recommended for international students unless you intend to live and work in the USA.

How Does A PhD Program Run In the USA?

We have pointed out earlier that the USA PhD structure is not the regular kind of PhD programs.

Most people compare it to an undergraduate study.

Here is a specific graduate program work in the US;

  • Most USA schools have separate graduate schools and programmes for different subjects and more specific degree concentrations which you have to apply to.
  • You will complete a series of taught classes or coursework. 
  • Once you’ve completed all the classes and other requirements for your programme you will face a comprehensive examination.
  • If you have a master’s degree, you can exit a graduate programme at this point. If not you have to go on to the next phase. 
  • If you have passed the coursework stage you will be ready to become a full PhD candidate.
  • Proceed to carry out your doctoral dissertation which is known as the ‘capstone project’ in the US.
  • You will also need to pass regular assessments at each stage to go onto the next stage until your dissertation.

What Are The Requirements To Apply For PhD Programs In the USA?

USA universities have varying requirements for PhD programs.

This is so because of the peculiarity of each college and the kind of programs they offer.

However, if you’re applying to schools in the USA to study for a PhD program, there are major requirements that almost all schools will ask for.

Here are some of them;

  • CV
  • GRE Test scores 
  • Personal statement 
  • Research statement 
  • Academic transcripts 
  • Letters of recommendation 
  • Your final or projected academic grades
  • Writing samples (specific application essays on a relevant topic)

These are the general requirements you have to put together when applying for a PhD program in the US.

Most of the universities in the USA will consider all elements of your application when evaluating you.

Ensure you do not hurry over it because a lot depends on all of these application requirements put together, especially your personal statement and letters of recommendation. 

How Do I Apply for a PhD in the USA?

Not to scare you, but if you’re applying to any of the universities in the USA you’re up for some big competition.

The USA receives over 1 million admission applications every year from international students.

And only a few make it past the admission process.

Admissions are competitive. 

So how do you apply for doctoral programs in the USA;

#1. Apply To The Graduate Program

To apply for doctoral study in the USA, you are to apply to graduate programs themselves, rather than to the overall university.

Graduate programmes only have a limited number of spaces available in each student ‘cohort’.

#2. Possess The Right Application Materials

Universities and graduate schools will set their own admissions procedures and requirements for application.

So as much as the list above can be helpful for a start, ensure you visit the website of your school to find out if there are additional requirements or not.

#3. Get Set For An Interview

If the admission committee goes through your application and finds you a candidate for consideration, you will be scheduled for an interview.

Before now, formal interviews weren’t always required for international students applying for USA graduate programmes.

But today is one of the admission processes used to distinguish between candidates.

If you’re scheduled for an interview, you will be asked to join an online meeting where you will ask specific questions as to why you are a great fit for the program you have chosen.

If you are lucky to pass all the stages of the USA PhD application process successfully, you will receive an email stating that you are welcome to the school or you should try again sometime.

We hope the first is what you get!!!

How Much Do PhD Programs Cost In The USA?

PhD programs in USA
PhD programs in USA

Without mincing words, USA universities are very expensive and that also shows in the cost of their PhD programs.

Although most people have exaggerated and misreported what the cost of PhD programs is in the US, the actual cost of doctoral programs in the USA depends on the kind of school you’re applying to.

Ivy League universities cost more than the regular public and private universities and sometimes the cost depends on a student’s residency status.

According to the USA National Center for Education Statistics, the average cost of PhD programs in USA public institutions is $12,410 per year for in-state students. 

Out-of-state students pay higher than that in public schools.

Private schools on the other hand cost about $26,597 per year for all students in graduate programmes.

When Is The Application Deadline For A PhD Program In The USA?

It’s common for application windows to open between August and December for admission to a PhD in the autumn (or ‘fall’) of the following year.

However, this may vary depending on the university.

Most graduate programmes admit students in the autumn (or ‘fall’) semester.

So do well to visit the school’s website once you’ve made a choice.

