Obtaining a doctoral degree, or PhD, is the academic equivalent of climbing Mount Everest. Few finance majors attempt it, even fewer accomplish it, and those who do pull it off have bragging rights for life.

A master's degree from an accredited college or university is generally a prerequisite for any doctoral degree program. The application process for a doctoral degree program is considerably more rigorous than that of a master's degree program. For most institutions, only applicants whose total record and application package indicates that they can make independent, original, and high-quality contributions to the field in question will be admitted. As part of the application package, expect to complete a very thorough and detailed application, one or more essays, obtain several letters of recommendation, and submit a resume and career history.

The length of time to complete a doctoral degree program can vary widely, depending on class and dissertation requirements. At a bare minimum, if you are a full-time student, it will take two years to complete required coursework and write and publicly defend your dissertation and take the required examinations. On a part time basis, the program can take up to six years or more to complete.

Doctoral degree requirements can also vary widely because of the highly specialized nature of the degree being sought. There may be a foreign language requirement and, to immerse the student in the campus environment, doctoral degree candidates may be required to live on campus for a portion of their program. Prior to the defense of the dissertation, a qualifying exam demonstrating the candidate's knowledge and understanding of the subject in which he or she is seeking a PhD will probably be required as well.

By far, the most grueling and time consuming portion of a doctoral degree program is the writing and public defense of a dissertation. A dissertation demonstrates a thorough knowledge of the subject covered and a solid familiarity with the tools of research and scholarship available to the candidate in his or her chosen field. Once the dissertation is written and all other doctoral degree requirements have been fulfilled, the candidate must publicly defend his or her dissertation before a committee of current PhDs in the field of choice. If a majority of the committee members approve the defense, the doctoral degree is awarded.

Because of the rigor of the doctoral degree program, only those with a deep passion for the field of finance seek to obtain a doctoral degree. Those that do achieve this lofty goal usually go on to teach finance at the university level.

Last Updated: 06/08/2014


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