ALSO READ: Study PhD in Germany – A complete Guide in 2022-2023

Can I Study PhD Programs in The USA On a Scholarship?

When people consider the cost of PhD programs in the USA they often wonder if they can foot the bills.

Well, you can if you leverage on Scholarships.

Most USA universities provide funding in the form of scholarships for their students.

When it comes to PhD programs, you can get an entirely full scholarship or funding for that.

So regardless of what the cost may be for a PhD program in the USA, you may probably not end up paying the price you’re expected to pay.

All you have to do is look for the various forms of funding to cover your fees, living costs, and other expenses. 

How Long Does A PhD Program Take In The US?

Due to the structure of PhD programs in the US, doctoral programs in USA universities take a longer time compared to other countries.

It will take 4-6 years to complete a full-time PhD program in the US.

The first 4 years is the coursework stage where students understand the rudiments of their programme.

The last 2 years will be spent working on their dissertation.

All these are organized into two teaching semesters: August-December and January-May. 

How Much Does A PhD Program Application Fee Cost In The USA?

For a country such as the USA, every application you make to any university attracts an application fee.

That means if you send in an application to 5 universities, you will have to pay 5 different application fees.

This cost stands in for the cost of processing and reviewing your application materials. 

It will cost you between $50 and $100 as an application fee for PhD study in the USA.

This cost has nothing to do with the cost of PhD programs in the US.

What Schools Can I Apply To In the USA To Study For A PhD Program?

There are about 4,500+ schools in the USA with about 976,853 international students. 

But only about 1,500 of the USA’s 4,500 universities award doctoral degrees.

This number is a lot to start looking for a good school that will train you effectively.

While you putting into use the factors we have outlined above for you when looking for a good school to run a doctoral degree, here are some top schools based on rankings that a good for PhD programs;

  • Harvard University    
  • Stanford University    
  • Princeton University    
  • Yale University    
  • Cornell University    
  • Duke University    
  • University of Chicago    
  • Columbia University    
  • Northwestern University    
  • New York University    
  • Carnegie Mellon University    
  • University of Washington    
  • University of California, San Diego    
  • Johns Hopkins University    
  • University of Pennsylvania    
  • University of California, Berkeley    
  • California Institute of Technology    
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology    
  • University of California, Los Angeles   
  • University of Michigan-Ann Arbor    

All of these have the potential to be great choices for PhD study. 

ALSO READ: 41+ Top One Year PhD Programs in USA | 2022

Frequently Asked Questions About How To Study PhD in the USA

Do I Need A Student Visa To Study PhD in the USA?

Yes, international students need a visa to study for a PhD abroad in the USA except for students from Canada and Bermuda.
Your F Student Visa will expire 60 days after your graduate program ends.

Can I Work In The USA After My PhD?

You can work in the USA after graduation but you have to apply for a new visa in order to do so.

What Cities In America Have the Best Universities?

Here is a list of cities that have great schools for graduate study; Chicago
Los Angeles
New York City
San Francisco

What Is The GPA Requirement To Apply For PhD Programs In the USA?

USA graduate programs require you to have at least a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Must I Have A Masters Degree To Apply For PhD in the USA?

No, you don’t have to have a master’s to apply for a PhD in the USA.
American graduate programs are structured in a way that you can effectively combine Masters and PhD study.

What Other Graduate Entry Tests Are Required To Apply For PhD in the USA?

Some PhD requirements may require common tests such as LSAT – for JD programs
MCAT – for MD programs
DAT – for dental programs
GMAT – for DBA degrees and other programs in Business and Management

You can never be wrong in choosing to study for a PhD in the USA.

The USA has a lot of opportunities for international students which makes it a country with the highest admission application each year.

Although the cost of PhD in the USA can be discouraging especially if you don’t have enough financial ability.

You can leverage the various PhD scholarship opportunities for students in the USA.

Ensure you gather the right requirements beforehand and apply according to the process we have outlined above to any of the schools in the USA.

We wish you, great luck Scholar!!!



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